Letting go and moving forward …Things I Learned from my divorce
Well its official, I am now divorced. When I received the paperwork in the mail, I was overwhelmed by a lot of bittersweet feelings; feelings of loss, defeat, pain and sadness, which were then followed by feelings of release, freedom, independence and growth. Although it used to make me sad that my past went the way that it did; that I didn’t end up with the man that I loved since I was 18 years old, the man that helped me through my experience with GBS, and the father of my daughter, I know that everything ended up the way it was meant to for the both of us, and it excites me to see what the future holds. It’s been almost two and a half years since we separated, and this is the closure that I need to completely let go of that part of my life, and continue moving forward!
I receive many messages from those of you that have seen my YouTube video and read my book, and I know that people wonder how my ex and I could separate after all that we had been through together. For anyone that’s read my book, you read how marriage, babies and a family was all that I ever wanted, and how my own parents’ divorce heightened that desire to have a committed marriage for the rest of my life. When I entered into that commitment with my ex, and said my vows, I truly meant them; as I’m sure many others that have ended up where I am today, did too.
For those of you that have been through a divorce, I know you didn’t start your marriage thinking that you would end up divorced one day. But then shit happens. You can blame the breakdown of your marriage on different things, like maybe you got married young, before you really knew yourselves, or quickly, before you really knew each other. Maybe over the years you changed and grew apart, unable to gravitate back to each other before it was too late. Maybe you found that the two of you were too different, and that you wanted different things out of your relationship. Maybe as responsibilities increased, the stresses of everyday life got in the way, and you stopped showing each other love, appreciation, and respect. Maybe you never learned how to communicate with your partner, and didn’t treat each other as well as you should have. Maybe in the end, you knew that your relationship couldn’t make either of you happy anymore, and that you each deserved better.
It really doesn’t matter how you got there or who decided to end it, the fact is that the relationship is over. You couldn’t make it work anymore. And whatever you think the reasons for that may be; no matter how justified you, your ex, or the both of you together feel about the decision, it is still one of the most heartbreaking experiences you will face in your life. Whether it’s the questions or judgement you receive from others who don’t understand it, the guilt you feel for things ending the way it did, or the sadness you experience from losing someone so close to you, the pain is often overwhelming and heart crushing, and lasts for many years. But with all bad, comes good, and you will certainly learn more than you ever thought possible. These are a just a few things that I have learned from my divorce:
Your entire world will be affected.
I once read that divorce can be compared to experiencing a death in your life, and I couldn’t agree more. But you don’t just lose your partner; you lose a huge part of yourself as well – especially when we are talking about a decade long relationship like mine. You lose the entire life that the two of you had built together, perhaps you lose the home you shared, and some of the things you purchased together. The hopes and dreams and all the plans the two of you had made for the future are now gone. You lose your entire identity; you are no longer “the spouse of so-and-so”, you are no longer a part of the family that the two of you created together, and as woman, you may even lose the name that you identify with. Your entire routine that you have been in for years, abruptly changes. Date nights and afternoon family fun are a thing of the past, you don’t get games nights with your coupled-friends anymore, and no more Sunday dinners at the in-laws. You not only lose your spouse’s family, you lose a lot of mutual friends as well. Your circle and who you hung out with on the weekends changes. You’re sometimes excluded from mutual friends’ get-togethers, since your ex will be there; or if you are invited, you’re torn about even attending (for the exact same reason). Friendships change, conversations become awkward, some people pick sides and friends that were once a very important part of your life, drift away. You feel very alone, even with some of the best friends around you.
Your relationship with your ex will change drastically.
You have no choice but to sit back and watch as your relationship with your ex changes and deteriorates, little by little. The same person who you once called your best friend slowly becomes a stranger. This is the same person you were madly in love with at one point, and the parent of your children. You see glimpses of your old life – perhaps through a memory or a photo – and you’re reminded of what you once had together. You wonder how things ever got to this point and it sometimes makes you sad. You had gone through so much together; you had laughed with them, cried with them, and grew with them. This person was once the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. Now, that’s all changed. Even if and when you do get along, the conversations are cold, and you feel totally detached from one another. The connection and love is completely gone, and replaced with awkwardness, resentment, and even anger. It’s often hard to believe your ex is the same person you were once married to. And even though the two of you are much better off apart, it’s still hard to accept that this person is no longer part of your life.
You will be judged, but only because they are not in your shoes.
Even though it is (unfortunately) much more common these days, divorce is still quite frowned upon. In some religions, it’s even prohibited. My whole life I have heard people criticize others for making the decision to get divorced, saying things like, “How could they just give up so easily? If only they had tried harder to just put their differences aside to make it work. Divorce is the easy way out and they obviously didn’t take their marriage very seriously,” etc. etc. And I’ve definitely felt that same judgement the last couple years, when others have learned of my divorce . I can even admit that I myself thought those things in the past! But after going through it myself, I see things very differently. When I look back on that time in my life and remember how hard it was for me to start over again; the disapproval and judgement I faced, the friends and family that I lost, how I gave up my home and had to learn how to survive on one income, and how I had to heartbreakingly try to explain to my daughter why mommy and daddy wouldn’t live together anymore…I definitely don’t think that divorce is the easy way out. I certainly agree that marriage is hard work and that you have to put in as much effort as you can to repair a broken marriage, but sometimes it just can’t be done. No one sees what goes on in a relationship behind closed doors – so while outsiders may see a very happy, picture-perfect relationship and wonder how they could just give that all up – what they don’t see is all the problems that they may have actually had, and just how long and hard they may have been trying to fix them. People don’t end marriages because they don’t want try to fix them. They end them because they already tried and have come to the realization that they cannot be fixed. And contrary to what most people think, deciding to end a relationship does NOT mean that you didn’t try hard enough, or that you don’t know how to commit to a marriage, or even that you don’t love that person anymore. Sometimes it just means that deep down you know that you aren’t going to find a way to make that relationship work anymore, and it’s time to let it go and move on. If I learned anything from my experience with GBS, it’s how fragile life is, and yes, I do believe that life is too short to spend it in an unhappy relationship. Of course you need to change the things that you can first, but you also need to accept the things that you can’t change (or shouldn’t). And sometimes, in the end, separating really is the only way you can both find happiness again. Ultimately, your happiness belongs to no one but you, and nobody should be judged for doing what is best for them.
You will learn a lot about relationships.
Growing up with divorced parents, and living with a mother that was single the majority of my childhood, I never got to see what a real relationship looked like. So I have never really known what makes a relationship work, or what the most effective way to solve a conflict was, or even the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. But now that I have gained more experience in dating and relationships (only my second as an adult), I am learning all of that. And I am now able to recognize the difference between a relationship that goes through rough patches every once in a while, and one that goes through them all the time. While all couples will go through hard times together at some point, a strong, healthy relationship will never be a roller coaster of ups and downs, year after year. High conflict relationships that are filled with toxic behaviour, anger, tears and break ups, that leave you both feeling emotionally drained over and over again, are all signs that the relationship really isn’t working. It doesn’t matter how deeply you love each other, how committed you are to making it work, how long you have been together, or how many times you kiss and make up. If the both of you do not fix your toxic relationship habits, the problems are going to continue happening over and over again. And you will eventually burn out. You will eventually find that you can’t keep repeating those patterns anymore – especially when you know your child is watching you repeat them. Your children are learning how to have a relationship from you, and I certainly didn’t want my daughter growing up believing the way we handled our problems was actually healthy.
You will do a lot of reflecting.
After surviving something as life changing as a divorce, you will feel like you have grown and learned so much. You will really figure out what you want and need in a partner, and even realize the type of partner that you want to be (and no longer want to be). Sure I can place blame on my ex for the way he treated me at times, but I know that I made my fair share of mistakes too. I know as a result of never learning how to properly communicate in a relationship, that I had my own set of behaviours that were damaging to our marriage, and that I wasn’t always the easiest person to communicate with. Divorce really forces you to take a look at yourself; to not only take responsibility for the things that you did wrong, but to really try to improve yourself so that you don’t fall into those bad habits again. I know I failed in my relationship in many ways, but I am confident now, that through the hard lessons that we learn from a divorce, that we can be better people, and we can learn how to be better partners. And even if you feel your marriage ended in heartbreak, hopefully you will never look back on your relationship as a failure, as you will always have a ton of great memories to forever look back on. For me, everything that I experienced in that relationship; the good and the bad, has shaped me into the person I am today. I have zero regrets, because the love that my ex and I shared, created our beautiful daughter, and I am grateful that she has a father who is as amazing as he is. Everything happens for a reason, and I truly believe that everything that happened brought us exactly where we were meant to end up in our lives. We have both found happiness again, which is all that I ever wanted for the both of us.
The last 5 years has been quite the journey for me, from becoming a mother, to my health issues, then my divorce, and now a new relationship with my wonderful boyfriend. I’ve learned so much about life, love and happiness and what is most important. The sadness, the guilt and the pain from my divorce has subsided and I feel at peace with everything that has happened. I have rebuilt my life (twice now!) and I am so lucky to have been given another chance at love; a chance to do things better this time. My relationship with Jordan has played the biggest part in my growth as a person, and the time I have spent with him has truly transformed my life. And I truly believe that everything that happened in our past, brought us to each other. With the both of us having been through a marriage that ended in divorce, there is a much higher level of appreciation for our relationship, which helps us to protect, respect and even work on what we have that much more. The things that we each learned from our pasts has only strengthened what we have together. Our relationship not only shows me the way that I need to be treated and loved, it is also teaching me how to really treat and love someone in return. And along with his love and support, and the love and support from my family and friends, I feel emotionally stronger than I have felt in my entire life. I’m healthy and happy, and am definitely ready to let go and move forward.