Divorce is a reality more common than most admit to or at a minimum more than they want to acknowledge. In fact, I find it interesting the reaction I often get when I tell people I’m divorced. There is this moment of awkwardness, followed by “I didn’t realize” type comments. I usually counter with some witty quip about how “second husbands are so much better, more trainable” or how “the first was just a test run”. But it never fails to make me feel ashamed, even if it’s only for a moment. It’s like I have a giant failure looming in my life and I’m somehow unfit to be a wife. Does anyone ever actually think they will get divorced? Is there a feeling or moment that indicates… yep, you are headed for the Big “D”.
I knew the day I got married (to my first husband) I was settling, as I’m sure people do on some level (whether they admit it or not, is the difference). But I truly believed I was settling for a “good” life. I was marrying someone who on paper had all the qualities I was looking for. He was essentially the proverbial “checklist” that so many of us walk around with in our heads. He was hardly perfect, but who is… our relationship was hardly perfect, but which one is… When do you stop making concessions and realize that you have given up everything you want in a partner for a checklist?
A scary thought that I can honestly say I would never have considered until I was forced to accept how much I had given up. The first year was a bit of a blur, a lot of life changes (careers, moving, etc) and travelling kept our issues at bay. But like anything in life, you can’t bury the truth forever. We had your typical struggles that I think most married couples are faced with. It started with money, then turned to kids (or the lack there of), then moved onto families and friends. It had gotten to the point where I was questioning if these were still “normal” marital problems. Then I started having random thoughts that perhaps I could be happier with someone else. That poisonous thought that the “grass might be greener”.
As with most issues in our marriage I found them cyclical. It is likely that this could’ve gone on for years before I was ever able to see how unhappy I was. It’s easy to rationalize and ignore issues when you are in the middle of it all. It wasn’t until after a miscarriage, when I was struggling with my own depression, and seeking professional help that I realized how bad things had gotten. Even at that point I was still in denial, I refused to believe that my marriage wasn’t working… we were just in a “rut”. I was pulling at strings, and slowly it was all falling apart. I was beginning to resent him for my unhappiness and in turn he was resenting me for probably the same reasons. After some personal and couples counselling, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and realized I didn’t even recognize the person in the reflection. I had become this empty shell of a person who was simply going through the motions trying to make someone else happy. I’ve always been a bit self-sacrificial, always willing to be hurt for the benefit of someone else’s happiness (I’m not sure this has changed much to be honest). In a counselling session shortly after this mirror moment, I came to this odd epiphany. We all have “deal breakers” in our relationships. I have always been very forward about mine; they were the standard… abuse, adultery, etc. Interestingly, a deal breaker I had established before my marriage was “mutual respect”; one that I had never needed to verbalize before, but did in this relationship. Mutual respect for each other was important to me. My counsellor quite obviously pointed out that my respect deal breaker had long been broken, yet I was still in the relationship. The question was WHY? There is a moment for everyone when the lights turn on and you are left standing in the middle of the mess you’ve made while fumbling around in the dark. That moment came for me after a particularly bad counselling session with my husband, and I asked him what we were going to do next. His response… “We’re done”. Two words, and the lights turned on. It was those two words that gave me permission to finally let go of what I had been desperately trying to hold onto.
Was separating hard? You betcha! One of the hardest, emotionally draining things I’ve done in my life. I constantly second guessed myself, and on some level wanted him to change his mind and tell me to stay. But the reality was, I was drowning in misery. I had broken my personal values and changed everything about what I stood for prior to getting married. I was so desperate to be loved and be a good wife that I literally sacrificed EVERYTHING about who I was. Simple fact is, it wasn’t worth the gamble. NEVER, I repeat NEVER change who you are for ANYONE. A wise woman recently told me “YOU ARE ENOUGH”, and I finally understand.
FLASHFOWARD… 6 years. I’m now happily re-married and have two beautiful children. Never in a million years would I have considered marrying again. Not that I don’t believe in sharing your life with someone. But I realized after my divorce how easily it could be undone. It was literally a piece of paper and redtape. The significance wasn’t in the marriage license; it was in the marriage vows. I didn’t need some big party or government document to commit myself to another person. However, my husbands desire to marry and the recent birth of our son, made me consider this marriage as a “second chance”. I was confident I had built a strong relationship, based on mutual wants, needs and values, and I could admit that he is the man I cannot imagine my life without.
I would not have the life I have without the sacrifices I made in my past. I’ve made mistakes; which means, I’ve made a life (albeit a bumpy one, HA!). I’ve been asked if I had known how it would end if I would still have married my first husband? I’ve struggled for a long time with this one and I’m still not sure I’m comfortable answering it. What I can say is I would not be where I am today without him. I learned A LOT about myself and what I need and want in a partner. And more specifically, what my hard limits are. I know losing myself or sacrificing my values is no longer an option. Re-building a broken spirit is tragic and not a lesson I would wish on anyone.