My husband and I always wanted kids. It was something assumed from before we even got engaged, an unhesitating “of course” when asked if we wanted children someday. It was a primary reason for our marriage to begin with. We had the same thoughts on kids, on discipline, on spoiling, on values. For us, having children was not just the next thing on the list of life, but a target we were aiming for from the beginning of our relationship.
But we never hit that target. It was never completely right. After the marriage, and the dog, and the home-buying, there was nothing stopping us from having our baby, except that there was. Something big but unnameable. We had problems that we couldn’t solve, and in trying to solve them, they only seemed to grow. I was too critical and held grudges, he said. He was dishonest and sneaky, I said. After five years of marriage and three years of counseling, those issues seemed to pop up as reliably as the sunrise, and so we divorced.
It broke me to get divorced. It wasn’t just the feeling of failure, which was acute and remains my biggest shame. It wasn’t just moving out of the home we built together and into an unfamiliar place, which was traumatic and frightening. It wasn’t just losing some mutual friends who took sides or felt simply too awkward to hang out with the both of us. It broke me because no one seemed to think I should be broken.
Everybody—and I do literally mean everybody, from my parents to my coworkers—said I was “lucky.” I was lucky because my ex-husband and I never had kids. I was lucky because I wouldn’t have to fight through a custody battle or even see my ex-husband ever again. Words like “clean break” and “simple” were thrown around like confetti at my unwanted “Newly Single” party. Even the courts dismissed my marriage as nothing big. I filled out a form, paid a fee and 13 days later got a letter in the mail confirming that it was over. No court date, no pleading of my case. It took fewer steps to legally end my marriage than it took to transfer the car title.
When you have a lucky divorce, everyone assumes you’re fine. Few people think to ask how you’re handling everything or if you need help coping. No one asks anything at all, because a clean break leaves everything so neat and orderly and unblemished, right? So I pretended everything was OK. I never spoke of it at happy hours or dinner and a movie dates with friends.
When people asked what I did over the weekend, I said that I did housework or visited family or this or that. I never told them that what I really did was cry myself to sleep on the couch and only left my house to walk my dog. I never told them that most days I was already crying in my car before I even drove all the way home, after the mental and emotional exhaustion of acting happy for the entirety of the workday. I never told them that I spent hours staring at pictures of my ex and that it took every shredded ounce of self-control I had left not to call him and beg him to take me back.
The end of my marriage broke my heart like I never knew it could be broken. It erased the life I thought I was having and everything I thought I was working towards. The future that had once been so clear to me was now a muddled mess with no direction. The children I imagined in my mind would never be born. The golden years with my husband would never be had.
The fears of my new life were suffocating. I wondered if I would ever find somebody to love me again. I wondered if even I did find someone, would it be soon enough that I could still have children? I wondered if, despite all those unsolvable problems, I made the right choice in leaving my husband and our future together behind. I wondered if I’d ever stop loving this man that I very literally may never see again in this new life I am living. That promise that I would never see him again—the very thing that everybody else saw as a silver lining—tore me up most of all, because I wanted to see him. I wanted him in my life. Sometimes, I even wished we’d had kids so that I’d still have a piece of him with me always.
I’m sure there are many divorced-with-children folks out there who wish they’d been able to make a clean break with their ex. They are probably among those who believe me to be lucky for not having to go through everything they did. But I can assure you that there are no lucky divorces, and even the simple ones turn your life upside-down and your heart inside-out. There is no breakup as unclean as a divorce, and the only lucky ones, are the ones that never happen at all.