My ex husband and I decided to separate four years ago. It was a mutual decision. We tried to work on our marriage, but the writing was on the wall: our hearts weren’t in it. It was like we’d outgrown each other and wanted to see what was out there.
He told me he’d been unhappy for quite some time, and I wasn’t crushed. However, I told him I didn’t feel the same. “I am happy,” I said.
“You are happy with your life and the kids. You are happy about our home, your friends, and your family. You aren’t happy with me. You don’t miss me, you don’t look forward to seeing me. We are co-existing; it’s all business.”
I felt like he’d seen the very thing in me I’d been hiding from myself. It’s a really hard thing to admit and come to terms with, and the guilt twisted me up inside. I didn’t want to let go of our life, but he did.
My ex-husband did something for our family I couldn’t do. He made the decision to leave so we could both move on, and feel okay to let go of the life we thought we were going to have forever.
There have been days I’ve felt so wild and free, a kind of exhilaration I’ve never had before. I love being the only adult in the house with our kids. I love not having to consult with anyone about what I’m going to do, how I’m going to spend money, and I love that my name is the only one on the checking account.
But the dark times are really dark. Divorced friends have told me it gets better over time and doesn’t hurt so much, but I’ve found a different truth.
The angst may disappear for hours, days, or even a few weeks. But it always comes back and kicks me in the gut so hard I’m not sure how I went from dancing into my clothes to get ready for the day, to being tied to the sofa feeling like I’ll never be able to get up.
When the pain comes, it doesn’t feel any better than it did four years ago.
I don’t care if I wasn’t happy with my ex-husband, and yes, I know it’s been four years and there are people who think I should be “over it” by now — but I will always have big feelings about my divorce.
It’s changed me in ways no other experience in my life has.
I’m better for it, because it’s taught me how capable I am and I don’t need to rely on anyone to fix things for me.
It’s taught me that it’s okay to not want it all, and to outgrow the container of what I thought my life should be when I was 25.
It’s taught me that change is hard, but there is so much growth that happens when you are trying to figure a new life out. And that all of the bad things you think will happen, rarely do.
It’s also forced me to look at my faults: I struggle to let go and just let life unfold. I need to work on being more compassionate to others. It’s too easy for me to shut down and walk away from people when they hurt me instead of talking to them about it.
But with the good comes the bad.
The guilt I have for not wanting to be married anymore has made me feel like if anything good comes my way, I will probably ruin it.
I often have flashbacks of our old life, especially on Sunday morning when I wake up without my kids because they are with their dad on Saturday nights. Sunday was always a family day in our house.
I don’t even know how many Sundays I wake up with my heart pounding, feeling so sad and wondering what I have done with my life.
Meanwhile, my kids are having a wonderful time with their dad and his girlfriend and probably aren’t even thinking about me.
People will tell you things will get easier and that your “new normal” will feel normal before you know it. You will look back at the end of your relationship and see how far you’ve come. You will realize that if you made it through a divorce and rebuilt yourself, you can do anything.
I believe all of that. I do.
But, for me, the feelings I have about my marriage ending, my ex moving out, and not seeing my children every day have not gotten any easier. I’ve gotten used to it, but that’s not the same thing.
I know I’m going to cry when I drop them off to go on vacation with their father. I know I’m going to wake up on Sunday with a pit in my stomach. I know I am going to let the guilt rule some of my days.
This is my reality now and I can’t escape; believe me, I’ve tried. If I could turn it off, I would. I’ve gone to therapy, I’ve learned coping mechanisms, but I can’t simply turn my feelings off, so I have learned to sit with them instead.
So, to anyone who is struggling now, I want to tell you something; You may get used to this, it may even feel easier over time, but you also might be like me and always have big feelings about the fact that your marriage and your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. You don’t go through something like a divorce, regardless of how amicable or freeing it may feel, without being pushed into a different version of yourself.
And it’s more than okay to accept the fact that it’s a huge part of who you are now, but it doesn’t mean you have to get over it. There is nothing wrong with you if you find yourself feeling the same way you did when you were in the most difficult part of your marriage, and there’s no time limit on healing — whether it’s been six months or sixteen years.