To Choose Divorce Is Not To Choose Failure

by Ella Davis
Originally Published: 
Maciej Bledowski / iStock

We all know marriage is hard work, especially once children enter the mix. Lately, there seems to be a rise in the belief that people nowadays aren’t cut out for this hard work and give up at the first sign of trouble.

I beg to differ.

Not on the “marriage is hard work” part — I’m with you all the way on that one. The issue I have is with the idea that divorcees lack the determination and hard work of happily married couples.

Are we really expected to believe that hard work always leads to success? Just look at the Williams sisters at the Olympics in Rio this year — training hour upon hour every day in preparation, yet they both went crashing out. A lack of hard work was not the issue.

Sometimes when a marriage falters, you’re witnessing the symptom of a bigger problem. When you are not the underlying issue, it’s very hard to be a part of the solution. When my marriage started to crumble, it was for many reasons, but very few of them were within my direct sphere of influence. I thought they were at the time, but that was where I was wrong. I tried to attack the problem as if it could be solved:

Find a solution.

Make a plan.

Work hard.

I did it all. Maybe some of you reading this are thinking, but did you really try? Did you do the right things? Sure, I wasn’t perfect, but making a few more shots on target wouldn’t have altered the fact that I was on the wrong team to start with. I fought so hard for him, for us. He didn’t. That doesn’t mean I lost though. How can I lose a fight that was never mine to have?

The failure in my marriage did not occur on the day I filed those papers. It was in the effort I put in to avoid that at all costs. It was in the hard work I kept on giving, even when all the indicators were telling me it was pointless. Sometimes we become so set on what society sees as a failure that we forget to look in the mirror and see what the fight is doing to us day in and day out.

I can see now that I tried for much, much longer than was healthy and I’m still suffering the consequences to this day. I did not fail the day I ran out of there clutching my sleeping beauty; that was the day I succeeded. I was not weak the day I shut the door on that man; I was the strongest I’ve ever been.

Like so many single moms who have gone through traumatic relationship breakdowns (while trying to parent a newborn), I have continued to show superhuman strength every day since — on the good days, on the bad days, and especially on the ugly days.

My failure was, ironically, created when I wouldn’t give up. Like many others before me and, sadly, many more who will follow me, we often try so hard at marriage that we risk our very own souls. Once the marriage ends, we find we have lost a part of ourselves too.

Divorce is not some easy way out. When I hear the words, or even merely the implication, that divorce means as much — that it means I didn’t work hard enough — it makes me laugh out loud. I think of the many, many women I’ve met on this journey of divorce and single motherhood who, like me, tried for far too long. Our stories are all different, but our efforts were the same. We busted a gut to make things work for us, for our partners, and for our children.

It’s irrelevant if, like me, your marriage ended on bad terms or if you got out of there still friends. There is no hierarchy of acceptable reasons for divorce. We do not give up and walk away without a backward glance.

I am a divorcee. I am not a failure. If you are too, then rest assured that there are those of us out here who know what you went through. We know that between the tears you cried, between those couple’s counseling sessions, between the ultimatums given (and broken), between the begging and pleading, between the “I’m at my wit’s end” pounding-your-fists-on-the-floor days — you were not slacking off on this new test of marriage. You were giving it your all, and then some.

To choose divorce is not to choose failure.

To choose divorce is to sink lower than you ever thought possible. Then once you reach that abyss, when you are in your weakest hour, divorce grabs you by the scruff of your neck, slams you against the wall, and demands that you find the greatest strength and courage of all — an inner strength from somewhere deep inside — to carve out a new path. It is a strength that takes a long time to find and an even longer time to recover from.

Divorce may feel like the failed end of a marriage, but in actual fact, it is the start of a new journey. It is an unplanned journey that is lonelier and harder than anything you could possibly have envisioned when you took those vows, but it is your journey now and yours alone.

Divorce puts you back in the driver’s seat, and ultimately, the new path you navigate contains the potential for happiness, so long as you still have the strength left to recognize it.

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