When I walked down the aisle four years ago, I never imagined that I would be writing something like this. I doubt anyone gets married with the intention of it imploding in less than half a decade in the back of their minds. Yet here I am, going through that very experience at 30 years old, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that things like this are real and okay to talk about.
Looking at hard times as an opportunity for growth and maturity can be extremely difficult, but if you can actually get there, it’s amazingly rewarding. I’m sure I will have much more sophisticated take-aways as time goes on (at least I hope I will), but for now I’ll share the ones that stand out for me.
1. Divorce is scary even if you know it’s the right choice.
By the time I mustered the courage to actually file, I knew without a doubt that it was the right thing to do, but I was still terrified. Change is never easy because it means leaving something that’s comfortable, even if it’s comfortably shitty, for a future that is completely uncertain. I had a very clear vision of what I did not want my life to be but no real idea of what I did want, and that was extremely unsettling.
2. The judgment others place on you will never exceed the amount you place on yourself.
My daughter was less than three months old when I made the decision to leave. I remember feeling so ashamed and wanting to crawl into a hole and hide until everything was over. What would everyone think of me? What kind of person chooses to bail when they just had a baby?
I knew everyone would think I was selfish and impulsive. I waited for someone to tell me I should wait for my hormones to stabilize before “giving up” on my marriage, but you know what? Those comments never came.
When I look back now, I am able to see that all of that judgment was coming from somewhere deep and dark inside of me. It was my own anxiety doing what it does best: telling lies and sneakily pumping me full of fear and doubt.
3. It’s okay to be emotional in front of your children.
This is a tough one because there is a very big difference between modeling healthy emotions for your children and crumbling into a puddle in front of them. I consider myself lucky to have the background that I do because it equipped me with the tools I needed to talk about the divorce process with my five-year-old son. I made sure to tell him over and over, and continue to tell him, that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to feel sad, angry, confused or anything else that may come up, because mommy feels that way too.
I made a point of explaining that crying is healthy for everybody, including adults and boys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to give your children permission to feel their feelings and to make sure they know they can talk to you about them no matter what. It may make you cry and that’s perfectly acceptable. As long as you reinforce that your children are safe and protected and are not the cause or the cure for your situation, they will be okay.
4. Playing the blame game is a waste of time.
It’s really really easy to get stuck in anger and blame. It’s much easier to feel angry than it is to feel sad, but anger will absolutely eat you alive. I spent a lot of time thinking about all of the reasons why my ex-husband was to blame for the demise of our marriage and the result I got was a lot of nothing. I didn’t start to actually feel peace until I got really honest with myself about the fact that I played an equal part in getting to where we did.
I am lucky enough to have really amazing friends and family who reminded me of that but also made sure to tell me that sitting around beating myself up about my mistakes would keep me just as stuck. Yes, you are entitled to your feelings and you should hold yourself accountable for your part, but after you do that, it’s important to let the past stay in its place if you want to have a chance of moving forward in any new or healthy way.
5. Your heart will heal.
This process isn’t easy for anyone and I highly doubt that the majority of people who have been through it would deny feeling sad no matter how relieved they were. Feeling sad is appropriate. Feeling lonely is appropriate. Any feeling you have is appropriate. Crappy and definitely not fun but appropriate.
The good news? All of it is temporary. You won’t be sad forever, and you will only stay angry if you choose to be. The kinder you are to your heart, the better the healing will be, and no matter who you are or what you’ve done you deserve to be kind to your heart.
Healing is a beautiful thing and the best part is that it is a certainty. It takes work and time and isn’t always comfortable, but I promise you it’s worth it. It starts to show up in little ways that you may not recognize at first like actually being able to take a deep breath and let it out without feeling like your chest is strangling itself. Celebrate those tiny victories because they’re actually enormous.
Getting divorced at 30 definitely wasn’t in my life plan, but neither was having two children by this age, and they turned out to be the most magical blessings, beyond anything I could have imagined for myself. So I’m going to assume that even though I’m scared and I still don’t know what my future holds, this will serve as something that I learn and grow from.
I can’t see the magic now, but I know it’s there, and I’m a firm believer in the fact that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Because I believe that it means I have to live it, and because I have to live it, I choose to live the hell out of it and walk with my head held high. Life is beautiful even in the mess, and if we don’t recognize it, I think we’re missing the whole point.