Two weeks ago, I sent my ex-husband a text as we were discussing our kids’ schedules. I told him I felt like we’d turned a corner, like we’ve all settled, and I felt a feeling of peace and calm come over me — something I hadn’t recognized inside myself for years — maybe even a decade.
He agreed, and told me he was happy I feel that way. And he meant it. Our divorce was mutual, uncontested, we both knew we’d come to the end of the road. We hired one lawyer, a family friend, filled out some paperwork and before we knew it, we were no longer married. After 6 years of trying to force something, this felt like sweet relief.
He now lives a few miles away, I helped him decorate his condo, and we have shared custody of our three kids, which seems to be working well. We’ve let them call the shots as to where they want to go for the most part, and it’s working for all involved.
As far as divorces go, compared to some of the hardships I know couples go through when they are splitting up, ours has been fairly smooth.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not brutal. And believe me when I say, I didn’t expect to be driving down the road less than a week after sending a text filled with peace and love to my ex-husband, and be on the verge of a panic attack because an old memory from when we were a happy family came out of nowhere, swallowed me up, then spit me out.
We aren’t in love with each other anymore, and have not been for some time, but it still knocks the wind out of me when I see his girlfriend climb in the front seat of the family car my husband took with him because that’s where I used to sit as our three kids piled in the back as we’d head off for a family day together. Feeling like you’ve been replaced is a deep, unexplainable pain. God, it’s tough to watch.
Saying goodbye to your kids a few times a week leaves me gutted. It never gets easy and feels unfair to everyone involved — even if you desperately need a break from parenting solo.
When you get divorced — no matter the situation — certain things are forced upon you that you don’t want. No one wants to give up time with their kids. No one wants to pass over their favorite painting. No one likes having to answer questions about your relationship when you see an old friend. No one likes to tackle the stress of owning a home and paying bills solo. No one is excited to sell their engagement rings. And no one likes to see another person sit where you used to sit — not at your kid’s basketball game, not in the passenger seat of your old car, and especially not in someone’s heart occupying a space that used to belong to you.
Even if you love sleeping alone (oh, I really like this), every night when you crawl into bed, you remember, even if it’s only for a moment, that another person used to lie there with you.
You will have lonely moments, lonely days, lonely weeks. Sometimes you don’t know what to do with those feelings, and will go to great lengths to find something — anything — to occupy your mind.
When you share your life with someone — buy a house, have kids, build a family — they become intertwined in your soul, they feel like home. You like their smell, they bring you comfort, you get used to the way they move. And when those feelings disappear and you go your separate ways — whether it’s amicable to not — the memories stay. After all, they’ve had a hand in making you who you are and will forever be a part of you even if you want to forget, which sometimes we do because it would be a whole hell of a lot easier to move on.
But it’s impossible. Because even if you are happier, even if you are stronger than ever, even if you are your best self, living a life you’ve always dreamed of, you are not immune to driving down the road and getting a kick in the gut because your life looks so different than what you thought it was going to look like.
Divorce doesn’t have to be horrible to kick you in the ass. Every divorce is brutal, and the only way to the other side is to wade through it.