I didn’t get married thinking I would get divorced. I never wanted to be one of the 50% of marriages that fail. I never wanted to have to check the “divorced” box on the license renewal document at the DMV or on my 1040 tax form or at the county recorder's office when I went to get my second marriage license. I never wanted to be a woman with a last name different from her kids. I never wanted to be a statistic — at least not this kind of statistic.
I never wanted to be a divorced person.
And yet, I am a divorced person. As of April 18, 2018, I’ve been a divorced person for eight years.
I’m the one who wanted the divorce. That makes it seem like it should be less painful, doesn’t it? I literally asked for it. But I didn’t ask for a divorce because I wanted to be divorced; I asked for a divorce because I didn’t want to be married anymore — at least not to that person.
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You’d think that being the one who wants the thing would make it easier, but it doesn’t, not really. Divorce is still unbelievably, inconceivably difficult, regardless of the reason it’s happening. Whether you’re leaving or you’re being left, or you’ve reached an impasse and can’t seem to find joy anywhere, so you check off “irreconcilable differences” on the paperwork and set to dividing assets and debt and kids, like they are suddenly property and not human beings, it’s all hard.
We said we’d make it as easy as possible. We’d agreed on who’d take the debt (me) and who’d get the house (him) and who would have the kids when (me when he was working, him when I was working). We said we’d do it with a paralegal and not a lawyer. We said we’d be friendly for the sake of the children. We said we’d make it easy.
It was not easy. No part of it was easy.
He hated me for leaving him. I hated him for hiring the best divorce attorney in town after he said he wouldn’t. I sat alone in a mostly empty apartment and cried and drank bottles of wine while he sat across town in our house with our kids. I sat in my mostly empty apartment with our kids while he sat in our house doing I don’t know what.
I thought I might die.
Sometimes I wanted to die. I couldn’t see my way around it or through it. I thought my divorce would kill me. The day I was served with paperwork, I sat on the floor of the apartment I furnished with an air mattress from Target and an overstuffed floral sofa from my grandmother’s garage and wept. Twenty years of my life reduced to 50 pages of paperwork full of legal terms I mostly didn’t understand. One manila file folder. Custody. Child support. Alimony. Assets. Debt. Itemized lists of belongings.
I thought I couldn’t live without seeing my kids every day.
I thought they would hate me, or worse, that they would love him more.
I thought I’d never live in another house I loved.
I thought I might never have curtains again or a comfortable sofa or a real kitchen table or a bed that wasn’t full of air that leaked out overnight and left me flat on the cheaply carpeted floor in the morning.
I thought everyone would think I was a failure and a terrible wife and mother and person.
I thought I’d never be with a person who would love me wholly.
I thought I might end up alone forever.
I thought I had ruined my kids’ lives.
I thought I had ruined my life.
I thought I would die.
I didn’t die.
Because I didn’t die, I am here to tell you that you will also not die. You might feel like you want to die, you might feel like you even will die, but it’s highly unlikely that you will actually die from divorce.
I am not saying divorce won’t be hard; I’m just saying you will survive it. But I’m not even just saying you will survive it; I’m saying that the universe (or God or whatever thing you like to believe in) probably has plans for you. I know this to be true because it had plans for me.
The thing about the plans the universe has for you is that you don’t know what they are yet. You aren’t supposed to know. If the universe (or God etc.) told you what the plans were, you wouldn’t be able to grow. But growth is necessary, even beautiful. And yes, growth hurts. Sometimes a lot. The breaks and the cracks and the places where we fall apart all hurt, but those are the places where the reinforcement happens. The breaks are a prerequisite for the repair.
I don’t know how long it will take for your cracks to heal but I know they will.
You will have a relationship with your children.
You will live somewhere you love. You will even have curtains and real furniture.
You will find love again.
You will be happy.
If I had never been through the misery of divorce, I would not know the joy of my new marriage and the way love feels when it is the love of souls. I would not know the scent of my new babies' heads and the way my family feels complete with two more people in it. I would not know the blessing that is my beautiful home in the forest. I would not know the person I was underneath that divorce. I would not know how strong she was or how strong she would become.
If I had not lost that family, I would not know this family.
And while saying goodbye to that family was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, meeting this one was one of the most joyful.
I know you might not believe me right now and, to be frank with you, I can’t make you a guarantee. But I can say one of distinct pleasures of being a person that writes on the internet is this, I get lots of email from people going through lots of things, including divorce. Most of this email is from women. Most of these women have children. Almost all of these women are devastated. Almost every single one of these women is cracked and broken and cannot see the other side of their divorce. Almost every single one of these women is not sure they will make it.
And I can tell you that almost 100% of these women will (if they have not already) email me again and tell me they are not just okay, they are happy. They will find new love. They will have more babies. Dreams they did not even know they have will come true. Their cracks will heal with love they never knew the universe was holding for them.
I can tell you, you will not just survive this, you will thrive.