I have officially been divorced four years.
The day – March 3rd, to be exact – came and went without incident. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me until this morning that another year had gone by. It feels so damn good to have that time behind me.
The past four years – six, really, if you count from my discovery of X’s infidelity – have been the most difficult, refining, tragic, incredible, horrible, deep, dark, elating, wonderful opportunities of growth. What is more, they have been saturated in grace.
I never mean to treat or speak of divorce flippantly, nor do I advocate running out and getting one to find new meaning in your life. But I do think any arduous road or suffering, if faced with honesty, vulnerability and grace, will inevitably bring surrender, acceptance, peace and maturity.
But it’s fucking hard. And there are consequences; results. I still have questions.
Did I marry the wrong person?
Given the fact my husband cheated on me and got remarried four months before we were divorced, my knee-jerk reaction is, “Absolutely! That guy was and still is the worst kind of idiot douche!”
(Side note: as initially painful as it was, the fact I had a Sister Wife will always be ridiculously funny. And true!)
I can argue that I was young and immature when I got married. Sometimes one will make choices that aren’t conducive to marriage. People change. I can also say all the work I have done in therapy over the years has helped me identify my own issues, how to deal with them and exactly what type of person/relationship to avoid.
Yet I have seen young people get married and stay married. People change for the better. I have seen couples stay together after an affair (or two or three). Staying married is a daily choice. Love, itself, is a choice. It takes two people to make it work, long after the romance has faded; when the cellulite is harder to battle; when it takes more than one match to cover up the foulness in the bathroom; when arguments and disappointment are a daily occurrence; when the snoring gets louder and a good night’s sleep is infinitely better than sex.
In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes,
“Both men and women today see marriage not as a way of creating character and community but as a way to reach personal life goals. They are looking for a marriage partner who will ‘fulfill their emotional, sexual, and spiritual desires.’ And that creates an extreme idealism that in turn leads to a deep pessimism that you will ever find the right person to marry.”
As much as I want to re-write history and celebrate the fact I have been given a second chance at love (and perhaps marriage), I do not believe I made a mistake in choosing the person I first married. I walked down the aisle in 1999, excited about my future. The young man I married that day had great potential. I loved him. He was my friend. We saw life as an adventure, together. That was enough.
But people make choices. X chose his path and I chose mine. And because God is good, there is a copious amount of grace for us both.
What about the children?
I did not have babies with X. For that I am truly grateful because I would forever be tied to him. I would have never been able to pick up and move to New York on a whim. I wouldn’t have the freedom to travel and do what I love for a living. What is more, I would have to co-parent with someone I do not respect. Most of all, the children would suffer the effects of divorce, perhaps more so than I.
I will never feign to understand what it truly feels like, but I mourn with those of you who have kids and are enduring divorce. I hope each party can be kind to one another. I pray personal issues or suffering will never, ever be used to manipulate children into turning against the other parent. It is child abuse.
I still mourn the loss of my sisters and brothers-in-law, and my nieces and nephews. I was in the operating room when two of them were born, via C-section. Unless the photo albums have all been thrown out and memories erased, there are fourteen years of documentation I was their aunt. I was X’s wife. I was a daughter-in-law. I was a sister-in-law. They were my family.
But they are now strangers. That is deeply sad.
Will I ever marry again? Have a family?
Hell if I know the answer to that question. I have days where I am beyond grateful to be single and childless, living some watered-down version of a Sex and the City episode. There are other days when I wake up to the noise on 5th Avenue and desperately wish I were being smothered by the weight of a good man. If I had a baby, I can assure you I would be the biggest offender of saturating social media news feeds with his or her every waking moment. Ad nauseam.
But marriage is not the answer to life or its problems. It is not the completion of self or fulfillment of happiness. Nor is birthing or even adopting baby humans. I worry for people who are waiting with bated breath to start enjoying their life when marriage and/or family happens. These things are no more guaranteed than the next minute of time.
I sincerely wish we – especially the church – would stop placing marriage and family on a pedestal. Isn’t it enough to be alive, demonstrate love to those around us and acknowledge we, too, are loved?
Easier said than done. But it should be.
When will I fully heal from my divorce?
I believe healing happens in process, and is different for everyone. I was an absolute insane person the first six months after I recognized my marriage had fallen apart. Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily blame X for wanting out since I reacted to every little thing he did. I felt mortally wounded. A nonstop rollercoaster of fear and emotions drove my words and deeds.
I was a different kind of hot mess after I filed for divorce. I needed to feel free and allow myself to act irresponsibly. I needed to explore what it meant to be single in my thirties, after having been married for the majority of my adult life. I needed space and time to ugly cry, get drunk or laugh heartily. I needed to feel safe. I needed my community. I needed support. I needed therapy. I needed to experience healthy relationship. I even needed to withstand more breakups.
And then I needed to pack my bags, move across the country and start my life all over again.
I’m not sure anyone is ever fully healed from divorce. It is an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual trauma. Initially it is a huge, gaping, seeping wound that needs constant monitoring and care. Sometimes it requires life support.
But eventually the wound scabs over. It becomes a scar. And whereas that scar may never go away, it – along with the memory of the trauma – fades.
So, wow. Divorced four years. Separated for six. Soon enough, I will have been divorced longer than I was ever married. The scar remains, but is slowly fading.
X and I have both moved on. We have completely different lives now, and I (think I?) genuinely wish him well. It still strikes me as odd that I was married to someone for ten years, yet I cannot remember the sound of his voice or the touch of his hand. Sometimes he has a cameo in my dreams. Other times I will regale a funny story about my old life with one husband, two cats, three dogs and four chickens in an old house on a rocky hill in sunny Los Angeles.
“That’s so not you!” my new friends gasp, as the Chrysler Building twinkles behind us in the warming spring sunlight.
And they’re right. It’s not me — anymore.
X was my first love. He hurt me deeply, but in no way did he destroy me. Neither did my divorce. If anything, I am free to love more fully and deeply now, and without fear.
Divorce has not defined me. It has refined me.