What I wish I knew about divorce

I remember sitting in my therapist’s office in the early days of my separation. She stated it takes half the length of the relationship to be over it. Okay. Not her exact words, but I can’t remember. Yet I will never forget. I held on it those words. A sort of prayer. A sort of promise. Five years. That is how long it is going to take. Damn. That seems forever. I couldn’t imagine going five days, five weeks, five months without him, divorced, all this shit, let alone five years. Really in my head, I was thinking in five years I will have definitely have gotten over it all. I will be in a relationship, probably married, maybe even another kid. Five years is a lifetime. Five years is blinking and waking up the next day.

Today is five years.

I chuckle to myself. Oh how naïve, innocent, and hopeful I was. I had no idea what divorce really was, what it entailed, what type of healing it required, and what unimaginable outside forces tend to impact it all. If I could go back and have it all go differently, I would. I would hold this sad, grieving, sick woman and tell her the truth. The real truth.

It never goes the way planned

Life never does. So why would divorce. Maybe I would be somewhere else then where I am right now if it wasn’t for others actions. And I never imagined how ugly, dirty, and nasty a broken marriage could be. Not mine. Never mine. Divorce doesn’t begin and end when the papers are signed and filed. It is continuously a working process of give and take. Some unresolved. Some forgotten. Some forgiven. Some easy. Some hard. Never the way I wanted it too or thought it would.

Grief will never end but it won’t be the same as the beginning

I thought I would die from the grief. The early, earth shattering, drowning, excruciating painful grief. I thought I would never get past. This is how life after divorce would always be. Then, I thought my grief would stop. Over time, I would be free. I grieved. Now I don’t. The end. I know that isn’t true. I lived. I survived. I grieve today. Differently. And I know I will never grieve the way I did before. That is done. I won’t forget it. My heart hurts thinking back to those days. So when the wave of longing, resentment, sadness, and tears crash over me, I swim with the current. Allowing it to take me to shore. For a rest. Until the next wave hits.

Jaded yes. Bitter no.

I promised myself I would not be the bitter ex-wife. I promised. Hell, I have even begged myself. Don’t be this person. Oh, bitterness chokes me on days. Full of resentment and disdain. And I acknowledge, process, and act towards change. But jaded is my middle name. I snort at the newly married couples. Good luck, I whisper under my breath. I automatically assume cheating when I hear another impending divorce. I shake my head when someone says they are friends with their ex. Sure. Right. Keep dreaming. Oh, does this sound bitter? Maybe to you. For me, I have seen and heard more in the past years that make it very hard for me not to be jaded. Here’s the difference. I am taking the steps to heal. To move forward. I am putting myself out there and trying. To date. To be openminded. To not allow my story be everyone’s. It’s hard. And if you were a 37 yo woman on a dating app, you would be jaded too.

Dating. Bahahahahahaha

Don’t worry. I am laughing at myself. Insert young, naïve, hopeful me believing dating as a divorced single mom would be a piece of cake. Oh shit man. I am laughing. It’s funny. Really. Let’s put single adults, some divorced, some never married, some married, some with kids, some widowed, some kidless, all in their mid to late thirties/forties after some sort of trauma and try to date each other. It’s hard. It’s brutal. It’s fun. It’s painful. It sucks. Broken people attempting to pick up the pieces, healing places that won’t, raising children, pursuing careers, rebuilding lives, all the while seeing if maybe, just maybe there is another person out there who fits with them. I don’t talk a lot about dating. There are four people I openly talk dating with. One is my therapist. And I only started to open up to her about dating and relationships. I believed it would be easy. I was wrong.

I am stronger than I believe

“I feel like I am walking on thin ice. I am going to break through and drown. Again.” I said to her. She disagreed. She has seen me through swimming in the ice. She has seen me pull myself out. She sees the thick ice under me. My legs feel unsteady. Shaky. Scared. I am focused on where I was and not where I am. See, I have experienced a lot of shit these five years. And I have survived each one. I am happier, healthier, braver, saner, fuller, stronger. Today. After each time my face was pressed into the dirt floor of the arena. Yeah. I am stronger than I believe. Than I feel. Than I know. Than others think.

I won’t fully heal

I won’t. It isn’t possible to glue broken glass back together without tiny pieces missing. Lost forever. Lines and scars permanent. We teach our children how words matter and kindness is a super power. We use the example of the toothpaste. Hurtful words and actions pressing down on the tube of toothpaste. Liquid gushes out. We say sorry. We attempt to put the paste back in the tube. But we can’t. Not all of it. I can’t put my heart and soul back together after it has been pressed down. I will try. I will find a way to fill back up. But not fully. Not like before.

Divorce doesn’t have an end date

Hey, Katie. Today is five years. You believed it would be all done and settled. You imagined this day would come and a beautifully wrapped present would reveal an end date. That’s not how it works. So what are you going to do? Stop. Say your done. Or keep going. You made it this far. I did. Didn’t I? Five years. Seems like a lifetime and no time at all. I looked to this coming “anniversary” as a goal. I just have to get to five years and my life will be where I want it to be. Damn. I want to go back to that day and never hear those words spoken. My new therapist said that the theory holds truth. I am here. No longer fantasying about what could have been. That family unit long gone. I stopped looking to the past. I only see forward. I have let go of expectations of co-parenting. No longer wishing it was a certain way. I embrace reality. And set my heart and head towards a place of peace. Today doesn’t mark the end but the beginning of a future.

Every time a stranger or a friend reaches out stuck in those early days, I ache. My heart weeps for them and the pain they are enduring. Because I know. I know exactly what they are feeling and thinking. I know of the hope that lingers. I know of the unrealistic expectations. I know of the stupidity, the grief, the darkness, the hardship that is awaiting around the bend. I want to shake them and then hold them. Tight. Because it is going to be rougher then they can even imagine. I want to go back in time. Stand before newly separated me and slap her. Hard. And I will take her hand and walk with her. Telling her the truth.

Divorce doesn’t end. And neither do I.

I have and will grow, expand, change, rebound, cry, fall, rise, love, laugh, hate, flirt, kiss, heal, grieve, weep, be disappointed, drown, smile, and tomorrow do it all over again.

4 thoughts on “What I wish I knew about divorce

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. It helps to know that I’m not the only one going through some of these issues. In reference to being broken I heard of this as an analogy…From Wikipedia.. Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”),[1] is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.[2][3][4] As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.[5]

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  2. For me it has been 2 years since separation, one since formally divorced. 25 year relationship.

    I’m pretty happy, comfortable, self confident and settled. I do feel somewhat jaded when I see couples, as my ex and I seemed happy. Others anniversaries make me a bit sad. I think this will always be…I didn’t expect to get divorced. Lol

    That said, I see with clear eyes that I am better off. I was carrying the marriage and it was exhausting me. I could not see that from inside.

    My divorce was non confrontational, I am financially stable and I have full custody of our now 15 and 17 year old kids. My ex moved away. He sends his child support on time. He has also had another baby, at 49. So he is busy living a different life. Ours is left to me.

    I have not dated and I don’t expect to. Perhaps this is what will take 12.5 years. I am 49. I am living alone for the first time In my life. I love it. I love my bed. I love my bathroom being my way. I love making all the decisions. I cannot imagine being willing to compromise again. Perhaps this is part of the healing that takes time too.

    2019 was one of the, if not the, worst year of my life. Finding about about my ex’s affair at the end of 2018 and then all the insane fallout from that almost destroyed me. I was fortunate that with support and time that everything resolved.

    2020 has been a year of resting with myself. Working from home and my kids school at home has been a gift. We are closer and happier than we ever were.

    Divorce is shitty. But all my best friends are now other divorced women. We all need love and we all have become self sufficient in different ways.


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  3. God this makes me ache. It’s every feeling and fear I struggle to articulate. I too heard the “it takes half the length of your relationship to get over it” and cringe. Twelve years?!? How do I survive another decade before I feel anything close to better? Jaded? Bitter? Why can’t I just push through it? Why can’t I be like him and “move on?” Some days I am perfectly fine. Other days I can’t stop the arguments about how it should have been different that I have in my head. “Stinkin’ thinkin’” my therapist called it. I still tell myself that. I’ve moved away, blocked all communication with and about him and focus only on my kids as though their father is some stranger I only know as “their dad” and try to block him from my memories so that I won’t drown from the pain of knowing that it’s all just gone. Not just for me but for them. I have to keep that fire roaring inside to help sell the story that I’m better off but just can’t quite convince myself. I don’t know how long I can do that and what happens when I stop? Or is that it? I’m too scared to find out. I’m 52 years old, starting all over, living with my parents and trying to figure out how to accomplish the things that I want in my life. I guess this really hit the target for me.

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  4. My relationship & marriage was 16 years. The kids were 4 & 6 when she left. If it wasn’t for having to take care of the kids I don’t think I would have made it. I would have literally died from the grief. It’s been 15 years now since she left. She was, I thought, my best friend. The only person who knew all of me, including my fears and insecurities. I thought we’d sit in rockers on the front porch together in our old age. Anyway, I’m writing this, 15 years post-armageddon, in the dark early morning hours, because no matter how good the day was, bedtime is always crushingly lonely. I can’t help it sometimes but to close my eyes and imagine I’m in our bed in our room with her sleeping beside me 20 years ago. Or I imagine how life could have been if she was willing to try harder instead of quitting. I am glad the grief isn’t as bad as it was the first few years. But it never really goes away. It can be just pushed aside for a bit. It always comes for me in the dark.


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