As a divorcee, I get a lot of questions from people about marriage issues, legal separation, the divorce process, and custody arrangements. I’m no expert and certainly never asked to be a leader in divorce advice, but there is just something about sharing your story that comforts others and can be healing. With immense sadness but an overwhelming sense of clarity, there is an exact moment when I knew it was time: my marriage was over. There was no turning back.
There is a saying about how “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, it didn’t fall in a day either. Looking back, there was about a three-year period where the slow decline was building. Every relationship is different, and every couple has their moments. For us, the small things became the big things, and there was a lot of anger and resentment brewing over those years.
There is no need to rehash the gory details or place blame at this point, but suffice it to say that after a three-year decline, we had really grown apart and no amount of talking, dating your spouse again, or counseling seemed to help. I can’t speak for the other half, but I spent the last year of my marriage praying like hell, soul-searching, and seeking counseling as much as I could schedule and afford.
I was breaking, and I knew it. I was also keeping immense secrets from my family and friends out of sheer embarrassment and pride. It’s really hard to say out loud: my marriage is failing, and I don’t know what to do. There were money problems, trust problems, anger problems, secrets kept, and the list goes on. It was a dark and sad and lonely time.
The Beginning of the End
The last six months were getting drastically worse. Something deep within me was preparing me for what was to come. I found myself thinking strategically and asking myself questions:
Can I afford to live alone? What does this mean for my job and my finances?
Who can I ask for help right away? What will I tell them?
What does this mean for me? Am I a failure?
Can I get past this? What do I do next?
Who can I lean on? Who knows what this is like and can advise me?
What does this mean for my children? How will the next few years of their lives look?
What does this mean for my faith? How do I stand with God?
Where can I make changes in myself? apologize for my wrong-doings? make peace with some of this mess?
As you can imagine, there is a swirl of emotions when you get to this point. Sadness, heartache, regret, embarrassment, fear, curiosity, anger, betrayal… the list goes on. Looking back on the “me” of that time, I wish I could reach out a hand and offer reassurance that life does go on. Because it does.
How I Knew It Was Time to End My Marriage
Bizarrely, there was a huge fight where lots of ugly things were said, emotions were high, and the same ole’ stuff was getting verbally tossed around. I felt exhausted and something in me had just had enough. I remember saying something about how bad it had all gotten and how I couldn’t do it much longer. I felt some weird urging to put a time limit on it. That sounds oddly pragmatic for such an emotional event, but it became very clear to me that if something didn’t change drastically very soon, it was over anyway. I said it out loud, named a date, and gave a name to the very specific issues in front of us.
Then, like an atomic bomb landing right on my forehead, I discovered some other very disturbing and hurtful things that were going on without my knowledge. It was just two weeks later, well before my “deadline,” and it was the most obvious, enormous, giant neon in the sky for me. It was over, and there was no turning back. It’s as if I asked for an answer, and it popped me right in the face.
Solidarity in Suffering
The next 12 months were brutal. There was a lot of counseling, deep support offered by family and friends, a lot of praying and soul-searching, and a million tiny steps to build myself back up. It was transformational in ways I cannot even put into words. But these are the things that I know:
I leaned deeply into my faith and had an absolute belief that there would be something beautiful on the other side.
I grasped onto every support system I could find, and I begged for healing. Counseling, exercise, finding joy, journaling, leaning into friendships, utter vulnerability, asking for help, praying… these things got me through.
Apologies had been shared throughout the last few months of my marriage, and I rested confidently in knowing that I had really tried to make things right on my end. I knew I had invested (or tried to) in more intimacy, more vulnerability, more humbleness, and more communication. When I walked away, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had done all I could do.
Building a Belief System
Hard times build hard truths. But I know that I learned so much about myself and the desires for my life during that time. I was comforted in believing I was good enough, smart enough, kind enough, just enough to have more and live more and love more. A good friend and advisor told me: “Some people have one long, continuous chapter in their story. Some people have several chapters, and that’s ok too.”
My belief system is this: Ask for and seek what you truly want for your life and plow forward like there are no other options. Rest in knowing that having a few extra chapters in your book is just fine too.