Lessons in Leaving
[Bonus points if you can sing the song that inspired this title.]
Hello, I’m Erin, and I was a divorcee at the age of 24. Before I dive into my story and wisdom about the experience, I’d like to thank Meagan for allowing me to guest post and for her own honesty during this process. Divorce is an open wound for many, and leaving you vulnerable and humble. It’s never easy to discuss in such a public fashion, and I applaud Meagan for being willing to put herself out there.
Quick background on my own story of love lost. I met my first husband when I was 19, and away at my first year of college. He was 13 years my senior, but that didn’t faze me, or those close to me at the time, because we were compatible on other levels and I always gravitated towards older men. Two years into our relationship I was engaged, and then married a year and a half after that. Two years into our marriage, I was pulling the plug. While there were a number of contributing factors to my divorce, I can best sum them up by saying that I married at too young of an age, and before I had time to “grow up.” Don’t read too much into that last sentence, thinking that I needed to sow my wild oats, as that wasn’t the case. I was immature and I was never held responsible for myself, fiscally. Within that marriage, I was not forced to grow as I so badly needed to – I went from daddy’s house to my husband’s, never learning to appreciate what I had, in terms of creature comforts. I was in bad need of humbling.
Eight years have passed since that relationship ended. Meeting my current husband was a catalyst in the ending of that relationship, and for that I endured a lot of outside judgment and learned the lessons I’d like to impart on Meagan’s readers.
1. No one knows the true nature of a relationship except the two people involved. I can’t stress this enough. Doesn’t matter if you’re a parent, sibling, best friend, etc. You don’t know what that relationship is like unless you’re involved. Therefore, don’t pass judgment on who’s at fault for the demise of a marriage, because you don’t know. No one knows what happens behind closed doors. We can speculate, we can guess, but those are two unique individuals. I was criticized quite a bit because on the outside there was nothing “wrong” with my marriage. My ex-husband was not a horrible person, nor was he a bad husband. He just wasn’t the right husband for me at that time, nor was I giving him the best of me.
2. The details of the divorce settlement are no one’s business except your own. Again, I dealt with my fair share of unsolicited advice, particularly from family members, about what I should be “getting” as a result of my divorce settlement. Frankly, those legal details aren’t anyone’s business. I wasn’t looking to take him to the cleaners or ruin his life. I just wanted an amicable split. I signed over the condo that we’d lived in for a few months, a move that I was criticized for doing. Ultimately, I knew that giving up that property and that asset wasn’t going to be the end of the world for me. I would be fine, I would own property again, and I would get back on my feet.
3. No one enters a marriage thinking it won’t work. Another philosophy I can’t stress enough. There are plenty of idealists out there that tout beliefs like, “Divorce isn’t an option,” but that’s not always realistic. We’re not martyrs, folks, and no one should be forced to live in a relationship with someone who doesn’t bring out the best in them, make them happy, inspire them to better themselves, or worse yet, who abuses them in any sense of the word. If you’ve exhausted yourself trying to make it work, there’s no reason not to walk away holding your head high. Divorce is an option. It may not be the ideal, but it is an option.
4. Divorce ends more relationships than the marriage. Be prepared to watch a number of your relationships and friendships slip away as a result of the divorce. Sadly, it’s inevitable, but it’s also eye opening. As much as I may preach #1, you’re going to have “friends” who insist on judging you and taking sides. Expect it; don’t fight it. It’s going to hurt, but it’s not worth bad-mouthing your ex in a pitiful attempt to preserve a friendship that may not be worth saving. Let the cards fall where they may, and move on. The truest of friends will want to see you happy, regardless of whether you’re married or not. Some of the hardest relationships for me to let go of were the connections I’d made with my ex’s family members. It hurt to let them down, to lose that part of the family, and to know that I was no longer welcome. Unfortunately, that was a consequence of my actions. It also may be difficult to wrap your head around not having any sort of relationship with your ex, a person who’s had such an impact on your life, but it happens and you make peace with it. Only in rare instances do I see exes who manage to remain close friends.
5. Divorce may be exactly what you need. I wouldn’t say that divorce was one of the best things to happen to me, as I wouldn’t wish that level of hurt on my ex – he didn’t deserve it. But our divorce was one of the most pivotal moments of growth in my adult life. I often cite that year, my 25th, as being the time in which I finally grew up. I stopped being carefree and careless, and started appreciating the little things, like being able to pay my utility bills and put food in the cabinets of my humble, one bedroom apartment in a sketchy area. Divorce can be freeing, pushing you to accomplish those goals you’d previously cast aside. I completed my teaching licensure program while living on the couch of a friend, starting my new career while essentially homeless. I learned how to ride (and subsequently purchased) a motorcycle. This period of growth made me a better person, the sort of person my ex deserved, but that growth wouldn’t have been possible without the divorce.
Eight years have passed since my divorce. Eight years have seen so much change that I barely know that individual that I left behind, and I’m not talking about my ex. I’ve finished a master’s degree, become established in my career, lived in two different states, enlisted in the military, purchased a home, and had a child. I was happy to see him find love again and remarry this last year. As for me, I’m celebrating six years with my second husband this month, and looking forward to our future. Life goes on, love is found again.