My name is Abby and I am divorced.
It's only taken me 4 1/2 years and a bunch of counselling to be able to say that without hanging my head in shame and embarrassment, without needing to justify it with a follow-up comment listing my “excuse” or reason as to why I am divorced... an attempt to save face in order to be accepted and not look like the divorced women I used to judge prior to finding myself in the same situation.
Before I dive in, let's get one thing clear. I'm not an expert. I don't have my life figured out. I mess up daily, and I literally just cried to myself last night, after my kids were in bed, wondering if the loneliness will ever go away.
But, I HAVE found the strength to get up the next morning, put a smile on my face and get out there to try again. I have come to love my life-- all aspects of my life (most days), and I've been learning to quit letting the fact that I am divorced define me and determine who I am as a woman.
How it Started
I was married for 8 years to my best friend (lame and cheesy, but it was my truth). We definitely had our issues, but we were in it for the long haul. I didn't believe that divorce was an option for us. I had read all the books and motivational quotes on love needing to be a choice. Most days it wasn't even a choice. I loved being married. We had so much fun - so much laughter, hosted dinner parties, went to church - we also went through a lot of hard times together - a miscarriage of twins, my diagnosis of anxiety/depression, job loss/changes, and broken trust. Plus we had three boys with my youngest being four months at the time I decided to leave.
When things finally blew up and I decided that it was the healthiest thing for my boys' future that we move out and do life separately, I felt like the ultimate failure. I was embarrassed. I was paranoid. I was completely ashamed and mortified at what my life had become. I didn't want to be this person. I didn't want my kids to be raised in a “broken home”- a term today I completely refuse to acknowledge.
I was sad - a big part because my husband had been my best friend for so long (my only friend it felt like sometimes), and now that it was over I was left on my own. My identity had been my marriage and being a part of that unit, and now I was sitting in my new place with a bottle of wine crying at the table while my friends unpacked my kitchen for me.
I have been a Christian since I was a teenager, grew up believing that God works in the messes but now that I was in the biggest mess imaginable, I wasn't sure how He was going to show Himself.
I had made sure that I had tried absolutely every single thing to make this marriage work so that when I left, I never had a question of 'what if I had tried this and this?'. Still, the guilt was eating me alive.
So much guilt from all sides. Am I screwing up my kids? How will I show my face at church? How am I going to explain this to my friends? Why wasn't I a better wife? Guilt that I was relieved it was over and I was finally out of it.
I didn't have the nerve to tell people that I had left. I shifted it around to say that he had left me because it sounded better. It made me sound like the victim. I didn't need to explain anything after saying that. If I told people I left, I felt I would have to explain my reasoning behind it and why it was the healthiest option and get into the nitty-gritty, which today I refuse to do.
I know now that I don't owe anybody an explanation. My ex and I know what happened, and we are the only people privileged to that information. It takes two people to make a marriage work, and we both didn’t hold up our ends.
Here are a few things that saved my life that I would 100% recommend. It sucks and it's not fun, but it works - not in one month, or one year, but slowly. It's a foundation that helps, that I still refer back to on the bad days when it all creeps up on me.
1. GET HELP. The best thing I ever did was going to see a Christian counsellor. Go. Not just once. Go weekly. And then when you're stronger, monthly. There's nothing more freeing than having an outside party that isn't in the middle of the mess let you talk about yourself and not feel guilty that you're monopolizing the conversation and sounding self absorbed. My biggest breakthrough was a few sessions in, having my counsellor tell me that I was right to leave. I bawled. The relief that came from having someone affirm my decision lightened the load I was carrying tenfold. He made me discuss every area of my life, taught me the importance of self care, and celebrated my tiny victories with me. He showed me that there was hope.
2. FIND YOUR CORE FRIENDS. This took a while. There was a bit of a weeding out process of who wanted the gossip, and the friends that were going to stick with me and pick up my kids when I couldn't do life, text me to check in, or keep me busy on the weekends I didn't have my kids. I have a fellow single mom that calls me on the nights we don't have kids to drive around and grab ice cream or kill time until they come home. I have a friend that has me over for supper every Sunday on the weekends I don't have my kids because by then I'm at my wits end counting down the hours until they're home. I have a friend that I wrote a note to the week I left. The note said that I knew she didn't believe in divorce, but I needed her in my life. I needed her to accept me and love me anyway, and to stick with me. I also wrote that I needed her and her husband to stay in my exes life and to love him too. And she has. Some friends will naturally die off - I slowly let go of the friendships that we had as couples (except a couple of them) because it was just easier than having life overlap and hearing about his life. That's ok.
3. PRAY FOR YOUR EX. I don't always feel like it, but when I started this it helped softened my anger. I refuse to become a bitter ex wife. I chose him to be my husband for a reason. He's the father of my kids and was my life for eight years. Some days it's a three-word prayer (“God help him”) because I'm so angry I can't do much more than that, but it reminds me that he is loved by God too. He's human, I am no better or deserving of God than him. My kids need as many positive influences in their life as possible, and though I have no say in my ex or his life choices, I can and will pray for him. Some days I fail and decide to go to bed angry instead, but I feel better, softer, and lighter on the days I can pray for him. Looking back on my prayer journals when it was fresh, it was pretty cool reading the prayers and seeing the hardness of my heart melt every day that I had the strength to pray for him.
4. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Toughest one ever, but you need to do this. I have so many regrets. I thought we were in it for life, so I wasn't my best self. He saw a horrible side of me that I would be mortified for others to see. I was lazy. I was selfish with my time. I was entitled because I felt he deserved it because of what he put me through. It's embarrassing now to think about it. I wish he had seen the good side of me more often - maybe that's from a pride standpoint. I often think of what he tells the new women in his life about what kind of wife I was and I'm ashamed because I'm not that person anymore. But I needed to get to a point where I could get past it and realize that it's in the past. I needed to forgive myself for the part I played in my failed marriage, and I needed to move on. We only get one life and I don't want to spend it hanging my head and feeling like less of a person than everyone else. If God can forgive me, why should I not be able to forgive myself? There's no better feeling than knowing that we've been given this fresh start and a perfect Love to abide in if we just soften and open our hearts enough to know that we deserve it.
So that's it. That's all I've got. As I said, I'm not an expert, but sometimes it's nice to know that someone has walked this road ahead of you. I still believe that God works in the messes of life, and if He can work through my mess of a life, He can definitely work and show Himself in yours.
About the Author:
Abby is a surviving and thriving (most days) mother of three boys. She loves teen fiction, anything WWII, Hobby Lobby, and Netflix. She cheers for the Winnipeg Jets ALWAYS and for the Minnesota Vikings when she can see them live with a taco in hand. Abby is a top performer in her real estate market and a reluctant volunteer at her kids school.
You can also read her story on anxiety here: www.thereismore.ca/blog/living-with-anxiety
If you would like to send Abby a message, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Abby” in the subject line.