“We should get divorced now while we still like each other.”
The words echoed in my then-kitchen across the blue tiled floor. We had been together for 16 years, since I was 16 years old. We had what others viewed as the perfect life—2 healthy kids, a house in the suburbs, kids enrolled in a private Montessori school, a minivan with heated seats and all the comforts of being a white, middle-class family with me working from home. We didn’t get to this place overnight. But, the relief that washed over me as we said those words out loud was proof that this was indeed what needed to be done. DIVORCE!
We met when I was very young, in Church, and were encouraged by all of those around us, including my family, to go ahead and get married. We weren’t pregnant. We had no REAL need to hurry it along, except for the fact that I was young, over school and the kids my age and had always desired to be married and had vowed to stay a virgin until marriage. You know, ALL the wrong reasons to get married. He was stable, older, matured and understood me. We were best friends and enjoyed spending every minute together. Only ONE person, my Biology teacher, sat me down and tried to talk me out of it (if you don’t count one of my best friends who called me the night before and begged me not to get married – Rich, I never hated you for that, by the way!). We sat across from each other at one of those black marble slab tables, in her lab, while she told me that I was too young, that I would change and grow and that I was still evolving and inevitably we would end up divorced. At the time, I didn’t listen. I was irritated and angry and wanted more than anything to prove her wrong. Unfortunately, she was right on ALL accounts.
When we got married I was head deep in religion. I was naïve and thought that any troubles we would encounter, God would wipe away. I didn’t think about how I would grow up and instead of needing a father figure in my life (a role I gave my ex even though he never asked for that), that I would want a partner and someone who changed with me. But, people don’t always change together and when they do, it’s not always in the same direction.
And, boy, did I grow. I grew out of love with religion. He did, too. CHECK! I grew more independent. Uh-oh. He didn’t understand. (Not his fault) I grew hormonal and wanting of guys my own age. BIG problem. And, by the age of 21, just five years into our fairy tale marriage, I cheated. I began drinking (A LOT) and partying (A LOT MORE). I had never experienced that in High School or College. I had never lived alone, had one night stands, spent nights downtown with my girlfriends or even had a Bachelorette party. I didn’t get to go to Prom. I didn’t get to have a Graduation party. I began to realize that ALL of the things that I said I didn’t care about, my 21-year-old self, cared VERY much about. I began to realize that tons of things I thought I liked and HAD liked at 16, I no longer cared for. I wanted to be ME, but being ME would inevitably hurt him. So, I quit my job and imprisoned myself, working from home, where I would have little to zero contact with the temptations that working brought. No more drinks after work. No more attractive men walking around every day. No more compliments from guys that turned me on. Just me, our dog and my computer. And this went on until we bought our dream home in the suburbs and after 9 years of marriage (on our 9 year anniversary, in fact), we had our first child together.
THIS WAS PERFECT! I could busy myself with nursing and diaper-changing, play dates and naps. I was too tired to care what I wanted anymore or who I wanted to be. I no longer cried myself to sleep at night or daydreamed of escaping my life. I was in love and focused on this sweet, adorable child and now we could grow closer again, as a family. And we did. For a while. And then, three years later, a second son was born and now I knew I would always be “good” because if I was busy before, then two would certainly take up all of my time. I was dead wrong.
Having two kids and still ignoring my true self just made me more miserable. We were two roommates, living together as business partners, raising these boys. The romance was gone. We barely touched anymore and we rarely had intimate moments together. We were too tired. I was drowning in self-denial and unhappiness and we put up a good front to those around us. But, I was slowly becoming a shell of myself and suicide was not a thought far from my mind on most days.
I rarely took time for myself. I spent all day nursing, working my Ebay business (sometimes while nursing), and napping. My nights were spent crying in the bathtub, trying to “get it together” and falling asleep in front of the TV together because that was easier than talking or making love. I was dying and because of that, we were dying. And then, suddenly, one day, I broke.
I couldn’t do it anymore. I had just turned 30 and I couldn’t hide myself anymore. I got a boob lift, nose and belly piercing and a toe ring tattoo. I was coming out of my shell. I could NOT stand to hide myself anymore. To pretend to be the perfect wife, when in fact, I didn’t know that I wanted to be a “wife” anymore at all. I loved my kids. I would die for my kids, but being unhappy only meant that they would grow up with an unhappy mom, in an unhappy home. And from my home life growing up, I knew that could do years of damage. So, we went to counseling, I took meds, we had regular date nights and began to focus on us fixing us. But, the problem was that we were really no longer an “us” anymore. I was ME and he was HIM. Two friends who could still be friends, but no longer felt like a married couple. So, we explored, tried new things, allowed each other space and THIS only created more space between us. I was beginning to spread my wings and he didn’t like where I was flying. But, once I flew, I couldn’t go back to being caged up anymore. And, so, that is what led to that fateful day in my old kitchen, with the sounds of our kids playing downstairs in the background.
In some ways, it felt like the first REAL conversation we had had in years. We were brutally honest and it felt AMAZING! I no longer had to stifle myself. I could let my freak flag fly! I could explore and go wherever I wanted with no regrets. I could finally grow up and be me. And this was why I was so relieved.
I could sit here and lie to you and tell you that the process of divorce was easy and smooth and happy. But, the truth is, even in a “good” divorce, chunks of you get decimated. Lies are spread, rumors abound and you lose lots of friends. You get judged by EVERYONE and suddenly some of your best friends treat you as if hanging around you will make them catch the “divorce bug” so they back off. Teachers at school take sides and unfortunately mine was not the one they took. I took it in stride as best I could, keeping my mouth shut to the truth and letting them think whatever they thought. And, to make the timing EVEN worse in my favor, was the fact that our best friends were getting divorced at the same time. So, when I moved out and the other husband moved out (and lived miles away from each other), my new nickname was “Homewrecker”. I had stolen a husband and we were leaving our spouses, except that’s not how it happened. And, now, he IS my new husband so that didn’t help matters either. BUT, ALL of that is OK. In the end, what others think of you DOESN’T MATTER. When they “liked me”, I was dying inside, so I could live with the judgment and sometimes hating of me.
At the end of our lives. At the end of our days. Hell, at the end of the night when we are tucked snuggly in our beds we NEED to be able to smile and be happy with the life we created. And, I am. Divorce was not the end for me. In so many ways, it was a RESET button on my life, a clean slate, a blank canvas. I was able to start over, as now a 32-year-old woman who knew what she wanted and who she was and could find the man who would love that. Not just love it, but worship it. Someone who matched the grown up version of me. And, I did.
I’m not sorry that I got married at 16. I learned A LOT. I grew A LOT. It was not a tragedy. It was a process, a journey. It is part of my story. My ex and I are friends and we have spent many times over the years celebrating birthdays and Holidays with our kids together as one big, strange, blended family. He is happily re-married with a stepchild and I am happily re-married with a stepchild. We have both grown and can appreciate that the story we originally thought was ours was much bigger than that. Our boys are thriving and have said MANY times to me, “Mom, thank you for getting divorced. It just means we have more people in our family to love and more people love us”. They don’t see us fight (and we don’t). They see us happy and THAT makes me happy.
You see, life is TOO short to live the way you think you should. To do the things that you think are expected of you. I lived that life. I almost killed myself in that life. And, where would my boys be then? Should you stay miserable for others at the sacrifice of your own happiness? Do you want your kids to grow up and see your unhappy all of the time, playing a martyr for them? I didn’t and I don’t. My kids NEEDED a happy mom and they have that now. Sure, I have days where I feel overwhelmed by work or I need a nap because I slept like crap. But, even on my worst days, I’m happier than I was on the BEST days in my old life.
Because sometimes, most times, ALL times what looks like an ending, is just another fantastic beginning.