I never wanted to be divorced. I meant my vows. I wanted my marriage to be for life. I pulled from every ounce of strength I had to try to make it work. But there is a point of no return where none of that matters anymore, even if you want it to. Instead of being “until death,” my marriage barely lasted two years.
How does that happen? Unfortunately, there are many ways. This isn’t the story of my failed marriage. That is laid out in the rest of this blog, which serves as a journal that chronicles the unraveling of an unhealthy relationship. This is a post about making the decision that I never thought I would make, and how it changed everything.
I’m not proud of being divorced. Even though it was the best decision I could have made, the only healthy choice, and the reason I am now happy, it still weighs on me. I never wanted to be that person. The one who gives up. I have come to accept that admitting defeat isn’t a bad thing when it means acknowledging your failings and learning from them. Still, I wish I hadn’t gotten myself into that situation.
I am writing this from the couch of the beautiful home where I live with my fiancé. The perfect ring on my left hand keeps catching the light.
I wish that the marriage I’m about to enter into was my first.
It isn’t, though. To get to where I am, I had to come from where I was. That sounds silly when I write it out, but it’s true. Going through those things taught me a lot about myself, about relationships, about what I do and don’t want, and about what’s really important.
I have moments where I wish that everything was different, though. I wish that this relationship with this man was the one I’d waited for. That I had never married my ex. Never put on a big show for hundreds of people where I declared that he was my mate for life. Never tried to force myself to believe he was as good as it was going to get. I wish I hadn’t cheated myself out of the experience I should have had.
People have emailed me to ask, “How do you get past the stigma of divorce?” I want to say, “Easily.” I handle it matter-of-factly. I was straight-forward about my divorce in my dating profile, mentioning it right in the first paragraph. When the new IT guy asked about my previous name, I casually answered with the facts. Instances like that have come up over and over again since my divorce. I can be flippant about it, even make jokes.
It’s not actually that easy, though.
It’s not so much society that holds onto the stigma. It’s me. The end of my bad marriage manages to occupy the spot as both the best and the worst thing.
I want to be able to say it’s just the best thing. Because that is partially true. Getting away from him is the best decision I could’ve made for my future happiness. Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship was as necessary as air to my well-being. I had to get out of a marriage where I felt unloved and unwanted by the person who was supposed to love me more than anyone else. I couldn’t handle the lack of intimacy, trust, sex, respect, and all of the other things that are vital to a healthy partnership. So yes, leaving was the best choice I could have made in a shitty situation.
But that shitty situation was the worst. It was really awful. And the worst part of it all is that I put myself there. The stigma for me isn’t so much the end of the marriage, but the fact that I entered into it to begin with. That’s the decision that haunts me sometimes. That I’m not married to him anymore is great. That I ever was is one of my biggest regrets.
The truly terrifying part is that I didn’t have any doubts on my wedding day.
None. At all. Which is ridiculous because there were so many red flags and major issues with our relationship, including the fact that he had cheated on me at least once that I knew of at the time. We weren’t compatible sexually, we had completely different work ethics, values, and views on things like drug use. I could never envision having children with him (which I justified by saying I wasn’t interested in children rather than face that I couldn’t have children with him because I couldn’t count on him).
Despite all of those glaring issues, I was able to bury my head in the sand, pretend like everything was perfect, and have the big church wedding I let him pressure me into (I was never interested in any of that since I’m an introverted atheist).
I won’t say that my fiancé is perfect because he’s not. No one is, and certainly no relationship can be. That’s something I wish I had accepted before. Trying to be the perfect, happy, vision of what I thought an engaged couple should be is one of the things that enabled me to push aside all of the things that I would have recognized as deal-breakers if I had looked at my relationship honestly. Admitting imperfections in myself and my partner has allowed me to examine them, address them, and determine how they can be worked out (if at all).
This time around I am being honest with myself. Neither of us is perfect, but he is amazing for me and I’m amazing for him. We have fights and issues, but we work them out together. I trust him completely. I don’t doubt for one second that we can and will have a lasting marriage that will be the cornerstone of our future family. I know that because we’re both committed to it, we love each other through all of our imperfections, and we can laugh at each other and ourselves when we make mistakes, then apologize as necessary.
I don’t think I will ever stop wishing that I hadn’t married the wrong person first. But I am glad that I found the strength to divorce. I’m also grateful that I used that experience to learn. It prepared me for the marriage that I will be in for the rest of my life. All things considered, that mistake got me to where I am today, and for that I’m incredibly thankful.