What I’m most thankful for.
My divorce changed my life in many ways. Some were expected, like the loss of a partner, a routine, and all the plans I had for our future together. Others were unexpected, but even though they caught me off guard, they proved to be more positive than negative. They were, more than anything, internal changes. They helped me grow in ways I didn’t even recognized I needed, and now I see the many ways in which these changes have made me stronger.
I became more independent — and now I believe in myself
I have struggled with self-esteem for ages. I’ve been told I was a confident child, but somewhere along the crooked paths of adolescence I lost a good deal of spark.
With the loss of my self-confidence came a weird certainty that I was not meant to achieve anything great by myself. I wasn’t special or particularly talented, I wasn’t even that driven of competent. Achieving dreams wasn’t for me, unless I could attach those dreams to somebody else.
I married and intelligent guy who had a Big Impressive Job. I was excited whenever someone asked what my husband worked on, because I knew I was about to get a long look of admiration the moment I mentioned what it was.
Having a husband who works on a Big Impressive Thing made me feel like I was part of that Big Impressive Thing myself. It released me from having to pursue any accomplishments of my own. I would, therefore, never fail at anything, because I wasn’t even trying. I could have a bit of my self-esteem back without having to work for it.
It turns out that your husband having a Big Impressive Job doesn’t guarantee he’ll be any good at the primary thing you married him for: being a husband.
Mine may have impressed everyone we met with his title, but once it was just the two of us at home, he kept failing at being a good life partner to me over and over again. I felt like I was facing life alone, and decided that that might as well be the case.
Once I decided I might as well be on my own, I had to go through two major changes in mindset: first, I had to accept I’m good enough and worthy enough for who I am, independent of what I do and how much I accomplish; second, I had to relearn what I’m capable of. I had to start believing in myself again.
It took some time — and some therapy — but the biggest push to independence was to simply take the leap into solo life. I learned independence by acting independent, by not expecting my husband’s opinion or approval to decide anything (I didn’t have it anymore, anyway), and by accepting that the consequences of my actions, good or bad, would be all mine to bear.
My journey into being fully independent still isn’t over, but I’m happy with the change in mindset, and with the progress I made so far.
I felt more confident — and stopped caring about what people think
I got married in front of more than 100 people. I spent money on a venue, on decorations, and on nice food so all of them would come and witness my ex-husband and I pledge ourselves to each other. I had my father walk me down the aisle, and I had photographers and videographers registering everything, least I forget I had promised to stand by that man’s side forever.
Backtracking on that promise was painful. Even though staying together meant we would drive each other absolutely insane, breaking up my marriage was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
Making the divorce public is another challenge. It’s hard to admit that the beautiful wedding celebration, the promises, the rituals, the pictures, the gifts, were essentially wasted on a failed relationship. Even though the concept of a failed relationship is debatable, it’s hard not to feel like that’s the case — and like that’s what everyone will think when they hear about the divorce.
That’s an inescapable part of the process. It was rough, and it hurt, but as I went through it, I learned I didn’t really care about what people think. No one else had to wear my skin as I experiences the hardest moments of my marriage. No one else was there the many times I burst into tears in the car on my way to work, or when I had an anxiety attack right next to my ex-husband and he didn’t even notice. I was the one who had to put up a fight, and to know when to throw in the towel, so no one has the right to judge me for my choices. Once I internalized that, I realized that I was immediately more confident.
Now, I can carry on with my life and my choices caring less and less about what people think of me. It’s a welcome change of pace for someone who has struggled with insecurity as much as I have.
I found myself again
Being on my own for the first time in nearly a decade, I was finally facing the fact that I would have to be the one to shape my life as I wanted it to be.
For the first time in ages I wasn’t thinking within the confines of a relationship. I didn’t have to fit anyone into my vision of the future, and that led me to ask myself: what do I want that doesn’t depend on anyone else? The answer came fairly quickly: I want to be a writer. Always have, always will.
I may depend on other people to be a successful writer: agents, publishers, publicists, readers… but I don’t depend on anyone else but me to write a book. I’ve been wanting to write a book ever since I learned what writing was, and even though I had tried many times, I never finished anything. For a while, I didn’t have to. My accomplishments, after all, didn’t matter. I was the girl dating the guy destined to do Big Impressive Things, then I was married to the guy doing Big Impressive Things, I had no need for my own accomplishments. Being by myself finally changed that.
Divorce not only allowed me to get back in touch with my childhood dream of being a writer and take action on that dream, but it reminded me of the person I truly was: a happy, upbeat, fun to be around young woman. Somehow, I lost touch with that woman during my marriage. I erased her as I let that relationship define who I was. Finding myself again was a revelation in many ways. It was liberating and encouraging at the same time. It helped me redefine not only what I want for the future, but how I’m going to get it.
I understood good love means
My marriage was shaped by many misconceptions I had about what a good relationship meant. I used to think that constantly “fighting” for a relationship was a normal thing. I used to think that if connecting felt like a struggle, it just meant we were going through a “rough patch,” not that we were extremely incompatible to begin with.
The last leg of our engagement was long-distance, and during those few months we had many problems, even more than before. I used to think the problems were caused by the distance, and that once we were together, they would magically go away. How naive I was. I failed to see that the distance wasn’t the problem at all, our problems were the problem. When a relationship is good and solid in the first place, distance doesn’t get in the way. Distance can be a challenge, yes, but it doesn’t have to yield constant fighting, crying and emotional meltdowns.
Blaming our problems on the distance blinded me to how incompatible we were. The problems we used to have back when we still lived in the same city were conveniently forgotten, or chalked up to “every couple has issues to work through.” And that’s how we ended up getting married despite the many, many red flags.
I have since understood that a good relationship does take effort, but when there’s real compatibility and commitment from both sides, the work you put into it feels effortless. Having by my side someone who’s genuinely interested in connecting with me, in listening to what I have to say and in building a future together makes a big difference.
Despite the pain, I’m happy I got divorced
It still hurts to think of my wedding day, of how happy and hopeful and beautiful I was. It still hurts to think that all the pictures and images from that day are not the ones I’ll get to show my grandkids.
These days, however, I take a moment to acknowledge the pain and then let it go. And I also take a moment to recognize how much I’ve grown since the divorce, and how I have much more to feel thankful than to feel regretful for.
Written by Tesia Blake
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