What I learned from getting divorced at 31
My husband and I decided to separate this year, on New Years Day, and two weeks later we decided to get a divorce. We had been married for a little over two years and together for almost six. We had known each other since we were fifteen. As I write this we are halfway through the legal process of divorce, or in our case, summary dissolution. The entirety of our relationship has been distilled into a mountain of paperwork and weekly logistical emails.
I firmly believe that every relationship is a chance for personal and spiritual development and that every one is therefore important and necessary. But that’s easy to say when you aren’t experiencing the end of one. There are few things in life that are more heartbreaking than the final breaths of a relationship. The slow decline of laughter into silence, the growth of a gap that no time together can close. Finally, everyone gets so miserable they just sit around drinking, or sleeping, or lying to themselves.
We got to that point. The answer was so clear, and at the same time a labyrinth. I knew, in the quietest of spaces within myself, that we were not right for each other. We loved each other immensely. We had built a beautiful family. We lived an incredibly charmed life. But we had each grown up, and the full adults we had become required totally different things from life. Things the other person couldn’t supply without changing entirely. When the answer to a relationship asks that someone compromise who they inherently are, the end has already arrived. If you can’t be you and they can’t be them, what’s the point?
When my husband and I met at that two-week point to discuss our separation, I was prepared for war. I knew what was right and exactly what I wanted to say. Speaking my mind though was something that I feared more than death and as I sat waiting for him, my hands shook. Speaking my mind when I knew full well that what I had to say would wound someone felt like death. I watched him walk in and as my stomach clenched and my skin went cold, a tiny voice from the back of my mind whispered, “You’ll be delivering a miracle.” It distracted me just enough that I actually took a breath and when he asked me to say just what I felt, I did.
My precise words were: “I don’t think we should be together anymore.” The truth was out. Never had I been so sure of anything. I didn’t want to be married anymore. Suddenly, the voices of my parents, his parents, our extended family, all of my friends blared in my mind. How could you do this? Divorce is for cowards. How could you be so selfish? Is there someone else? Marriage is forever. You are a liar. I could feel the disappointment and disapproval suffocating me. What were the answers to those questions? Was I selfish? Was I a coward? Was I liar? If so, to whom was I lying? Then his voice interrupted me: “I don’t think we should be together anymore either”.
I was shocked. He took me in his arms and hugged me. I cried and we made a pact to always be friends. “We grew up together, I want you in my life” he said. Never until that moment, had I felt more loved by him. Never had I felt more love for him. By shutting out the perceived feelings of others, including him, and telling the truth I did deliver a miracle. The miracle of real love. To him and to myself.
Love isn’t always a happy ending. It isn’t always roses and weddings and romance. It’s work. It’s saying the hardest thing to say because you know it’s right for yourself and for the other person. It’s delivering a miracle through tears and shaking hands. Doing the thing that scares you the most because you care. Real love is authentic and vulnerable, it’s not easy but it is life-changing.
I never expected that at 31 I would be divorced. Having to start all over when I hadn’t even really started to begin with is scary. Losing a family is a devastation that will take years to heal. But every day it gets easier, every day my ex-husband and I become better friends. The years I spent married have been the most valuable of my life and the people I got to call family are people I will love forever.
Every divorce, no matter how amicable, is deeply painful and tremendously difficult. But so is anything that matters. Divorce is not cowardly or easy and it is a decision that should be made as consciously as the decision to get married. All that matters in either one is the love.