5 years ago this month was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. And it was magical. Lovely, really—cakes, flowers, a white dress, rings. Hope.
5 years ago, I said yes. So did he.
5 years ago, I got married.
In case you haven’t been following along, I’m not married anymore. Yes, my friends, this makes me a divorcee. I’ve struggled for months with whether or not to share this piece of my life with you. Slowly, as close friends have asked me to share, and others I care for have come to me with the same struggle, I’ve realized that I am not the only one who has experienced this as a young adult.
In the world of short marriages, of things that come and go as quickly as they came, this certainly isn’t unusual. Have you seen the books and magazines and TV shows chronicling divorces? It’s commonplace, barely considered a big deal. I’ve met people my age who laugh and shrug it off, as if it’s not a big thing. But to me? It was a big deal. It IS a big deal.
I fell in love young. I was 17 when my ex and I got together “officially” after knowing each other for a few years. He took me on my first real date after asking me out for the first time on my 15th birthday. When we started dating again at 17, I fell hard. It instantly felt serious, and when he proposed to me when I was just 19, I didn’t hesitate. I loved him. My wedding day, just after I turned 21 was amazing. My parents were supportive, and my wedding was perfect.
It was after the wedding when things began to change. We came home, and lived together for the first time. And in all honesty, it felt like everything shifted suddenly, deeply, seriously. I felt as if I was living with a stranger. Looking back on it now, I can see that while we spent a lot of time together prior to marrying, we failed to really know one another in an intimate way. There were expectations, plans and feelings, goals that were never ever shared between us that suddenly didn’t mesh.
I made a promise to myself when this whole debacle started, that I would never, ever speak of him poorly—and while I don’t hesitate to tell my story to those close to me, this blog will not be a “bash the ex-husband” story. While we are no longer in love, I still respect him enough not to tell the private things that affected us so deeply. Suffice it to say that there were some very, very serious issues that we struggled with. As for the specific efforts we took, all I will say is that we worked. Sometimes together, sometimes separately—but it wasn’t enough. Both of us contributed.
Besides the issues were were having, I was physically ill. I’ve never been a hypochondriac or someone who gets sick often. Suddenly, I was stricken with migraines—every single night. I’d come home from work, and it’d hit me like a ton of bricks. My evenings were spent with ice packs in the dark or in the bathtub staving off nausea. My stomach hurt, with the worst cross between nausea and heartburn that rendered me unable to work or function. I had every test under the sun—my doctors were convinced I had gallbladder disease, an ulcer, stomach cancer, but nothing could be found. I experienced the worst insomnia of my life. I went for weeks with no more than 2 hours of sleep per night. I was horridly depressed. Not just sad, but suicidal, and hating my life, and wishing more than anything that I could just change everything but having no idea where to start. After one particularly horrible blow up, I knew I couldn’t take it any more. I called a therapist with my HMO, and I can say with no exaggeration that she saved my life. That day, on the phone, with a woman I’d never met, I began to feel hope again. And a few weeks later, when we separated, I came home to an empty house, with no headache. For the first time in my life, I slept alone in a house, and I slept like a baby for 10 hours straight. It was then that it all came together. I knew what I had to do.
I ask myself a million questions, still, about why it didn’t work out. I look to silly flukes: the breeze that day caused our unity candle not to light. The morning after our wedding, my ring had given me a terrible rash, causing my finger to swell, and I had to take it off and get it expanded and re-dipped so it could stay on my finger. I comb over our relationship, looking for a needle in a haystack, trying to find out why, why, why. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is if I’d do it again, if I regret marrying him, or divorcing him, or both. And the answer to both is no. Divorce rips your heart out. Divorce hurts in a way like nothing else. The thing is that it’s not just the end of a relationship; the loss of companionship. It’s the death of being an “us”. The death of hopes and dreams. It’s being estranged from a circle of friends while everyone figures out their “side.” It’s the small stupid things: no more Christmas traditions or having someone to call who knows exactly what you want on your salad and someone to kiss goodnight. And I don’t regret divorcing him. It was, in many ways, the best decision I ever made. It saved me. It saved me from being dead inside.
Still, I don’t regret marrying him. It was the right choice at the time; I know that I went into it with the best of intentions, with the most hope I could have. And it didn’t work. It’s awful. I screwed up, and so did he. But I made the best choice for me, at the time. And for that, I feel no regret.
The truth is, divorce taught me incredible things about myself. It taught me that I am a hell of a lot stronger than I used to give myself credit for. Despite it being incredibly hard on my parents, I can honestly say that our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. I learned more about myself, in those quiet, sad months of being alone than I ever knew before.
And the good part? My story of love was far from over…stay tuned for the good part…because believe me, there is a very, very happy ending.