Today is my husband’s birthday. For the last five years, this day was one of my favorites. I love birthdays, in general, but celebrating the birth of someone you love more than anything is truly special. I would search for weeks for the perfect gift and spend the days leading up to this day trying my best not to spoil whatever it was. I didn’t always make it to the 27th.
This year, I woke up next to our beautiful daughter, sent a text to him that read “happy bday” and immediately went on his new girlfriend’s Facebook page. “So glad I get to spend it with you,” she writes. Tears swell up in my eyes as I look at their pictures together, and stare intently on the word “love” that she, for the first time today, has used publicly in regards to their relationship.
How did this happen? A question I ask almost daily. Last year, on this very day, I woke up next to him, watching him hold our daughter and kissed him smack on the lips.
Just a few months later, I left.
No one cheated. We went to therapy. We stayed together for the kid. We did everything we were supposed to do to get back to happy.
I had to leave. As many married women read this, I am sure plenty of them have the same thought: marriage isn’t easy. And it isn’t. But, for those who choose to leave their unhappy marriage, know this: if you felt like you had to, you probably did.
It has been less than a year since I left my husband. I am no expert on divorce, how to get through it or how to move on. I’ve gone back to him, I’ve begged him to come back to me, I’ve yelled at his new love, got a court hearing, canceled it weeks later. I’ve been confused, hurt, scared and regretful. I’ve made mistakes.
Therefore, I don’t have but one good piece of advice. Throughout this process, people have told me that it gets better, to feel confident in my choice. They give me their two cents on custody, and how to remain calm, and how to start dating again.
The only thing that I feel confident in passing on is this: be alone.
My husband and I had been together for five years, married for four. We spent every single second together, took vacations together, parented together. He was my very best friend for a long time. When I left, I was lonely. I didn’t know how to sleep without someone’s body next me, or count on myself. I jumped into a volatile relationship to soothe both the pain of losing what was once a happy marriage and the sting of being alone.
I went searching for what I thought I wanted. I dated, went online like all the cool people, chased after exes. All of the green grass that I thought was out there, where the hell was it?
One night, I sat feeling bad for myself with a friend and she looked at me and said simply, “just be by yourself for a while.”
So, there you have it. I can’t tell anyone how to move on, when to move on or what to move on to. All I can say is that sometimes, it’s okay not to move at all. It’s okay to stand still.
It’s okay to get to know you all over again. I might have learned a lot about relationships by leaving one, but I learned more about myself and continue to everyday. I am learning small things about Kayla, like: I enjoy documentaries, and tattoos. I prefer family to friends. I hate alcohol, and love New York City more than I knew. However, I’m also learning big things about Kayla, like: I need to be a writer, not just desire to be one. I also want to be a doula, to strengthen my relationship with my siblings and am excited to learn more!
Luckily, I’m never really alone, none of us are. I have a gorgeous, hilarious, sweet toddler that loves me and her father unconditionally. Sometimes, I look at her with a sadness that feels like 100 pounds on my heart. I wonder if there is any failure bigger than not providing your child with a family. Then I realize, having divorced parents doesn’t rob O of a family. Her Dad and I, no matter the issues, no matter the fights, will always put her first and foremost. And having us both happy is the best thing we can do for her, which sadly, couldn’t be done together.
So, lean on your friends, lean on your family, take a deep breath, and reintroduce yourself.
If you choose divorce, you are no less of a woman. You are no less of a wife. You are no less of a mother. You don’t need a partner to validate these things, or a body to keep you warm at night. One day, you will fall in love again. And your stomach will flip and fill with butterflies. You’ll be jealous, and elated, and nervous, and fulfilled. You’ll have your heartbroken, probably more than once, and you’ll do it all over again. Because love, true love, is worth it.
So, the best advice I can give women who choose divorce is to be alone, learn who you are and what you want. Learn what makes you tick, and what makes you happy in ways you might have forgotten even exist.
Because the truest love of all, the only love that actually conquers all, is loving yourself.