A few months after my ex-husband and I decided to separate, I heard a lot of things from people who had been through a divorce:
You have a tough road ahead.
Once you turn a corner, it is amazing.
Dropping off your kids is the worst.
Having sex with other people is so much fun.
Fast forward a few years later, and I’ve discovered there are a lot of things people don’t actually tell you. Perhaps it’s because divorce lingers like a bad aftertaste they can’t shake, and they go through so many stages and feelings that it would be impossible to express that to another person.
Or maybe the people I was talking to were so far removed from their divorce that they’d already forgotten that while sex with another person can be new and exhilarating, you aren’t really able to connect with them until you have done the work on yourself. You can have an amazing O, then they want the person lying next to you to leave because it’s all too much for you to feel, and really, you didn’t see this coming and you start to question if you will ever be emotionally available again. Basically, it’s disappointing as hell.
You’re warned you’ll miss your kids and the family dynamic we used to share — which is all very true. But it turns out you take divorce in little bites because you’re only able to digest it in little pieces at a time. So, the day you realize you’ll never have the relationship you had with your ex — buying your first home together and starting a family for the first time together — with anyone else again, it takes a lot of letting go and letting things be what they will be. And that’s one of the hardest feelings to wade through.
Nothing is more confusing than a broken marriage’s ups and downs. One minute you’re feeling happy and free because you have the bathroom, bed, and thermostat to yourself, and you’re glad you didn’t have to consult your partner about buying something, then you see a family crossing the road on a Saturday afternoon, and you feel hollow inside.
You mistake that for missing your ex-partner, which turns you inside out because you were just feeling so happy and free. You can miss the old days you used to share together without wanting them back, and that takes a while to decipher and sort out because it makes no sense some days.
No one mentions that guilt that will weigh you down. That there will be days you wish you were a different person because maybe if you were, you would have been able to do better for your family, and we wouldn’t be in this situation — even if you know it takes two people to make a relationship work and that it’s healthier to live apart and yet, two years post-separation, you still put me through the grinder some days.
It’s almost like if you don’t beat yourself up about your situation, you think you are being lazy and letting yourself off the hook because it’s really hard to not take full responsibility for carting your kids back and forth and making them split up the holidays. Accepting you did your very best somehow seems harder.
Each divorce is different, and everyone handles their specific experience in their own way. But when you start the process, there are so many scary unknowns, and no one is prepared, regardless of the advice they get or books they read.
The only thing you can do is take it minute by minute, take care of yourself, and realize there are going to be some days that are just horrible, whether it’s been two weeks or ten years since your split.
Even then, you are going to have surprises (both glorious and horrible) that no one told you about. Take it in stride and know that everything you are going through is a natural part of the process, and one day you will wake up, and the guilt won’t feel as heavy, and you won’t be so confused.