After a period of over two years of being gradually more and more unhappy, I made the decision to separate from my (now ex) husband in the summer of 2017. A year and a half later, just before my 31st birthday, the official divorce papers came through. After 8 years of marriage, I was divorced. To say it felt like a massive weight had been lifted would be an understatement.
The journey that I’ve been on with divorce has been one of three stages; the idea, the reality, and the aftermath.
The idea of divorce, and more so the initial separation, took what felt like a very long time to realise. After years of experiencing what I now see as gas-lighting behaviour, I had what felt like a constant tug of war in my head as to whether I should end things or not. My self-esteem was at an all time low, but I knew I deserved to be happy, and couldn’t carry on as I was.
The reality was messy, difficult, frustrating, and at times infuriating. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my life. Mostly because of the weight of guilt I felt for breaking someone’s heart. The guilt is something that has taken me a long time to be at peace with.
The most difficult part was dealing with my ex during the divorce process. It was something that made me so stressed, that I ended up getting quite a serious viral infection, and seeking life coaching so that I could better cope with the mental health journey the divorce was sending me on too.
The aftermath feels like relatively calm ripples after the storm. Some aspects of our relationship still affect me, and can come as unexpected waves out of the stillness. In the weeks we’ve had in lock down, I’ve started to take steps towards making my vision of having a successful blog a reality.
What’s come as quite a shock is that I haven’t thought about my ex this much in a long time. I’m having nightmares about him, and remembering how he didn’t support me when I tried to make a venture work for myself in the past. However, I know that this will pass with time, and it’s just my brain’s way of processing me taking a massive step outside of my comfort zone.
Two Sides to Every Story
I wanted to give you a snap shot of how my divorce played out so that you can hopefully better understand why and how I’ve learnt the things along the way that I have. I also should highlight that this is just my side of the story, and no doubt he has his own feelings about what happened too, and it wouldn’t be fair not to acknowledge that. We were part of the same story for so long, but that story just wasn’t making sense any more; we couldn’t be what each other needed.
Sitting here, now, and writing this post, I’m so glad that I decided to end my marriage. I’m so grateful for everything it forced me to see about myself and my relationships, and I’ve come much further in a few short years than I ever thought I was capable of. So here’s the low down of exactly what I learnt…and for the record, (just in case you were wondering) I do still believe in marriage, it just didn’t work for me.
What I’ve Learnt
Communication Is Everything
Sadly, I was so young and naïve when I got married (I was 21) that I didn’t appreciate just how big a cornerstone of marriage, and any healthy relationship for that matter, communication is. This resulted in lots of burying my head in the sand, rather than actually talking about how I was feeling.
Then, during the last couple of years of my married life, communication between me and my husband became pretty much non existent. He had his own issues that he was struggling to deal with, and I was afraid to bring up how I was feeling about the whole situation because whenever I tried to, it would end in a fight. So I gave up trying.
I’ve taken this lesson with me into my current relationship. Although it’s felt hugely uncomfortable at times, I’ve made a point (to myself at least) of asking the difficult questions, letting him know when and why I’m annoyed, and making sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what we have planned for our future together.
To Appreciate My Own Self Worth
It’s only with hindsight that I can say, due to my own limiting beliefs (which I’m still working on) I allowed the gas lighting behaviours that my ex portrayed in the final years of our marriage to damage my sense of self-worth.
After years of being told I was ‘fat’ (funny how that one always sticks with us ladies) and ‘not the type of person’ that would be good at this, that, or the other, I lost all sense of who I was and where I fitted into the world.
It was with the support of my amazing friends and family, as well as reading a variety of personal development books, that I began to see what my strengths were, and act on them. I appreciated me for me – quirks and all.
Fast forward to know, and I’m proud of the woman that I’ve become, for the values that I have, what I know I can achieve, and the joy I can bring to other people’s lives.
To Be Better With Money
I was never great with money to begin with, but my marriage basically falling apart definitely made it a whole lot worse! In fact, I never really got into any personal debt (apart from my student loan) until the second half of my marriage.
As I became more and more unhappy, the more I spent money on going out late drinking and dancing till all hours, or going to as many dance classes as I could get my hands on. (dance became my medicine) In order to fund all this, I was spending more than I was earning – creeping further and further into my overdraft, or putting things on my credit card.
Things really spiralled out of control with my spending when I booked a long weekend to Ibiza with some friends – paid for entirely on my credit card. With hindsight I can see that this was a silly thing to do, however, I don’t regret the experience and see it as another big signal as to how unhappy I was. After yet another episode of burying my head in the sand, I knew I had to do something to get a handle on the debt I’d built up.
Now, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t check my banking app. I’ve also consolidated the majority of the debt that I built up so that it’s more manageable for me to pay back. I still have a way to go, but I feel so much better having set myself up a budget and knowing exactly where my money is going each month.
The Art of Forgiveness
This was by far the the lesson that took me the longest, and was the hardest for me to learn. Part of why I ended up getting ill through stress was because I was still bitter and resentful towards my ex-husband. I told myself it was for good reason too.
As well as spending a lot of money on myself, I also wiped out the savings I had had previously to support my husband through a period of time where he couldn’t work. Despite my asking him to contribute on multiple occasions, I also footed the solicitors bill for all the paperwork relating to our divorce. He was therefore the obvious outlet for me to direct all my money-related anger and frustration towards.
Through the life coaching that I had whilst the divorce proceedings were taking place, I saw that holding on to the bitterness and anger was not serving me mentally or physically, so I needed to let them go.
One of the tasks I was given was to write a letter to my ex forgiving him for everything that I saw him as having done wrong. It was such a turning point, as it signified letting go of the past, and I felt so much lighter for having written it.
It was a major stepping stone to where I am today; happier than I’ve ever been, and all because I chose to walk away from something that I knew was broken beyond repair.
Do any of there lessons resonate with you? (whether you’re divorced yourself of not) I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments and we can start a discussion.
Featured Image by Zoriana Stakhniv on Unsplash
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