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Surviving Divorce (Five Years Later)

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[Photo from The Fresh Exchange.]

Earlier this summer a day like any other passed quietly and without fanfare. Only, it wasn’t really a day like any other. It was the day that five years ago, my now ex-husband and I began the very difficult conversation about how we were going to get divorced. If you haven’t been reading that long, yes, I am divorced. I don’t speak about it at all necessarily as this isn’t a blog about divorce. But if you didn’t know already, I thought maybe you should know. I was married at 26. I was separated at 28. I was divorced at 29. Those three statements have played a huge role in shaping who I am today, and what motivates me as a woman, a blogger and a mother. I don’t wear a t-shirt that says, “Hi, I’m divorced!” (Although somedays I think I should.) I had no idea what was about to happen on that day five years ago. On a day like any other, I hit a wall. I won’t discuss that wall in any particular detail, because those details don’t belong to me alone and I’m not of any unfounded belief that this story is fully mine to share. Out of respect to others and their privacy, in particular my ex-husband who is very much a real, live person, I’m going to gloss over those things. Details aside, the wall I hit had been inches from my face for a really long time and I had been carefully turning a blind eye to it without even realizing I was doing so. When it was no longer avoidable, I smashed into that wall with such force that it literally rocked my entire existence off its foundation and the whole house of cards came crumbling down overnight. For a very long time I wasn’t fully sure of who I was after that or where I was going. But I knew one thing. Without any doubt, I had made the exact right decision and for the most part I never wavered in my understanding that I was doing the only thing I could to save myself.

Oh. P.S. This is going to be a long one.

I sat down this morning on the front porch with my coffee and my laptop. I was planning to finish up a very different kind of blog post, and I’m not sure entirely why, but I felt the need to write this one instead. Perhaps it’s because on a near daily basis lately, I can’t help but reflect on this life of mine that I never anticipated living. I never imagined owning this house. I never really even thought I’d move back to my hometown after being away for over ten years. I certainly never planned to be in the relationship I am in. (Because, duh, I was married.) Hell, I never even planned on being a mother in the standard get-pregnant-and-grow-a-baby sense. Precisely 90% of my life (or more) is in sharp contrast to the life I was setting myself up for or the dreams that I had for myself back then. And I think that’s why I felt the need to sit down and share a little bit about how grateful I am for this life I have, but also how grateful I am for being divorced. Maybe that sounds crazy to you. Or maybe you know exactly what I am talking about. But my relationship with my ex-husband, my marriage and my divorce were all pivotal in leading me to where I am today. I don’t believe in accidents. I absolutely believe in fate, at least to some extent. I passionately believe that the universe will always get us where we’re supposed to be, but we have to be brave enough to listen and to act when our guts are screaming at us to go a particular way. Sometimes people get married and stay married for a hundred years. Sometimes people get married and do not stay married for a hundred years. Or even twenty. Or even five. And guess what? It’s ok. Really, truly. It’s ok.

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For anyone who has ever said that divorce is the easy way out, I would say quite simply, “Then you obviously you have never been divorced.” Without question, getting divorced ranks among the most difficult things I have been through in my 33 years. By far. There is absolutely, undeniably, unequivocally nothing easy about divorce. Surviving divorce is no joke. Let’s not kid ourselves. Even now, in 2016, firmly smack dab in the midst of the 21st century, society looks down on divorce with complete disdain. We see it plastered across headlines in bold letters as if divorce somehow automatically equals failure. And let’s be real here for a second. People fear failure. It’s human nature. And then there is divorce, which somehow makes us all feel vulnerable and at risk of that very failure we find so scary. Other people getting divorced feels threatening and frightening and it challenges us in our own lives and our own marriages, and it in turns makes everyone whisper, avert eye contact, look the other way. For years now I’ve been wanting to talk more about being divorced and to open up a conversation that is more honest and more real. Divorce sucks. But sometimes, it is absolutely necessary. You might be shaking your head and saying, “No. Divorce is never an option.” Well, congratulations. You obviously aren’t at a point in your life that you need to get divorced. Because if you were, you would feel far differently.

I spent months floundering around after those words passed through my lips. “I think we need to talk about getting divorced.” And then I packed up the house we had bought just eighteen months before. I filed all of our belongings into boxes and bins. All the while, I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. I couldn’t cover the mortgage alone as I had only left my job three months prior to blog full time, so I took photos of the house that months before had held so many promises and found tenants on Craigslist. All along I was making nice on the internet and sharing cocktail recipes and photos of parties, while inside I was dying. I had friendships that struggled because it was difficult for me to enjoy brunch when I didn’t know where I’d be living the following month. I had friendships that struggled because it was difficult for them to just simply check in now and again to see how I was doing. I found a new home for one of our dogs. I found a place to rent that was ok with my other old black dog tagging along. And then I found another one, and another one and another one. I struggled to pay bills, I put my student loans into forbearance, I dodged people from high school at Target so I didn’t have to engage in friendly banter. I spent a lot of time crying. I spent a lot of time feeling like the person I was had died along with my marriage. I spent a lot of time hearing from people who had oddly specific ideas about what I should do or what I should have done. I spent a lot of time alone. Sitting in parks. Binge watching old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. Crying. Taking walks with my dog. Drinking coffee on the porch of the house I was renting. Reading personal accounts of divorce on blogs wherever I could find them. Crying some more. And then, eventually, the ground stopped seeming to move. It got easier to wake up and shower every morning. The fog over my brain started to thin out. I started to feel real, true joy again. The anxiety that had been rattling around in my chest started to subside. And I came out of the storm not just ok, but better. So so so much better.

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Five years later, I truly want to be able to simply share a little hope. I know someone is reading this right now who is scared and feeling alone and ashamed and like a giant failure because your marriage is falling apart or it is already in shambles and you’re trying to rebuild your life, trying to figure out who you are when everything you thought you knew is proving to no longer be true or real. I know first hand that absolutely nothing makes you feel as alone and as isolated as divorce. So I just want to say, you are not alone. If I’ve learned anything these last five years it’s that far more people than any of us could imagine are divorced. We just don’t do a good enough job of talking about it. Young people. Successful people. Highly respected people. You are not alone. No one grows up and hopes to some day have “divorcée” scrawled across their resume of life. Guess what? Sometimes life doesn’t give a shit about your plans. Sometimes life has a better plan for you, a better life for you, a better you for you. A you that is stronger, wiser, happier. A life that is fuller, richer, more incredible than you could ever imagine. And if you don’t take that step forward, you will never know the beauty that is waiting for you on the other side.

I say all the time to people who I speak with personally about it that I am a wildly passionate advocate of divorce. That might seem shocking, but please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am a huge advocate of divorce because I am also a hopeless romantic, and I believe passionately in marriage and in the beauty of a love so deep that nothing could threaten its existence. My marriage? It wasn’t a marriage at all. It was a relationship formalized by some dusty legal document somewhere that acted more like a set of handcuffs than as a life force. I knew life and love and marriage could be so much more and frankly, I don’t believe in living miserably together forever until the end of all time simply because you promised you would. Promises are made and broken every day. I believe in laughter and joy and working through your shit because you bring out the best in each other, strengthen each other and lift each other up. I do not believe in keepin’ on keepin’ on when you systematically tear each other down or feel dead inside or genuinely feel fearful at the thought of spending your entire life feeling like you do within the confines of your marriage. That, my friends, is not a life I’m interested in living.

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These days, I jokingly call myself a poster child for divorce. I don’t mean it to be glib. Five years ago today, I was a few weeks into wading through the traumatizing aftermath of a wild decision I never thought I would make. If you’d asked me then, I’d have told you my life was in complete disarray. I believe I most often referred to it as, “Oh, you know. I just set my life on fire. That’s all, no big deal!” Today, I have literally never been happier in my own existence. I have never felt more stable, more humble, more full, more peaceful. Don’t get me wrong. I have stress every day over work, money, motherhood, the list goes on. I have a million things I’d like to improve (like my weight, the fine lines on my forehead and our ugly kitchen), but I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Which I suppose is the entire point of this incredibly long ramble. To encourage you to trust in the journey. To trust that you will end where you are supposed to be. You never know. You may just wake up one day in a big white house, with the most beautiful baby, a gaggle of amazing step kids, and a partner who somehow, incredibly matches your every heartbeat. It’s possible, friends. Even when you think it’s not. Trust me, I would know.

post-line-before-credits

[Images + lettering from The Fresh Exchange.]

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Sarah

Thursday 29th of December 2016

I read this when you first posted it while I was in the middle of the separation from my husband. This post scared me. It scared me because I wasn't ready to hear that divorce was an option. Well, months later, now we are divorcing and I've come back to it because I need to hear from the 100th person that I will be ok.

I struggle mightily, daily, even hourly, with our decision to divorce. It seems so dumb, it seems so inane. Why should two people who are nice to each other and funny with each other and caring about each other get divorced. It makes no sense. We decided to divorce in October and I am still struggling with making it make sense, even though it was a mutual decision. I hate it so much. I hate it hate it hate it. I know we were unhappy and yet, this seems way worse than being unhappy then. I just hate it so much. My life has changed. I don't get to hang out with someone who was my best friend. I can't stand the thought of him liking someone else but I know that he was unhappy in this 8 year marriage. My heart hurts to think of running into him and him not being my guy, my man. The one connected to me. I know we still love each other and care so much about each other, it's been professed by both of us. I see now that we weren't the best match, but I thought it worked. I just don't understand. Regardless, thank you for sharing your heart on this matter, it meant a lot to me.

Cyd Converse

Tuesday 10th of January 2017

Sarah, I am so so sorry for just now responding. I was sick and took some extra time off, and then wanted to sit down when I had a moment to properly, adequately respond. First of all, thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to know that these words I wrote can mean anything to someone else. That's precisely why I felt moved to sit and write this post originally. Secondly, most importantly, I am so so sorry for the pain and the struggle you're dealing with right now. I find so much familiarity in your words. It is so easy, in the depths of all the $h*t you're dealing with right now to battle with the "wasn't it good enough?" question. The very next morning after calling it quits, I was already trying to talk myself out of the decision and trying to figure out how to back peddle. I can't imagine how miserable my life would be if I had. I know it isn't easy right now, the furthest thing from it, but I am so proud of you for working through it to get to this point. I promise you, you truly will come out the other side, possibly even sooner than you think, feeling so much stronger, braver and just better than you ever knew possible. The ways divorce changes your life are immeasurable (for me it was a loss of friends, losing our house we'd just bought, etc. etc.), but the ways it opens you up to the possibilities for the future are just as limitless. I never dreamed my life would or could be what it is today, and I fully credit moving forward past my marriage for being the catalyst that propelled me to opening those doors. Please know my heart is with you and I am wishing you all the love and peace your heart can hold. XOXOXO

Emily

Thursday 6th of October 2016

I stumbled upon this through pinterest and i just absolutely bawled my eyes out. I needed this. In a marriage that is slowly falling to shit and feeling like im at a crossroads i needed this truth. The fear of disappointing others is so overwhelming. And all of the 'what if's". Thank you x

Cyd Converse

Friday 7th of October 2016

Oh Emily, my heart goes out to you! I know exactly what you're feeling in this moment and God, it is just awful. I promise you that you do get over that fear of disappointment and judgement pretty quickly. It's like as soon as you're moving forward and you're feeling more sane and stable, you officially move into "I don't give a f*ck" mode and you're able to just focus on yourself and what you need. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you all the best, whatever you decide! XOXOXO

Alison

Thursday 8th of September 2016

Cyd -- I found myself on your blog, being linked here from somewhere else I can't remember, but I am so glad I read this post.

"I am a huge advocate of divorce because I am also a hopeless romantic..." I'm a year out of a marriage that is summed up perfectly by that whole paragraph. I'm just starting a new relationship with someone else who is recently divorced, and we are calling all of this "bonus time." It's ours to take and make what we have always wanted!

Thanks for being so honest and understanding of how this whole process, while sad and weird and potentially terrible, can also be an empowering and positive decision.

Jessica Griffin

Sunday 4th of September 2016

Thank you for sharing this. I love reading your blog. You are such a strong and wise woman! I'm so happy you found Bob and Baby Em. Life was holding a better brighter future for you. Love you girl. Hope to see you soon.

Cyd Converse

Tuesday 6th of September 2016

Thank you, Jess! That means so so much. I hope to see you soon, too! Hopefully in October! XOXO

Brittany

Wednesday 31st of August 2016

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your perspective, Cyd. Of course, you can't know how people are hurting when you only know them online, but your story helps me realize we need to be supportive of each other no matter what. I know this will be so helpful to people!

Cyd Converse

Sunday 4th of September 2016

Brittany, thank you! Your words mean so much. I know you know a thing or two about hurting, so I really appreciate that. I hope you are well! XOXO