We often comfort (and placate) those who have been jilted or wronged by their spouse, but how often do we empathize with the party that left?
I normally judged the marriage of others and vowed to never get divorced. I would “never be one of those people.” Until I left my 14-year marriage.
We were naïve about our issues and assumed our relationship was better than most. As co-existing roommates, we had a blast together—traveled the world, ate lavish dinners, accumulated comfortable bank accounts and built a stunning home.
Until, one day we realized it hadn’t been working and I brashly left the home in what we agreed would just be a “temporary separation.” What ensued the following year was the ultimate trial and testament to my strength and willpower as a human being.
I suffered physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
I took a risk and lost everything I once loved. I felt powerless from the pain and anguish—and I simply broke. My spirit shattered and the worst parts of my personality emerged.
All this was happening as I was establishing my practice as a certified holistic health coach, a career I had been training in for 15 years.
I focused on planting positive karmic seeds while attempting to keep my head above water and help others in need. After all, I was a natural healer and caretaker, as well as an inspiring educator, writer and researcher. People had no idea I was drowning in my own grief, sorrow and regret.
I succumbed to the momentous realization there was no fixing it, or “going back.” Life had officially changed in the worst ways, but forward was the only direction available.
I was forced to finally learn the number one lesson that had always persisted—learning to let go.
Nobody properly explains what happens when one decides to leave the marriage, regardless of the complicated circumstances or the huge amount of love still felt for “your person.” Despite the innocent promises made at the altar, couples’ therapy attempts, late night pleading, promises to be better, tears and anguish.
Here’s what I caution you: you must be prepared.
- Be prepared to feel free and play a little, but quickly realize you are in shock.
- Be prepared to get pummeled by beautiful memories you don’t even recall making, to experience regret, anger, loss, grief, numbness and hatred, to beg, plead, bargain, compromise and get rejected repeatedly, to feel immense pain in your entire body to the point you’ll swear you are splitting in half.
- Be prepared to unleash your inner crazy and judge yourself harshly for your reactions.
- Be prepared to lose the ability to smile, let alone breathe like a normal person, to come face to face with your childhood trauma, to question your existential purpose and consider ending it all.
- Be prepared to doubt every aspect of your marriage and promises made, to lose the person you thought you once knew, for sleepless nights, nightmares and zero motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
- Be prepared to involuntarily starve yourself, or indulge in a series of epic carb extravaganzas, for others’ harsh judgments and apathetic attitudes, to be alienated by some friends and family—they ultimately choose sides, to defend your position and accept the harsh criticism and nasty opinions.
- Be prepared to hate yourself and give in to the noisy lies of negative thinking, to embrace terrifying fear in a whole new way.
- Be prepared to reinvent yourself .
- Be prepared to fail and want to end your life because it has lost all meaning, to hit your absolute weakest threshold of vulnerability and plead for reconciliation, to get rejected (again) and drink heavily or submit to your unhealthy vices—it’s okay, you can detox later.
- Be prepared to see the person who once promised you the world give their heart to someone else, to be broke and rebuild your net worth.
- Be prepared to hit rock bottom and crawl back to the top.
However, the good news is, once you’ve become intimately acquainted with circling the drain of anxiety and depression:
- Be prepared to reinvent yourself—again.
- Be prepared to forgive yourself and move on when the time is right for you, to learn compassion for other’s pain and give them the love you were never given, to respect the sh*t out of what you’ve endured.
- Be prepared to greet the new you—you fought so hard to become this person, to love again when your heart acknowledges it’s safe to come out and play, to never make the same mistakes and cherish the hard lessons you were forced to learn.
- Be prepared to realize that life is a series of moments strung together to teach us powerful lessons, to forgive and find inner peace again.
- Be prepared to reinvent yourself—again and yes, once more.
If you don’t believe you can endure these steps, then I urge you to disarm your ego and try everything in your power to mend the broken aspects of your marriage. It is vital to remember why you fell in love with each other and reclaim what once bonded the relationship.
Divorce isn’t for the weak-hearted. It hardens your spirit and destroys the deepest aspects of your soul. I would have certainly made different choices had I known.
We all make huge mistakes but eventually, when the tears stop coming, we are compelled to find the value of the consequences.
And the experience has made me more compassionate and a gentler holistic health coach for my clients affected by relationship stress.
Now, I’m prepared.
Here are a few things I have learned through all this change: separated and divorced after a 14 year marriage.
I learned that I can love so much that it can break my heart into a thousand pieces. Even if that love is not returned, I can still live without regret, knowing that I gave my all.
I learned that sometimes the most loving thing I can do is to let go.
I learned that love hurts and tears and breaks you down into nothingness. And that if the love is real, it will hold you up when you are feeling down. It will give you a safe place to land when life gets you down.
I learned that there is no one perfect person for you, but that person staring back at you from the mirror.
The cracks in my heart can’t be repaired by anyone else; not even a loving touch, a crooked smile, a knowing look in someone’s eyes can’t put back together any broken pieces of my heart.
I learned that a friend can help me pick myself off the floor and keep moving, for true love can heal.
I learned that sometimes I just want to be held, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I learned that sometimes being alone is just as awful—and wonderful—as I feared.
I learned that the meeting of minds can be as stimulating and fulfilling as the most passionate lovemaking session—to have someone “know” me is to have my soul lit on fire.
I learned that sex and love are not substitutes for each other, but that sometimes they mesh together beautifully into a perfect dance of soulful communion.
I learned that when I am in my darkest hours, I will know who my real friends are. Seeing the smile of someone I love… all the way up to their eyes…will often propel me through the hard times. And there are fewer joys in life than knowing that I can bring a little joy to someone’s life.
I learned that beautiful lasts forever—everything will be gone tomorrow. The more I live in my tomorrow, the more regret and pain I find along the way.
I learned that when I need time alone, I need to answer that call. I need to fill my own cup before I can help anyone else.
I learned that my capacity to love is strong… sometimes overwhelming… that I may live my life alone with the heart of a gypsy. If I am lucky enough to have a few lovers while I am here, I will consider this a true gift.
I am grateful for the love that has come my way and fills my day, whether it is for an hour, a day, or a few years. I will be a better person for having loved and been loved.
Where I invest my love is my life.
Every person I meet, for good or ill, has something to teach me—but only if if I am willing to listen, to hear, and to look honestly at myself.
I learned that I need to be more gentle with myself. I fuck things up all the time. I am a work in progress and sometimes I feel crazy and don’t make any sense. It’s okay to cut ourselves some slack, and it doesn’t help anyone to hold ourselves to higher standards than everyone else.
I learned that my home can be wherever my heart is.
I learned that if I drown my feelings and stuff them down, that I become numb and hardened… this protects my heart, this keeps me from breaking… but if I don’t take the chance to break, to open up, then I will never feel true joy.
If I am angry, it’s okay to cry and rage. If I am sad, I can drown in my pain. If I am happy, I can laugh and smile and sing and let it bubble out. If I am frustrated, I can walk or run or listen to music until my frustration pours out. If I am bored or alone, I can reach into my mind and create and write.
If I am feeling pain or sorrow, I can curl up into the fetal position and let myself cry.
If I am scared, I can walk into my fear and face it…and not shy away from it so that my fear can be conquered.
I can reach out and ask for a hug from someone who cares for me. If someone I love is sad or depressed, I am allowed to reach out and offer my arms and my ear… for in sharing their pain, both are made lighter.
I learned that when all the words are emptied from my mind music is the only way that I can communicate how I feel. I can allow my feelings to escape through someone else’s words until I can find my own again.
I know now why I worship nature. I can see the way that the waves continue to kiss the shore over and over again, how the moon and the sun and stars are the only sky gods that I care to look to for guidance. I know that a dark night can bring more peace to my soul than any religious building.
I learned that there are no sins, no mistakes, just lessons to learn. Every person that comes into my life is my teacher—whether they are apart of my life for one day or many years.
My children are my heart, not puppets to shape and mold into what I want. They are little people growing and learning and loving just like me… and I am a better person for having them in my life, blessed to know and love them.
I learned that the more I harden myself from hurt and pain, the less joy and love I bring to myself. Pain is inevitable, but it helps crack me open so that I can love more deeply. Pain is our teacher, and as much as it hurts, it is better to love than to feel nothing at all.
I learned that someday when I am gone from this earth, I want every person I have ever loved to never question how important they are to me… that they will always know…that I will not be a distant memory, but an imprint on their heart.
I learned that even if I find a glimpse of understanding in someone’s smile, touch, laugh, or connection I am lucky beyond belief…for to be known and understood, even for a moment, fills my soul in a way that most things can’t reach.
What I have learned most of all is that there is so much more I have yet to learn.