Life (and Love) on the Other Side of Divorce
I always believed that divorce wasn’t an option for me. I remember getting married at the age of 24 and saying to my fiancé at the time, “Divorce is not an option for you, right? Divorce is not an option for me.” Looking back, I should have known that if I was saying those words out loud, it wasn’t meant to be.
I got married just before my 25th birthday, ready to embark on a new life. I wanted children and to catapult my adult life forward. But, my marriage felt like one challenge after another. Lost jobs, new careers, debt, fertility issues and on and on. As the challenges grew bigger, our relationship spread thinner. The longer that went on, the more our lives continued on paths next to each other but heading in opposite directions instead of supporting one another and growing closer together. After the birth of my first child, I experienced a huge loss, one that I could never have prepared for. When my son was just six weeks old, my sister, who was living in England at the time, contracted a horrible virus. Her organs began to fail, and it was evident that a recovery was doubtful. In a matter of hours, my bags were packed and we flew with our newborn to say goodbye to my sister. I was destroyed.
Experiencing birth and loss in a matter of weeks was something I could never have imagined. When I felt like I was being pulled into a deep black hole of loss and misery, I would hear my baby crying from the end of the bed, needing me to take care of him. I was being pulled in two completely different directions. How was I supposed to grieve while also caring for a baby in his most delicate stage? I didn’t think I could carry on, but it was clear I had no choice. My family was unable to support me with the baby through the loss, as they were using every ounce of strength they had to get out of bed in the morning themselves. The person I thought I would be able to rely on in my darkest time wasn’t there to pick me up, and through all the challenges in our marriage, this was the final one that I would not recover from.
"I always reminded myself that divorce was not an option. It was like a mantra I would repeat in my head over and over, one that I truly believed."
My son was the light of all of our lives, for my parents, my brother, and all those feeling the deep sadness around us. He was the reason I got out of the bed in the morning, he was the reason I smiled, he was the reason I kept going. I put everything I had into him and his smile fueled my family to keep going. While he kept me above water, my marriage was suffering huge cracks that we would never come back from.
I always reminded myself that divorce was not an option. It was like a mantra I would repeat in my head over and over, one that I truly believed. Life continued and time began to numb the pain I felt inside each day over the loss of my sister. I became pregnant again, giving birth to a daughter two years after my sister’s passing, and we named the baby after her. She was born on Mother’s Day and looked so much like my sister. My marriage continued on a path of loneliness, where we each lived our lives beside each other but never together. I was happy. In all areas of my life outside of my marriage, I was happy. Did I deserve more? Did my children’s lives deserve to be uprooted by a divorce because my marriage wasn’t working when everything else in my life made me happy? I didn’t believe so, so I kept on going. Until I couldn’t any more.
It was Mother’s Day and I woke up feeling happy. I looked at my two children, ages 3 and 5, lying on my bed watching TV. My husband was sleeping beside me and it all felt so normal. I took my kids downstairs to make Mother’s Day cookies. When we were done, we went upstairs to get dressed for Mother’s Day brunch when I received a text from a friend’s husband wishing me a happy Mother’s Day. I looked at my husband, still sleeping, and I burst into tears. It was that moment that something broke inside of me. My life had caught up to me. I could no longer hold it together. The tears flowed for hours and I could not get them to stop until they were ready. That day, I broke my belief system that divorce was not an option. It was that day that I realized the marriage my children were witnessing was not what I wanted them to grow up with.
"That day, I broke my belief system that divorce was not an option. It was that day that I realized the marriage my children were witnessing was not what I wanted them to grow up with."
The divorce was not easy. There were many challenges. There were days when I wasn’t sure I would make it through. I picked up an additional job to earn extra income to be able to support my children. It was hard. But I always knew that it was right.
A year later at an airport, my past — and future — tapped me on the shoulder. While I was standing in line waiting to board a flight home with my children, a man with his two young children tapped me on the shoulder to ask if he was in the right line. We spoke for less than five minutes and then he boarded the plane. When we landed, I saw I had a text message from the man in the airport. It turns out we had met 12 years earlier at a brunch with our partners. I had no recollection of exchanging numbers with him 12 years earlier at that brunch.
We chatted all night and by morning, I knew that this was where I was supposed to end up. It was like a moment from the movie Sliding Doors. Had I lined up just a minute later, or had he not left the line to take the kids to the bathroom, we would not have met. There is not a doubt in my mind that my sister was watching me from above and made sure the stars aligned to bring us together that day.
It has been three years since then. We are engaged and have blended our families. While walking away from my marriage was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it was by far the best.