Last year on this date my husband and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. We didn’t do anything big or extravagant just a fancy dinner and a few glasses of wine. A simple dinner enjoying each other’s company. As we sat there enjoying our dinner there did seem to be something missing. I knew we both felt it and had felt it for a few years now but chose to ignore it. The brutal truth is we were both unhappy with our marriage, and yet while I can’t speak for him, I can now say with completely honesty I felt trapped in our marriage.
I was 19 when we married, I was 29 years old on our decade anniversary, and he was the only one I had ever loved. The man sitting before me had watched me grow and helped mold into the strong amazing woman I am today. How do you just walk away from a love like that?
I find myself stopping and literally marveling at the complexity of the entire situation. Ten years of memories come flooding into my mind at once and it’s overwhelming. Moments of love, excitement, joy. Moments of fear, pain, and loneliness. Moments of anger, betrayal, resentment. I love the man sitting before me but I also hate him. How can I love someone and yet hate them at the same time? How can I invest ten years of marriage and want to simply walk away from it all? I know him and I both feel this way yet we ignore the elephant in the room as they say, both wishing it will just go away on its own, but these unnerving feelings were never going to just up and disappear on their own…
So a month after our anniversary I was tired of this feeling of unhappiness, and every other emotion all coming out at once with no way of knowing how to get it to stop. I looked at him as we were having a small argument and said, “I don’t even know why we are doing this you and I both know we secretly want a divorce.” It was the first time in a while that I’d seen a smile on his face, a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. The next day he asked me if I meant what I had said. I wanted to say, “No I did not mean it. I only want this feeling to go away. I want to be happy and in love with you again. I only want things to change, for us to be better to each other, to move past everything and to forgive”, but he seemed so much happier, and that I could not move past. So I looked at him and said, “Yes I meant it. I think we will both be happier if we just get a divorce.” I don’t think I could have imagined, predicted or even realized in that moment how powerful those words really were, or how my life was about to change. I went from trying to understand and live with feelings of what to me was an unhappy marriage, to learning how to cope with the feeling of a failed marriage, divorce, letting go, to seeing the man that I once loved fall in love with someone else and learn to love again myself. It is truly amazing to me how so much can changed in just one year. I had always heard of the 5 stages of grief but had never experienced them before but boy did I for this. I’ll break down the five stages and my experiences now… The first stage is denial. We seemed to be doing great with the separation, I no longer had to endure the emotional abuse, we would talk in passing and then would part our separate ways. We would occasionally hang out together. I felt happy, it was like I found my friend again, the one that I had fell in love with. There was no more fighting. I thought to myself this is great! This divorce is going to be a piece of cake. I had this wonderful fantasy in my head that we would be friends and still hang out together do things with our daughter together, go on double dates with our new couples. It would be the easiest divorce in the history of this world. The denial stage was great, and was going perfectly until reality set in. We were still way too close, I see now that it was unhealthy. It was tremendously heart crushing to witness firsthand the moment he started having feelings with a mutual friend. I glanced over as they were on the dance floor and he grabbed her hair and smelled it and embraced her as they danced. This was the moment I was no longer allowed to stay in the denial stage and the exact moment I entered stages two and three, the anger stage and bargaining stage.
I believe that it was in these moments I was so desperate to cling on to the small piece of the relationship I still had. I would place blame on myself, if I hadn’t done this or if I hadn’t said this. There were many what-ifs in this stage. I had already lost my husband, now I had lost my friend and that angered me.
This is the stage where all those feelings that were never addressed while still married came unleashed. I thought to myself, how dare he think he can just walk away from me after I endured 10 years of emotional abuse from him, stood by him in his times of despair, stood by him for his career and made sacrifices in my own personal life and lost touch with friends and family to be by his side. How dare he think he has the right to look at me in disgust? How dare he give her an anchor necklace when she’s only been his girlfriend for a month, when I was never given a gift like that? Does he not realize I was the one that was there for the deployments and not her? How dare he take her to our family vacation spot, and how dare he make plans to meet her family when in the 10 years we were married he only met my family twice? How dare he take her on all the dates I wanted to do but would never take me because he said, “he would be miserable and hated things like that?” Oh boy, the anger stage is the worst of the stages, because it will trap you and bring you down if you do not break yourself free from it. Which brings me to the next stage, the depression stage. While in this place, I wallowed in my self-pity. I questioned myself. Why wasn’t I good enough? What made her so different? However, when I finally accepted that it was no longer my concern to care what he did with his life now, that’s when the healing began. I realize that the relationship he had with me was completely separate from the relationship he has with her was when I was able to enter the final stage. Acceptance.
At the end of the day I’m human, and I have feelings. I care, I hurt, and I make mistakes just like everyone else, but I wake up every day and I try to make the most of it. I try to do the best that I can and set a great example for my daughter. I want to look back at life with no regrets. I am learning to let my guard down, and to let love in my heart again.
I have a new amazing man by my side and he has been so understanding and helpful. He has opened my eyes and my heart. It is refreshing have someone by my side that listens to me, cares for me, respects me, believes in me. I have fallen deeply in love with him. I am curious what another year will bring and how much more my life will change but for now today is just another normal day and sometimes that’s just how life goes.