I was engaged at 23 years old, married at 25, and divorced at 27. My ex-wife was four years younger than I was.
It's easy to write those words and then think to myself, "Well that was a big, dumb mistake."
My divorce was, and still is, the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Surely my life would have turned out completely different if I hadn't chosen to get married. But now at 35, I can't imagine it being any better, and I have my divorce to thank for that.
1. You'll become more self aware: Divorce means that for the first time in a while, you'll be spending more time by yourself. This gives you a great chance to think about what happened and, more importantly, why. Don't bury the past. Embrace the opportunity to ask yourself a lot of questions about the kind of person you are, which will lead you towards getting a grip on the kind of person you want to be as well. There may be nights where you'll feel lonely and wish for your ex to be back with you, but eventually you'll relish your alone time, especially if you're productive with it.
2. Divorce strengthens you: As time passes, you will overcome all of the hardships that arrive with divorce, as long as you are proactive. Once you've gone through a self-examination period, you can formulate new plans for your future without having to concern yourself with the perspective and well-being of a spouse. You will organically begin to push the limits of what you thought you were capable of doing because, over the course of every single day, you will inherently conquer new challenges, especially those of the "emotional" variety. But you'll see exactly what you're made of, and your level of fortitude might even impress yourself.
3. You won't "settle" again: A lot of folks seem to put pressure on themselves -- and unduly on others -- to make a first date some kind of magical extravaganza. And -- like I'd done once before in an obviously extreme case -- many people also stay in relationships way too long because they're worried about being alone. After a divorce, you won't take dating too seriously. There's not much else that you can experience in the dating world will that trump what you've gone through in your divorce. If you're on a date and there isn't an incredible connection right away, it won't mean that you're unlikable or that they're an awful human being who doesn't know a good guy or girl when they see one. All it indicates is that there was a realization that two individuals don't mesh together, and one day each of them will find someone that will just be a better fit. When in a more substantial relationship, you can view it as an exploration that, if it leads to a dead end, it's not like you're married! A breakup is always unfortunate and feelings get hurt, but it certainly isn't the end of the world -- and neither is a divorce.
4. Your true friends will be revealed: Like most fresh divorcés, you might become a miserable cretin for a long time after your divorce, and being around you certainly won't be a pleasurable experience for others. Thus, some real-life "de-friending" might occur. But those who stick around and give you the benefit of the doubt in response to your behavior will have proven their value as someone you can depend on, no matter what. Plus, as an added bonus to being more self-aware, new friends will inevitably emerge. People who come into your life after a time of self-examination, adjustment, and reestablishment will be introduced to a more consistent and confident person. They'll be able to make sound judgments on whether or not they'd like to welcome you into their life as well.
5. You'll have great things to look forward to: There's a saying -- more of a cliché, really -- that "life is short." It isn't. Divorce will teach you that life is long. If you are proactive and patient, you can accomplish quite a bit in a lifetime and we owe it to ourselves to be happy in the one life we get to experience. One, two, five, or arguably even ten years out of an entire lifetime isn't really a lengthy stretch. If you can fall in love with someone, marry them, fall out of love with them, and rebuild your life over the course of just a handful of years, then what are you capable of over, say, 25 years? Eventually, you can look back on the days before you were divorced and it will feel as though you are contemplating a completely different person. But that can only be made possible with strength, drive, self-awareness, and support of those who truly love you -- none of which might reveal itself without the presence of a failed marriage.
This essay was originally published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com and in their anthology "Way Too Cool to Care About Marriage."
This blog post is part of HuffPost's When Men Divorce series. For other posts written by men about the divorce experience, head here. If you want to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org