It's been just over two years since my divorce was finalized. Everything about my life has changed, and I'll be brutally honest: There were times I thought I wasn't going to make it. Divorce may be common, but that doesn't make it any less sad or difficult. I've seen rock bottom, and it's not a pretty place.
My heart goes out to anyone going through divorce right now.
But oh, my heart...
She's happy these days, and falling in love post-divorce has filled me with a hope I need to share.
I promise, it's well worth hanging in there through the darkness.
Here's what I've learned so far:
1. You can be 17 again.
In the wake of my divorce, I felt certain I would never fall in love again. (Hell, I swore to it before many a bartender!) For so long, every molecule of me ached with the pain of being discarded, considered less of an asset than the material things the ex and I divvied up in a court of law. My love for that guy seemed a girlish folly I'd best never repeat. But in time, after lots (lots!) of awkward attempts at dating, things so easily clicked into place with a wonderful new someone, my fears slipped away. I found myself tumbling head over heels with all the fervor and bliss of a teenager. Puppy love -- at 40-something and post-divorce -- is possible. Who knew?
2. Swimming in the shallows is a thing of the past.
Okay, okay -- I called it "puppy love," but there's a deep dive that happened after that giddy initial fall. Maybe people who've suffered failed marriages appreciate the little things more. Maybe they just appreciate being appreciated. Whatever the case, I've enjoyed a whole new level of connection and affection in my relationship, and my unofficial poll of divorced-and-re-partnered friends suggests this is an actual thing. One friend said it best, "We treasure each other -- and we let each other know."
3. The sins of the ex must not be visited upon the new love.
Oh, this one's a doozy! It's a delicate balance, learning the lessons of a failed marriage, while keeping the heart open to a new and unique relationship. The red flags you missed before can leave you seeing them waving wildly all over the place -- trust me, I know. The trick is to remember that you are dealing with an entirely different person. No one deserves to pay for others' mistakes. And you're not even the same person you were. You've grown, changed, and need to let the past remain where it belongs: in the past.
4. Communication is key -- and it's more readily available than ever post-divorce.
Here's a silver lining I found in dating after divorce: most divorced folks have learned the hard way that silence is deadly. Talk to any of them for more than five minutes, and odds are you'll find out that what killed their marriage wasn't necessarily the underlying issues, but their inability to discuss them peacefully and productively as a couple. That's a tough truth with a lesson that sticks.
5. The song is correct. You really can't hurry love.
Some things take time. Healing from the pain of divorce and being ready for new love is one of those things. If, like me, you're used to making things happen, this is a tough pill to swallow. Worse, there's no way of knowing if it will take two years or 10 to regroup and find another kindred spirit. But once you get there, to that wonderful place of feeling genuine love for someone new, you'll know in your soul there was no other path you could have taken, no way to speed things up.
You'll realize you've arrived in just the right arms at just the right time.
And your heart?
You'll know she's a brave, resilient thing, happily entrusted to loving hands.