At the start of 2014, my life imploded. After countless efforts to work through issues in my marriage, I finally had to admit: I wasn't going to have my happily-ever-after in my present situation. I left my marriage, my home, and one of my dogs. (If you consider that the ex also kept the truck, my life was a country song.) I knew I was doing the right thing for both of us, but I was blindsided by how much -- and for how long -- it hurt. Slowly, I healed, and I learned invaluable lessons.
1. Opposites attract. But you need real common ground to stick together.
My ex-husband and I were a classic case of opposites attracting. I'm liberal. He's conservative. I'm a whirlwind of athletic activity. He might run to the fridge for a beer. Initially, we enjoyed our differences. And yeah, there was the SEX. We could've made Sting and Trudie say, "No, thanks. That sounds exhausting." Trouble is, you can't spend your entire life in bed. When it came to the big stuff -- money, work, family -- we simply weren't on the same page. Worse, we couldn't discuss how to get there.
2. Communication is key.
When you're dealing with pretty much anyone, communicating openly and respectfully is key. In marriage, it's essential. Psychologist John Gottman has made a career of studying how married couples interact. After listening to a couple argue for only five minutes, he can predict with 91% accuracy whether or not they will divorce. He's found that partners who disengage (i.e., give "the silent treatment") or treat one another with contempt (eye rolling) are in a marriage that is doomed. Sadly, I can vouch for this.
3. Happiness is your own responsibility.
Too often, we marry because we've bought into a romantic fallacy: that someone else will "complete" us. Here's the unvarnished truth: if you aren't already complete, you've got no business getting married. Me? I was waiting for Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet. He did -- and then he was slowly crushed by the weight of the responsibility. The brutal irony was that when I found my own bliss, it underscored how incompatible he and I were. But in parting, we each assumed responsibility for our own happiness. Whether we are sad or happy going forward, at least now we each have only the person in the mirror to blame -- or to thank.
4. We are all alone.
I don't mean that in a depressing, soul-crushing way. Quite the contrary. We are born alone. We die alone. In between, though? It is our relationships with other people that make the journey worthwhile. Some people pass through our lives quickly. Others stay for the duration. We generally accept this where friendships are concerned. But because we say "forever" when we say "I do," we think marriage should be an exception to the rule. In the end, though, even those of us who stay married will likely exit this life on our own. What really matters? The love we share in the time we spend together -- and how graciously we manage to move on from those relationships that don't last.
5. A failed marriage isn't necessarily a failure.
Look, if you hook up on Tinder, get married in Vegas that same weekend, and then your marriage fails -- well okay, that's a failure. But if you follow the typical trajectory of romance, love and commitment only to find yourself divorced down the road? That's life. Love may lead us to the altar, but marriage requires two devoted people working ceaselessly toward common goals. For many once-happy couples, that becomes impossible over time. If we can look realistically at the reasons our marriage failed, we can gain valuable insight that will lead to happier relationships in the future. In the words of Winston Churchill, "Failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
6. Tomorrow is another day.
I thought the hardest part of my divorce would be arriving at the decision to leave my marriage. Ha! This positive go-getter of a girl spent several months occupying her bachelorette pad in pajamas, watching reruns of Law and Order and washing down frozen yogurt with chardonnay. I was a mess, and not even the hot variety (as the local pizza-delivery folks can attest). I beat myself up for handling things so poorly. And then, one day, I gave myself permission to grieve. With the help of an excellent therapist, I began to focus on the road ahead. I decided I could take things one day at a time, and eventually, I would find myself where I want to be. And you know what?
7. Here and now is pretty awesome.
At the start of 2014, I was heavily focused on my losses. I missed my home, my dog, the ex, and even that old pickup truck in which we'd logged so many miles and memories. Turns out, though, that time really does heal all wounds. Slowly but surely, I found myself savoring moments in my new solo life. I found myself trying new things, building new friendships, even giving dating a whirl and meeting some really great people in the process.
More than midway through 2015, I feel happy. Grateful. Excited about the future, and also just plain glad to breathe deeply and experience it all.