Today, Amy Johnson is a happily divorced mom of two young boys. A little over a decade ago, she was a 25-year-old bride, confidently walking down the aisle to marry a man she loved without any doubts or reservations.
Below, Johnson writes a letter to the hopeful bride she was on her wedding day, reflecting on the marriage that followed and the love she continues to feel for her ex-husband.
Oh, Aim, look at that smile! On this day, you don’t, for one second, think this isn’t the best decision you could make for yourself. He loves you and you love him and you vow to be together forever. I know you hate surprises, so I’m here to reassure you that thirteen years after this day, all of that remains true. Sort of, anyway. You’re now divorced -- it happens about nine years into the marriage -- but during those nine years, two plucky little boys are born so you and your husband are, most definitely, joined together forever.
On your wedding day, divorce wasn’t something you thought would ever happen to you. How could it? You both grew up with loving parents who’d stayed married forever. You grew up knowing what love looks like and you undoubtedly knew you were in love with this man. And you were…until you weren’t.
Unfortunately, you both grew and evolved over the years but not necessarily together. The guilt and shame you feel for not loving your husband paralyzes you for a while. You start to really pay attention to couples: What you notice is that a lot of married people are actually miserable. They publicly pretend to be happy, just like you are doing but no one is actually happy. So you talk to your husband about it. You don’t talk to anyone but him and you talk about how you could potentially have a life where you both were actually happy, if you both believed it was possible. The conversation is the hardest one you’ve ever had but also the best. After, you feel as though a a 500-pound weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
You mutually decide that you don’t want to be the kind of parents who pretend to love each other "for the kids' sake." You want your kids to grow up knowing what love actually looks like. You decide the best way to do that is to separate and divorce. Most people in your lives think this is a ludicrous decision and that the two of you are making a huge mistake but just like your wedding day, you undoubtedly know you are making the best decision of your lives. You show your friends and family that divorce doesn’t have to be a bad word.
You and your now ex-husband wake up every single day and choose love. Your boys know and understand what love looks like. You live about three miles from each other, have equal custody and see each other almost every day. And no, you don’t 100 percent agree on everything, but the best thing about arguing with each other now is that at the end of it, you can both say, "Thank God we aren’t married anymore!" No, you most definitely aren’t in love, not romantically anyway. What’s there now is stronger than anything that was there back on your wedding day. It’s a mutual love and respect for your children and the parenting process -– it's the knowledge that this is bigger than both of you. Your biggest hope is that the boys will grow into adults who also choose love every day and all you can do is lead by example.
In the four years since your divorce you’ve learned how to say "yes" when opportunities present themselves, and, like Oprah says, you’ve learned to listen closely to the things that whisper to you. That smiling girl in the wedding picture is still you today -– just magnified. Life didn’t turn out how you expected, but I don’t think you could have imagined how much better life could be. You’ve kept an open mind about romantic love and aren’t willing to settle for anything less than perfect for you. But it’s OK because most importantly, you’ve fallen in love with yourself. You’ve learned to be alone, but not lonely.
Lastly, here are few things you won’t believe happen, but I’ll tell you anyway: you online date (on more than one dating website, but yes, you still hate dating), you’ve had lunch with Tom Brady (!!) and, the most unbelievable of all, you actually replace a doorbell by yourself -- wires and everything -- two years into your single parenting adventure. I mean life, right?! Who would have thought?
Want to share what you'd tell yourself on your wedding day now that you're divorced? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.
More From HuffPost: