Like a lot of people who end up writing about divorce, this isn't something I thought I'd ever do. From the outside, it seemed like our marriage was great. Our 10-year relationship was filled with trips, parties, friends and even a Peace Corps service we did together. During the adjustment home from Peace Corps, we had a lot of issues. Ultimately, my ex-wife felt there were things she wanted to work on alone and left me. I was shocked. It was the most embarrassed I've ever felt. The loss hurt more than anything.
As a guy, I just wanted to fix whatever I could. Give everyone the appearance that I was fine and move on. The first couple of months after the divorce were a blur. I was floating, latching on to whatever I could and just trying to make it through each day. I had already gone through depression and a drinking problem early on in life, so I was worried that I could go downhill fast.
At the time of my divorce I didn't have a job or a place to live and hadn't been in the country for two and a half years. It was terrifying. I knew I was going to have to entirely rebuild parts of my life and clearly, I was struggling. Luckily, I had friends and family who supported me every single day, let me crash in their homes and did whatever they could to help me... even if that meant fielding my endless G-chats, text messages and phone calls where I pretended to be okay. The good news is that you do come out of the difficult times.
Here are five things that made me a better man.
1. I'm more resilient. When the divorce hit me, I really didn't know if I'd be able to live on my own. My ways of coping with the breakup weren't perfect. While I wanted to avoid drinking, I did have nights of being black-out drunk. I had overbearing, emotional outbursts at others. There were times when I felt completely lost. As I came out of that time period I realized I had more strength than I imagined.
2. I stopped negative patterns. Prior to the divorce, I had fallen into the routine of not being in the moment. I'd complain about doing anything new even while avoiding things I knew I'd enjoy. I had a short temper that mainly came from not communicating what I needed. The divorce gave me a chance to take a step back and think about why I was acting that way. Being removed from the relationship gave me the space to create new patterns.
3. I learned about myself. I had been in a relationship from my early twenties to early thirties and didn't take enough time during those years to really think about what I wanted. I prioritized my ex and other people in my life. The divorce gave me freedom to better understand my goals, what I enjoy and who I am without a partner. I went to museums, tried yoga and did things without having to check in with anyone. I realized how important it is to maintain some time for me in any relationship.
4. I made closer friendships. One thing a divorce is guaranteed to do is test the relationships you have with your friends and family. I lost some friends and realized I wasn't close to as many people as I thought. You also find out who really cares about you. I was honest and vulnerable with people in ways I hadn't been at any point in my life, which made our friendships stronger.
5. I identified what I need in the future. Divorce allowed me the opportunity and space to think about what I want from a future partner and what is important to me. I went on bad dates, met women I didn't want to be with and spent time alone. I thought a lot about the kind of person I need in my life and what I can give in a relationship, which was something I never did before I married my ex. Eventually, I met an amazing woman who gives me the space to continue to work on the things I've learned.
The most useful advice I got from day one of my divorce was to be the best person I could be. To not focus on my ex or the divorce, but to take this time to really listen and grow in new ways. Sometimes to get out of patterns we've been repeating our whole lives we need a total change. I'm now grateful that I had that opportunity.