When I was 27, my marriage ended after just two years and seven months.
First came shock, then came denial, then came an outpouring of grief. Then reality set in, and what followed was a painstaking healing process. At times I thought I would never come out the other side in one piece. Yet two years later, I am happily divorced and loving my life.
Despite this, my heart still aches for my newly separated self in the throes of grief; I wish I could share with her some of the things I've learned and tell her it's all going to be okay. I'd tell her:
1. You did everything you could. Stop torturing yourself by wondering what you could have done differently. There is nothing more you could have done and you should be proud of hanging in there for as long as you did. You deserve some kind of good wife medal for all the crap you went through.
2. You have nothing to be ashamed of. When you got married, it felt as though you were declaring your love to the whole entire world. It feels now like you have to declare that you couldn't make it work to the world. I know it feels like the shame of admitting your marriage failed at age 27 is too much to bear, but remember this; the shame is not yours to bear at all.
3. You need to accept that he is going to move on to a new relationship. I know, I know -- it's the news that you're dreading the most, the news that turns your stomach inside out with sickness. But he's going to move on. On the day you find out, you are going to feel like your heart has been ripped out but in time, you'll digest the information, accept it and absolutely be okay with it. Promise.
4. You aren't going to move on quite so quickly. Initially, you will feel like the most unlovable human on the planet and that no one will ever look in your direction again. When this passes, you will enjoy a few flirtations. Next, you will panic that you haven't met someone to get serious with and therefore make profiles on dodgy dating websites, go on bad dates and spend a lot of time questioning your inability to meet someone "normal". Eventually, you're going to realize that you simply are not ready to move on to a new relationship -- and that it is completely okay to take your time (and have some fun in the meantime).
5. You're really going to benefit from therapy and medication.
Sometimes in life, things get shitty and we need a little extra help. This is one of those times. You will attend counseling sessions with a brilliant therapist, who helps you realize that every negative thing you thought about yourself was wrong. You're also going to go on antidepressants, which are going to help lift you out of this awful, can't-get-out-of-bed fog. This is not something to fear or be ashamed of -- by asking for help you're actually very brave.
6. You are about to learn how amazing the people in your life are.
I mean, you already know this but you're about to realize it a whole lot more. They will listen when you need to talk, patiently let you cry about the same thing, make you laugh, give you wine/cake at appropriate times, take you on surprise trips, force you to get out of bed and get dressed and at times, give you some harsh perspective. You are so very lucky to have them.
7. You will feel better once you make your peace.
Being angry is a terrible waste of energy. Over time you will realize that, to truly move on, you need to forgive your ex. The anger will eventually subside into indifference. You will be able to acknowledge that you loved him, you married him for a reason and wish him nothing but the best. The sooner you let go of the anger and hurt, the sooner you will start to live the life you deserve.
8. You are about to start living your dreams.
I have great news. You know the dreams and aspirations you put on hold to settle down and get married young? From job goals to visiting different corners of the globe to taking up new hobbies? You're about to start living them. You're going to make new friends and say "yes" to every crazy idea thrown your way; you're going to go on trips of a lifetime, dance 'til dawn at music festivals and take up singing and writing again; you're going to climb the career ladder rung by rung and set up a new life in the city of your dreams. What's more, all of this is only the start. Your life is about to get seriously amazing. Hang in there.
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