I feel anything but divorced, and maybe that is because I never felt like I truly got married in the first place. Or maybe it’s the fact that I am smack down in the middle of the divorce process and after being separated for nearly three years, my memories of the marriage are at its best, hazy.
My marriage lasted three years. The days following the end of my marriage were pain wringing, heart wrenching dark days. There were days when I would feel shame crawl into bed and spoon with me every night, then come down from the bed with me in the mornings and stick as close as air in my ears. Shame was a demon latched onto my back. It grew bigger with each day until I walked in my head with my head bowed and my back hunched. I mean, what kind of woman gets married and ends a marriage after three years?
What kind of woman, in a society where the success and failure of a marriage lies squarely and only on a woman’s shoulders, is not able to hold her home for three years? In retrospect, she is the kind of woman who eventually came to the understanding that she had made a shitty choice, and wasn’t ready to settle or condemn a generation of innocent children to a repeated history of abuse because of pride.
This is literally my outing story. My coming out of the closet of shame story, because, honey, let me tell you, the shame is real.
First off, no one gets married with a short, mid and long-term plan on how to end the marriage. I certainly didn’t, especially with the drama that surrounded my marriage. So when the reality of a failed marriage slapped me out of la-la land, it was not the most pleasant of experiences. With a one-year-old in tow and nowhere to go but down. I went down, quite literally, in fact.
Here is what no one tells you about leaving a marriage. Forget the reasons why the differences became irreconcilable. It is a death that can go on forever if you let it. Forget the fact that the pain that moved you to pack your bags and leave was stronger than the idea of spending forever with someone you thought would be the love of your life. Divorce will throw you into a state of mourning and the cycles of grief will never be more tangible than in that season. Leaving a marriage breaks you in ways that nothing else probably will. It brings you to the barest part of yourself, the darkroom you kept hidden from everyone including yourself. Again, it is if you let it.
But to be honest, it has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and I don’t say that lightly. Not when I think about the times I wanted to end it all. Suicide was a constant thought. I was just too cowardly to follow through with the act in a house that was not mine. Not when I think about the times that I looked into the mirror and felt as worthless as cow dung stuck under a pair of Louboutin shoes. Not when I couldn’t look people in the eye because I felt as if the reason for my entire existence was gone and I had no reason to go on. So no, I am not saying that lightly at all.
Failing at my marriage saved my life. The fact that I can write about this in a public space and frankly not care about what people think is evidence that healing has moved in and built massive palaces in the spaces of my heart. When you begin to care more about healing others because you are healing than the opinions of others, then the pain is worth it. And this is where I am.
In my journey, I have sought out and been sought out by many people going through this, and the general conclusion is this: like any life altering experience of negative quality, a divorce can either make you or mar you. Think of it this way. Healing from a divorce is like walking into a dark room where films of all the pictures of your life are being developed. There will be those film rolls that you look at again and again because you want to remember the good times but will never develop, and then there are those you don’t even want to see at all. It’s a process, one of deciding what you let have power over you.
Let me assure you that as flippantly as I present that, the process is hardly flippant. It is a painful process of waking up to bad memories on repeat. Of asking yourself if you could have done things differently. Of finding coping mechanisms that will make you better and not bitter.
God and therapy worked wonders, people. This brings me to the lessons that I have learned about this long winding road of failing at a marriage.
Divorce is not a title
You are not defined by the fact that you are divorced. I know this is not a perfect analogy but think about a businessman who fails at a business. It would sound ridiculous if he went around introducing himself as a failed businessman. A sensible businessperson sees the business as an enhancement of identity and not the definition of identity, which is why he wouldn’t let a failed business define him. Your marriage is not your identity. Yes, I know that we have been taught that getting married and having children is the route to eternal life, but hello? It’s a lie. Being divorced is also not your identity. It is an event that happened to you – an unpleasant experience – but it is not the sum of your worth as a person. Kapish?
Desire purpose more than pain
Until you come to a point where your desire to heal is stronger than your desire to hold on to pain and anger, you will never mine the gold that can be found in an experience as traumatic as a divorce. After I left my marriage, I went through months of unholy anger and pain. It was surreal. I kept myself in the glitch of the past; that place where you keep replaying the past and willing the outcome to be different. Sounds stupid? Not really.
Grief can be a powerful prison, one that keeps you longing for things that are no longer there. I had to gradually accept that things in the past had happened, they would never change, and the present was my opportunity to build what I wanted for my future. If a marriage could fail, then it was ephemeral. So I began to need something that was bigger than what people around me had told me that life was all about. Seeking purpose over pain led me on a healing journey with God. I read his word. I dared to believe that what He said about me was true. I dared to trust someone far bigger than my mind could conceive, and let me tell you, it was the best decision of my life.
Don’t do this without God. You won’t get very far because, at the end of the day, it will be a battle of what you think about yourself versus what people think about you. You want to make sure you are thinking and saying what the creator of people says about you more than what people are saying about you. That’s the only way to stay afloat and win.
Therapy is a win, and I cannot emphasise how self-aware therapy made me.
The past will crop up
You are healing, making strides in forgetting the bad stuff, and moving on with good things. I just want to let you know that the fact that you are healing doesn’t mean that bad memories will not come knocking. You will wake up some days and remember with clarity some things that you will rather forget. Someone said healing comes in waves; this is my experience with healing from a failed marriage. Some days are good, other days are fantastic and then a few are deep dives in turbulent waters. Take it easy on yourself on those days and understand that detoxifying a traumatised soul takes more time than you might think.
People will judge you
People will be people, and this is okay. I made my peace with the fact that people who do not know the first line of the story of my life will write pages of it behind my back. Knowing my identity in Jesus has greatly helped me stare down judgement in the face. I simply cannot stress this enough. Until you go back to God and say, “show me who I am, show me something bigger than this mess,” you will exist and wither under people’s judgement. Has it been easy? Not at all! But it gets easier with time. Knowing I am Abba’s daughter and he doesn’t judge me for a failed marriage straightens my back and lifts my head. People will judge you, expect it, but they aren’t God.
Forgiveness is your ticket to freedom
Remember what I said about being imprisoned by your past? I never thought I could forgive until I did. When you learn more about your purpose in God, you find out that life is bigger than this one event and that this event has brought you to wide-open spaces that you never imagined you could walk in.
Forgiveness is freeing when you understand the knowledge of a person’s value is synonymous with the way they are treated. Only people who do not know your value let you go carelessly. The keyword here is ‘value.’ Place value on who has paid the highest value for you. For me, understanding that Jesus paid the price of his life for me made me see value in myself. The creator says I am valuable? Then I am. Period. Let me quickly point out that forgiveness, like healing, comes in waves. You can feel you have forgiven today and tomorrow you don’t feel that way. There are times when you need to reinforce the reality of forgiveness in your life.
I am still on my healing journey and still learning tons of amazing lessons, but for now, I wrote this to tell you, dear man and woman who failed at a marriage, that the world is still spinning, life is still to be loved and lived, and you are at the edge of a page turning chapter of your life, if you let it.
Heal with God. You deserve it.
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