Years ago, before my marriage fell apart, divorce seemed like an impossibility. I smugly thought that it was something that only happened to other couples.
Even during the breakdown of my marriage, as I went through the day like an automaton with a face smile, in denial of the obvious truth in front of me, I remember willing myself into thinking that I simply couldn’t divorce—that I would be ruined and broken and never able to recover.
And during my divorce, there was heartbreak, stress, and panic that left me waking up in a cold sweat, unable to concentrate at work, and feeling like every day was a bad dream.
That period in my life seems like a distant memory now—something that was a part of somebody else’s story and not my own. Many of us who have experienced divorce know the feeling well. But at the end of the divorce journey, there are riches for us if we are open to them.
Not all the after-effects of divorce are bad, and for those starting a new chapter in their lives, the future does not have to be one of anxiety, bitterness, or heartbreak. If we are open to the possibility, divorce can be one of the best things to happen to us.
Divorce made us survivors. And survivors can do anything.
It is commonly said that when it comes to the most stressful events in somebody’s life, divorce is ranked up there, along with the death of a loved one, sickness, or the loss of a job. While most of us wouldn’t wish these events on anyone, consider this: Because we have made it through one of life’s most stressful events, we are survivors.
Many of us don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve for having gone through the trauma of divorce, but think of all the incredible things we accomplish during that time. We navigated the crazy legal labyrinth and did not get lost. We held our heads high even during the most painful, heart-breaking moments. During our most stressful times, although we did not know it, we are performing crisis management, because we no doubt continued to live and work and carry on with grace despite the fact we are experiencing a living hell every day, for months—sometimes even years.
If that isn’t facing our fears and proving we can do anything, I don’t know what is. We demonstrated to ourselves that nothing is impossible for us as long as we continue to move on with our lives.
Divorce gives us the gift of finding ourselves again.
Many of us tend to view divorce as a loss—loss of security, loss of the partner and life we thought we knew, and the loss of how we even identify ourselves. But divorce can actually be a gift because it gives us a chance to really get to know ourselves better than we did before.
As we depart that chapter in our lives where we identified ourselves through the lens of being the other person’s spouse, we have a chance for a kind of introspection we never had when we were a part of a couple. Being on our own gives us the chance to deep-dive and examine things we may not have even thought of before:
What were some of the things in the relationship that we did not like?
What were the things we did not like about ourselves during the marriage?
Were there certain parts of our partner’s behavior that we know we could not have in a future partner?
Now that we have the ability to look at the relationship from an outside perspective, we have the gift of better understanding ourselves—knowing what things in a relationship cause us stress or anxiety, what makes us angry, and being able to clearly identify non-negotiables so that if we choose to have a future relationship, we can have an awareness that will hopefully prevent the same unhealthy patterns and dynamics that occurred previously.
Divorce gave us a second chance at life.
When we feel devastated, wondering if we’ll ever be able to move on after divorce, it is easy to forget that we are actually being given a second chance. It can be difficult to regard divorce as a second chance when we are heart-broken and think the life we knew has been taken away from us, but it’s essential to remember the opportunity we have been awarded.
Whether we wanted it or not, divorce allows us a “do-over.” It gives us myriad second chances that we never imagined possible: to be happy again, to be independent and answer only to ouselves, to grow and challenge ourselves like never before, to travel, and to define life on our own terms.
It’s not to say that accomplishing these things had we stayed in the marriage would have been impossible, but life after divorce accelerates this opportunity, pulling us out of our comfort zones.
So, while many may think that divorce is a huge loss to be mourned, it is important to remember that it is actually the chance to liberate ourselves. We are survivors who can do anything. We now have this incredible gift of introspection that can serve as a guide if we let it. And we are given a second chance at life that many others long for but may never receive. Embrace these gifts of divorce freedom. The best years of our lives are still waiting.
Author: Martha Bodyfelt
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Simpleinsomnia/ Flickr