I don’t think there’s a person out there who wouldn’t tell you that when a significant relationship ended, it wasn’t paired with a deep transformation.
One can’t go through something earth-shatteringly painful and devastating without having to dramatically shift something inside of themselves, whether it be a way of thinking, a pattern of behaving, or a long-overdue look at old wounds that so eloquently come to the surface when we find ourselves literally face first on the living room floor, desperately trying to pull ourselves up from that hot mess called rock bottom.
I’ve discovered that my ex ending our marriage was a great blessing for me. It sped up the transformation process I was already in by allowing me to look at some decades-old wounds, unhealthy relationship patterns, and old stories I told myself that, quite frankly, were disempowering as hell and not allowing me to step into my fullness and power as a woman.
Now, I’m making it on my own.
It hasn’t been easy, and I have my days where I cry and curse at God, sometimes in very unladylike ways because this wasn’t what I signed up for.
Except maybe it is…
Maybe I did sign up for this without quite knowing what I had agreed to. Because I’m discovering that what has emerged in my life from those days laying on the living room floor is far more exciting and intriguing than I ever could have imagined.
I’ve discovered new things, met like-minded people, and transformed in ways that may never have happened if my marriage hadn’t come to the dramatic ending that it did. I’ve discovered gifts I never knew I had and see the simplistic joy in things I never saw before.
My hope is that for anyone going through a devastating ending of any kind, whether it be a relationship, a marriage, a job, a home, their children leaving the nest for the first time, an illness, or a death, that I can shine just a little bit of light and hope into the dark shadows that feel as if they will never disappear.
This is simply what happened to me when I became willing to pick myself up from that proverbial living room floor.
1. My fears went away.
I’m not exaggerating about this. All that sh*t I worried about all the time…gone. You know why? Because my very worst fear had come to pass and I realized I had absolutely no control over it. Not only that, I had survived it.
It doesn’t matter how much I worry about anything; God, the universe, or a higher power is in charge and things are going to happen whether we want them to or not. It was an enormous relief to not have to expend so much energy trying to control everything in my life. Because I never was actually in control at all. None of us are.
Life became easier. I stopped worrying about whether my children would contract some horrible, fatal disease or die in a car crash, whether I would go bankrupt trying to live on my own, or how I would survive if one of my parents died. I let it all go. Because if this could happen—if this man who was madly and passionately in love with me at one time could just decide one day that he wasn’t—then anything could happen. So all my fears…I let ’em go. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
2. All my “shoulds” went out the window.
We all have them: This “should” be this way. I “should” feel this way. I “should” have what this person has.
But there are no shoulds. There’s just what is. You can accept it and make peace with it or you can suffer. When I let go of every thought that started with the words, “I should,” I found real peace.
3. Boundaries became a necessity, not an option.
As a life-long people-pleaser and a wife who was secretly terrified that if I ever said “no,” he’d find someone who said “yes,” boundaries were not something I was intimately acquainted with. I wanted to be liked. I craved being loved and I definitely wanted to win the title of “coolest wife ever,” which many people told me at various times I already was—until I learned I clearly wasn’t, because “cool wives” don’t end up in the position I found myself in.
So I started setting those boundaries…with friends, at work, with my kids, and most importantly in romantic relationships. “This is acceptable,” and “This is not.” Plain and simple. Therefore, I could stop being the victim of other people’s actions and take my power back, something I should have done a lot sooner.
4. I didn’t have to fight to be heard.
The one who screams the loudest, sends the nastiest emails, and doesn’t ever give in or admit to being wrong is the winner, right?
Wrong. The one who does that is the loser. That was something I learned very early on. I always remembered what Oprah used to ask: “Would you rather be right or would you rather have peace?” I chose peace. If certain people want to hate me or make me wrong no matter how hard I try to please them, so be it. I learned that sometimes walking way and not engaging or giving in—even when it feels unfair—does not make me a weak person. It makes me a person who wants to live a drama-free life.
5. I stopped trying to prove my worth and started asking “Are you worthy of me?”
This was a huge life-changer for me. I spent my entire life trying to prove how “good” and “special” I was, whether it be at a job, in a friendship, or in a romantic relationship.
I stepped away from a job I’d had for 21 years, where I was having to continually prove my worth to people I had no history with. So instead, I asked myself the question, “Is this job the right thing for me and what I bring to the table?” When I realized the answer was no, I took a risk and walked away with absolutely no fear or indecision.
And when it came to relationships, I quickly grew tired of being with men who I felt wanted me to prove my worth or else they would find someone else with a swipe of their finger on their phone. Instead I now ask, “Is he worthy of me and all I’ve been through? Does he allow me to be me without question? Does he show up consistently for me and not just when it’s convenient?” I’ve had to walk away from a few people I cared deeply for and one I even loved, but I won’t make the same mistake twice.
6. I became okay with the not knowing.
I think when you’re married, you have a vision of what your life is going to look like. There’s a path you’re determined to walk together and this thing you can count on—because the two of you have talked about it for years, and worked it out, and you don’t ever think anything is going to throw it off course.
And then something does…and you land in parts unknown.
But like the “Survivor” cast who gets thrown on some deserted island, you just figure it out. You don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like, and nothing is predictable or guaranteed, but you become okay with it. I don’t know where I’ll be next month, let alone a year from now, but I know wherever it is, I’m going to be okay.
7. I learned what doesn’t kill me does actually make me stronger.
Often, when I heard this quote, I’d roll my eyes and think, “Yeah…well I’d rather you just kill me because I’m strong enough and don’t need any more of this sh*t!”
But anytime anything in my life looks bleak or I’m upset over some kind of setback, my friend Deanne often jokes, “Well sister, you’ve been through worse than this. You survived finding out the very worst thing a woman can find out while you were pregnant and you not only survived it but flourished despite of it, so I’d say you got this one.”
And I did. Because I really have become resilient as hell. Setbacks and upsets don’t get to me anymore. I’m not saying I don’t cry or sometimes feel hurt by others, but I don’t let it break me. I don’t allow it to land me on the living room floor in a fetal position like I once found myself. I no longer give up.
I don’t give up—not just for myself or my children, but for everyone else out there who feels like they want to. For the ones who are stuck on that living room floor and think they can’t get up because they’re too tired, too devastated, or too fearful of what’s next. We need to get up. We’ve got to see what’s next because I promise you, it’s better than where we’re at.
Sometimes, we just have to surrender to what’s happening and trust that this path we’re being led down, although it’s not the one we wanted, might be the one that’s needed.
I didn’t know what I needed when my husband left. I truly thought I had it all. But I can say now that although I wouldn’t have chosen it myself, it’s far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m not just surviving, I’m thriving.
And the best part is: my story isn’t over yet. It’s just the beginning.
Author: Dina Strada
Image: Averie Woodard/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina