You are getting married today. This time, it won’t be to me.
If I’m being completely honest, I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to feel. How is an ex-wife supposed to feel on the day her ex-husband gets remarried to someone new?
I let my breathing slow and look inward for a gray area—a neutral place where I can be safe to feel whatever it is I’m supposed to feel. Except, neutrality is a trigger for me.
Neutrality is a wash of gray paint, gray upholstery, and a heavy gray fog sinking between us. We were sitting less than two feet away from each other, but we couldn’t have been farther apart. On the outside, we must have looked more like strangers than ex-lovers. Except strangers don’t have over 10 years of assets to divide.
That’s the deafening silence in the room. The mourning of an entire life together; all that color and this is what we have been reduced to. Now we are two signatures on a piece of paper filed in a gray cabinet in a gray room in an uninspired law office downtown. We are a statistic.
Our entire life together signed away in less than 20 minutes.
We left the building together, spilling out onto the street like we were coming up for air. Had we both been holding our breath? You barely waved goodbye as you walked down the sidewalk toward the bar where we shared our last drink together. I’m not sure what I expected. Weren’t we supposed to hug or something? Shake hands—the theoretical olive branch. We were still allowed to touch, right?
I guess I just needed to know that you hurt too. I needed to know that we had been something worth hurting over. I needed to know that I hadn’t made us up in my head. Instead, you disappeared around the corner and I thanked the universe that I was wearing sunglasses so no one would see me crashing beneath them.
I cried in the car the entire drive home.
That day seems like a lifetime ago.
It took a while, but eventually, I gained the strength to pick up the shattered pieces of my old life off the floor and begin putting them back together. That’s the silver lining to your life falling apart: you get to start over.
I mixed and matched those edges and corners so many times that you wouldn’t recognize the woman I’ve built myself up to. She’s a handful. More than the girl I was with you could have ever dreamed of being. She’s three times as vulnerable and twice as strong. If I’m being completely honest, I owe a lot of who she is to you. We didn’t go through the hell and high water we went through without learning a few things about survival along the way.
We were young love: reckless and blissful, trying to manifest this perfect love we’d heard about in songs using two imperfect people. We were the dive-in-without-looking kind. We had no idea we were jumping into rough waters, or that less than half make it out alive. We didn’t know we were making promises that neither of us was capable of keeping. We were a sinking ship from the beginning, made up of unrealistic expectations, and we had no right to blame each other for not being able to weather that kind of storm.
But I forgive us.
I forgive me. It was selfish to ever think that I could show you how to love me when I didn’t even know how to love myself yet.
I forgive you for not knowing how to save me. You were a child, and saving me was never your cross to carry. It wasn’t fair to let you believe it was.
I have to forgive us because I see the man and woman that we were able to become once we were able to breathe again without using each other as a life raft. I choose to believe that we owe that growth to the children we used to be, even if the only thing those children ever taught each other was what they didn’t want.
So today, you are giving your heart away again, and instead of feeling all the ugly things that people say I have every right to feel, I am choosing to be happy for you.
I am happy for you.
I know it couldn’t have been easy to try to love again. To love as hard as we did for as long as we did, with all the sacrifices we made to try and mold ourselves into something that could withstand the demands of forever, only to have it all come crashing down around us. It couldn’t have been easy to want to try that again. To love is to risk losing, and we had certainly lost enough for a lifetime.
Yet here you are. I can only assume that that is because you found someone worth risking everything for. Someone who feels like forever in all the ways I never did. Because of this, I know that this time will be different for you.
I know you will be more patient with her—and yourself. I know you will remember the passion-fueled fights that ultimately consumed us and you will choose instead to listen. You will choose compassion over being right. I hope that by loving and losing us that we have taught each other to love better, more fully, and with such an uninhibited wildness that it can withstand everything that we allowed to burn us out.
They say we shouldn’t carry baggage from old loves into new ones. I’m not sure I believe that. Ours is a lifetime of lessons to unpack and I do hope you continue to wear them with honor as I do. I hope you continue to learn from them—and from us.
Congratulations on your special day. I am deeply and truly happy for you.
Thank you for being such a vital part of my journey, and I am grateful to have been a part of yours.