Know what we need to stop doing? Saying Divorce is a “Failed Marriage”. There is nothing about divorce that’s a failure. Failure would be staying in a situation that isn’t working for you. Failure would be staying on a path paved by society’s expectations, rather than following a path toward your personal dreams.
No, Divorce is one of the greatest successes you could experience. It means you took control of your life. You recognized you deserve to walk your own path. You chose to leave a situation that wasn’t working, or that was maybe toxic. You ended an unhealthy lifestyle for you, your previous partner, and your children. You opened the doors to a wide open future that YOU get to decide. Congratulations - that is a huge victory!
I certainly look at my own divorce that way. I was really rubbed the wrong way when I began telling family and friends that we were getting a divorce. I was met with so much pity and sorrow and condolences, when all I wanted was congratulations. There were a handful of people who were happy for me, though. “Happy marriages don’t end in divorce,” one said, meaning she recognized that something must not have been working, and we took control of the situation and parted ways. That’s a good thing! You can’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. You can’t force your size 8 foot into a size 6 shoe. So don’t stay in a relationship that isn’t a good fit for you. The rest of your life is a really long time, we hope! Don’t settle for less than great.
I’m not saying just give up without trying. You made a commitment with this person for some reason, and unless you’re in an abusive situation, I believe it’s important to explore why your relationship is no longer working and do what you can to see if it’s salvageable. I highly recommend couples counseling. My ex husband and I went several times. The first time was just after my son was born. I had already gone through quite a bit of trauma from that, and while I was battling PTSD, postpartum depression, and being generally miserable, my husband didn’t seem to get why I was a trainwreck and got frustrated with me, and, to me, seemed more interested in the new baby. I felt like I got sidelined, my feelings didn’t matter. It got so bad that I couldn’t picture myself staying with him for the rest of my life. I couldn’t picture staying with him for another month. I had already been going to counseling for myself, and my counselor at the time suggested I bring him in to see if we can work on our problems, since I expressed I was ready to give up and file for divorce. Well, she taught us how to communicate, because we were NOT on the same page, and I think it was more important to him that this marriage remain in tact so he put forth his best foot and we worked on it. And it did work - we really did have a good relationship after that, and he was supportive on my journey to birth our second son at home. But time went on, and our difference continued to become more and more apparent to me. So many times I thought about my future with him with a heavy heart. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my days on his farm, never growing in the areas of my life that I wanted to grow. And he didn’t display the level of growth I was looking for. And not that that’s bad, it’s just not a good fit for me. He didn’t see life the way I saw it. He didn’t want what I wanted. He didn’t care to experience things the way I wanted to experience them. We were a square peg in a round hole. And I felt depleted and trapped.
Why did we get married in the first place? Well, we were in our 20s, and in our area of the world - the Midwest - the culture here seems to be fairly traditional. You get married in your 20s, have babies, and there’s really not much more to life than that. And that’s what he wanted. He had a goal of being married and having kids before he’s 30. His time clock was ticking loudly when we met. And we were a good fit for those unfortunately circumstances, because my self esteem was low. He was excited to be with me, because I might be the person to solve this biological clock problem, and I was excited that he wanted to be with me, because I felt wanted and needed and yearned for. I remember asking him WHY, though. I asked him that a lot - “What do you like so much about me?” Because even then, despite liking the fact that he wanted me, I knew we didn’t have a whole lot in common, and I knew my mind didn’t work the way his did, which made it hard for me to understand what he saw in me.
And those differences really got harder as the years went by. We went back to counseling in the end - I knew I couldn’t see myself staying in place anymore, couldn’t picture myself staying on that farm, couldn’t see myself growing old with him, but I didn’t want to just give it all up or “throw it away”. I’m not going to say our divorce was easy - ending a way of life that was known for over a decade is never an easy thing to do, but counseling made it SO much smoother than it could have been. We were able to be honest with each other, authentic, vulnerable, and our counselor was our guide leading us through the really hard stuff, like having to say, “I care about you, but I don’t love you the way a wife should love a husband.” Or him admitting that if I stood my ground and said I didn’t want to have kids back when he was eager to start a family, he wouldn’t have stayed with me. (And no, I wasn’t ready to have kids, and often pictured myself never having kids, and I also never pictured myself getting married, but again, my self esteem was low and I was easily persuaded. That happens when you’re that out of touch with yourself.)
I don’t hold any of this against him. While my self esteem was low, he had a lot of his own baggage carried over from his own past that interfered with his better judgement, too. We both should have done a LOT of work on ourselves before trying to share a life together.
But I did the work, and not a moment goes by that I’m not grateful I took my life into my own hands. I have no regrets about our time together. I’m proud of the children we created. We made a lot of great memories, and had a lot of big life experiences together. I think those aspects of a relationship hold a lot of people back from ending a relationship that needs to end. They’ve built a foundation together, and the idea of stepping off that foundation and starting over sounds terrifying, even if that foundation is cracking beyond repair. Where is this idea coming from that you’re required to stay together? When we’re in high school and college it’s expected that breakups happen. But when we’re out on our own, in our 20s (when we still have a lot of mental maturing to do), the relationship we find and turn into a marriage is suddenly supposed to last the rest of your life? That makes no sense to me. How can you expect two people, who meet when they’re basically still kids, to remain compatible forever? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Many people grow together instead of apart. But expecting that growth to happen together ALL the time is just unrealistic. So when you find yourself in a situation with someone you were once compatible with, and you created a family with, and now you couldn’t be more different, why is it so wrong to part ways, and set your lives free?
Leaving my husband opened SO many doors for both of us. He’s now with someone he got to know for the person she is. He already marked the things off his life checklist, so nothing stood in his way. She’s into the farm life with him. She’s got the work ethic he does. They’re way more on the same page than he and I were. And me? I’m currently with somebody who prioritizes freedom and happiness the same way I do. And working toward that goal together allows for exactly that: freedom and happiness. And I can’t imagine missing out on this experience had I stayed married because society expected it of me.
Please stop looking at divorce as a failed marriage. There is nothing about it whatsoever that says failure.
If you need help shifting your mindset, I’d love to help. Send me a DM on social media @JamiChristine11, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am passionate about helping others take their lives back, and live them in the most joyful, fulfilling way possible.