When I was 16, a mere sophomore in high school, I'd just come off (what I still argue to be) the worst breakup in my history. You know how delicate a first love can be, so when it ended abruptly — and during the very summer my grandmother almost died — I was devastated. I thought I'd never heal from that broken heart. Then, months later, I met the boy who would become my first husband. I didn't know we wouldn't make it either, or all the things I'd have to do for myself after my divorce. However, looking back, it was all so very essential so that I could become the mother, wife, and woman I am today.
I don't want to downplay how intense high school relationships are because the feelings I had in those relationships were absolutely valid and real. They moved quickly and we felt so deeply, no one and nothing could've stopped us from taking those vows. Part of it was rebellion (of course), and the other part was not knowing what our futures held if we weren't together. It was all scary and uncertain and with my tumultuous childhood, I know I wanted security and normalcy anywhere I could find it. It seemed like a logical solution. I mean, we were in love and we wanted to be together, so why not commit in a way we didn't fully understand at the time, right?
Then, just months into this unity and at 18-years-old, we experienced some very adult issues. Infidelity, financial burdens, and all the things that tank even the strongest of relationships. We separated for awhile. I moved in with my grandmother who'd recovered from her near death (albeit with some health issues that accompanied) while he moved back in with his parents. We didn't know if we could fix all that had been broken but the longer we were a apart, the more we realized we couldn't just end things without giving it another try.
As time passed, we worked through every part of us, but two years after the initial onset of problems, something happened. I can't exactly explain what it was that shifted because, at the time, things were "good." I could argue the past caught up to us or maybe we matured and realized all the ways we didn't really work as a couple, or maybe —probably — it was a combination of everything.
One day, when my then-husband returned from work, I told him it was over. There was no other way to say it; no other way to explain the feelings had somehow diminished. We both cried. For all we'd worked through, and for the futures we feared to have a part but knew how necessary in order to be who we're truly meant to be. After that day, neither of us looked back. My high school sweetheart, who became my husband just over a month after graduation, was — still is — a great guy. There are no negative feelings and I've always wished him well just as he's done in return. Once it was over, and I mean really over, I learned a lot about myself through all the steps taken thereafter. With that, here are some of the things I did after divorce that, without them, I may not be who I am today.
I Let Myself Wallow
Those initial days and weeks after the decision to part, I'll admit, I sunk into a sea of self-pity for a bit. How could I know if it was the right decision or not? What of it was a huge mistake? Of course I knew in my heart the relationship needed to end. It wasn't a healthy situation for either of us and, if anything, we were holding one another back from greater things. But even still, my heart hurt and I know his did, too.
I gave myself permission to cry, wallow, and mope as long as I needed to. This wasn't just the end of a relationship — it was the end of an era; the end of my life as I knew it and the same went for him as well. In getting a divorce at 22, having been together since 16, we both had to start our lives over. I allowed myself to be sad until I wasn't anymore.
I Went To Therapy To Work Through My Feelings
I've been doing the therapy thing off and on for decades, but it became more imperative after my divorce; mostly so I could process my feelings in new ways. Of course I knew what was lost and all the things that would change because of it but I didn't grasp how deeply it would change me. In fact, I undervalued these emotions until I booked therapy appointments to help me work through all the pain I'd actually been carrying since the early days of our relationship.
Those therapy sessions brought so much clarity into view, there came a point when that I fully understood where the relationship went wrong and how it couldn't have lasted longer than it did. Most importantly, I forgave my ex, and myself, which allowed us both to move on freely.
I Got To Know Myself Again
A funny thing happens when you go straight from high school relationship to marriage without a break in between: you forget who you are and aren't allowed the chance to evolve in ways you could otherwise. Once I was on my own for the first time in years (and even then, I lived at home with my mom and brother), I started to learn who I was and who I wanted to become. The separation let me experience different things, figure out what I liked and didn't like, and showed me how much stronger I was, without him.
I Dated With No Strings
Who knew dating could be so much fun? I certainly didn't, because I never had the chance to date after high school. Apparently, that's the time you test the waters and decide what type of people you mesh with best. I was thick in the middle of marriage counseling and depression while all my friends experienced the heights and perils of college dating. I envied them in so many ways because I'd missed out on all the traditional post-high school experiences. Yes, it was my decision, but my brain wasn't ready to process all that back then. Once divorced, I tried the dating scene and while fun, it was also more stressful than knowing I had a partner to go home to at night. So all that envy was wasted projection and, as it turns out, not really for me anyway.
A few months down the line, I met my (now) husband and because I'd grown so much since my divorce, I was ready for him. I knew who I was and what I wanted. Now that I'm older, and we're nearly thirteen years into this relationship, I see the different paths after high school led to the different lives we all lead now and I wouldn't trade where I'm at now for anything.
I Tried New Things
Along with dating, divorce forced me out of my comfort zone in so many ways it became too difficult to resist. As part of any evolution, change was inevitable and with that change came trying new things and experiences. I had to move back in with my mom for awhile and while I maintained the same job, I was restless. I'd worked through the emotions and started to figure out my path so the next logical thing was to put myself out there more. I was a singer and guitarist for many years during that marriage so for me, this meant playing out to wider audiences in different locations (and the onset of wanderlust) so I could meet new people. It was hard at first, but very necessary.
I Moved Somewhere New
Once I found my groove in other areas, I decided to move out of my mom's house into another state entirely. This wasn't without a lot of thought and consideration and the choice came after meeting my (now) husband who was also a musician. While only a couple hours from my hometown, the move let me spread my wings enough to move forward that much more, without regret. Best decision I've ever made.
I Learned To Enjoy Alone Time
Hands down, one of the best things I did after my divorce was give myself all the alone time I could handle. In the beginning, it was so uncomfortable, I tried to avoid it. I feared being alone; it was completely unhealthy and only further proved why ,that relationship needed to end. But once I started spending time by myself, I realized I not only liked it: I needed it. Now as a mother of two, I count down the minutes until I get just a few to myself.
Listen, divorce is never an easy decision and shouldn't be taken lightly. I say this as woman who's both been through it and really punished myself for going through with it for a very long time. But as I said, looking back, I do believe things happened as they were meant to (and the best for both of us). If divorce is on your horizon, take heart in the fact that someday, you'll know yourself better than you ever have and you'll see, you're stronger than you've ever given yourself credit for. Promise.