Where do I begin? First and foremost, this is not a story about why I got divorced. Rather, it’s about how I’ve dealt with this awful, devastating, gut-wrenching, insert-other-negative-adjectives-here situation at such a young age. And I’m sharing my story in the hope that it may, in some small shape or form, be helpful for anyone who is going through something similar. Because the truth is, divorcees aren’t just 40-something women living in the burbs with two kids.
By way of context, I started dating my now ex-husband (it’s still so weird to write that) when I was 22. We got engaged at 25, married at 26, and, as you now know, divorced at 32. Point being, I spent nearly a decade with this man whom I loved and will always love with my entire being. But there is more to marriage than love.
Like I said, though, this isn’t about why I got divorced; however, it is worth noting that it wasn’t any major event or scandal that got us to this point. It was, as the courts so eloquently put it, “irreconcilable differences.” Quite frankly, there have been many, many times during this whole process that I wished there had been something horrible, something that would have made divorce a no-brainer. But that’s not how it went down.
Out of respect for my ex, I’m not going to say anything else about our marriage, nor does it really matter. Because what I’ve come to realize is that people who get divorced do so for a multitude of reasons. And while the details are always different, as is everyone’s process, there are many universal emotions when it comes to divorce. No matter what the specifics may be, it doesn’t make the process any easier or harder, any more or less painful.
When you get divorced, it’s not just the immediate loss of a marriage and a partner; it’s the loss of what you thought your future would be — all the shared hopes and plans and dreams.”
When we first separated, I felt like I was in a never-ending free fall, tumbling head over feet, spinning round and round with nothing to grab onto. No floor beneath me. Just emptiness and falling and fear. Aside from having to deal with the logistics that come with having your entire life being up-rooted, the onslaught of emotions is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. To say it was disorienting would be the understatement of the century.
Couple that with the fact that I had no one to talk to who had ever been in a similar situation. After all, who gets divorced at 32? My friends were in the thick of all the good life stuff: happy relationships, engagements, weddings, babies – all of the things I once had, or thought were on the horizon. I felt completely lonely and isolated.
Eventually, the life logistics fell into place and the external stuff stabilized somewhat. And that’s when I really fell apart. Picture taking a glass and throwing it on the floor as hard you as can so that it breaks into countless pieces. Then, take every single shattered piece and smash it with a hammer. And then take every one of those minuscule glass particles and crush them again. You’d be left with a powder that bears no resemblance to the original glass it once was. In this analogy, my heart is that glass.
I woke up every day thinking some version of, “WTF is my life and how did I get here?” My dad, who was always the best but truly stepped up his game to get me through this, said it best: When you get divorced, it’s not just the immediate loss of a marriage and a partner; it’s the loss of what you thought your future would be — all the shared hopes and plans and dreams. Everything was gone. My husband. My identity as a wife and partner. The home we had created. My best friend. I never thought I’d get divorced. I’m a child of divorce and swore up and down it wouldn’t happen to me. But it did and here I am, writing about it for all to read, no less.
I’m by no means out of the woods yet. Far from it, in fact. People keep telling me it will get better and that I’ll come out on the other side soon. But I’m far too Type A for all of this open-ended-style grieving. So, while I’m probably (read definitely) not qualified to give advice, I have learned a few things over these last six months that I think are worth sharing. I’m working on ways to embrace my new beginning, and I hope this will help you do the same.
Get yourself a therapist
I get it, therapy isn’t for everyone. But as someone who has been in therapy for the majority of her adult life, I can confidently say I’ve never gotten my money’s worth more than I have now. Ideally, I recommend finding a therapist, such as mine, who enjoys drawing parallels between Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules and your life. Trust me, it’s helpful.
Find someone to lean on
I eventually found a friend of a friend who had also gotten divorced young and speaking to her was more helpful than anything else. To know that there was someone else who had felt the way I felt, who understood the guilt, confusion, pain, and utter sadness I was going through was invaluable.
Figure out what makes you feel better
It may be something that only helps for minutes, or even seconds at a time, but who cares. It’s something. In case you were wondering, I’ve found that buying a fabric shaver on Amazon and using it to shave the pills off your sweaters while listening to O-Town’s hit ballad, All or Nothing, on repeat really works wonders. If possible, get a glass of pinot noir involved in this process, too. Journaling has also been an invaluable tool for me. It has the added bonus of acting as a way to reflect on the past as time progresses and helps realize that you, too, are moving forward, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
Do what you need to do at any given moment
Sometimes it might be crying and sweater shaving, sometimes it might be a girls’ dinner, sometimes it might be not leaving your bed for a day. Don’t shame yourself and don’t push yourself to do anything besides what you want to do at any given point in time. You owe it to yourself.
Stop telling everyone you’re fine
I mean, if you’re actually fine, go right ahead. But I did far too good a job of putting on a happy face. When you’re a generally positive and optimistic person, it’s tough be vulnerable and let people see that your life has gone down the toilet. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how well I’m handling things, and to my credit, I probably am. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t need support or that I’m not still in a boatload of pain. So, reach out for help when you need it. Cry in front of your friends.
Don’t let other’s happiness hinder yours
To the point of friends, if there’s one thing that can make going through a divorce this young even harder, it’s that it coincides with so many great life changes for those in your inner circle. You can be truly, genuinely happy for your friends and simultaneously feel depressed about your own life when spending time with them. That doesn’t make you a bad friend.
Some days you may be able to enjoy a baby shower or engagement party, but some days this will be too much. Learn to say “no.” Your true friends aren’t going to be offended if you explain that you need to take a minute before jumping into celebrating their next steps full-force. (Per the true friends part, I’d like to use this opportunity to insert a shout-out to all my friends and family who have been there for me in ways I could never have imagined.)
Stop obsessing over what’s next
Now’s not the time for obsessing over the future. Nothing good comes from wrestling with questions like, “Will I ever be in another relationship?” “Will I ever get married again?” “Do I need to freeze my eggs?” “Are all of the dudes on the dating apps insane?” Clipboard it. The only way I’ve been able to get through this as a (somewhat, most of the time) functioning member of society is by truly focusing on getting through one day, one hour — hell, sometimes one minute — at a time. Cut yourself a break and be in the now, as painful as it may be.
Above all else, all I can say is don’t forget how strong and capable you are. Divorce is not the easy way out of a marriage. It takes courage to go through with it and a certain confidence to choose what is best for you in the long-run. Tell yourself that every day until it is ingrained in your head. Screenshot inspirational Instagram posts and read them daily. Write it in lipstick on your mirror. Get a tattoo. (For the record, I’ve only done three of those four things — for now.) We are going to be okay.