Two brown eggs posed on white risers. Brown egg on the left is mid explosion. Egg on the right is intact. 

Photo Credit: Patrik Theander

Part of the reason that no one told me these select things is because divorce is different for everyone and the struggles are varied across the board. Not everyone has hit these walls but I did. I hit them head on, and super hard.

1. You don’t just stop loving your spouse.

I think this was the biggest surprise. I always thought that when marriages ended it was because of a slow and steady unchecked erosion. I believed that people just grew so far apart that they fell out of love. What scared me after my divorce was final, was that I still loved my ex-husband as much as I did when we were married. Only, at the same time, I hated him just as deeply. It wasn’t like one fizzled and the other took it’s place. My hate and love were equal and the intensity of feeling both so strongly felt like it might kill me.

Pop songs had lied to me. I couldn’t just say, “To the left – to the left” and replace him. I was consumed on the inside by love and hate being inextricably entwined and at odds. I still have not recovered.

2. You don’t feel better or free just because your divorce is final.

I thought that a weight would be lifted once everything was final. It took a long time to get all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. When it was all said and done and a judge’s clerk had stamped the papers, the only relief I felt was that the paperwork was done. I didn’t feel free. I didn’t feel unmarried. I just felt as if a horrible class assignment was completed. I didn’t have to turn in any more papers to be graded or show up for any more presentations. It was just…done. I didn’t want to shout from the rooftops or dance in city square. I just wanted to curl up in bed and never get up again.

3. You will question your whole existence.

To quote the ultimate divorcee, Stevie Knicks:

“I’ve been afraid of changing, because I built my life around you.”

After my marriage fell apart I wasn’t sure what I was on Earth for, if I’m honest. Every word I wrote felt like bullshit. My work towards building Rethink Trauma felt like a scam. All the plans I had made with my ex-husband evaporated into thin air and all I was left with was a vacant landscape of the future endlessly laid out in front of me. I genuinely had an existential crisis because of it. Everything in my life was built around and for my marriage. Without that I felt as if I had nothing. Even my own dreams that I brought into marriage fused with the man that I married and to think about accomplishing any of them without him didn’t feel possible. If I couldn’t stay married, the one thing I actually vowed to do…then what was I even capable of?

4. You will question your faith.

If you’re not a person of faith, then maybe this particular point isn’t for you. I can feel my atheist friends rolling their eyes at the sentiment, but my faith is such an integral part of my life that to have it shaken also broke a part of me I’m still trying to heal.

I prayed so much and so fervently for my marriage that losing it in spite of all felt like I’d put my faith in the wrong God. If God “hates” divorce as so many people say, then why the hell did my marriage fall apart when I was praying so fucking hard? When I was fighting? When I was ready to walk away just to save it? I see now, the mercy in those unanswered prayers. I see the grace and second chance I’ve been given. I have a new way to understand my worth that I didn’t have before. But I honestly wish there was a better way to prepare for it all.  

5. It will take a very long time to heal.

Seriously. I didn’t believe people. They told me, so I guess it IS something that I was told. But it will be a year since my divorce was final in just a couple months and sometimes it feels like I walked out of the courthouse yesterday. I’m still actively struggling. Some days are good, some days are okay, but some days are really awful. Some people told me that it was an immediate relief and they felt so much better now that everything was “over”. I didn’t feel that way. I was in the camp of people who wondered if they would ever be okay again. Please know that it could take you a long, long, time. That is alright.

6. It feels like grieving a death.

Part of why it takes forever is because there is so much to grieve. I wasn’t making it up on my wedding day when I said I was marrying my best friend. In fact, it was our close friendship that made me miss some of the clues that the relationship wasn’t healthy. This person that you’ve called and texted every day for years is suddenly not there to talk to. The person you loaf around with isn’t there. The person you lay down next to at night is absent. When you go to the grocery store all of a sudden you just buy food for yourself. When you plan a vacation or a trip, you just buy one ticket. There is so much absence to grieve and loss to notice and mourn that sometimes I feel like I’ll be grieving the rest of my life.

7. You will have a hard time being alone, but not be able to be with anyone.

One of the hardest things, that I really have wrestled with, is the impossible reconciliation of feeling alone and knowing that I can’t be in a relationship with anyone. It would be a bad idea for me to jump into a relationship because I’m lonely. It isn’t fair to the other person to use them just to fill a void. I’m also in a season of having to step back and examine myself and how I form relationships with others and the boundaries that I set for my emotional and physical health. It’s also not fair to potentially pull someone into my toxicity just because I want to be wanted. I know that it’s best to sit back and take my time to find someone that I really like and want to get to know, but there are so many apps that scream back at me, “BUT THIS GUY WILL MAKE YOU FEEL OKAY FOR THE WEEKEND.”

Staying the healthy course has been agonizing, but what I wish most is that someone had had the words to tell me that I would experience this. What I also wish is that we would stop shaming people for feeling lonely when they know it’s basically a problem that can’t be fixed right now. You’re alone and it sucks but being with the wrong person because you didn’t wait to heal will suck worse for longer.

8. You will have to learn it’s okay to remember good times.

My marriage had some really bright spots. There were funny moments and times of tenderness that I worry I’ll never find again. Just because a marriage doesn’t work out doesn’t make the whole thing awful and it doesn’t make the other person Satan’s spawn because he or she broke someone’s heart. Relationships are complicated. Even in abusive relationships there are good memories. Treating the whole thing as bad just leads a person to beat themselves up every time they remember something good and smile about it. It’s not bad to cherish a memory. It is bad to let someone keep hurting you because they made you laugh once or stay with the wrong person because they always remember your birthday.

9. Autonomy is scary.

Sometimes it dawns on me that no one knows or cares where I am. I could go to the store right now and anyone that you’d contact in an emergency would have no idea that I was there. When you’re married someone always has a general idea of where you are and what you’re doing. When you’re alone no one does. Transitioning back to the world of people not knowing where I am or what’s going on with me has been more distressing than I thought. Even now, when I’ve been on my own for over two years, I wonder if I should tell anyone that I’m going to grocery shop or that I won’t be able to hear my phone because I’m going to take a shower. Having to retrain my brain to not always have someone taking up part of my plans and actions has been difficult.

10. Life will never be the same.

I keep waiting for the feeling of normal to hit. Like a wash of being just a person; not a divorced person or a sad person. Just a woman, on her own, perfectly fine as she is. I keep waiting to feel like I did before when I was single. It hasn’t happened. Not much feels normal. It doesn’t feel foreign but it does feel like I’m still learning. Like when you write your name in preschool, the shapes kind of resemble your name, but you obviously need some practice. The experience of divorce has scorched and refined me in so many ways that I’m not sure I’ll ever really feel the same as any time in my life. It’s a strange new season where each day is the same as the last and you’re waiting to be through it. The degree of agony I’m in while waiting is the only difference. It’s like a virus, you just have to wait it out, but nothing will really be the same after.

Read more about divorce
Read more about loneliness

advice, anxiety, depression, divorce, love, relationships, Trauma