I am constantly surprised by the new things I teach myself and learn. Decorating, buying my own furniture, and sorting out what my taste is—even driving. Not that I didn’t drive when I was married, I did. But now I drive a car I picked out and purchased by myself; no one came with me. It was my decision. I have been finding that I can do this. It feels empowering as a woman. Claiming my independence also means I’ve claimed some bad habits. I stay up too late, and I got a dog. The dog is only kind of working out. But I do what I want now because I can.
I met my husband when I was 15 years old; I guess you could say we were high school sweethearts. We were married when I was 19. We loved each other. Really, we did. We could’ve worked things out, but we divorced instead. Some things were difficult in our marriage. He was controlling, an old school German type. It was hard to do anything myself, but I adapted, and we never fought. We compromised, and I think we needed to be more open than we were.
It was a lot of fun being married to him, and I admire many things. Mainly, I am proud of how we parented together. We had a hard time with one of our daughters when she was a teenager. She got into drugs and was skipping school. She was so bright but was acting out. We caught her stealing from us, and my husband was so kind. He sat with her, cried, and told her how much he loved her. He told her she could stand tall, and he built her up. Eventually, she graduated, on time, with honours. And we were so proud of her. We still are so proud of her. Loving our children unconditionally is our proudest moment.
Of course, we were also really good at vacationing. We were good at a lot of things.
When things started to break down, we broke up and got back together a few times. He would leave and stay away for a bit. When he came back, I would say, let’s try counselling, but he didn’t think we needed it. He felt out of control, and he wanted to be happy; I wanted to be happy too.
Eventually, he decided not to work on it anymore. We celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary, and he left that next summer. This time he left for good. He was done. It was hard knowing that I wouldn’t get a 40th anniversary or a 50th. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I was being rejected.
The divorce was a lot of work. Emotionally, it was a nightmare. I remember talking to our first mediator, an old family friend, and asking him, “when is this going to feel better? It just feels terrible.” And he told me, “it will be a while, a long while.” So I asked, “a year?” and he said, “probably longer.” He was right. It was pretty brutal, and being ok doesn’t happen overnight.
Life is peculiar. Compared to what I thought it would be when I was 19 and idealistic. Life throws a monkey wrench in things. I never thought I’d be divorced. But that’s ok. I think I reached forgiveness when I accepted his new wife into our family. They had hurt me a lot initially. They had excluded me from things, and that was hard.
But a while back, I was throwing a baby shower for my daughter, and I thought, you know his wife will be in this baby’s life. She is part of this now. So, I prayed a lot, and I invited her. I fumbled over my words when I introduced her as his “wife” to the party, but I pressed on. Now she and her boys come out to family events and parties. It feels good to have accepted her.
I used to think, “Is this God’s will for my life? Have I done enough?” But I faced my divorce and thought, “am I going to go down this road alone, or am I going to go with God?” And it might sound crazy, but this has been the best thing that has happened to me for my faith, stability, and peace. It changed things radically. My spiritual life has gotten better; it is incredible how much stronger and more at peace I feel. I am happier now than I have been in a very long time.
Partway through the divorce, he bought a condo, which was frustrating because we hadn’t even finalized our finances yet. So I said, “well, I’m buying a house,” and I did. I got one that I wanted. I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to form my independence before, having been married so young. This was a decision for me to make.
As soon as I moved in, I put, “great is thy faithfulness” on my wall. Faith has been integral to me. I got involved in a woman’s bible study during my divorce, and that, being in the Word and having female friends, has been so great.
The hardest part of the divorce was losing his friendship. I couldn’t just talk to him anymore. Surrounding myself with friends was enormous. My children were really there for me, my sister, my daughter’s in-laws, and the new friends I made as well.
I am not as lonely as I was; I’m not depressed; I don’t always need to talk to somebody. I’m in more control of my own life. I can handle this; I can do it. I don’t feel the shame.
I used to feel so ashamed that someone didn’t love me enough to stay with me, but I don’t have that anymore. It happens to people. I hold my head a little higher now. I’m not blaming myself anymore or blaming him either.
It didn’t work, and we were in different places in our lives.
If I had to give someone going through a divorce a piece of advice, I would say talking with friends or a counsellor is helpful but also doing something positive. Volunteering or getting a hobby, something to get out of yourself for a moment.
For me now, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. I have my children and my grandchildren, so I stay busy with them. But I want something new; I’m not sure what that is yet. But I’m not unhappy, and I’m willing to learn something new. That will be the next chapter in my story, learning something new and knowing it’s mine.