May 1 is my own personal D-Day. The day I liberated myself from a bad marriage and stormed the beaches of single motherhood, unsure if I would survive a divorce. OK, I know I'm being dramatic, been when I look back over the last year, I can't believe how far I've come from being scared shitless as to how my husband would react when I left him, what people would think, or even if I'd find a place to live, let alone my own place in the world.
The last year has been kind of a crash course in learning to get over things, move on, and choose happiness over wallowing in self-pity. Because dang, the first year after a marriage falls apart is full of some pretty big highs and lows as you strive for even-keel. I'm still getting my bearings, but life these days is much smoother sailing than it was in my tumultuous marriage or in the early days of the divorce. I think that has a lot to do with what I've been learning along the way.
Here are 12 things I learned about life and love and relationships in 12 months of divorce.
- Life isn't fair. I know, this is the obvious one, but it's also numero uno on the list for a reason. It isn't fair that my husband and I couldn't work it out, it's not fair that my kids have two houses instead of one, and it isn't fair that I have to kill spiders by myself now. None of it's fair. No one said life was. This is a good time to get over it, or it will eat you alive.
- People don't change. They can grow and mature, learn new skills, modify their behavior, and even change their minds, but people are who they are, and outside of a major brain injury or Hollywood movie plot, they're going to stay that way.
- It pays to take advice -- but with a grain of salt. If you keep hearing the same warning bells from your friends and family as you're getting involved with someone, take notice. They love you, and don't want to see you get hurt just because you're blindsided by love infatuation. At the same time, sometimes people are just nosy. If you're unsure what to do, just sit tight and don't rush into anything because ...
- ... True colors always shine through. There's only so long someone can keep a facade up before it crumbles. It doens't even have to be an intentional lie -- I mean we all put our best self forward when we're just beginning a relationship, right? You have to know someone a while before you can get a bald glance at who they really are inside.
- People are fickle sometimes. They may not change, but some people can flip in an instant. It boggled my mind how quickly some of my dearest "friends" turned on me when I left my husband. All in the name of "love" I'm sure, to bring me back to my husband's side where I belonged.
- Your worldview will change. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. But when your bedrock perception of yourself changes, your thoughts and opinions on other things change too. Everybody believes they're going to be the ones that make it on their wedding day. If you could've been so wrong about that, what else have you been wrong about?
- It doesn't matter what people think of you. People are going to think what they want, say what they want, blah blah blah. Character is more important than reputation anyway, and guess what? Something about true colors.
- You will survive the holidays. Just barely, but you will. I hear the first year of celebrations is the worst, and now that I've made it through, I'm inclined to believe it. I know that birthdays and parties and costumes and cookies and every kind of celebration can still be magical and full of love and family. It just looks different now.
- Dating sucks at all ages and stages of life. It sucked at 17, and it sucks at 31. If anyone needs me, I'll be out with my girlfriends.
- You'll be a better parent, and chances are your ex will be too. You will have mixed emotions about this, along the lines of, "Oh now he wants to be super involved?" or "Why does he love them and not me?" Trust me on this one -- there is no answer. Just be grateful your kids don't have a deadbeat dad, and try to enjoy your "breaks" from parenting.
- You'll figure out what went wrong on your end. The most baffling thing about divorce is trying to understand exactly when you went from loving your best friend to losing all respect for the guy to wanting to punch him in the neck. You'll understand your part in it, and vow to do better next time.
- The hurt will eventually stop. Either you'll have one of those amicable divorces and you'll help each other through it (what's that like?) or you'll begin to heal yourself and stop letting your ex worm his way through your psyche and break your heart. People can only hurt you if you let them.
What did you learn during a difficult time in your life?
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