I recently read a post by the talented Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. She was offering support to a friend who was struggling through a divorce while at the same time publishing a book about marriage.
Her post was filled with such warmth and understanding and had a strong message of encouragement for women going through a divorce.
The support offered called to mind all of the people who reached out to me when they realized that I was getting a divorce. I was private about my divorce during the process. I quietly removed my relationship status on Facebook and did not offer a replacement or post publicly about it.
I relocated my children and never mentioned my now-ex again.
When the situation became apparent, I received an outpouring of love and support, which I will forever be grateful to have received.
However, I often hear talk of how people “just give up” on their marriages. While there are those who treat marriage and divorce casually, I would say that most of us went into our marriages filled with hope and ideas of forever.
Every woman I know who is now divorced fought like hell to save her marriage—before finally deciding to save herself instead.
At a certain point, we realize that the ship is sinking, and so many of us have children who need rescuing. So, yes, we get off the damn ship and start looking for a lifeboat—a whole new life.
We didn’t give up.
We saved ourselves, saved our children.
We didn’t quit our marriages; we survived them.
When we realize that we can’t single-handedly make a relationship with another person work, we have to choose ourselves. We begin to hear our hearts screaming for us to get out. We begin to honor our intuition, which tells us that this situation isn’t healthy for us, that we must do whatever it takes to make our lives better. We figure out that we cannot save our partner, that they are no longer our partners when they choose not to fight for the relationship.
We realize the relationship is over already, and we begin to take the steps to make that final.
We take the steps toward divorce, no matter our circumstances, no matter how difficult it will be to live without this relationship or the financial support of being coupled. We leave no matter how counterintuitive it is to walk away from something in which we’ve invested so much of our lives. We leave, all the while grieving what our children will have to experience as the children of divorced parents.
This isn’t a matter of giving up or quitting. This is a matter of accepting things as they are and choosing to live the best life that we can.
I’ve found that many of us come out of these trials only to be painted as the villains. We become the bad guys in another’s story, because that is so much easier. And when we go through a divorce, we often lose the support of people we had long considered family as they choose to believe this story.
Divorce isn’t easy, no matter how it may seem from the outside. It changes us in so many ways, and it often makes it more difficult to trust others. It’s important to support one another through these difficult times.
The support we need is often just a listening ear.
We don’t need unsolicited advice or the secret to how your marriage has worked. We don’t need judgment or commentary about how easily people leave their marriages these days. We don’t even need encouragement about our future relationship prospects at this point. We need our support system to stand strong with us through the process.
I was deeply private about my divorce when I went through it. No one can completely understand a relationship from the outside, and I’ve been mindful of respecting the relationship between my ex and our children. I share the story of my journey through—and coming out the other side—in hopes of helping others hold on the difficult days that seem impossible to manage.
If I can offer a lifeline to someone who feels like they’re going down with the ship, then I’ve turned my struggle into something strong and beautiful.
Divorce has been transformative for me. It’s been the catalyst for many new life choices. I’ve been able to dream again and create the kind of life with my children that I’ve always wanted. It’s allowed me to be strong, and perhaps more authentic than I’ve ever been. Sure, I lost my ability to tolerate any level of bullsh*t, but in losing that particular filter, I’ve been able to be real and raw about my struggles, which has allowed me to build closer relationships with the people I love.
I processed all of the old stories I’ve always relied on to define me, and began to create a new life story for myself.
I’ve started unpacking my baggage and traveling a hell of a lot lighter, endlessly manifesting joy and turning my pain into beauty.
We can allow our struggles to define us or transform us, and in the difficult process of simply bearing up under them, it’s essential that we feel love and support around us. In the end, we did whatever it took to save ourselves when we could no longer save our relationship.
When I see another man or woman struggling through that process, I often offer a kind word and a listening ear, knowing that they would certainly rather have the happy marriage with the promise of forever than the divorce court and legal fees and heartache of a dissolving union.
We’re not giving up; we’re choosing to live the best lives we can under challenging circumstances.
We’re not quitting; we’re choosing to survive, to thrive and to create joyful lives.