I grew up with divorced parents. At the time, there was a stigma attached to it and I felt it keenly. I did everything I could to hide the fact my parents didn't live together and worked hard to disguise my reality. Because of my childhood, I told myself I would never subject my kids to a similar fate.
Never say never.
After 18 years of marriage my husband and I divorced. Yes, I was the one who ended it. The mom who was highly regarded by friends, church and family alike, simply decided one day it was over. Once I made that decision, I felt a huge weight lift off of me.
If I had to pinpoint the one thing that convinced me my marriage was truly over, I would find it hard to choose. Yes, infidelity played a huge role but there were other dysfunctions as well. In fact, there were so many issues left unresolved over the years it made my marriage feel irreparable.
Even so, did I give up too soon? Maybe. 18 years is a long run and it is completely mind numbing to consider starting over at 40 years of age. I remember the confusing emotions of relief, fear and shock that would assault me all at once. I dealt with judgments by those who decided in their self-righteous minds that I was sinning and 'pissing God off' by choosing divorce. Grace was the last thing shown to me, even by family. It was a lonely road I chose to walk.
However, I knew staying meant accepting mediocrity in my life. It meant being unable to move forward to a healthy existence. It meant hating myself even more by staying in an unhappy relationship. It meant denying restoration in my life. It meant even more therapy, which had run its course.
I'm sorry if I am raining on your parade but I believe there are some things a marriage can't recover from. I am living proof of it. Don't get me wrong, I believe in the beauty of new beginnings and all that fairy dust feel good talk, but it doesn't work for everyone. No one truly understands the pain except the ones who are living it. Offer compassion instead of judgment to those forging a new path post divorce. We need it.
My divorce came at an even greater cost because it was no longer just my husband and myself in the equation. There were two little people whose lives would be forever altered. When it came to my kids, my mom guilt was so high it would fail a breathalyzer test. At times I question whether or not it was worth it. Sadly, the aftershocks of divorce continue long after the final papers are signed.
You can imagine how magnified my guilt as a mother grew when my kids were asked to share past hurts at school for an assignment. Both shared about our divorce and my son upped the ante when he added he hoped his dad and I would get back together. His teacher told him to 'keep hope'.
At the risk of sounding selfish, if I can't be a functioning woman, how in the world am I going to be an effective parent? What kind of example am I setting for my kids? Don't I want my children to view their parent's marriage as a whole, thriving one? Or, do I want my kids to see marriage where two people live in the same house but are completely disconnected?
My ex-husband is an incredible father who is actively involved in our children's lives. I am grateful I can say they have a father who loves them more than life itself. We work really hard to maintain a solid, unified relationship. We touch base about once per week and are both engaged in their schooling, activities and emotional/physical health. We are connecting with our children and frankly, our communication has improved with our kids because we are more intentional with our time with them.
Do I wish things had turned out differently? Yes. Do I wish I could erase the past several years? Yes.
In light of this however, I know we can't stay in the past. Every day I have to remind myself of this. We need to concentrate on the present and embrace every bit of it. I would prefer my children have two healthy, loving parents who live separately, than be trapped in a home riddled with dysfunction.
Despite the years of angst, our family has some really great memories, ones my kids look on with humor. We talk about those memories often and now we are making new ones. Even if their dad and I don't live in the same house, it doesn't mean we can't be family. Family can take on so many shapes and sizes. Just because it doesn't fit the 'traditional' mold people tend to think is normal, doesn't make it any less meaningful.
I'm not letting divorce take that away, too.
This article first appeared on BLUNTmoms at http://www.bluntmoms.com/
You can also find Jessica's writing at her blog, The Dalai Mama http://www.travelingmercies-jessica.blogspot.com/
More:Parenting After Divorce
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more