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It's been nearly two decades since Linda Simpson was blindsided by divorce after 25 years of marriage.
Reclaiming her life after the split was "absolutely a challenge," but today she's happier than ever, enjoying time with her two grown sons, grandchildren and a partner she calls the love of her life.
"My path to this current state was rocky at times, hilarious at times, but my story is ultimately one of triumph," the 65-year-old told The Huffington Post.
Below, Simpson shares more of her inspiring post-split story.
My marriage ended in 1996. "Blew up" is more like it. Unbeknownst to me, I'd been married to two men during my 25-year marriage: There was my husband, who was my childhood sweetheart and then there was the man he'd become, the one with the secret life. The years leading up to our divorce were turbulent and littered with my emotional pain. It seemed that my ex couldn't leave without first destroying my self-esteem. It's not an overstatement to say he also took what was left of my future hopes and dreams when we divorced.
In January 1997, it dawned on me that my life could no longer be discussed in "we" or "us" terms. My life was once again mine. I was now a very single parent. My sons, young adults at the time, had lost the father they thought they knew. With fierce determination, we rebuilt our family life and forged a path to the future. We left old traditions behind and created new ones. Those boys were and are a fortress of love in my life. In time, we moved on from the pain of the divorce. We became a solid, happy threesome.
A photo of Linda and her two sons in 2002.
To get my mind off things, I began the lengthy process of preparing for a yearlong European teacher exchange. That absorbed my professional attention. Dating was clearly out of the question at this point. I could barely trust myself. How could I even begin to trust another man?
Returning from my teacher exchange, I was standing in the doorway of the new millennium and the dawn of another new beginning. Believe me, searching out a personal life after divorce is an odd situation to find yourself in. I felt like I was part goofy 15-year-old school girl and part 50-year-old-woman; a split personality with no experience in the dating scene. What was the first lesson? Join a group. Find your people. I'd discovered hiking while away on my teacher exchange so when I got back, I joined the local hiking club and met someone.
There were missteps along the way. Plenty of them. My hiking buddy looked like my ex and behaved like him, too. As a dating neophyte, I assumed his indifferent attention was the real deal -- that he was just playing hard to get. He was cool, aloof and parceled out attention. Eventually, I found out there was good reason for his five failed marriages.
Internet dating seemed too foreign to me. I tried personal ads from reputable newspapers, out-of-town ones in particular. One ad really caught my eye. On a whim, I answered. He wrote back. We dated briefly, neither of us at a stage to commit. But meeting him was life-changing.
One date night, he said, "Linda, You have to stop being so negative about yourself." It was a light bulb moment for me. My marriage had left me well-versed in my particular faults. Today I'm much more inclined to see the good in me.
After the personal ad experience, I decided to boldly move up through the ranks of online dating. At first, the rejections were like a slap in the face, the deceptions a throwback to my marriage. You have to learn to be detached to survive.
In my years online, I met some fascinating men, some wingnuts, too. Two of my most valued friends today are men I met online. Moving on from them paved the way for me to meet the love of my life.
My partner is a remarkable man -- the kind of guy who's well worth the wait. His love gave me the strength to trust again. It took a hard divorce and pushing myself back out into the dating world but now I can say confidently that I found the love of my life. A mature love like we have is a gift.