By Jillian Kramer
I remember the conversation well. I'd been separated from my ex-husband for about six months when a friend called with news that another friend was also ending her marriage. "She said something to me that I wanted to get your opinion on," my friend said. "She said that now that she's been through one divorce, it would be easier to go through a second. Is that how it really feels?"
"No," I told my dear friend. "I would never, ever want to go through that again. I can't imagine it ever being anything than the hardest thing you'll ever do."
Now, nearly 18 months removed from our split, I'm grateful for the experience. Not for the failure of our marriage -- because with that comes shame and sadness that you can bury but that never really goes away -- but for what going through a divorce taught me about life and about myself. Whether you've ended a marriage too or gone through a heart-wrenching breakup, perhaps you've also learned these lessons. And if not, let's hope you can learn them vicariously through me rather than through self-experience.
1. I am so strong.
I used to know that without question. Then, little by little -- so little, in fact, I didn't even notice it -- I lost some of that strength. I was so unhappy, so lost. I looked to my then-husband to make everything right, which is too large of a burden for anyone to bear, let alone a person who no longer wishes to be married to you. So when I was faced with the idea of loading my tiny Toyota Yaris with my clothing, my books, a computer, a TV, the vacuum, and an iron -- sans ironing board -- I was convinced I might die on the 17-hour drive home to Ohio. I thought the loss, the pain, would literally kill me. Not only did I live, but in the next 18 months, I flourished. It's true that the things that don't kill you make you stronger. And sometimes it takes pushing yourself to the edge of what you think you can bear to realize you are strong enough to pick up, move on, and live well.
2. My family and friends do know best.
My family and friends never really liked my ex. They tolerated him, at best, and were kind enough to (mostly) keep their mouths shut. But any time I asked their opinion, they confessed their concerns. And for my part, I ignored them. I was living a 17-hour drive from my hometown -- what could they possibly know about this man? I reasoned. I was a smart, independent woman. I could tell a dud from a Prince Charming, and I clearly had the latter. Only I didn't. And while I was swept away by insincere words, promises, and cheesy gestures, my friends and family saw down to a selfish, cruel core. The next time they get a "feeling" about a man I bring home, I will listen with open ears and an open heart.
3. Love never really dies.
It changes. It morphs into something less, something that can't sustain a lifetime or even an hour together. But it never goes away in its entirety. Now, I can't imagine spending my life with my ex. We would have destroyed each other and taken away each other's happiness. But because that little bit of love is still there, I genuinely want him to be happy. I would be completely, totally, bald-faced lying if I wrote that I don't get a little pleasure out of the odd things he gets himself into. (I recently heard, through a friend, that his credit card bears an image of himself -- alone! -- on it, and a waitress swiping the card called him narcissistic. I got a very good laugh out of that.) But I hope, at the end of the day, he has all he needs met and is satisfied with life.
4. The only way you can live with yourself is without regrets.
It makes me sad when people say they regret their relationships and experiences. Do I wish I could introduce myself as a 28-year-old, soon to be 29, who isn't divorced? Duh. Yes. But I do not regret my marriage, the love I once felt for my husband, the person it made me, and how it prepared me for my next relationship. Of course, there is a part of me that feels like I wasted time on a relationship that ended up crumbling, but as long as I'm happy now -- which I am, so very much -- how could I possibly regret the steps that brought me here? No matter what you face, you should let it create a better, bolder you.
5. Someone else will see me for what I'm worth.
At about the time I was packing my things to leave, my bra size happened to change -- and it coincided with a semi-annual sale at Victoria's Secret. So I stocked up on bras that would fit and a single corset that was just shy of $25 on sale online -- so pretty, so inexpensive for that retailer that I literally couldn't resist. When the package arrived and I pulled out each item from the box, my then-husband walked into the bedroom. He spotted the black, lacy lingerie and blurted out, "Who exactly do you think will see you in that?" I had no clue. But I also had hope that one day, someone would. And that man might see me for a kind, adventurous, generous woman -- who looked darn hot in that lacy little corset. My ex couldn't see any of that, because he was blinded by all the negative emotions that accompany divorce. But I am so glad I didn't listen to his words and instead chose to believe there would be someone better down the road. Turns out, I was right.
More from HuffPost: