The first year after divorce will be the hardest year of your life.
That's what everyone warned me. Give yourself a year to grieve, people advised. Don't make any major life decisions for a year, others said. Take a year to discover the new you.
I anticipated a tough year and tried to embrace it instead of fight it. Challenges -- emotional, physical, financial, logistical -- surrounded me. Some days I thought I'd never make it through the year.
But I did. And as I celebrate the one-year anniversary of my divorce, many of the questions I thought the universe was ignoring have either been answered or I've realized the answers don't matter anymore.
Throughout the last year, I rarely allowed my thoughts to wander back to D-Day, sharing the details with only a select few in my attempt to forget about it. I even donated the outfit I wore to the courthouse to charity, purposefully choosing clothes and shoes I was willing to part with because I knew I would never be able to put them on again without thinking, "I got divorced in this."
It wasn't that I hated my soon-to-be ex-husband. In fact, that might have been the problem. I wished I hated him. Hate would have made the divorce so much easier. But I didn't hate him. I didn't particularly like him, but a part of me still loved him. That was the part of me who held his hand while the judge performed the three other uncontested divorces ahead of us, who hugged him in the parking lot after he walked me to my car, who cried at the symbolism of us driving off in different directions when the stop light at the intersection turned green, who texted him later in the day to see how he was doing.
People often ask me what happened that caused us to end our 13-year marriage, and I always stumble over the answer. Because nothing happened. What many people don't understand about divorce is that nothing specific has to happen. A couple doesn't have to endure a specific crisis or have a big blow-out fight to decide it's time to get divorced.
But that answer would only get me confused looks, so whenever people asked, "What happened?" I said we drifted apart and we were better off going our separate ways. In reality, I didn't love him the way I once did, and he didn't love me the way I wanted to be loved. I was no longer willing to overlook certain behaviors and fatal flaws in our compatibility, nor was I motivated to stay married "for the kids."
After three failed attempts at marriage counseling, it seemed pointless to waste any more of my time or his trying to salvage a love that was no longer there. I wasn't satisfied living my life trying to follow the second marriage counselor's "fake it til you feel it" advice. I couldn't imagine growing old knowing I had chosen not to truly live but to merely exist. Quite frankly, that wasn't fair to him either. Divorcing gave both of us another chance to find happiness elsewhere.
I also reached a point where I knew I couldn't stay in the marriage solely because I was terrified of what the other side of divorce looked like. The fear of being alone and the anticipation of every single aspect of your life changing isn't a reason to stay in an unhappy marriage.
So now, as I look back with a year of perspective, I have a new answer for those who ask me what happened. I chose the pursuit of happiness. And I have no regrets. Despite the stresses of being a single mom, I'm happier now, more content with myself as a person and the direction my life is heading. I appreciate the opportunity the divorce gave me to embark on a journey of self-discovery, and I hold tight to the insights I gathered about myself along the way.
The first year after divorce will be the hardest year of your life. That's what everyone warned me. And while those warnings may have been accurate in some ways, it's also true what others promised me -- time heals the wounds, forgiveness is possible and happiness is worth the struggle.