My marriage ended in a tidal wave of unbearable sadness. There. I said it. As a child of divorce, I was determined to never get divorced. It was a promise I made to myself and to my spouse when we were married. ’Til death do us part. As newlyweds, we talked about how people used divorce as an “easy out,” and how we would never do that to each other. So, being divorced feels like a failure. An embarrassment. And sharing it with all of you is something that is super scary.
The statistical reports of divorce rates for children of divorce vary, but all agree that your marriage is more likely to end in divorce if your parents were divorced. Not only that, but in 2021, 50 percent of marriages ended in divorce. Half of all marriages! And yet, divorce feels like a shameful secret. At least it feels that way to me. The last year of my life has been the most painful. But it has also been the most amazing in some of the strangest ways. The humility that comes along with grand failures has made me feel a bit lighter, a bit kinder and a bit softer. And the personal growth that has come from this transition has been an unexpected reward.
I recently had dinner with a sweet friend whose own marriage ended a few years before mine. I leaned on her heavily at the beginning of the end. She knew exactly what I was feeling, what words of comfort to offer, and most importantly, she always had a way of helping me gain perspective and helping me be kind to myself. Our time together has evolved from sharing grief to sharing joy and new discoveries. She described to me an image of women standing in a line reaching out on both sides to women in the past and in the future and offering support in the same way she has supported me. Now, as another good friend is going through a divorce as well, I can be that person who has stood where she has and offer support and solace. I’ve had other amazing friends hold me up through this time. Our friendships have strengthened and deepened in a way that I never predicted. They’ve seen me through some dark times and held up a mirror reflecting the best parts of myself. Many days I feel swallowed up by the immense gratitude I have for my people.
In order to get out of my head and find some joy, I began filling up my life with fun. I started saying “yes” to everything that came my way. I took golf lessons and now I’ve spent time on the course and it’s a blast! I’ve gone paddleboarding with my son. I took a trip to New York with my daughter. I’ve gone to concerts, restaurants and happy hours. I’ve taken weekend trips with friends, gone hiking with the dogs and learned to play Mahjong. I’ve joined a group of women supporting the arts and done more volunteering. I’ve met new friends—many new friends. And I’ve even started dating.
Dating as a 50-something is weird. It’s so different than it was when I was younger. I know myself better. I’m not afraid to speak my mind. And the goals of dating are different too. When I was younger, I was looking for a spouse and someone with whom I could build a family. I was full to the brim with romantic notions of what a relationship was. After being with one person for 21 years, the thought of starting over with someone new is a little daunting. But it’s also thrilling. To be honest, I’ve wondered what it would be like to go back in time and date, knowing myself as well as I do now. And knowing the world a bit better too. Now I have that opportunity and it’s exciting.
What a journey this last year has been. Of course I never wanted my marriage to end in divorce. But every failure is an opportunity for growth and learning. And I never thought I’d feel this way after such a huge loss, but I’m full of gratitude. I’m grateful for the deepening of my friendships and relationships with family. And I’m grateful for all of the new experiences that I have had. But most of all, I’m grateful to feel forgiveness for myself.