A Personal Story of Divorce
My sons once asked me why I became a counsellor and work with people who have so much pain. I explained that I know that pain and want to help people get through it to the other side.
Yes, I know the pain of divorce and wish that I had known then what I know now. But that is not how it was to be. After 17 years with the man I thought was my soul mate we separated and divorced a year later.
In the beginning of the relationship there were all those wonderful feelings of connection, common interests and goals. There were also fights that didn’t get resolved and misunderstandings that created distance.
We moved to a small community and there the fault lines were more visible. He had his friends and shift work. I had no friends, worked full-time days and became an activist. We stopped doing the things we had done in courtship. There was less connection between us, but still some good times. Despite our difficulties, he asked me to marry him and because I was still hopeful we could find each other again I agreed.
Mostly things were okay – buying our first house, the births of our sons, a delayed honeymoon and family camping were highlights. There were also bad times of arguments, unspoken and unmet expectations. I did lots of self analysis as I felt unloved and unlovable. I would say “we need to talk”, and would plead, complain and/or criticize. It is no surprise these did not improve things between us.
When I returned to university the rifts became wider as I was excited about what I was learning and put all my extra time towards excelling. Naturally he felt left out. He would complain too, but neither of us changed what we were doing. We lived parallel lives for years, talking to others about our relationship, but not being able to fix it ourselves. When things were very bad I made secret plans to move out, but then things would get better.
We tried counselling but it didn’t give us the tools we needed. Other people became our focus and took priority over time with each other. We aren’t bad people but we couldn’t live together anymore. We tried separation with 2 week reconciliation but after a year we realized we couldn’t be together. To move forward I had to kill any hope that we could retrieve what we had lost.
On the one hand, the pain of the separation and failure was sometimes unbearable. Even now, 24 years later there is a deep grief about our failure. My sons and I lived below the poverty line for three years. There were difficulties for our sons trying to fit into their father’s new family and in time, our step-family.
On the other hand, there was the freedom to parent as I wanted. We developed new traditions. I had good friends and went dancing regularly. I dated with a light approach. Luckily, I found a man who loves me as I am. We have sought and applied all the wisdom we could learn to help us keep a healthy connection. I get to practice in my own life all that I have learned and teach the couples with whom I work. After 22 years our marriage is better than our previous ones. There have been difficulties with step parenting and aging, but we continue to work on our relationship as neither of us wants to go through the divorce experience ever again.
I value marriage and long-term commitment to a primary relationship, but I also understand that sometimes divorce is necessary and unavoidable.