Written: September 24, 2019
4 years ago today, I wore a white dress, killer Badgley Mischka heels (that I refuse to get rid of), stood before a handful of my family & friends, and spoke wedding vows. If you’re reading this, you can probably sense that I’m a writer, so it may shock you to learn that I did not write a word of those wedding vows. (Don’t worry – it still shocks me, too) 4 years ago today, I vowed to love a man for the rest of my life, in sickness and in health. This man had been a part of my life since I was 17, and we were finally ready to add a wedding shot next to our senior prom photo.
4 years ago today, I could never have imagined the journey I was about to embark on. I expected a lifetime of memories, support, unity, and of course, love. But life had other plans in store for me.
queue screeching scene-halting music here
There were some memories, some support, and a little unity. There was love, the kind you feel towards an old sweater that used to make you feel all warm and fuzzy but you’ve now outgrown, yet you can’t seem to overcome the sentimental affection and toss it to Goodwill. I had the secure job, the stable income, retirement plans, and even a house with a white picket fence.
Fast forward to 4 years later. Today I woke up with another man’s arms wrapped around me, and then we walked out to the balcony of our vacation home and watched the sunrise over the ocean. Today, I sipped my coffee, listening to the crashing of the waves, and looked over at the wonderful man sitting beside me – who is most definitely not the man I married 4 years ago.
But today, I am celebrating this anniversary.
I’m celebrating not in the way I expected to 4 years ago, with a bottle of wine over a fancy dinner with my husband, planning out our next vacation or our 5-year vow renewal. Instead I’m celebrating that journey I had begun 4 years ago. I’m celebrating the woman I became, thanks to the choices I made 4 years ago and to my reactions to the events that followed. I’m celebrating because had it not been for that day 4 years ago, I would not be sitting here right now, on the balcony staring out at the ocean, while my man sits next to me, writing this blog post.
I would not have this story to tell.
When people ask me about my divorce today, I tell them it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Most look at me puzzled (and probably wonder if I walked away a rich woman thanks to alimony – I did not), but sometimes I see a flash of recognition in their eyes. Those people who have been through trauma and come out on the other side. Or, perhaps, those who deep down know a catastrophe like that would be the best thing to ever happen to them, too.
Because like many people, I was stuck. I was stuck in a life that was by no means terrible, but that was not the picture of happiness I believed it to be. It was the kind of stuck that now seems like the worst kind. The kind where you don’t even realize you’re stuck – and that you’re the biggest barrier to your own happiness. My ex-husband and I cared for each other, but I don’t believe we loved each other the way married couples should. I didn’t have the marriage I had dreamed about since I was a little girl. I had begun to believe that marriage didn’t exist. I believed that the, “have you seen the way he looks at her?” kindof love only existed in fairy-tales and romance novels. The kindof stuff I couldn’t even write about because I didn’t think it was real.
Today, 4 years later, I am catching my boyfriend occasionally glancing over at me while I’m writing this. It makes me smile every time. And yes, several people in my life, on more than one occasion, have remarked at the way my boyfriend looks at me. I like to think I look at him the same way, too.
No relationship is perfect, but my advice is this: take ownership of your own happiness. No, you can’t control what other people are going to do, but you can control how you respond to it. When you fail (because everyone does, at some point, with something), find a way to celebrate it. Own it and move on, because you never know what world has just opened up to you when your comfortable, “safe” door gets slammed in your face.