Today’s post is by Melissa, and it’s a profoundly brave post about knowing when to leave a marriage. I’m posting it not just because divorce needs to be less taboo, or because some of you might be in difficult places in your own relationships. I’m posting it because the kind of painful emotional honesty she describes is important for all of us, no matter the state of our relationships. Even if we’re happily walking down the aisle, or happy newlyweds, or just happily married, knowing how to face up to our own truths is a key part of making our own happiness. So here is Melissa, with some brave, unvarnished truth.
A lot of people ask me how I knew it was time to leave. It’s like slipping into a shoe that’s too small, or putting the left shoe on the right foot. The shoe doesn’t fit and your feet get scrunched and cramped. Uncomfortable. Constricted. You can try and reason with it, plead with it, offer up a shoe horn. But at some point, you will inevitably say, “This shoe does not fit me. I must take it off.”
Except marriage is more complicated than a shoe. And so is knowing when to leave. In the most simple terms, this is as good as it gets: You just know.
Friends told us, “The first year is the hardest,” then, “The first two years are the hardest,” followed by, “The first five years are the hardest,” all the way up to (I kid you not), “The first ten years are the hardest.” Eventually, I realized something had to give. Marriage could not possibly suck this bad for ten years before getting better. If that was the case, I was not interested ever, thankyouverymuch.
But then I got pregnant, so I stayed until well after she was born. For her. But you know what? I have never seen a happy couple who stayed together “for the kids.”
Knowing that it’s time to leave is only half the battle. Next come all of the doubts, insecurities, second guesses, self bargaining, and self hatred (with ample more to lob at the soon-to-be-ex spouse). Between all of that, a choice has to be made: stay or go. What I have learned over the last few years is that it doesn’t matter why you’re leaving. It will always suck.
Details were severely distorted and dozens of friends were lost. I drank too much after my daughter went to sleep. I cried on my mother’s floor every night from the moment I decided to leave until almost a year later. I worried and fretted and stressed and tried bargaining with God.
And yes. I was the one who left.
I didn’t do it for money or for someone else or for convenience or because I could no longer handle a military lifestyle or because it was easier than dealing with him. I did it for me. I did it for my daughter. I did it for our future. And plenty of other very personal reasons. But each reason was another notch in the “for my daughter and me” column.
I never wanted to end up a single mom at 22 with a divorce under my belt and a throng of pitchforks and torches following me across a nearby city. These are the things that can happen when you marry at the age of 19, without a clue about who you are or what you want in life, simply because your boyfriend said he joined the military “for us.” We hadn’t even dated a year. We were apart for eight of the ten months. We were young and dumb. Our consequences were adult and painful.
Each new day was like a hurricane. Torrential storms and winds of self hatred would swirl around, followed by a sense of peace from a dear friend with a kind ear, only to be rocked with more anger, this time towards my ex. Repeat. Every day. I didn’t know how I would ever make it.
And then began the custody battle. The most gut wrenching, knife turning part of the entire debacle. I was called awful names in court and had a lawyer who I still believe was never fully on my side. I became bloodied and broken. Despair loomed overhead like a viper, ready to strike and take me under.
But life did not end. It got better.
Let me repeat this. Maybe you missed it. Maybe you didn’t get it. Maybe you don’t ever believe this will happen. You need to hear it again. Life did not end; it got better. Better than I could have ever imagined.
I wish I could go back to that scared girl three and a half years ago and tell her it would be ok—give her a big hug and a bigger margarita.
I’d tell her that her child, the most precious thing in her life, isn’t going to experience any less love because of this. And her life won’t be ruined either. Sure, there will be rough patches and custody hiccups and “retraining” periods and plenty of frustration—but frustration and mother’s guilt are inevitable with children. This is only different, not worse.
There will be black days. And they will always be followed by some of the most beautiful days you’ve ever seen. The hurt decreases over time, slowly. But each new day brings more joy and love and happiness. Soon the hurt is more of an annoyance than pain. It gets better.
Interview lawyers. Don’t leap on the first one. And if your gut tells you something is off, find someone else. Trust me, you don’t want to one day open the mail to find your newly issued divorce decree with new custody arrangements you didn’t agree to hand written and signed in the margins. (I’m pretty sure my head almost detached itself that day.)
The sun will come back out. You won’t always hate the idea of marriage and family. And one day when your heart is strong, someone will come back along to sweep you off of your feet. And they will love you and your child. Your families will come together and show so much love your heart won’t believe it. And this time, it will be so much sweeter.
I would like to steal two more minutes to discuss “broken homes” and how they are a giant crock of shit. There is absolutely nothing broken about my home with my mother and siblings, nor my own family with my daughter and new husband. Both lives are full of love, support, and a deep sense of family. Whoever coined that phrase can kiss my pale rear end. From the beginning, all I have ever wanted was for my daughter to feel nothing but love. And she is one of the sweetest, kindest, most loving little girls I have ever met. We are not breaking up families. We are cutting off the bad limbs and leaving room for the good to grow.