This Is Life

In our culture, we treat divorce like it’s a totally separate thing from weddings and marriage. We talk about Divorce with a capital D. But if I’ve learned anything from growing up in a family where lots of people are divorced, it’s that divorce doesn’t necessarily exist in a bubble apart from marriage. Rather, divorce can be just as much a part of marriage as any other unexpected milestone in a relationship. But so often, divorce is treated as failure, as an eraser of all the good that came before it. Reading Kayla’s post, I think it’s clear. Divorce is not failure, and it doesn’t undo all the good that preceded it. Divorce is just life. Like anything else.


by Kayla

This past Saturday was the nine-year anniversary of our meeting. Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary. We’ll start there.

Our wedding day. It was perfect. We shared a first look at a bed and breakfast that overlooked Lake Erie and my husband cried, lots of tears, and told me over and over how beautiful I was. I have never been happier in my life. We were married at a winery in the middle of nowhere with our closest friends and family and felt so wonderfully surrounded by love. We left the next day for a trip to Hocking Hills and spent our days glued to one another, only leaving the cabin for adventuring through the wild. We stayed up late, drinking wine and talking about how amazing our future would be. The home that we would eventually purchase, the little ones that we would eventually have running around, accomplishing our career goals, and the years of growing older alongside one another.

Our first year of marriage was stressful but we got through it. I felt like despite having lived together for so many years before we still had so much to learn about being married. After that first year I felt like we were in a much better place, learning how to communicate better. When we would have a disagreement or argument, we were learning how to better relay that to the other person and also learning how to apologize and own up to what our wrongs were.

On top of all of that, we were busy. Between buying a new house, a full-time day job and full-time photography business, I had very little free time. The very little free time I did have was not filled with excitement and was not invested into our marriage. My husband was going to school and taking really difficult prereq classes for his future goal of becoming a PA, on top of working hours that were opposite of mine. Despite these difficulties we always remained involved, several phone calls or texts every day, kisses and hugs when we were able to see each other, little notes or gifts left for one another, and constant reminders of our love. I had assumed that we were both on the same page with the thought process of, “This sucks, I miss you and want to see you more, but we both know that it’s going to be like this for a little while longer and the pay off will be so very worth it.”

Four weeks ago that theory was completed flipped upside down.

I am still working through all of the pieces of this puzzle and am trying to understand how we went, in my mind, from happily in love to on our way to divorce. And because I deal with every part of life better when I am able to capture it with a camera:

I got to see my best friend immediately after the start of this and I felt very sure of being able to fix this. And then I got really sick with a bad cold.

Sat outside with a friend and drank wine and talked about everything. Did some retail therapy the next day.

Left this note on the door hoping to help him realize that what he was feeling was temporary and that our love was strong enough to get through anything. I rushed home that evening to get there before he left and sobbed when his car was gone. This was one of the worst days out of the past four weeks. None of this made sense.

I poured over old memories. I took a photo of his Facebook page because I knew it would be one of the last days it would be a photo of us and say that we were married. I found a song that he wrote for me just a few short months ago and sobbed more. I put up photos all over the house trying again to remind him of the nine years of love that we shared. In one of the photos he has his arms stretched out showing how much he loves me.

I felt like we had a break through. He got it. He realized that he was making a mistake. The next morning I found text messages to another girl. I lost my mind.

I immediately met with an attorney, contacted our realtor, called off of work, screamed, cried, and was completely paralyzed by all of this. It literally felt like a horrible dream that I was going to eventually wake up from. But it was all very, very real.

I went to stay with my best friend that night. I sobbed. I was awake every other hour hoping for a text or some kind of peace offering. I woke up and sobbed more. We went to get Starbucks before I drove home and I sobbed waiting in line. When I got in my car and was ready to light my cigarette I saw this note that she wrote on my lighter. She is my strength.

I ended up going to the doctor to get a prescription for anxiety issues that I was having over the past few weeks especially with having to photograph a wedding the next day. At my doctor’s appointment they weighed me and I had lost twenty-two pounds in just two and a half weeks.

Received another roller coaster text message and poured over years of cards, photos, notes, gifts to convince myself that I needed to try counseling. That as angry as I was, I could not throw away nine years and a future with my love.

The top photo is all of our memorabilia that I put together so that I could box it all up and not have to stumble across a photo or note and fall apart.

We had big plans for his commencement and had family coming in from out of town but when this all happened he cancelled. He called me last minute to tell me he needed me there so I went. I supported him. He hugged me, kissed me, told me he loved me and that everything would be okay.

Two days later I found this slip of paper with a song titled after her. That was that.

I spent Monday searching for an apartment. I got up, got dressed, did my hair and makeup and was determined to have a full day of no tears. Mission accomplished.

I drove to Pennsylvania after looking for apartments and visited with my grandparents. They are amazing, wonderful people.

I came home from PA, packed up as much as I could in a few short hours and left a list of how some things would work, what I would be taking with me, and left my ring on the counter.

I showed up for work yesterday morning. I looked at the phone and realized that it was May 21st, our anniversary. I broke down. I came home, sat outside, felt the breeze and sunshine.

I went home and finished packing. Seeing our home empty out is one of the saddest realities I have ever faced.

I woke up this morning to go to work and I can’t explain what I feel other than being completely numb. I can’t begin to visualize what this life is going to look like. This all has transpired so quickly and I am trying my best just to hold me and my life together.

Photos from Kayla’s personal collection

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  • Manya

    Oh, God. This is a really wonderful piece in a really gutting way, and so truthful.

    Thank you for sharing this collection of artifacts with us, and some of the sinew from your heart to stitch it together. You will come out on the other side… you will. Grief and dealing with loss is not a linear process. It’s amoebic, circular, circuitous, boomerang-y, a spiral, a square, a parallelogram–it’s everything but linear.

    So, so, sorry….

  • LondonSarah

    Oh wow. I’m so sorry. Just so sorry. Keep breathing.

    I think it may have been Churchill who said ‘when you’re going through hell, keep going.’

  • C R

    Incredibly moving….beautiful and heartbreaking. Such a difficult time captured so well — just know that things will get better with a little time, even though I know it doesn’t feel like it as you’re faced with so many changes and so much unknown. Take care of yourself!

  • I am so sorry this has happened to you. Your post is heartbreaking and very real. It is sort of genius in an incredibly painful way.

    I am about nine months from where you are now. It gets better, and worse, but mostly better.
    I found that there is still lots of love and joy left in this world, and lots of good things connected to marriage in general, and even mine specifically. I hope this holds true for you too.

    • Very much “exactly” to both Autumne and Manya’s comments. Right now things are raw, bruised, and wholly non-linear, but it definitely does get better.

      Think of it like passing several large shovels full of sand through a sieve. At first there’s just too much: it’s heavy and cumbersome and weighs on you. You shake it as best you can and, even if it’s an imperceptably small amount, some sand passes through. Over time you’ll become adept at the shaking and the burden will grow lighter in your arms. Eventually, you’ll be left with something refined (or at least sorted in a way that you can more easily make sense of things) and, assuredly, that something refined will be you.

      I’m 3+ years out from where you are now. It’s some of the most painful, confusing, frustrating stuff you’re likely to ever go through, but you can make it. More importantly, when you do make it you’ll find that you didn’t just survive, you’ll thrive.


      • That is a beautiful description.

    • Sandy

      At 4 years out, I will echo what the other ladies have said. It does get better, and worse.

      Some things are still too much. I can’t listen to our wedding song, though it was one of my favorite songs. I avoid anything related to farms (my ex was a farmer) even cows at Hobby Lobby and turn the radio dial any time a song mentions a tractor. Even now, anger and rage fill me when I hear those words.

      On the other hand, I can say his name in regular conversation. Even with my current husband. I can say “Andy and I did this once,” and it’s not bitter or sad or angry. It just is.

      The hardest thing for me to learn is that it is never over. I always thought that I would get through it and be on the “other side” eventually. But it is never done. Even though my ex and I had no children and very little property in common, our divorce was so very emotional that it never really ends. I am still divorced. I am still divorcing. And I always will be.

      It has merely become a part of the tapestry of all the things that make me proud to be myself.

      • C

        Another “divorce graduate” here, and what Sandy wrote here is *exactly* how I feel about my own divorce — I’m 3 years out from where the writer of this piece is, and 2 years out from the actual, final, judge saying, “Your marriage is over,” moment. It gets better AND worse. Sometimes it’ll feel like it gets better for awhile, and then the pain will come back, and you’ll feel like you’re starting the healing journey over. Just know that during those hard times, you’re rebuilding yourself. It’s okay to mourn. I had to give myself permission to do that, and I’m so glad I did.

        Best wishes to you as you navigate this journey. It’s hard, but I hope that you will find – as I have – that life after divorce has been so much better than my former life ever could have been.

  • This was really brave of you to share, so thank you. It hurt so much to read about what you’re going through, I can barely even imagine what it must be like to be living through it. But you will live through it. I know it feels like it doesn’t make sense that something this big can happen and you can still be alive, but you are. Sending you so much strength and peace.

  • Kayla, major hugs. Our wedding date is the same as yours, and if my eye recognizes it correctly, that is a StoryPeople quote at the end, which was the source of four of our wedding readings. Major virtual hugs. I am so proud of you for your day in a dress with no tears, and I will be rooting for many more!

    • meg


  • Kayla,

    Thank you. For being brave and for sharing with strangers. This photo essay touched me on many levels. I am a PA girl living in Cleveland and I’ve been in some similar places to where you’re at right now. The picture of the Cherry Hill/Springfield exit brought up such throat aching memories of traveling back and forth between PA and Cleveland 15 years ago and wondering if I’d just left the love of my life for the last time because the lies were all coming into the open.

    It sounds like you have amazing support and wonderful friends but if you ever need another one, this Cleveland girl would love to give you a big hug and tell you I’m sorry – I’m sorry this hurts so bad and I’m sorry no one can make it go away. But people will help you wash away the pain as it comes, with laughing and cocktails and hugs and commiseration. It’s not enough, but its still priceless as hell. Good luck to you!

  • carrie

    I don’t have much poignant to offer except an internet hug. A really big one.

  • Kayla, I share in wanting to just wrap my arms around you and squeeze. Sending so many warm thoughts and good vibes to you. I don’t have anything useful to offer, other than I’m thinking about you today.

  • One More Sara

    My allergies are really acting up today. Is the pollen count up to infinity or something? Where are my tissues??

    (All jokes aside, Kayla, this was beautiful. A great reminder to all of us to maintain our relationships outside of our marriages/partnerships so that we too would have such a great support system should things within the marriage/partnership fall apart. Wishing you tons of strength and grace in this difficult time)

    • meg

      That’s so interesting. I’ve been thinking about that a LOT latley (and wanting to dig up that study that says that American’s deep connections to people are shrinking, and some huge percentage of people consider their spouse their *only* close friend, eep.) But I hadn’t put two and two together with thinking about that, and thinking about Kayla’s essay. So thank you for that.

      • Class of 1980

        I was HYPER aware of this during my divorce.

        Those family or friends you put on the back burner will be ALL you have in the event of a divorce.

        Now my ex and I remained friends to this day. In fact, we saw a movie (his idea) on the day our divorce was final. Still, I obviously don’t see him since I moved several states away and it wouldn’t be the same anyway. So cherish your friends and family!

      • One More Sara

        And good friendships, like good marriages, don’t just happen effortlessly. We hear a lot about how much work it takes from both people to make a marriage good and healthy (even though some marriages just won’t last no matter how hard both people work at it), but we don’t hear that much about the work that goes into maintaining relationships with friends and family. It doesn’t have to be super intensive, but quality time/chats/phone calls with friends and family can go a long way.

        Edited to add: I actually think this would be a cool open thread: What things do you do for/with friends to stay close [even across long distances]?

      • On the other hand, not everyone feels comfortable with having a lot of friends. As someone on the autism spectrum, I’m rather proud of myself for having two close friends outside of my fiance. I don’t think I could possibly handle any more than that!

    • Anon right now

      I just got a message today from a friend who might be starting to go through this. I hope she knows I’ll be there for her no matter what happens or what she decides.

      • One More Sara

        Maybe just send her a one line email or text saying just that. <3

        • Anon right now

          I did, and I’m going to give her a call later tonight when she’s off work. This is not something I’ve dealt with yet – this post was prescient and has made me more determined to make sure she knows I’m here even though I’m far away.

  • Rachel

    Kayla, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. This post was so raw and gut-wrenching; thank you for being brave enough to share it.

  • Laura C

    One of the most evocative things I’ve ever read about divorce, especially the early stages. Which is to say, completely raw and terrifying. And yet oddly affirming in that what it makes me want to do is let A know I love him, not be fearful and lose trust.

    • Sarah NCtoPA

      You were very brave to share this. I feel like a lot of posts about tough situations are written months or years later with the benefit of time to develop perspective. This reminded me that in the middle of a bad time, we don’t have to put on a brave face and it’s to experience multiple and conflicting emotions simultaneously. I wish you the best in healing and moving on.

  • scw

    this made me cry. a lot. thanks for sharing it with us. I hope you find some comfort in all of the comments & support on here.

  • sara p

    This is so beautiful, and so brave. Lots of hugs and good thoughts your way.

  • KC

    Wow. Beautifully written and raw. Thank you for sharing. I wish you strength. I really needed to read a post like this today.
    (We share the exact same anniversary).

  • SJ

    You are in the thick of this. Keep going. Press onward and allow yourself as much as you need to get through. Lean heavily on your people; you are not a burden and they can take it. I just walked/hauled my mom through this. Your situations are so similar it’s eerie. So I’m going to step in as a virtual loved one: please make sure you eat, at least once a day. Have two glasses of water. If you need medications, talk to your doctor and get them.

    Keep breathing, deep and often, we’re here for you.

  • Thanks for sharing. I remember those early days of separation and they are not easy. But you are and will be fine. You’re holding it together amazingly well. Lots of internet hugs and support.

    I repeat:

    You. Will. Be. Fine
    (better than fine actually. You will be great. Because you are great.)

  • Corrie

    So raw and real…even moreso because I also live in Cleveland and have been with my partner for 9 years (not yet married), plus the attorney’s office you went to is owned by my cousin. This really hits close to home. I wish you the strength to take each day as it comes and let that keep carrying you forward until it gets easier. If you ever want to meet a fellow APW lady for a drink, let me know. Sending hugs your way.

    • meg

      Phew. Small APW world, right?

      • Corrie

        For real. And here I was thinking that a girl from high school and I were the only APW readers in Cleveland! Sad way to find out, however.

      • As soon as I saw she was also in Cleveland I wanted to run right out and find her and hug her. And I’m so not a talk to strangers – feels comfortable hugging friends kinda gal – but I couldn’t help it. Her pain is too alive to ignore.

        • Senorita

          Another Clevelander here throwing her hat in the ring. We live on a street with a quiet, private park overlooking the lake that is perfect for those times when you need to feel the sunshine on your face.

  • Carrie Joy

    I actually work with Kayla, she is truly one of the most amazing and talented women I have ever met. She is strong and will indeed get through this. This blog had me in tears at work the day I ready it, I found myself reading it over and over. She absolutely did not deserve this, but glad she can move forward with her life and didn’t find out who he really was later in life. She will build a better life then she ever had or could have imagined with him!! I love you girl!! So proud of you!!

  • Thank you for sharing this. This is life, indeed, and sometimes it’s awfully hard and unfair.

  • This has to be one of the most moving pieces I’ve read on APW. I can only echo what others have said… it was raw and so full of honesty and truth. I wish you the very best in your journey, and most of all – I wish you peace.

  • Karen

    This was amazing. Truly. You are stronger than you know. We are rooting for you and holding you in a great big virtual hug.

  • Daniella

    Ohmygod, wow, I’m blown away, that was so beautiful and so sad – one word really – powerful.

    Sending you hugs, love, self-forgiveness and strength from Seattle!

  • LMS

    Oh, I just want to hug you right now. This was gut-wrenching to read, but you are so strong and will come out of this even stronger.

  • Cleo

    This post is why I keep reading APW.

    This is something that no one talks about, but needs to be discussed more.

    Thank you Kayla for opening up your life to all of us. This is so brave. Best wishes for the future and lots of hugs your way!

  • Mari

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but thank you so much for sharing. I adore how you’ve framed it all through these photos — so poignant, so heartbreaking, so amazing. You are quite talented in telling a story through photos. So, so sorry you have to deal with this. Big hugs from California.

  • Class of 1980

    Been there and done this … right down to a new prescription for tranquilizers and visiting Grandma in the midst of it.

    The only difference is that it was me initiating the divorce. It was still the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done. Unlike my story, yours confounds me because there doesn’t seem to have been any warning signs – nothing you can look back at and learn from. I felt my marriage had the seeds of destruction in from the beginning, but that we ignored them. I don’t detect that in your story, which makes it so much harder.

    Be careful with the tranquilizers – maybe you have a better doctor than I did, but my doctor told me the ones he prescribed were not addictive, which was a lie. I found this out after going off them cold-turkey and suffering the shakes. Did some research and found out those specific tranquilizers have destroyed numerous lives.

    Anyway, it does get better Be good to yourself and takes lots of time. When you’re ready, there will be someone out there who values you.

  • You are strong. You are beautiful. You can get through this. You WILL get through this.

    I was inspired by your story — the courageous honesty and beautiful images — to post a dedication on my blog to you today.

  • Kate

    Thank you for sharing your experience, as painful, heart-breaking, and overwhelming as it is. All I can say is that You are stronger than you can even imagine. In times when your strength is not clear to you, know that you are surrounded by women (physically and virtually) that will stand beside you, hold you up, and protect you until you regain your footing and your balance.

    sending you big hugs and loving thoughts, xo

  • Fermi

    This hit me deep in the gut and took me back to 06 when I was dealing with a divorce, I know it sucks, it really does, but you will come through it. Sounds like you have some great support, that helped me a lot through that time. 7 years later I finally net someone I trust and will be marrying again in September. So trust me, good will happen again. Hang in there and lean on your friends and family, hugs to you.

  • What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I hope you find a way to heal.

  • Heather G.

    Bravo for having the courage to share your story here with all of us. I can only send you light & love on the next chapter of your life.

    My mom literally just went through something very similar with my father, after 38 years of marriage. I won’t go into the gory details here, but know you are not alone. Yes, you have to walk this path on your own, but you have a support system that will be here if you need it.

    Best wishes to you.

  • Caitlin

    Thank you so much for sharing this, you’re incredibly brave.

  • Renee

    Kayla – I found your powerful reflection so moving. I remember in my divorce thinking I just want this to be in the past tense. I want this to be something that happened to me, not something that I am going through. Your friendships are truly the rock and foundation to get through and I emerged with closer friends than I ever had before. Do good things for yourself. So many good things. Travel. Take a class. Fill your life with what you love and find most beautiful. I think I bought myself flowers every week for about six months. I learned how to cook mussels. Flowers and seafood won’t heal you, but it will remind you of who you are as a strong, incredible person. And soon, all of the legalese will pass. The daily reminders will be less. The space he fills in your head will be less and you will want it to be so.

    I’ll leave you with one piece of advice that was the best thing offered to me, by my dad – don’t give him free rent in your head. My mind was occupied so often by grief and anger and pain and the light bulb moment came for me when I began to own that I had a choice on where and on whom I expended my mental and emotional space. Thinking good thoughts of you and that there will be a point in time when all of this makes sense and it’s in the past tense.

  • Blessings and peace to you. May there be comfort and understanding along this journey.

  • Teresa

    Kayla –

    Thank you so much for sharing. I went through a separation and divorce that all began five years ago. It was heart-wretching. I vividly remember the ups and downs, the numb feeling, the bawling all the time, sudden weight-loss, feeling of helplessness. (He also had met someone else.)

    Your photos were very poignant, and gives a glimpse into what a divorce looks like. I get it.

    I just married the most wonderful man two weeks ago. I know that is light years away from where you are now, but just remember your life will look totally different in five years.

    Just keep on keepin’ on!!! Put one foot in front of the other, and keep living. It gets better.


  • nancy gandrud

    thank you for sharing your story.
    you are brave.
    hang in there and remember, you are awesome!!

  • Kayla, I don’t personally know you, but I love you. The whole universe does. Effing heartbreak. smh.


    Your strength shines through this post, and it will serve you well. Sending good thoughts your way. Among the most important things to keep when you leave a marriage are your friends, your sense of self, and hope. These are the things that kept me going when I went through a similar situation. It’s been five years and things are so much better. I second the Winston Churchill quote above. Keep going and stay brave. Stay honest with yourself.

  • Sara

    Wow. This post is beautiful. And heartbreaking. I want so much to learn from this, to learn something that will protect me from going through the same pain, and I can’t find it – which is I’m sure part of what makes it so hard for you.

    This is my question- what can we do when we’re engaged and still starry-eyed to protect ourselves from things falling apart? What kind of preventative marriage counseling or pithy sayings hung on the bedroom wall will turn it around before it goes off the rails?

    • Amanda

      I am interested in having this discussion too because that’s what scares me so much about marriage. No matter how hard you work at it, communicate, make your marriage a priority while still remaining the person he fell in love with, do sweet little things for him, be supportive, try new things in the bedroom, etc…ultimately you are only 50 percent of the marriage. If the other person just doesn’t care anymore, if he was lying to you in the first place, if his personality and values change drastically, there’s NOTHING you can do to save the marriage.

      Stories like these make me contemplate breaking up with my wonderful boyfriend and remaining single for the rest of my life because fully giving your heart and soul to someone else is just so damn scary.

    • Lauren

      I’m going through this now. A separation I didn’t think would happen. We didn’t communicate, but instead assumed what the other was feeling. I can’t believe I let that happen. In the end, we had very different communication styles and that lead to avoidance. So, in my very early, “What could I have done differently?,” I would say marry someone with whom communication–the hard, hard stuff–is easy or welcome or accepted. My husband and I were very good at communicating once we got there, but it was hard to start.

  • Hannah

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • SarahT

    Dear Kayla-
    You are about the age of one of my daughters, and I truly want to gather you in my arms and just let you cry. Then I would tell you these things-

    1. You will want to make sense of this, but there is no sense to it. It is not something you did, or something you lack. The beautiful wedding and the beautiful life were real and your love for each other was real. People can choose to leave (and completely devastate your life) without there being any good reason. I know that’s scarier than having something to wrap your head around, but we are complicated beyond reason. At some point I think your partner will realize how stupid this was, and regret it with everything in him. Again, complicated.

    2. Keep crying when you need to, and then deciding not to cry. You are brave in both.

    3. You are clearly an artist and the way you are working through this is amazingly artistic. As sad as this time is, as heartbreaking and disorienting, it is going to be only one part of a full, rich life. One of my writer friends, when I was in the midst of my divorce, told me not to waste the suffering. Write about it, remember it, digest it, he said. It will make you a better writer. Oddly, it was very comforting, the idea of not wasting the suffering. We all suffer. If we use it to make us stronger, it loses the potential to poison us.

    4. Give yourself grace. Grief is HARD and things will be exhausting for awhile, just because it saps so much of your strength. As you soothe yourself, remember that you are vulnerable right now. Be careful who you let in your life-lean on those people you know you can trust. Forgive yourself for doing things you wouldn’t normally do.

    It won’t always be so hard. Truly, some of the hardest things are already past. Lots of love and hugs to you as you find your way.

    • Jen AB

      This is the loveliest response.

    • SarahT, I just wanted to say thank you for this comment you made to Kayla. I read this post back in June and it really touched me. Then 3 weeks ago today….my husband came home and told me he was leaving me for another woman. Out of the blue like Kayla’s story. So….your comment has helped me too, because I came back to this post to re-read it for encouragement. So, thank you…

  • Zeph

    I remember being in ballet class, on the floor with my fellow dancers, counting down the seconds as we moved through a series of new and painful flexibility exercises. The lights were low and my teacher walked up and down the rows of dancers, softly saying “just keep breathing and breath into and out of the pain…what you experience as pain now is only the process of your body becoming stronger and more capable…you will dance with grace and the movement will be effortless, focus on that…that goal…and breathe as you move through the pain…the pain is only part of the journey, it is not permanent….breathe deeper through the pain”.

    A few years later, as I struggled through the end of a five year engagement after betrayal, my therapist said nearly the same thing and I shared my memory of that dance class with her. I printed out my teachers words and put them by my bathroom mirror and that became my mantra and my visualization.

    • Emily

      My dance teacher said almost the same thing when I was a kid. That advice has carried me through two years of physical therapy and many heartaches.

    • KateM

      That is a beautiful image.
      I think sometimes it is hard remember in the midst of it, but often suffering allows us to become the best version of ourselves and to grow in ways we never thought possible.

  • Kim

    Keep on trucking girlfriend. Keep documenting your successes and your bad times. I’m 10 years out, remarried, and happier than I’ve ever been. It does get better, so much better that on May 21, I remembered it was my ex’s birthday, and didn’t care. Best of luck.

  • NTB

    This was so difficult to read. It made me hurt with you. Finding evidence of texts from other people is something I have been through and it is life-wrecking. However, it does get better, and one day you will wake up and you will be able to breathe again. It takes time and lots of courage, which you obviously have. I’ve been away from my ex for close to 5 years and I feel nothing when I think of him now. It does get better. Sending love and prayers your way.

  • Thank you. Thank you so much. Kayla, you are incredible. APW, y’all are incredible for giving Kayla a place to share this. My best friend is going through a similar experience and it is so incredibly helpful to know there are other women–strong, creative, beautiful, smart, ENDURING WOMEN–who are our age and who are serving this. Kayla, thank you so much. I can’t express it enough.

  • Elemjay

    Dear Kayla – I’m so sorry for your troubles. Your marriage is clearly in a bad place at the moment – but it may not be OVER. Nine years doesn’t necessarily have to fall apart in just a few weeks. I wish you (and your husband) the best in navigating these stormy waters in the next few weeks/ months/ years.

  • anon for this

    Thanks for sharing this story. I am going through a separation from my husband right now. It has been very difficult and painful. I am currently living in the room we shared (he’s staying with friends and will be moving back in after I and my cats are gone) and will be moving back to the city I used to live in before I moved down here for him in a month… on our anniversary.

  • js

    This was so hard to read. You describe it all beautifully, horribly. But there’s still so much I don’t understand. And I wonder, how do you ever trust anyone? With all the scary, dark and twisty, awful parts just hiding inside people, can you ever really know someone? Nine years with this person and there are still no guarantees. I don’t mean to pour gasoline on the fire, but I can hardly breathe with the thought that no one is immune. There are no guarantees. It doesn’t make me want to hold on tighter to my marriage, it just makes me horribly sad. I’m so sorry for you. You deserve more. You deserve to be happy. You deserve a wonderful life. I hope you find whatever that looks like for you.

  • Kim

    Hi there,

    I wanted to let you know how much courage I feel you have. You are a beautiful person and I hope you know special you are. Maybe that is what this journey you are on is for, to learn how special you are, really value yourself and find someone who feels the exact same way. In the meantime, take your time, heal yourself and when you’re ready, the right person will come along, if you want that.

  • Jesus, this was shattering. I can’t add anything to the thoughts that have already been shared here but just want to thank you for your willingness to put this out there, despite how raw and senseless and painful and hard it must feel. Your words and pictures are so eloquent and I hope you can look back on them someday from a much better place.

  • desaray

    The year after my wife left, I kept a diary in which I wrote only after dreaming, meditating or masturbating. Your photo essay reminds me of that creative impulse. Keep taking pictures. Grief is purifying. You’ll never be this sacred again.

  • Kate

    I read this this morning and I’m reading it again before bed. Kayla, if you’re still reading this avalanche of support may I add only this: There is no shame in having loved someone completely and without reserve. Best of luck <3

  • Claire

    Oof, this hit me in the gut. Hard. It brought back my own memories of finding texts and written evidence of the other woman and the long, painful journey that ultimately ended our 9 year relationship. Your touching photo essay conveys the sorrow and emotion and sense of shell shocked loss that follows such a discovery.

    Now for my unsolicited advice or, more appropriately, the lessons I learned. You are stronger than you know and this cruel test will prove that you can survive immense suffering. You will rebuild your life. It will be a different life than you had imagined, but it can be awesome in new ways and, in time, joyful. Be gentle with yourself. It sounds like you have a fantastic support person(s). Let your people support you and lend you strength, comfort and fun.

    Six years after that shit hit me in the face, I have a totally unrecognizably different but amazing life. I have rebuilt my emotions, my confidence, my faith in humanity and my ability to love and trust another person. I am coming up on my third wedding anniversary with the man who now shares my life.

    I wish you strength and grace and plenty of good wine and best friends as you rearrange the pieces of your life into something worthy of you.

    • Claire, thank you for this comment you made to Kayla. It has really helped me too. And I am glad to hear that rebuilding to be happy again is possible. And that even though your life isn’t at all what you had imagined, it is great in new ways…

  • Katie

    Hi Kayla,
    I’m going to echo what a lot of the other comments have said: you are such a brave person for sharing this story and for living it. Your post was beautiful and eloquent in a very visceral way, but, while I appreciate the beauty of your post and pictures, I’m sorry that you had to go through any of that.

    Since I’m just a random voice on the internet, all I can give you are virtual hugs. But take as many as you need. You’ll get through this.

    Much love to you,

  • Amanda

    I have no advice (this honestly scares the sh*t out of me and makes me want to swear off relationships forever) but I’m so, so sorry that you are going through this-and you are strong and brave beyond measure for sharing your story so openly and candidly.

  • blissing

    The really weird thing about having gone through so many breakups is that I know I will get through them and will come out OK in the end. Thank you for being so raw and real, I know it will help to reach out and get support.

  • ItsyBitsy


  • Fobos

    Dear Kayla,

    I have read your article several times since last Friday. I have been wanting to write a comment, but I just didn’t know what to say to comfort you. I wish I could do something to take away your pain, but I know I can’t. I am too going through the same heartache. In fact, Friday I learned that my husband’s mistress is probably pregnant. I feel devastated and alone and can’t seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel. People keep telling me that I will be fine and that things happen for a reason, but I am still having trouble believing that I can survive so much pain. I’m so very sorry someone else needs to experience this. From a wounded soul to another one, I just want to tell you that you are not alone. WE are somehow, don’t know yet how and when, going to survive this and will rise again from the ashes stronger than ever.

    Much love,


    • Fobos, I am also going through this too. And it helps to know I am not alone either. Not that I would ever ever ever want anyone else to experience this hell.

      As a book a friend gave me says, “You are alive. You will survive.” I just keep repeating that… (And the book is helping me a lot, if you are looking for something…How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

  • I was there.

    It gets better, I promise.

  • Jessica

    This post was beautiful and gut-wrenching. I fought back both nausea and tears as I read your post and was taken back just over two years ago. Your thoughts and circumstances were so eerily similar to mine. I knew my husband and I didn’t have a perfect relationship and had areas we needed to work on, but was completely blindsided when I picked up the phone call from the husband of my ex’s mistress. I am 9 months out of my divorce and my life looks different than I ever imagined- in some ways worse, in some ways better, but mostly just different. Others have given advice in a much more eloquent manner, so I won’t try to compete. I just want to say thank you for sharing and please know there’s one more person sending out good thoughts to you during this time.

  • Kaitlyn

    APW & Kayla,

    Thank you for sharing this story. I am newly engaged and still processing what it means to be married. I am hopeful, excited, and trying to mentally prepare myself for all that is to come. Divorce has never been one of those things… has never seemed like an option to me. Your story is emotional, and well told. I am sad for you but know you are facing a new beginning. Know that you are loved and you are destined for something amazing! And know that your story has touched me, and I am sure many others who read APW. Thank you, thank you.

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  • Benny

    Kayla, it’s taken me a few days to collect my thoughts on this, and now I’ve figured out why. It’s because I actually did a very similar thing, unintentionally. I was with my ex for 4 years when she broke off our engagement, about 5 months away from our wedding. Part of it involved an emotional affair.

    Though I’d never been one to do this before, I started taking random self-portraits with my phone, since one of the few things I found consistent pleasure in (in the early months) was dressing up for no reason, experimenting with shorter hair, learning how to wear lipstick for the first time, going out by myself at night. I started taking the pictures to see how certain things looked paired together, but after a few months I realized how I had a sort of documentary of grief. I saved the pictures from the first year in a separate album, and flipping through them now, I can literally see myself changing. The joy and color coming back to my face, gaining back the weight I lost in desperate sadness. So I encourage you to keep photographing all the things. Even if you delete them eventually, you will have a record of this.

    Anger and grief will burn you clean if you let them. Stay strong; we’re all with you.

  • Tammy

    Thank you you for sharing. I am reading this while my husband is sleeping on the couch and wondering if our marriage can be salvaged.
    I am so grateful that APW exist. It makes me realize that I am not alone in my heartbreak. Thank you. Hugs

  • Kayla and APW,
    Thank you for this post. I have thought about it a lot on the last three weeks, and it has helped to know I am not alone….

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