Understanding and Connection: Melissa

Alyssa here.  I have a hard time thinking how to describe my feelings about this post.  I’m excited about it, but excited in a calm and awed way.  I’m glad for it, glad that APW has readers from SO many walks of life, readers that don’t fit the typical demographic but still keep coming back because of the posts and the community.  And I’m proud of it – proud of Melissa and her honesty and her bravery and her strong sense of self.  And proud to be a part of a community that includes folks like Melissa.  We’re kind of special, y’all know that, right?

Here’s Melissa.

I’ll be divorced next week.

Seems like a funny thing to admit on a wedding planning website, doesn’t it? I wonder sometimes when I read APW if there is anyone else out there. I wonder if any of you are like me, waiting for paperwork and writing checks to lawyers and having to admit to your boss that you’d like to be called another name (again) now, please, because you’re no longer part of the baby family you had been building. And at the same time, still reading about weddings.

I started reading APW during the planning process, something that seems like a million years and lifetimes ago. I liked the…well, practical aspect of what was said. How I wasn’t ever shamed (instead, celebrated!) for making my own choices, no matter what they were, as long as they were true. Then, after I got married, I liked to see what other people had done. I still read all of it, but found myself drawn to the wedding graduates, and especially to the Reclaiming Wife posts. I enjoyed getting to see how other people thought about weddings and marriage, and to look for understanding and connection to my own.

When my marriage started to crumble beneath me, I kept reading because I liked the hope Reclaiming Wife represents, this idea that if we don’t like what marriage is or how it’s defined in our lives, we can change it. Of course, Meg and APW mean change in a larger, cultural sense, but I took the message very much to heart. It was a chance for me to think about what marriage is, and what it can be, from a wider variety of perspectives than I was getting at home. It helped me figure out what I really wanted, what I really thought marriage should be. It helped, in part, for me to see that while I wanted everything written about on its pages, ultimately, I didn’t have it.

In the past six months, I’ve left my husband, left one job, started and quit another job, and started graduate school. At one point in those six months, I had shoes and homes in three states. Some days, it feels totally overwhelming, and other days, I barely register that it’s happening. I remember wedding planning feeling like that. At times all-consuming, and at other times something you ignored because it just seemed insurmountable, this thing that would never happen to you, something you’d just be stuck planning, and never doing, for the rest of your life. But the wedding happened, and so will the divorce. So maybe, at this point, one week away from the biggest change I never wanted to make, that’s why I still read. To remember that this too shall pass. That when you least expect it, the people around you put on their elf hats (can you have Divorce Elves? I think so, and I love mine) and pitch in to give you what you need, and celebrate doing what is right for you. And maybe, just maybe, help you realize that there is hope out there. You might be the only one looking for it, and sometimes it might seem really far away, but it’s there. And, whether you’re like me or not, we can all be grateful for the support APW provides is the one lesson that fits us all: do what is true for you in your own self and for your own life.

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  • Jess

    Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Leahismyname

    Well, wonder no longer. While I’m no longer in the divorce process, I’ve been through it and come out the other side. It’s a weird, surreal feeling, isn’t it? I’ll be honest with you here, the main thing I thought through the whole process was: “But I’m too YOUNG to be divorced!!” In my brain, divorce was for old people, parents!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this story. I often wonder myself if any of the people in this community have experienced this. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this in the approach to my second wedding. The differences in how I feel, what I’m doing, whether it’s wrong of me to make comparisons, what that reveals about me and my relationship.

    And thanks to APW for doing a divorce post. I know it’s not pretty brides and flowers, but for some of us, it’s part of the package of being an adult in a relationship.

  • Jessica

    Good luck, Melissa! Thank you for writing about your experiences, and I hope you find your happiness when all the papers are signed.

  • Beth

    I really appreciate the bravery it took for you to a) get a divorce and b) post about it!

    As much as I love marriage, I grew up around a pretty horrible one, and I always found myself fantasizing that my parents would get a divorce. I know we have this weird idea in our society that divorce=failure or that a “stable family life” = 2 parents, but I think that is the furthest thing from the truth when you are unhappy and things cannot be resolved.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! And what a great place for you to be in, where you are getting a divorce out of a sense of wanting to be true to yourself. Kudos!

  • Melissa, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I think it’s important to see all sides of things, and that’s why I live APW so much.

    • Er, that should say “love” APW, not “live” APW. Although maybe I do kind of live APW too sometimes.

  • Thanks so much for addressing divorce–I’m sure a very difficult subject to discuss on a wedding website. I definitely hope you find lots of happiness and relief on the other side of the process.

  • Thank you for this.

    This is going to sound weird, but knowing that I could get divorced, if I needed to, is part of what gave me the courage to get married in the first place. I grew up in a faith tradition that was pretty much of the no-divorce-ever-no-exceptions rule, and it terrified me. Even as a child, I could see that some of the women that I knew were absolutely beaten down by their marriages, and they felt like there was no escape for them – and truly, there was no escape. The one woman who did leave her (abusive) husband was crucified by our community because she had “destroyed her marriage.” But her marriage was destroying *her* so what choice did she have?

    Best wishes to you Melissa – I hope it all goes smoothly for you.

  • I’m divorced too. I think there are more of us out here in APW world than we think. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • Marchelle

    Wow. This post is braze and amazing. Thank you for sharing it.

  • I don;t know you, but I’m really proud of you for having the strength to let go of a marriage that doesn’t represent your values or what you envision your marriage to be. I kow there is tremendous pressure to :make it work” and sometimes it just doesn’t. Good luck on your new path, keep your vision with you.

  • Melissa, thank you for your bravery, and thank you for this post. This is why I donated to APW.

    I actually think it’s pretty great to have a post about divorce on a wedding planning website. Hearing about how marraiges can go wrong should be required pre-wedding reading! I supported one of my best friends through a divorce while we were planning our wedding. I learned so much, more than I could have dreamed. I learned what to compromise, and what should never be compromised.

    Also, I absolutely think you can have divorce elves. I was one for my friend, and I know that she really relied on us for support/sanity/an escape/etc.

  • tirzahrene

    Hi, Melissa!

    I was told about APW just this past year, right in time for my marriage of, oh, it would have been nine years next month to finish falling apart. I’ve been wondering if there’s a Practical Divorce place…my still-husband and I are just about as peaceable about things as we can be, but it takes as much mindfulness and work as I can muster, and I’m sure him too, to keep it that way.

    I keep coming back a) because this is an awesome site with much wisdom and many women, and I need that; and b) because my sister who told me about this site wrote a kick-ass article here too, and I had to read that; and c) because reading about people who are making baby families, not watching theirs fall apart and wondering if they’re going to retain anything but some really hard-earned wisdom at the end of this, is just plain heartening to me. It hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt.

    I have two mottoes this year, and I need at least the second one on a T-shirt. The first is “Walk it through,” because that’s all I know to do right now, and the other one is “Don’t be stupid.” And one of these days we will have finished taking the life we built together apart and I’ll be able to sit down with myself and look at the pile of what I have left and start picking it up and putting it back together in its new structure.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Aine

      I would think “Practical Divorce” is a VERY MUCH needed thing to have on the internet. At the very least, I think it should be something to keep in mind for “Reclaiming Wife”.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I concur – I’ve been a divorce elf and there is not enough support out there for practical ladies who walk away. I thought people were judgemental about my wedding and my marriage, I couldn’t believe how nasty they were about my friend’s divorce.

        So hugs. For all the ladies who’ve helped someone move out of the house they thought would be their home, and for all the ladies strong enough to realize they couldn’t live there anymore.

      • Leahismyname

        Exactly this a million times! Having a divorce section of Reclaiming Wife sounds like a daring, but smart, thing to do.

  • Adam Adolfo

    A truly brave and courageous post. It’s part of the process, isn’t it? The letting go.

    Hugs and Love to you doll face!

  • Cupcake

    Of course you can have Divorce Elves! Elves are here to help you with whatever you need. I’ve had to help a friend move out of her (former) home when she left her abusive husband and it was weird to help dissolve a marriage, but sometimes it is just the best thing.

  • Cody

    Honestly, as a young person getting very very close to being married, I read this blog every day because of the experiences that so many smart women share about their relationships. My perspective broadens and shifts because of how much you all make me think about myself and my relationship.

    Melissa, your bravery and eloquence about something we all hope won’t happen is no exception. Thank you for being another awesome, courageous, self-aware APW rockstar! And I send you love as you continue through your journey.

  • Liz

    these posts are always the bravest to me. thanks, melissa. in a wedding-centered world like apw, it can be scary to admit that things don’t go as planned. i almost want to brazenly ask for updates.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, I was divorced a very long time ago and it was especially painful because I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Nine years later I have finally found the one, due to my experience the wedding planning now has new meaning and I’ve approached it differently. Please know that this too shall pass and one day whether close or far away you will be happy again and grateful for the experience, they all make us stronger, that’s for sure!

  • amynjude

    I was engaged for over 2 years and had the time of my life planning my wedding. My fiance and I lived together for the last 17 months of our engagment and life was just about perfect. 84 days after our wedding day I was sitting in front of an attorney signing divorce papers….It was by far the hardest thing I have done to date and I commend your bravery for such a courageous post. And even during my darkest days I still return to APW in hopes that one day I will begin to form another baby family and will continue to learn from the amazing wisdom that is displayed here daily.

  • I think you definitely get the “BRAVE” tiara today. In an incredibly awesome way! Thank you so much for sharing this story, for telling us once again, the way APW always does, that if things don’t go as they ‘should’ (whether that be parents dying or the caterer not showing or a divorce), that life goes on and there is a wonderful wise community out there to support you.


  • stephanie

    thanks for posting on divorce. my previous marriage was painful, full of mistrust, lies & deceit by my ex. while the entire experience was so horribly painful that i wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, it was also a major learning process. i grew in ways that i wouldn’t have otherwise. i learned what was important to me, where my boundaries were, and what i wanted in a partner – which i now have :) lean on your support system & keep hope alive…

  • Chantelle

    I can relate to the learning and growth being prompted by APW’s Reclaiming Wife posts. It just makes you think hard about what you have and what you want out of life.
    Thank you for being so brave Melissa, not just with your post, but for going after what you actually want out of life, even when doing it is hard.

  • Aiyana

    I won’t lie–reading about divorce scares me. Because if all these good people with good intentions saw the need to get a divorce, what is to say that it couldn’t happen to us? My wise-self tells my scared-self to “Do the best you can” and “Take it one day at a time,” but marriage really is an act of faith (that is, belief and trust, not religion). We must have faith that it will work, that WE will work, even when it seems entirely possible that we may not…

    Thanks for sharing your experience, for shaking things up, even when it is uncomfortable.

    • meg

      Your marraige is for today. So do the best you can today. That’s the best I’ve got for you.

  • Class of 1980

    Divorced here too. It nearly killed me, but then it didn’t.

    My divorce shouldn’t scare anyone. I had cold feet before the wedding and looked for reasons to discount them. There’s a lesson in that.

    • Same here. I don’t think everyone does, but I definitely felt “not ready” or “not right” about getting married the first time. Maybe if there had been APW when I got married I might have done a better job of listening to the voice inside that was telling me that something was not right. Then again, maybe not. It is VERY hard to stop that ball once it’s rolling downhill.

      I don’t think all cold feet mean you should not get married. But I do think that’s what mine meant.

    • I’ve written about my divorce, and coming back from it. I would hope that my divorce also would not scare anyone.

      The success of a marriage bears little relation to the good intentions of the individuals. I can’t imagine that many people enter into a marriage with plans to divorce (except for sham marriages for immigration or monetary arrangements). I meant well, but we simply were not compatible on fundamental levels. I was aware that there was something “off” about the relationship before the wedding, but I dismissed my fears and plunged ahead. I had a painful and expensive lesson to learn, but it is not everyone’s lesson.

      • Leahismyname

        I hate to say it, but me too. I saw warning signs and managed to ignore them, or deny their existence. I think that this common thread relates to the post just today (The Last Taboo by Lisa) about talking about our relationship. Perhaps if I’d had some closer female friends gently show me what I was ignoring, there could have been less hurt on both sides.

  • I am also divorced, though for me it is well into the past now, and I’m in a psuedo-married (but no real “wedding”, not legally, and no public celebration) relationship that is heading into its 10th or 12th year (depends on how you count). Were it not for that divorce, horrible as it was at the time to see life-as-I-had-imagined-it explode, I would not have made it to here, and while here still definitely has some issues, it is much closer to my authentic life than my more conventional life pre-divorce.

    I was lucky, in that my parents provided an awesome model of how divorced people can behave — they split when I was two, stayed good friends, and eventually, my father married my mother’s best friend, as we all did stuff together, and it was lovely. I don’t have that level of amiable with my own ex, but seeing that in my folks did make divorce seem more like a “sad but normal” thing, and not a “you have failed” thing.

  • Wow. Thank you for your thoughtful and articulate words. Best wishes.

  • Eve

    Relatively recently divorced, here (4 1/2 years apart, but only 1 1/2 technically divorced)– and remarrying next year. What you said, about realizing that there’s only so much you can guide your current marriage towards your ideal, when it’s missing certain fundamentals– that was me. Now that I’ve been gone a while, it’s dead obvious that ending the marriage was the right thing to do, the glaring no-brainer, but at the time I felt like a failure.

    The good news is– as far as Reclaiming Wife goes– you don’t have to feel like A Bad Wife anymore.

    And, it turns out, a different kind of love and partnership really IS possible with a different person. Who knew? It wasn’t ALL my fault. I’m totally thrilled in every way that I got divorced.

    But I’m never changing my name again. Jeez, it is so much trouble.

    • Haha! My fiance and I also had the name-change discussion, and there is no way I’m changing my name again. I just finally got my name changed back on all my documents last year, and my clients and colleagues still don’t know what to call me.

  • This. My own divorce is still reasonably fresh. I stumbled upon APW six months after my divorce was finalized. I found this place of wisdom and wit at a time when I was desperate to believe that happiness in marriage (and wedding planning, and life in general) was possible. After pretty much giving up on finding personal happiness myself, I was content to living vacariously through Meg’s (and other ladies’) bravery. And then, in the last year or so of readinig this blog I noticed a change. These women choosing to live lives on their own terms and choosing to be brave must have rubbed off on me. I moved to the beach (something huge for me), went back to school for a new career, and started dating again (yikes). What I love about this community, even as a divorcee (which sounded more glamorous before I became one), is that every post is focused on being a smarter, wiser, braver woman. Whether it’s making sense of wedding planning or making sense of life after the wedding (both the good and the bad).

    Melissa, thanks for being another brave woman for me to aspire to and be inspired by. Oh, and for reals, it gets better.

  • Thank you for writing this. My mom has been married and divorced three times, and I definitely think it needs to be part of the conversation when talking about weddings. Because weddings mean marriage, and marriage can lead to divorce. Not always, but I think ignoring it is more harmful than acknowledging that it can happen. And that you can survive it, if it does.

  • Cassandra

    It’s never what you imagine will happen, but sometimes divorce can be an act of kindness (as I think Meg wrote about her rabbi saying). Sometimes it’s what you need to do for yourself. Thanks for your bravery in writing this.

    Also, you can totally have divorce elves and I’m glad you do! It’s so good to have those people who pick you up and dust you off and celebrate your new beginnings with you.

  • Stephasaurus

    Thank you for so bravely sharing this story.

  • Melissa

    You guys are amazing. In a strange twist of fate, I am actually going today to sign the final papers, so to say this came at a time I really needed it is a bit of an understatement.

    I’m totally blown away by the support (although I guess I should have expected it, given how awesome it usually is), and appreciate the kind words. Me, brave? Never crossed my mind, and I’m truly humbled.

    Also, as sad as it is to think about, I’m kind of glad to know I’m not the only one. Thanks for sharing your stories, and for those of you brave and strong enough to try again—well, maybe one day I can be like you too.

    • Leahismyname

      You’re not alone. It’s scary and surreal, but it does get better. Promise.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I recently called off my engagement; and from the reactions from others it would seem this decision is just as taboo, if not more so, than the decision to divorce.

    Your story and mine are similar in so many ways. And, with both, there is a change in identity – from attached to single. There is the loss of an imagined future. There are the messy and complicated next steps of where to go from here, but also the reflection on ‘what ifs’ and ‘could we have done things differently’.

    At the same time, there is the power and courage in recognizing all the possibilties that lie ahead. We will get stronger. We will learn. We will grow. And, we will do it on our own terms.

    Best of luck to you!

  • Brenda H

    Thanks for sharing your story, I wish I could give you a hug in person. It seems many women on APW have gone through this and I applaud all of you on your bravery. Me personally… I guess I was more of a ‘divorce elf’ to a dear guy friend of mine when things spiraled out of control so my experience has been different. I think it’s important to note both men and women can, sadly, see what they worked so hard for with their baby family fail. Sometimes both partners suffer in their own ways. There seems to be many stereotypes of what divorce is like in the world, I’m glad to know someplace where we can contemplate all of it.

    Seeing this happen to 2 of those near and dear to me has hurt but not as much as it hurt both of them, my love and support goes out to all of those who have gone and are going through this. From what I’ve seen it does get better, even through the parts that stay with you as you undergo this.

  • It takes strength and courage to end any kind of relationship. Knowing that you are worth more than an unhappy/unhealthy relationship and taking ownership of your life is a brave act. Thanks for sharing your story. Sending lots of support, positive energy and warm fuzzies your way! Good luck to you!

  • angela

    First of all, melissa, you are brave to me.

    On others things: i´m the daugther of a divorcee parents, the first of their 3 childs, and scared as hell of marriage, until i realize that we have to take our own responsability for our own life, and try to spend it as “if” were yours and make the best of it.
    So, go to the world, reclaim what is yours about your life, even the chance of getting wrong, and enjoy it as much as possible. Because it´s time to stop mourning about all we make it different and it´s time to just do it.
    be brave about you, your decissions, and really true to yourself, and just maybe, you will have no regrets.

  • Melissa,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I left my husband about a month and a half ago and still have 10.5 long months before I can think about signing those papers – gotta love the great state of South Carolina.

    I recently blogged about feeling alone in the midst of all the blogs I started following while planning my wedding – except their marriages worked out, and mine… didn’t.

    So, thank you. Your post helps me know I’m not alone!

  • This was such a great, candid post. I’m so glad you shared. I never have access to a computer at work, and I read a lot of blogs, so I usually skim most of the blogs I read that get updated a lot, and I don’t always comment. I read all of this post and I’m commenting. I loved what you wrote that much. I hope that things turn around for you, and that in the end, you find exactly what you’re looking for.

  • divorced here too. i would lie awake at night and realize i didn’t want to be in the same place in 5, or even 2 years, and made my plan. we have a child and have been able to remain friendly for her. you will get thru this, and you will thrive!

  • B.Aiello

    Thank You…Just: Thank You. APW in general and this post in particular. It moved me, dare I say profoundly? So with a head full of love and and a heart full of support I’m off to marinate. Thanks again.

  • lacey

    Melissa (or any of the commenters) – could you speak more to the feelings you had (if any) when you were engaged that you wish you had listened to? Did you have any inkling or suspicion that your marriage would go down this path? So many friends (and posts on APW) are telling me “engagement can be a difficult, stressful time” and “fighting is normal”… but I’m trying to which doubts go away (which doubts I will be glad I ignored) and which doubts will resurface, only getting worse, that I will wish I had listened to.

    • Katie

      Hi Lacey,
      I don’t often check back on old posts, but this one stuck with me, namely because I am still dealing with the loss of my relationship and perceived future.

      I am not sure if you have come to any conclusions about your relationship in these past months, but all I can say is listen to every inkling, every doubt, everything.

      It’s OK to doubt. It’s a huge decision. But, trust that every feeling, every gut instinct, every fear, every truth is trying to clue you in. Listen. Slow it down. Listen. Breathe. Listen.

      Lastly, it’s not always black & white. What freed me up was knowing that if I had strong enough doubts, I could call it off, and perhaps, still salvage the relationship if we were strong enough. It doesn’t have to be get married or don’t.

      Best wishes.

      • Lacey

        Thank you, Katie, for checking in with me. I ended my engagement a few weeks after my original comment (about six months before the wedding was scheduled to take place). My doubts had been growing throughout the engagement. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the doubts were strong enough that I knew I would not be able to walk down the aisle to this person, and with that knowledge, I knew it was wrong to send out “save-the-dates” and schedule showers and parties.

        I wish you peace as you deal with this loss, too.

  • Sassy Lady

    Melissa — Thank you for sharing.

    I broke off an engagement about a year ago because the guy cheated on me… but really because our relationship had been falling apart for months before that. Breaking up with him was a really, really hard process (both logistically and emotionally), but I’m so happy to have been given another chance at life.

  • Oh yes, you certainly can have divorce elves. And I am thankful that I had mine!