I wanted to take a moment and thank each and everyone of you for reading this series. It has been the most cathartic thing I have done for myself, sharing my story and heartache so openly. I hope that its been helpful to some of you, whether you are going through a divorce in your 20's or a breakup that rocked you to your core. This year has been the hardest and most rewarding year of my life. I can honestly say that I am happier now than ever before, and the opportunities, friendships and strength I've gained in the past almost 9 months have been priceless. I don't know how many more of these post's I will be writing, if I am being honest. But I knew that I at least had to write this one. This one is a culmination of the things I have learned about relationships, friendships, marriage, divorce and myself; and although I wouldn't wish what happened to me on my worst enemy, I wouldn't change it for a thing.
The Things Divorce Taught Me
First and foremost, it taught me that life can bring us to our knees, in the fetal position on the floor, and we will always, always get back up again. I can't tell you how many times I cried myself to sleep, and screamed in pain for hours, throwing up because I was so devastated. I thought my life was over. I didn't know a heart could hurt so much. Until one day, the tears stopped. I laughed again. I danced again. Things can be unbelievably hard, but all it takes is one day and one decision to change it all.
Second, happiness is a choice. Guess what? The perfect partner, the big bank account, the designer clothes, and the perfect body will never bring you happiness. Those things don't really matter if you aren't happy with who you are deep down. YOU are the only one in charge of your happiness. Hold on to who you are and what makes you, you. The essence of who you are and the things you love (dancing, singing in the car, shopping, reading, drinking wine with friends on a patio, baths by candlelight), and how you care for and love yourself is what is going to make you truly happy. The man, the fancy things, whatever else - is all just icing. YOU my dear, are the cupcake.
Three, never stay in a marriage because you think they are "going through a phase". If someone treats you badly, call them out on it, try and work through it, and if they don't stop treating you like shit - please for the love of god LEAVE. I promise you, they will thank you for it and you will save yourself a lot of heartbreak. If I had left when I was unhappy and feeling stuck, controlled and overwhelmed - I would have saved myself a lot of guilt (I had a lot of guilt and shame about my marriage ending, feeling like it was my fault - when it wasn't), time, weight and money honey. Love is not an excuse to allow yourself to be treated like shit or taken for granted, cheated on or used. You can choose to walk away.
Four, and this is a huge one: never underestimate the power of female (and gay best friends) friendships. A big mistake women make, is throwing themselves entirely into their relationship or marriage, and leaving behind the very people that cheer them on, encourage them and have their back when shit hits the fan. Luckily for me, my girlfriends were still there when things fell apart. I am so grateful I had H to answer the phone and let me cry incoherently for 2 hours when I found out about the other woman, or S who was ready to fight him if she saw him, or K who drank copious amounts of wine with me this summer while I told my story and asked "wtf?" multiple times. Not once, did any of my female friends judge me, blame me or pity me. They let me feel what I needed to feel, and then cheered me on. They also offered to help hide the body, and more than once told me it would be totally fine to break his shit and not pack it all up nicely.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to any woman is this: nurture your female
friendships, because trust me, love can fade, marriages can end, but your girlfriends (if you pick the right ones) will literally be there for ever.
Five, always put yourself first. I know this may sound selfish, but for the love of wine, it's not. The longest relationship you will ever be in, is the one you have with yourself. You know how on a plane, they always tell you to put on your oxygen mask first - well damnit woman, do it. Put yourself first. You can't give from an empty cup, and I truly think we have the most to offer when we give from the overflow. I gave up a lot of myself for my marriage, and this included putting myself last at all times. And now? Now I come first. I prioritize my health, my fitness, I drink loads of water, I fuel my body, I get my hair done, my nails done, I spend good money on skincare, I do little things like teeth whitening, tanning, and get my eyelashes done, I regularly buy myself new clothes and pretty things, I get damn dressed in real clothes, and what? I do my damn hair. I wear perfume. I wear the low cut tops and the high heel shoes, because I damn well want to. And guess what happened when I put myself first? I became a better friend, daughter, employee and all around person. What a novel concept.
Six, forgive them for yourself. You will never see me messaging my ex-husband and telling him I forgive him, or saying thank you. Even though I do. It was maybe three months ago, and I remember thinking I wasn't mad anymore or sad, and that I knew in my heart I had let go and forgiven him. It was this moment of crazy relief, and I remember thinking I could finally move on with my life. Some days I wish I could tell him that I forgive him, but that wouldn't serve me or him. We don't speak, and I think we are both quite happy with that. However, there is something incredibly healing about being able to forgive those who have hurt us. And to be honest, I could have held on to that anger and resentment for the rest of my life. But it feels so much better, to simply forgive and move on. I promise you I will never forget what he did or what happened to me, but I never wanted to hold on to that and bring it into another relationship. I wanted to be me - the person who loves all out, and who gives because she cares, and trusts until you give me a reason not to trust you.
Seven, and this one is big: don't do things for a man you don't want to do for the rest of your life. It's easy when were young and in love to do things for our SO because we want to make them happy, and seem useful and loving, and if we're being honest, like "wife material". BUT I just want to let you know, when you start doing their laundry and cleaning up after them, they eventually stop thanking you and just assume its your job. Hell no. I do it because I love you, and want to make your life easier, AND MAYBE EVEN SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOU. But, the second you say "why don't I have any clean boxers?" to me, there are going to be some problems. Marriage and relationships are about partnerships, sharing responsibilities and helping each other out. It's also about appreciating each other, saying thank you, please and being a responsible adult.
Eight, kinda goes in hand with lesson seven, and its this: never forget how to be an adult and take care of shit. You better know how to pay your bills, how to budget, how to change a tire or at least be smart enough to get a CAA membership, basic knowledge of power tools is a bonus, and have a list of people you can call for things you don't know how to do (bonus points if you ask them to teach you). I lucked out and I was the one who paid all the bills, knew when things were due, did all the chores, and so on. So it was really no big deal when he walked out. I missed the furnace in my bed, but guess what? I'm resourceful and went out and bought warmer bedding. Would ya look at that. For me, I gained HOURS of time, and several hundred dollars a month that became my "take care of me" fund (and let's not forget the epic amount of closet and drawer space). If there is one lesson I learned that you never forget, its this one : know how to take the fuck care of yourself. There is no being a damsel in distress, its 2018 and you are a tough ass independent bitch - act like one.
Nine, I truly learned what I wanted in a man, and what I definitely didn't want in a man. Key word: I want a man, not a child. I don't want to be in a relationship where I feel like a mother or a maid. I want to feel sexy, cared for, loved, passionate, protected, and respected. I want a man that shares in life with me, has his own life and friends, is confident and secure enough to let me be me and do my own thing, who works damn hard, takes care of himself, communicates and recognizes what he has. I want a strong man, who isn't afraid to get vulnerable with me. And I need a man who will leave me wild.
I'm sure I could sit in a coffee shop with you and drop all my wisdom, and maybe even shed a few tears, but these are the biggest lessons I've learned. This year tore me apart, and allowed me to build myself back up and I learned the most important lesson of them all: how to love myself.