Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and tell my scared and unknowing pre-divorced self the one thing she would not believe: that divorce will make her a better woman because it will force her to take risks, and it is those risks that will give her the courage and confidence she missed in her marriage.
I would tell her that it is normal to be scared as hell and it was okay to be in the depths of despair, to be insecure and desperate and do anything for love and for the touch of someone. I would say to her that waking up everyday feeling like she was pushed off a cliff and falling into a dark abyss, never to see the light again, would be a frequent occurrence. I would also let her know that the fears of never knowing laughter again, or loving another man again, or never having respect or love for herself again, would regularly hit her like a trainwreck.
But I would tell her to not give up and that she made the right decision.
I would let her know that the risk to leave the comfort and misery for a chance at happiness, although there would be discomfort along the way, would be worth it. I would inform her that the divorce would make her a better woman because it would teach her to let go, and that admitting the life that she had planned for herself wasn’t actually the one she was meant to live was the most courageous act of all.
Ending one’s marriage is a risk–a huge one. Couples literally upend their lives. They put themselves at financial risk, especially if they were a stay-at-home spouse, they make things more difficult for their children because of possible custody battles, and they risk straining family bonds and shared friendships. I think these are some of the prominent reasons that people in unhappy marriages are fearful–they want to avoid the fall-out and tell themselves that it will be fine and that despite their misery, they will make it work.
I would remind my old self that I thought this way for years, choosing comfort and misery over the divorced unknown. But even she knew that she could only play that charade for so long.
I would applaud her for taking that risk, for understanding, finally, that the status quo of being comfortable was no longer sustainable, and that choosing to be uncomfortable and vulnerable and in a freefall for a while and weathering the storm of grief and desperation and fighting and financial meltdown were means to justify a more promising end. I would be candid with her, and state in no uncertain terms that taking the risk of ending a failing marriage would have its consequences. That’s why they are called risks–because we do not know what the fallout will look like, or what horrible terrible things could happen to us.
But we also do not know the amazing things that may also happen–those things that will make us grow and evolve and become better people. I would tell her that when she had the courage to weather that storm, the most amazing things would happen. I would let her know that she would thrive in the face of adversity, that her confidence would grow as she navigated the waters, learning the ins-and-outs of divorce. I would encourage her as she wrote her own separation agreement, comfort her as learned how to be okay with being alone, help her haggle with her lawyer to save thousands of dollars, and push her to pursue interests unheard of during her marriage. And when she did, I would witness glimmers of happiness that had long disappeared, show themselves again. I would give her guidance not only on asking for help, but also knowing when to just trust herself. And I would sit back and observe how she learned to communicate with others during this time, and how to finally stand up for herself–skills that transferred from the divorce to work and with friends and family. I assure her that her evolving self would learn how strong she really was–stronger than she could have ever imagined.
I would let her know that, in the end, divorce would make her bulletproof. That’s what it did for me.
Divorce made me bulletproof. I remember walking out of that courtroom, as I know many have, or will, knowing that I survived and thrived through one thing that so many marry people fear, and I did it without losing all my money or my sanity. Divorce gave me courage. It made me not only tolerant to risk but open to it. It was this experience that affirms my belief that in life, it is necessary to take risks because although it may seem difficult, it could mean so much more for you than what you have–whether it’s switching careers because you’re unhappy with the one you’re in, or leave a job to travel the world by yourself, or simply to speak up and advocate on your own behalf.
This confidence and knowing I’ll land on my feed no matter the outcome are traits I never possessed in my marriage. Had I not been through the divorce, they would probably still be lacking. So, for those of you who are comfortable but miserable, I urge you to summon the courage and take those risks. Becoming a better woman is worth it. I would tell my pre-divorced self that, but she already knows.