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I knew I wanted to get a divorce before I even got married. How crazy is that? I look back now and wonder what on earth I was doing but at the time I was so young, and I felt so stuck, and I figured I’d just wait it out and get divorced later. I had no idea.
But not many women do, and who can blame us? I mean divorce is seen as this shameful thing but almost half marriages end up in divorce. Perhaps if we talked about it more, that number would decrease. Maybe we are marrying when we shouldn’t be, divorcing because it’s an easier option, or, like in my case, getting married because I felt like time was running out. Who knows… but what I do know is that what we are doing now, isn’t working.
What I am grateful for is the lessons I learned from my divorce. It was a major event in my life that changed the way I looked at relationships and it changed the way I looked at myself. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t contribute to the breakdown of our marriage. But I also know it wasn’t entirely my fault.
Regardless of the situation you’re in, whether you’ve never been married, you’re married now, or you’re going through a divorce yourself, I wanted to share with you the 3 key lessons I have learned from my divorce in hopes that they may help you, wherever you’re at.
1 – Don’t Settle
When I was younger I would dream of the man I wished to marry. The qualities he would have, the way he would treat me and treat others, the goals we would have in life and the things we would achieve.
When I reached my mid-twenties I felt like I was running out of time. I look back on that now and laugh… but it seemed like everyone my age was getting married then, and that was the right time to do it. So I had better hurry up and find someone suitable.
Quickly, the dreams I had of my ‘perfect man’ were replaced with ‘yeah I could live with that’ or ‘maybe that will change one day’. I was trying to fit a square relationship into a round mould, and it was never going to fit.
Regardless, I kept trying. I settled for that square relationship because I believed round ones didn’t exist.
We bought a house, decided to have a baby, and got married… but our relationship was still so young, so immature. But I felt like I was ‘adulting’. Like I was doing all the things I was supposed to do in my twenties. I was settling for a life of what I thought I was supposed to have.
But that was never going to last.
After my divorce, and after many, many hours of therapy and self reflection, I realised what I had done. I realised that we had both settled for a relationship that wasn’t what either one of us wanted. I swore I was never going to do it again.
So I revisited that ‘ideal’ relationship. I spent time working out what it was I wanted out of a relationship, out of a marriage. Who was it that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. How did I want to be treated? What did I want to achieve? Even though I had previously believed a relationship like this didn’t exist, I still took the time to work out exactly what it is I wanted.
And I got it.
My second marriage was not about either one of us settling. I knew I didn’t have to because I knew I was fine on my own, I didn’t need to be in a relationship and I didn’t need to be married. I was confident in myself and happy with my own life. We both put everything out there from day one and it turns out, we had a round relationship that fit perfectly into the round mould I had dreamed of.
I learned that with every part of my first marriage that I felt like I was ‘settling’ for, regardless of how trivial, all ended up being the things that drove us apart. Settling was toxic for our marriage.
2 – Counselling Shouldn’t Be A ‘Last Resort’
You often hear of couples who are on the brink of divorce and people will ask ‘have you considered going to counselling?’ It’s like the last resort, the final attempt at making a marriage work, but it shouldn’t be.
I now think of marriage counselling like servicing a car.
When you own a car you take it in for regular services and checks to make sure everything is running right. You invest in it, you put good fuel into it (otherwise it’s not going to go anywhere) and you take good care of it. You would never wait until it was completely broken down and burnt out before you took it in for a service.
So why do we do this for marriages? Why do we wait until the last minute, when our marriage is completely broken down and burnt out, to take it to counselling, and then expect the counsellor to work miracles?
We tried couples counselling in my first marriage, but by that stage, I was completely checked out. I was emotionally broken down and burnt out and no amount of servicing was going to fix it.
In my second marriage, we went to counselling within our first year, and not because anything was ‘wrong’ but because we wanted to get things right. Counselling wasn’t going to be a last resort for us, it was going to be a regular maintenance check. Over time we have learned how to ‘service’ our relationship ourselves, but we are open about going back to counselling at any point we feel the need.
3 – Sometimes Things Not Working Out Is Actually The Best Option
My first husband and I were toxic for each other, and there are many couples out there who are like that. I know a lot of people believe that divorce shouldn’t be an option, but when marriage shouldn’t have been an option, then staying in a relationship that is only doing harm, is never a good call.
Toxic marriage aside, I can look back now and be grateful that things didn’t work out. My life was heading in a direction I didn’t want it to go. Now, I feel like I am in control of what happens in my life and I love it.
I have a gorgeous family, a husband I adore (and who adores me) and beautiful children who are happy and healthy. For me, my first marriage not working out ended up being the best option.
This isn’t the case for everyone, which is why I don’t believe anyone should ever be told ‘you must make your marriage work’ or ‘you must leave your marriage’ (with the exception of domestic violence – that’s a whole different story).
Each marriage is a unique blend of two people – and sometimes that blend goes together like peanut butter and chocolate, other times it’s like peanut butter and tuna. Only you can decide if you like peanut butter and tuna (satay tuna?).
While a divorce is a major event in your life, there are so many things you can learn from it if you take the time to reflect and be really raw and honest with yourself. You can do what I did and get some help with this, or you can start on your own and try to pick some positive lessons out too.