Relationships

Nine Women Talk About Their Divorces

Best Divorce Advice

Have you ever ended things with a serious partner? We asked nine women about their divorces and separations — the pros, cons and how they made it through. Here are their honest, thoughtful answers (and if you’re up for sharing, we’d love to hear your experiences, too)…

On knowing it was the right decision:

“Our relationship had been going downhill for a while, and we thought a baby was the solution. We tried to conceive naturally, but I was always secretly relieved when my period arrived. We even saw a reproductive endocrinologist, but when the time came to take the medication and schedule the procedure, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Admitting to myself that I didn’t want him to be the father of my child was the final straw.” — Maria, 37, marriage of six years

“At some point I didn’t feel I had a choice — I was so deeply unhappy. We went to therapy for a year, but it only made things seem more hopeless, since so many of our differences were laid bare, and we were unable to surmount them. During this time, we had bought a weekend house, and I was busy furnishing it, finding antiques and picking wallpaper. But then the house was ready, and I realized I didn’t want to actually be there with my husband. That was a wakeup call. My feeling is that if you’re getting divorced, you need to feel that you’d rather be alone than in that relationship.” — Grace, 39, marriage of six years

“I was visiting my mother and had terrible stomach pains after a night out with my kids. I figured I had food poisoning, but my mother insisted I go to the ER. They did a cat scan that was ONLY looking at my belly, but it caught the very bottom of my lungs. There was a three-centimeter mass in the base of my left lung. The cancer was back. I had a lobectomy and five rounds of debilitating chemo. I was blown away, destroyed. I decided that if I lived, I was going to live 100% my way. I didn’t want to work somewhere, live somewhere, or find myself in any situation that didn’t feel spot on. That’s when I knew I had to leave my marriage.” — Casey, 44, marriage of 15 years

On experiencing grief:

“When our marriage was ending, my mind felt like a movie reel of the best and worst times. On days where I missed him, I thought of the good moments — trying to get to the hospital on time for the birth of our children. Or when we’d get breakfast at the diner and we would put our firstborn in a hook-on high chair attached to the gingham table, and we all just laughed and laughed together. You want to shout, ‘Remember when?! Remember when we had these times?!’ The flashbacks are overwhelming. But, then on the days where I was angry or hurt, I thought of the other moments, the times it wasn’t working and would think, ‘Oh, I should have known then’ or ‘How did I not see that?'” — Robin, 50, marriage of 25 years

“The hardest part was letting go of the future we had imagined. We had bought a home and planned to have kids. Ending that dream, and not knowing if I would ever find love again or have children, was in some ways harder than the breakup itself.” — Maria, 37, marriage of six years

“When she left, I was on the verge of tears every single moment of the day. But time passed, and it got to a point where the sadness was every other day. Then it was four or five days. Then it was weeks. You truly never think this relief will happen, but it does, even if it’s in waves. On an especially hard day, my friend who had gone through a divorce told me, ‘Well, now that’s one less breakdown you’ll have. You’ll have only so many breakdowns, and look, you’re one step ahead.’” — Amy, 43, relationship of 15 years

On navigating financial freedom:

“My separation required a lot of strategy, because it was an abusive relationship. Even financially, the split was really difficult to plan because my ex had full control of where the money went — even my paycheck’s direct deposit went to his account. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I work in the service industry so I started stashing my tips away a little at a time, so that I could have a cushion for when the time came. One day, I came home from work to find the cash in a neat pile on the coffee table in front of him. I made up an excuse for what I was saving for, and had to start the whole process over again with a better hiding spot. I had $800 when we finally separated. The day after he moved out, I applied for a credit card, and got approved with a $500 limit. I opened a checking account that he didn’t have access to, and to my shock I was able to afford the rent and bills on my own. I was excited to find I was making a lot more money than I even knew, but also devastated because I had allowed him to convince me that I wasn’t responsible or smart enough to have any control of my finances for so long. I finally recognized myself for the first time in seven years.” — Rachel, 34, marriage of seven years

On newfound independence:

“There’s this scene in Home Alone where the kid Kevin McCallister wakes up after his entire family has left for their vacation without him. And, at first he panics and tears through the house in distress, realizing he is all alone. ‘I made my family disappear,’ he sulks. But then, there’s this moment where he pauses, and really takes in the empty house. ‘I MADE MY FAMILY DISAPPEAR!’ He shouts again, but this time with the widest grin you’ve ever seen as he runs through the house jumping on beds with a bucket of popcorn. That series of emotions is how I feel every morning when I wake up and remember what I’m going through.” — Robin, 50, marriage of 25 years

“The first thing I did was redecorate my entire apartment. I hunted antiques on Craigslist and wallpapered my bedroom. We agreed that he would take the TV and I never replaced it. Instead I did yoga in the spare room and listened to podcasts and audiobooks. Changing the space felt therapeutic and necessary for moving on.” — Rachel, 34, marriage of seven years

“One of my favorite parts of my marriage was holding hands at night after a long day. We would lie there, silent and exhausted, and my partner would place her hand on mine. When I told my sister how THAT was what I missed most, she said, ‘What if you hold your own hand?’ And she exaggeratedly gestured her right hand reaching over and grabbing her nervous left hand. We sat there laughing until tears were streaming down our faces. If that’s not a metaphor for a breakup, I don’t know what is.” — Amy, 43, relationship of 15 years

On talking to kids:

“That moment we told our children? That. Was. Hard. I did a lot of research and wrote a draft of what we would say, which started with, ‘Your dad and I are a really good team when it comes to being your parents, but we are not a good team when it comes to being a couple.’ The minute I said this, my nine-year-old daughter started crying. My heart shattered. Then, not even an hour later, she asked me if she could dye her hair purple. I said yes. On our walk to the salon, I told her, ‘You know that there is probably no other day ever I would have said yes to purple hair?’ With a big smirk on her face she said, ‘Oh, Mom, I know!'” — Tina, 44, marriage of 13 years

“A family therapist helped us strategize how to tell our daughter, and she gave us the great advice that little kids just need to hear the concrete, logistical details about who is living where and where they are going to be, and that we didn’t need to explain our feelings or the decision. Sure enough, our daughter was totally focused on having two apartments, and how exciting that was. We made her a clear physical calendar showing her the weekly schedule so she knew when she’d be at each place. Then, as she grew older, we answered her deeper questions as they came up.” — Grace, 39, marriage of six years

“It’s the time to create new traditions. I started taking my kids on road trips, just the three of us. We would get in the car together, and I would say, ‘Left or right?’ And we would have no idea where we would end up. One time we ended up at The Alamo in Texas. One time we ended up at Mall of America. One time we saw a billboard for a place that said, ‘We have 100 pies,’ and we went and got five pies each. Those trips feel like a lesson for our family: Life doesn’t go according to our plans, but you make the best of it together.” — Stacie, 50, marriage of 15 years

On splitting time with kids:

“The hardest part is that I don’t get to be with my daughter all the time, since my ex and I share joint custody. That has stayed hard. It’s been eight years and I can still get teary when it’s time for her to go to his place.” — Grace, 39, marriage of six years

“To my surprise, what I was most of afraid of turned out to be the biggest perk of this 50/50 co-parenting set up. I was terrified of the weekends where I wouldn’t have the kids. I thought I would be miserable, sitting depressed in my apartment second guessing my life’s decisions. But while I do miss the kids, I am excited to have weekends to myself, to recharge, spend time with friends or simply sit on my couch and read. I had completely forgotten what it felt like to be just me. It’s glorious!” — Tina, 44, marriage of 13 years

On taking a step forward:

“My husband of fifteen years told me he didn’t want to be married any more. I was turning 40, and I had two young kids and a law practice, and it felt like so much change at once. I needed to remind myself what I was made of. So, I started training for a marathon. Who knows why that’s the thing that I chose! I haven’t even ran a half marathon! But, I trained and trained, and when the race came, I ran the entire thing. During those last four miles, my legs didn’t want to run anymore, and there was this disconnect between my body and mind. Every step I told myself, ‘Just pick your leg up.’ I said it over and over, ‘Just pick your leg up.’ It took that moment to realize how much control my mind has over everything else. I finished the race, smiling ear to ear. People were collapsing and crying around me, and I was like, ‘Time for some chicken-fried steak!’ It was a triumphant turning point in my life.” — Stacie, 50, marriage of 15 years

On advice for others:

“This sounds so corny, but this is what you do: you wake up with the sun, you make yourself a spinach omelette for breakfast, you drink a lot of coffee, you put your head down and work, you take a lot of walks, you watch your alcohol intake, you go to bed early. You talk to people. You ask for help. It takes all of what you’ve got to keep going, but you’ll make it through.” — Robin, 50, marriage of 25 years

“When someone tells me they are getting a divorce, I say, ‘CONGRATULATIONS!’ If you’re doing it, you need to be. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. The best thing that could have happened for my kids. And the best thing that could have happened to my ex. Everyone in my family became who they needed to be from this situation. We all became the heroes of our own journey.” — Stacie, 50, marriage of 15 years

Have you gone through a separation? What was your experience? Any advice you’d share for someone going through it?

P.S. A seven-step guide to heartbreak.

(Illustration by Julia Rothman for Cup of Jo. Some names have been changed for the privacy of the people interviewed. And a big thanks to Megan Cahn for her interviews of Maria and Grace.)

  1. I really needed to read this today. After 12.5 years and 5+ years of marriage, my husband and I are separating. I’m 31 and right now, I’m still convinced that he is the love of my life and the father of my future children. This isn’t something I want – but it’s what he needs right now. Today, our apartment sold. I have less than 2 months to find a new place and move out. It will be the first time I have ever lived alone and been solely responsible for myself. Reading these wonderful women’s thoughts gives me hope, that even if it doesn’t work out how I want, I will be okay.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound wonderful, anneka. i’m so sorry that you’re going through this. that sounds really really really hard. i’m sorry. and you will be fine, no matter what. thinking of you today. xoxoxoxoxo

    • Roopa says...

      Aneka Iam sure you will get through. You are going to emerge as a complete different person- a survivor . Even though the things are not looking great at this moment don’t lose hope be strong and no matter how dark the night gets morning has to come and so it will.

  2. Rachel says...

    Loved reading this article. I’m 32, not married, not even in a committed relationship right now, but in the last couple of months I have been thinking a lot about how terrified I am about marrying the wrong person. It’s ridiculous how much time I think about when I haven’t even met someone I want to marry yet. I keep asking myself, do the good parts of a relationship really out weight all the bad? How much do you put up with? How do you really trust someone enough to commit your entire life to them? Me asking myself these questions have really solidified the fact that I haven’t been in love yet. But also that I am really ready to start dating seriously. I have always been fearful of the unknown. So I guess what I’m asking is, when I do meet the one, will I really know? Is it true what they say, “you’ll just know”?

  3. J says...

    I know I’m late to commenting, and perhaps no one will read this, but here goes. Thank you, Jo, for doing a post about dealing with divorce. Just as every relationship is different, every divorce is different. I am still in the middle of my divorce after 12 years of marriage. Last summer–a week before closing on our home and as I began fertility treatments–my husband realized he is gay. After seeing him through his coming out to his family, he told me that he wanted to separate to live his true life and move across the country to the city we had always called “ours.” I’m happy for him, but I was already living my true life. Now I’m figuring out how to pick up the pieces. At least we were able to sell the house, and I got the dogs.

    • april says...

      That sounds like a lot of heartbreak to work through. I wish you happiness-it will come again. xo from Tennessee

    • Cat says...

      I’m so sorry you’re going through that J. I’m in the midst of a divorce after 11 years, and I really relate to you saying that you were already living your true life. Putting the pieces back together feels a long way away, but I’ll be hoping we both get there sooner than we think. xo

  4. K says...

    What do you do when your partner is a good dad, a kind person, attractive, has good loyal friends, the main breadwinner, hardworking, and you just are deeply unhappy? He is a good guy. But our communication patterns are deeply unhealthy, and I think we both feel unloved and unsupported by each other. I fear the communication the kids see is damaging, but is it more damaging to divorce? We have three kids and I fear dragging them through this. We have been married for 12 years, together for 5 more, and I just know I’d be happier alone, but I can’t see how to get there.

    • Annon says...

      bingo. I’m in therapy (alone and together) and it’s just solidifying this decision for me and for me alone. And since the decision is just mine and purely selfish, that’s the saddest part. I would break his heart, and my kids’ hearts, and I’m worried they would all hate me.

    • Sarah says...

      Wow. I relate to this on such a deep level. This is EXACTLY how I am feeling right now. I don’t know how to get there either, but I know in my bones I need to find a way.

    • S says...

      I think it would be less damaging to divorce because you’re showing your kids that they don’t have to stay in a relationship where they are unloved and unsupported. And while him being a really good guy probably makes it a lot harder to pull the trigger and make that happen, I think it will make it a lot easier for the relationship you will have as exes. The divorces that are hardest on kids are when their parents actually dislike or even hate each other. But when they still see each other as good people who are just not good together, they can still be great parents together as exes.

    • Rachel says...

      If your husband is a good man and not abusive, etc and you have three beautiful kiddos together, please PLEASE commit to recovery of the marriage. It is possible. Change can happen. May not be helpful for your situation in particular, but I found the PeacefulWife blog very sustaining and you might too. Check it out- she’s Christian based but that can be overlooked if that’s not for you (I’m Jewish and found her writing very helpful). Much love and big hugs to you my sister!! :)

    • Crystal says...

      As a child of divorce, and and adult who has gone through two of my own before age 40, I know that children pick up more on relationship than circumstance. The way you are with them is the most important thing in the world, followed by the way you are with each other. Children would rather feel deeply loved and secure in two different homes with happier parents than fearful and uncertain in a home full of strife and unhealthy communication.

    • L says...

      K, Thank you for writing this. It’s as though the words came out of my own head. I feel you here, so deeply. I am in a phase where my secret thoughts about all of this are bubbling up and I am just starting to say it all “out loud” in forums like this one…but it’s all so scary and I have the same questions you do. Wish I could give you a hug right now and tell you that you are so, so not alone.

    • Elana says...

      As someone who grew up with two unhappy parents (not exactly abusive, but hostile and more like roommates than a couple in love) who remain married to this day because they’re both deeply afraid of “failure,” have a lot of insecurities and used my brother and me as excuses to keep muddling through … we have always wished they’d divorce. That would have been hard for a little while, but THIS has been hard my whole life. It damaged my sense of respect for both parents because they would talk about wanting to live different lives, but never had the balls to follow through. My brother and I struggle with anger and trust issues due to growing up in a house full of hostility and not having a healthy romantic partnership modeled for us.

      If it’s just one weak area you can work on together, try. But if your gut tells you your partner doesn’t make you happy or you long for another life, take that seriously, be brave and start changing the situation. Kids need their parents to be happy and healthy, even if they must do that apart! Families change and that’s okay.

    • Grace says...

      Non-popular view here, but isn’t marriage about working through your differences, committing to each other, working it out? Unless there were hard deal breakers like physical or substance abuse. Heck, nowadays even infidelity seems to be a blurred area where some couples can move past it (I don’t know if I can). Ultimately though, if you are truly unhappy then I wish you all the best, and I’m sure you have tried. Just offering my personal view, sorry if it seems intrusive or inappropriate.

    • Stef says...

      I’m 33 and I got divorced (officially) at 31, separated at 29, after 2 years of marriage and 10 years together. There was nothing “wrong” with my partner but I was incredibly unhappy and had been for some time. I sacrificed a lot for him and especially for his job. In three years we moved three times for his job, once cross-country, and once overseas.
      My point is – sometimes I wonder if I stayed with him for so long in spite of my discontent because of my parents. My parents nearly got divorced when I was 10 and decided to stay together for the sake of their kids. After about 5 years or so I would say their relationship healed somewhat, but I always had this notion that relationships were more about work than about love. I thought if I stayed with my husband for long enough things would eventually improve and that the most important thing was to stay. I still like him as a person but leaving him was the single best decision I’ve ever made.

    • C says...

      I’m going through this right now. My husband and I have been married nearly five years, were together for two and a half before that, and very close platonic friends for three years before we started dating. We have a soon-to-be six-month-old and I feel so unsure, and yet so very sure, as to what to do. I had a very difficult pregnancy (extremely ill and working through a lot of motherhood fears and insecurities), and my husband was less of a partner to me during those nine months than in any of the previous ten years— I wouldn’t even have classified him as a “friend” during that time. My friends are supportive of me and my feelings, but I get the impression that they’re waiting for this “phase” to pass. If I’m honest with myself, it’s been bad for over a year (once I got pregnant), and it wasn’t good for a long time before that. Yesterday, he asked me if I still loved him and all I could say was that I’m grateful to him for giving me my daughter….that’s it.

      What I’m struggling with the most right now is whether what I’m going through is some sort of avoidance of any discomfort in my life (why work through this uncomfortable stuff between us when we can just walk away instead?) or whether I just don’t want to be with him. I imagine life without him, and I don’t think I’d miss him. It’s a bit intimidating (raising our daughter mostly independently because he’s an active duty servicemember and I wouldn’t keep moving with him, and my working full-time to support the two of us), but I’m not actually afraid of it. I think I want a divorce, I just thought I’d feel more….something….about it all. Upset? Angry? Sad? I feel like myself when I talk and think about it, and that’s all. Is that enough to walk away from a relationship of ten years? If he told me tomorrow he wanted to divorce, I know I wouldn’t fight for us. So what do I do?

  5. Nora says...

    Maybe it’s been suggested, but another post about being a child of divorce would be an extension of this. At different ages – growing up balancing act, how do adults do holidays, etc. Thank you for this post!

    • Adele says...

      This would be a great post! Being a child of divorce, now expecting a baby, brings a whole host of questions into the mix…

    • Caitlin Bielefeldt says...

      Also a child of divorce – would love this post idea!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this post idea. thank you, nora!

    • I would LOVE to read a post on this too. Currently going through my parents separating (in a very messy and long-drawn-out, confusing and conflicting way), and since I am technically ‘an adult,’ I feel like I shouldn’t be struggling with it as much as I am. But I am. And my heart is breaking all the same. This post was absolutely wonderful – healing to read in so many ways. It would be great to have more posts on the same subject matter, but shining the light on children of divorce.

    • Kacy says...

      Isabelle, I too am an adult child of divorce. My parents ended their marriage just shy of 30 years, and I am STRUGGLING. I can’t image being a child or teenager trying to sort these feelings. So many feelings.

  6. I literally searched for this something like this post 2 yrs ago when my divorce began. I was married for 10 yrs, with a 3 yr old. Today, life is much better. My son is doing great, me and my ex get along and life for the most part is happy. There are hard days, I think there always will be, and holidays and families are never quite the same. But I don’t feel a permanent level of anxiety and knots in my stomach like I did in the last years of marriage.

    Thank you for giving us this forum and a place to feel less alone. I have read every single comment and wish I could meet all of these strong women.

  7. The night before Mother’s Day my husband of 15 years at that point confessed in the worst conceivable way that he is gay. I do not hate him for this yet it still shook me to my core. We had just moved to a new city. I did not know a soul and had no job. He suggested having an open marriage. Telling him I wanted a divorce was one of my strongest moments. I found work, sought counseling, and later that Halloween I met a man who I admire, respect. Fast forward to July of 2018 and he proposed. From great heartbreak can build enormous healing and growth.

    • J says...

      Shannon, thank you for sharing your story. I am in the midst of this now, and your story gives me hope. Congratulations on your engagement! <3

  8. anonymous says...

    Thank you so much for this.
    Deciding to leave a marriage is hard but in my case the best grown up decision I have made.
    I cried reading this post but I cried knowing it was the right thing to do for me and because I am proud of my ex husband and my little boy. We have managed to make the most of it and are still functioning as a family and a team. Me and my ex got together when we were really young (I was 23) and realized in our mid to late 30’s that things were not right. I am lucky because we are still close and here for each other and that I know that we have created something great all together and that there is hope for more happiness and more great things to come in life. So hang in there if you feel doubts, follow your guts. Life is short and there are so many great things to live and achieve.

  9. Cynthia says...

    I. Am. Sobbing. Thank you for this. It is devastating but also comforting to feel like I’m not alone.

    • Stacy S. says...

      You’re not alone. You’ve got all of us.

  10. Janelle says...

    This beautiful post was shared on the one year anniversary of me standing in a courtroom so that a judge could end my marriage. That day in court was more wrenching than I’d expected, but the anniversary surprisingly was not – I actually forgot what day it was until lunchtime.

    The mantra that mattered most during the hardest season was that I must “stop watering dead flowers”. I didn’t kill my marriage, but neither was I bound to destroy myself in service of a thing already dead.

    Early in the process, my lovely therapist helped me articulate a metaphor: I was trapped in a dark and twisty forest, but on the other side of a thorny wall was a beautiful meadow with butterflies and flowers. I wasn’t afraid of life after divorce, just afraid of the pain of getting to the other side of the wall- telling my parents, finding a lawyer, walking into an empty house. Keeping that hopeful image in my head made it easier to cut through the barriers one at a time, because I knew freedom and joy and peace were on the other side.

    One year out, I’m so grateful to say that life in the meadow is lovelier than I dared to dream it would be.

    • Maria says...

      “Stop watering dead flowers” – THIS! I will write this down and remember it next time I think of my ex.

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you, thank you for this.

  11. Lune says...

    I am married for 7 years with a good father to my kids. He is a kind man but for years, i have been unhappy and discontent with my husband emotionally and intellectually. It’s been years and we just don’t connect. I wouldn’t even choose to hang out with him even if we are strangers.

    I wish we had divorce here in the Philippines. Annulment is the only way here and it costs so much time, money and energy. While marriage is easy and for everybody here, annulment is only for the elite that’s why most poor wives settle with their husbands and just think about other happy things in their life aside from their marriage.

  12. Madelyne says...

    I’ve been divorced one year tomorrow, after a one year separation per NC law. The experience has been brutal; they say the grief is equivalent to losing your spouse by death. The silence that came and the sudden loss of physical touch were near unbearable. As others the hardest thing to come to terms with was the life I’d imagined and been working towards, the children and future that would not be.

    I changed his contact namen and how I referred to him in conversation. He was “Ass Hat” in phone and email which made me want to giggle when I saw it instead of getting a knot in my stomach. As others mentioned helpful, I bought myself a nice ring that I loved just as much to wear on my naked hands every day. I love the comment about routine which is so important. Also, mantras – I accept and approve of myself just as I am today. When times get rough, just focus on the next 15 minutes—the next 900 seconds. You can do that. One day at a time.

  13. Sarah says...

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been divorced over three years now and I’ve been peddling my ‘I’m so lucky to have divorced a good person, imagine how hard it would be to divorce an asshole’ mantra to great effect. Even with my ‘good’ divorce, it’s been rougher and more unexpectedly difficult than I ever could have anticipated. Feelings of sadness and loss pop up at the most inopportune times, despite my attempts to soldier on and look to the future. Three years must be just the thing though, because I’m happy to say that the kiddos and I have finally settled into our new little routine in the world, just the three of us. Sending hugs to anyone going through it. :-)

  14. Virginia says...

    I got divorced at 34, after a 15 year relationship and a 10 year marriage. We’d tried really hard. We’d never had children and told ourselves we didn’t want children but looking back I think we both knew the marriage would eventually end and that we shouldn’t bring a child into that. He made much more money than I did and I was terrified to leave my life style. I had to get a tiny apartment and he kept the giant house because I couldn’t afford the mortgage. I questioned every day whether I was doing the right thing. The day it was finalized in court I wept. Six months later I found out I was accidentally pregnant by a guy I was seeing. After a decade of being afraid to bring a child into the world I stared at that pregnancy test and felt absolute peace. We took a leap, stayed together, had a baby. My son is almost 3 and every day I look at him and this man I love and think divorce was the best thing I ever did.

  15. Kat says...

    My favourite realization after my divorce, was that ALL the bedroom cupboard space was mine… and mine alone!

    Hugs to those going through a rough time.

  16. Silvia Ro says...

    I got divorced once, when I was 32, with a five y.o. daughter and it was terrible. He was abusive and we ran away in the middle of the night.
    Now I’m 51. Remarried since I was 35. Another daughter (11). I think I should divorce again, but I think that if I did, my heart would break and I would die. I can’t go through that again.

    • G says...

      ❤ sending you love

    • S says...

      Get help. You’ can do it and you WILL be ok.

    • Anonymous says...

      You are so much stronger than you know. It will hurt. You will cry and feel like the your heart has split open and died. But then one day it’ll hurt just a tiny bit less. And then the next day you’ll cry, but just a little lighter. Until one day you wake up and realize you didn’t cry the day before. It’s a process but those small moments of pain are so much better than years filled with doubt and regret. Rip off the bandaid

  17. JP says...

    Divorce is the very last thing any of us want. No one wakes up and just decides to get a divorce.

    I had been going through a divorce for 15 months with no end in sight. Many things happened during this time period. One of the biggest changes, the one that saved my children and I was when my husband was legally removed from the house by a judge (which including both of us taking the stand) due to how he was speaking to me around our two children. He also had been abusing drugs and alcohol. He refused to admit this and was protected by the courts so instead it was my testimony of how he verbally abused me that rendered the judge’s decision. For the next 11 months I did my best to bring the children by each week and I would stay with them. There where many times he would cancel. This was not the man I married. He was overcome by his addictions. We had been together for almost 15 years at this point and prior to him being served we had tried everything. Then suddenly just a few short months ago he passed away. I cannot begin to tell you what it has been like…the grief…I could not even properly grieve during those 15 mo after he was served. When he passed, I had such a strong surge come over me to just forgive him- to set him free. Prior to the darkness setting in (the addiction) he was a wonderful, kind, loving man. Thankfully my children are far too young to remember the dark time but they will also never know- first hand the amazing man he was before all of that. Both of my parents are also deceased so I feel like an anomaly being in my 30’s- a widow (since we were still married) and I feel very alone at times. Although, I do find peace in knowing my children and I can go wherever we want or need. Ultimately though I wish we never knew the addiction. Perhaps you could do an article about the toll addictions take on couples & families. Another article idea or just general question would be if anyone else out there was going through a divorce and then your spouse suddenly died. Thankyou.

    • JL says...

      Wow JP you are amazing and your strength is something to be admired. What a mother your children have got! ❤️

    • Cheryl says...

      I just want to say I’m really sorry you are going through this and had to live through such tragedy. Hugs to you.

  18. MM says...

    :) COJ readers are so wonderful. I got divorced last year, at 31, and something a friend told me really stuck with me. When I described myself as “divorced” she said, “No… you’re single. You got a divorce, but it’s not what defines you.” That really helped me feel relief from the scarlet letter I felt I was walking around with. Dropping the shame/stigma around divorce has been something I continue to work on.
    During the first few months, and still today, I did what others have said – be gentle to yourself, listen to your body, lean on your support network, stop contact w/your ex (if you can, we didn’t have kids), and just know that time will help you heal in ways you’ve never imagined!
    Oh, and there is a LOT of love out there and wonderful people (if you’re up for dating again!) – I promise.
    Hugs to anyone who needs one – we’re not alone! xxoo

    • Zoe says...

      Oh MM you have no idea how much I needed that piece of advice (to say “I’m single” and not describe myself as divorced). As a 31 year old going through it all now, I’ve been struggling so much with that scarlet letter so thank you, thank you, thank you (and your friend) for putting it so wonderfully simply and reminding me this doesn’t define me. or anyone else going through it. We’re not alone indeed. X

    • Erin says...

      I went through a divorce at 25 – I’m 36 now and have married again for 3 years. During that time in between, I flatly refused to ever check the “divorced” box on any form for this reason. I always checked the single one. The feelings of shame and stigma are HARD, but that was one small way I worked on not letting my divorce define me. It was simply “something that happened to me. It took a long time for my heart to truly believe that but eventually, it did.

    • Meg says...

      Thank you so much for this. I’m not divorced, but widowed young – my husband died suddenly when I was 24, and often I feel that my widowhood is the only thing that defines me.

    • Steph says...

      Totally! I was recently filling out a form and selected divorced and then thought for a second, erased it and checked single! :)

  19. Kristine says...

    Last year, I finally found the courage to breakup with my boyfriend of 3 years. In an effort to make things as peaceful as possible, I flew to California the week he moved out of our condo to give him space. When I returned, I came home to find so many things gone – every single linen (including my pillow case!), the golf clubs he’d given me as a gift, but the best one of them all was the pork chops I had just splurged on two weeks before at the farmers market. For whatever reason, the fact he went so far as to look in the freezer and take those $20 pork chops was the final straw. I called my sister to vent to her, and now it’s become the family’s favorite joke. Whenever anyone is anywhere near a pork chop (grocery, restaurant) they take a picture, send it to me, and ask if need one. Makes me smile every time.

    • Lulu says...

      When my ex moved out he took all the toilet paper out of the house and all the light bulbs. So when I came home there was no light at all. It was pitch black and we lived in the woods…. I was already sure I was doing the right thing by divorcing him, but that just re-assured me.

    • VVercsi says...

      OMG thats hilarious :-) sorry! No further proof needed that breaking up was the BEST decision. A person’s real nature shows in critical situations.

  20. Leigh says...

    I went through a divorce in my early 30s and I agree that letting go of a version of the future I’d been so sure of at one point was the hardest thing, but I’m so much happier now and with the right person. On the other side of it, I realized that there is still a lot of stigma around divorce. Like you’re giving up. But actually, you are being brave. It takes a lot of courage to give up the status quo (even if you’re not happy) for the unknown, and separating means you’re brave enough to imagine that there is a better version of your life out there, even if you don’t know exactly where it is or who it’s with.

    • Alice says...

      Thanks. Really struck a cord… so well put!

    • N says...

      As a child of divorced parents, this resonates with me. You need to be brave to give up what’s known for what’s unknown. While it was painful and traumatic for me as a child (11 years old), it was for the best. 18 years later, they’re better people apart, and we (the kids) are better for it too. Everyone involved would’ve been much unhappier long-term, had my parents attempted to prolong the inevitable and force something to work that simply couldn’t, no matter how much they wanted it to.

  21. I haven’t experienced anything nearly this devastating in a relationship, but am grateful for this post and the comments for all who have; knowing they aren’t in it alone, even that it can be for the best in some instances. On the subject of divorce, I HIGHLY recommend the podcast I’m currently listening to: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/alone | Alone: A Love Story by Michelle Parise via the CBC. It could be triggering for those who are currently or recently in relationship crisis, fyi.

    For those of us in existing (desired) relationships, this post can be a great reminder to nurture what we have, as marriage and partnership require such real work and empathy.

    • Nicole says...

      I DEVOURED this podcast— when I stumbled upon it in a recommendation list just through the searches one day, it is so well done. Everything about it is divine. It’s intense and powerfully authentic.

  22. N says...

    Three years ago, I broke up with my boyfriend. It was the right decision, but sometimes I still miss him.

    We started dating right before I graduated college, and were together for 2.5 years. We lived together for two. We moved across the country together. We shared so much. In many ways, it was a beautiful relationship. He was a good man who loved me, but things just weren’t working. He wasn’t able to give me the support I needed, and stopped making me a priority. I grew unhappy and dissatisfied but kept putting the breakup off. I was scared to end things — of being sad, losing my best friend, missing him, never finding love again. But I eventually couldn’t stand it anymore and pulled the trigger.

    Three years post-breakup, and I don’t doubt it was the right decision. I’ve grown in those three years and feel more “myself” than I ever have before. I’ve focused on my family, my friends and my career. I found hobbies and passions — biking, cooking, my book club, fitness, rock climbing. I realize now we weren’t the right match, even though we loved each other.

    But sometimes it’s still hard. Sometimes I miss him — his jokes, his smile, his friendship, his faith in me, his passion for books. Breakups are complicated and messy. Just because you don’t belong together doesn’t mean it’s not a loss. It’s faded and no longer stings, but if you truly love someone, there will always be a gap. It doesn’t mean you should get back together, but losing a big love leaves a gap, and you learn to live with it.

    • Karen Kirsheman says...

      “losing a big love leaves a gap, and you learn to live with it” This is so true in my late 20’s I broke up with someone I had been with for 6 years. It almost killed me. This was my guy, my “soul mate”, my first love. Fast forward 19 years: I have a super awesome husband & son, live in the city like I had always wanted to, and snagged the dream job I had been striving for. Good stuff! I chose the right path, but there is still a teeny tiny gap.

    • Merci says...

      This spoke to me. Especially today, as I ran into my ex and his wife. The whole experience left me off balance. I’m happily married, kids, finished graduate school. It’s been 10yrs, but to have given your heart and life to someone, yes, ‘it leaves a teeny gap’. That clicked for me. Thank you ?

    • L says...

      This resonates with me. After breaking up with my boyfriend, who sounds very much like yours, I knew it was the right decision. But still…there had been so much in our time together. He lost a parent in the time we were figuring out friends versus more, I lost a friend when we were together and I truly believe that he saved me from the all consuming grief, I imagined him as father to our children, and then my life went in a different direction and we couldn’t see it together. I was crushed and truly heartbroken, which I hadn’t known I could be. Interestingly, we remain friends and when we meet up, I can still remember and feel why I loved him and he loved me, but I am happy for my current life and love and for his. I do still love him as a friend and for what we was to me, and I am thankful for that. He sometimes wishes his current girlfriend would change her mind and decide to have kids, which makes me saddest of all as he would be an amazing father.

  23. S says...

    Thank you for this. I’m separated 2.5 years…still working to finalize divorce.
    My therapist told me it’s a 5 year journey: year one feels impossible, year two you can manage through better but the floor falls out from under you all the time, year three floor still falling but less often, year four the beginning understanding of a new normal, year five fine tune your new normal.

  24. Eleni says...

    This is a great post. Divorce has such negative connotations, and for some good reasons, but there are so many times when it’s just necessary. My parents divorced when I was 16, after more than 25 years of marriage. It was really hard on me for a long time, being the youngest of four kids and the only one left at home while it was happening. It changed me in some significant ways, both good and bad. Now, I’m 25 and have been married for 9 months. My husband’s parents are also divorced, and it was something we talked about often in the course of our dating years. We didn’t rush to get married because we were both cautious, having each gone through familial breakdowns. Honestly, I think having divorced parents helped us build a really strong foundation for our marriage because we talked about what broke up our parents, how we could navigate hard times in our relationship, and what the most important factors are for each of us to be and (hopefully) stay happy in our marriage. Sometimes I still get scared about the future and how our lives and relationship are going to change over the years, but I like to think we are ahead of the curve due to the continuous open communication we’ve had about all of it.

    • Suzanne says...

      Thank you for this, Eleni. After 21 years of marriage, my husband and I separated last year. By far the hardest part has been thinking about my children (ages 18, 16, and 13) and the impact on them. Though they seem to be handling it fairly well, I worry all the time about their futures. I worry they won’t know what a great, strong marriage looks like and won’t know how to work at one. But then I look at my friends who have what I think are great, strong marriages, and more often than not, they are children of divorce. I think, like you, they wanted a different outcome than their parents and knew instinctively what to do. In any case, your comment gives me great hope. I’m so grateful for all the brave, wise women who have responded to this post. I read through all the comments last night and am back tonight for more. I’m finding it so comforting. xo

  25. Jenn says...

    this is great, especially the Home Alone reference, lol. thank you so much for this series <3 my ex and i got together, long-distance, when we were 19, i moved in (a 500-mile journey) six months later, and things were good for about two months after that. i'll leave it at this, in short: he rejected me sexually and kept me at arm's length while jumping into his retail job with both feet, leaving me on the outskirts of his friend group who hung out 50+ hours per week. ultimately we were together for a total of almost 8 years, married for the last 1.5 years of it, but we should never have gotten married in the first place. i still believe he proposed and went through with the wedding purely as a show for his friends and family. i began an affair with someone else five months after we got married (no regrets, even though that guy cheating on me was certainly a buzzkill), and i found out after our divorce that he had also been seeing someone else for almost the same amount of time. when i told him i'd found my own place and we should break up, he was relieved, and when i asked him whether he'd wanted to be married in the first place, he said 'i dunno, i just thought that's what i should do at my age.' i ended up meeting an incredible guy three short months after our breakup (and am still with him, three years later), and even though it was scary and a very small amount of time to be single (i was 27 and hadn't been single since i was 19! it was a very fun three months, lol), we both knew what we DIDN'T want and agreed that it was no time to pussyfoot around playing games. he asked me a week after meeting to be his girlfriend, i told him i was going through a divorce, and we still maintain an open communication and enjoy a really genuine, exciting relationship.

  26. Katie says...

    Thank you for posting about divorce and the ending of relationships – it’s a reality that doesn’t get enough coverage. My advice is a bit harsh – prepare yourself to lose some friends. I had so many people tell me “we love both of you,” and then never heard from them again. People will choose and it won’t always be you.

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you for saying this Katie. Divorce is extremely difficult and the grieving continues for years. Through out the last four years post divorce I’ve found myself really grieving other relationships that ended along with our separation. People definitely choose and it’s fruitless to spend time trying to understand. Those that do stick with you…cherish them.

    • S says...

      I had one couple try and continue to be friends with both of us. Wtf? I thought. My husband was abudive tho. I thought, if those two still want to be his friend, I don’t want them in my life anyways.

  27. AMB says...

    Also, I have to post one more comment because this feed is SO GOOD! Joanna, you did a post years ago about Bario-Neal rings and I fell in love with one but didn’t want to buy a ring for myself. Now, in the middle of my divorce, with my left ring finger feeling like a painful, naked reminder of my loss and failure, I remembered that ring and the way it made me feel when I saw it so many years ago, before all of this heartache. I dug through your old posts and found a photo of the ring. I contacted Bario-Neal (who doesn’t even make the ring anymore) and they agreed to custom make it! It came in the mail 3 weeks ago and now every time I look down at my hand or nervously reach over to spin my missing wedding band, I touch this beautiful reminder of who I was before and feel a little hope for how I’m going to get her back and grow into more of who I want to be.

    • beautiful <3

    • I love this. On a much smaller scale I did something similar when my relationship ended last year. We were engaged, so suddenly my hands looked naked without a ring. I ordered a ring from ABLE with my favorite word printed on it, and put it on my right hand. It’s still a daily reminder of who I am and want to be, and a little symbol of my independence.

    • alison says...

      I also bought a little ring to make up for the loss on my left hand — it was a tiny little guy from some random vendor at Renegade Craft fair – but it was a split open circle (one of those little knuckle rings but i have skinny fingers so it fit all the way down) and I really liked that it was a broken circle – it felt appropriate for the next chapter, open and available for whatever was next! I’ve since switched it over to my right ring-finger, but its still a great little reminder.

    • Jess says...

      AMB,

      This deserves to be in the comment hall of fame. Eventually this loss will no longer seem like a failure. Keep on keeping on!

    • Tara says...

      Wow. This is so wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

    • S says...

      I’ve been searching for the right upgrade/replacement ring as well. I want something that represents my continued lifelong commitment to my kids.

    • Joy says...

      I love this! Much love to you, AMB.

    • Rubia says...

      Hi all this is been so very cathartic to be able to read everyone’s notes. It is so painful that those not going through it do not understand what we are feeling. So I’ve bought a ring that is a big silver ball and it is on my wedding finger. Every time I look at it I remember I’ve got cojones! It reminds me I’m strong I’m powerful and I’ve got balls to stand on my own two feet and to have walked away from a 30 year marriage. Everyday I question myself if I did the right thing as the fight the divorce is brutal but then I look at my wedding finger and remember I can do this!

    • Dana says...

      My ex-husband had an affair and left me. I have a little bit of experience making jewelry so I resized my engagement ring to fit my middle finger. It’s not a traditional ring so it works pretty well, and I love how I can still wear it with a new meaning attached.

  28. Ali Smith says...

    Loved this article. As a child from a divorced family, I really resonated with the comments about logistics. The HOW is what stressed me out the most when my parents told me they were splitting up. WHERE would I live? WHEN would I see my dad. I knew they should get divorced, and part of me was secretly relieved. I just needed to know how it would affect my daily life.

  29. Ellie says...

    Who did the artwork? It’s so beautiful!

  30. Dana says...

    I once texted a friend who asked how I was doing that divorce makes me feel old in a way nothing else ever has. I rarely think of myself as an ex-wife. I rarely think of myself as a divorcée. I hate those words, and they make me feel at odds with myself. That whole chapter feels like a strange dream, like it happened to somebody else. There was a numbing during the trauma of discovering his infidelity and the period of therapy twice a week to try to triage and process and (after a long time) begin to heal, and I think it’s dulled a lot of my memories. It’s hard to remember what it was like to be in love with him. Most of my memories have lost the connection to the emotional centers—like I’m looking at somebody else’s photographs.

    It’s like capgras syndrome. It’s a disorder where you believe that your loved ones are imposters. There’s a disconnect between your perception and your typical hormonal responses in your brain—you see and recognize the person, but without any deeply chemical, emotional responses that you might usually have for them—and this is why they seem like imposters. Sometimes I even think that the man I was married to at the end was truly an imposter—not the one I fell blithely in love with, agreed to marry, began building a life with. I remember some of my pain and the physical effects of the trauma. I feel strongly about him and simultaneously nothing at all, in a sort of short-circuited sort of way—missing connections, fragmented memories. Part of that was my own process–I had to sever parts of myself, unwrite my own marriage vows into lies in order to let him go when it became obvious that he was only staying out of the comfort of routine.

    The story ends in joy, however, because love led the way. I chose to spend my life after divorce embracing community and connection. I became wildly curious about everybody else’s stories–I could only tell mine so many times and their energies and support propelled me forward. I said yes to outings, I rekindled and took up new hobbies. I ended up meeting a man who is loving, kind, selfless, patient, and emotionally mature. We bought a house in May and are building a beautiful life together, and we got engaged two weeks ago.

    • Nicole Shelled says...

      You write beautifully!

    • Hooray!!!!!!

    • Ryann says...

      This, THIS is what I needed to hear today,

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a beautiful comment, dana. you write to beautifully, and i’m so happy for you.

    • Anna says...

      Dana your writing is so beautiful, thank you so much. I can relate on so many levels and am holding on to when I can relate to the second half of your last paragraph. For now I will embrace the singleness that is bringing me the most beautiful community.

    • MM says...

      Thank you for this comment, I so relate <3

    • Natasha says...

      I felt like I started reading a novel here, wow. The way you articulated your experience is poetic and striking- would love to hear more! What a beautiful story!!!

  31. I recently passed the two-year mark of Independence after leaving my marriage of almost four years. It was so hard, because my ex was an abusive alcoholic, and I wanted to leave for two years before I did — but the thing is, I needed to do it on my terms. I planned out every detail of it. I saved and saved and saved money so I could get my own apartment, I got one of the best attorneys in town, and I got my family and friends to come and help me (along with professional movers) when the day came to leave. I had all my ducks in a row, and luckily we were able to agree to terms, and work out an amicable dissolution. (Dissolution is much cheaper and easier than divorce, and since we had no house or kids it was a no-brainer.)

    My new life is not always easy, but I am SO much happier on my own. I haven’t had any desire to date anyone (and actually, I get annoyed when people ask if I’m dating — though I imagine I might feel differently in, say, five years). I have relished spending more time with family and friends, and also enjoying my hobbies like cycling, gardening and baking. Plus, now I’m saving for a house of my own, which feels great.

    • Libbie says...

      Happy for you Emily! Wishing you the best! <3

  32. A says...

    Thank you for this post and the vulnerability in this discussion.

    I was 6 months pregnant when my husband of nine years told me he no longer wanted to be married. It was a devastating period of traumatic change. Somehow, three years out now, I feel better for it and am thankful for all of the growth I’ve experienced. I feel my best self.

    However, now I’m navigating co-parenting my now 2.5 year old and it is SO HARD. I would love a post about co-parenting, especially in cases where there’s a deep lack of trust between parents. While things are respectful at least on the surface for my daughter, my ex and I are not friends. Does it ever get easier?

    • laura says...

      A- I had a close experience- my husband left when my baby was months old. We have co parented for 23 years now- raising a successful child who is happy, educated and well loved by all they know. It is not easy, it gets harder to negotiate when there are additional spouses, it gets easier when you really let go of the hurt and anger. I am an happy person by nature and I did get my happiness back- I do think that consistent sleeping thru the night helps you cope better. I do know that your daughter appreciates the respect you show and I encourage you to continue to practice great respect…. You are laying a foundation for her of how to be in the world even when it is hard- and that is a great lesson mama! keep your heart open and both you and your girly will shine.
      love…..

    • j says...

      So sorry you’re having an awful time of it!

      My ex announced he was done with our marriage 2 weeks before my son was born. I found out later he was having an affair. It took another almost 4 years for us to finally divorce, due to significant denial and stubbornness on my part and laziness/dishonesty on his.

      But, we’re two years into the divorce and joint custody. No sugar coating, it is HARD. To parent with someone who betrayed and disrespected you is WORK. Joint custody is not for wimps. You chose joint custody to give your kid a chance at a relationship with both parents. Keep your end goal in mind (helping your kid become a happy, healthy, emotionally well adjusted adult) when your ex is being an ass.

      Also keep in mind the things you can control: your relationship with your child, how you parent your child, how you talk about your ex around your child, and how you communicate with your ex.

      And the things your can’t: You can’t control your ex. Even if you agree on ground rules, your ex will violate them at some point. Decide what is worth fighting about (hint, unless it is your child’s health and safety, it probably isn’t) and bite your tongue about the rest. Rage at your best friend. Go for a run. Cry. And then let it go. Take the high road whenever possible.

      As your kid gets older and more verbal, you’ll feel less panicked when you don’t have custody. Promise. Your kid is resilient. And so are you. Be kind and trust yourself.

      A giant hug!

    • C says...

      I was about to try and give advice but that’s absolutely not my place so here’s my perspective.
      My parents divorced when I was one. They were young and hurt by each other and so prideful. They tried to keep it friendly on the surface but there were obvious cracks. Cracks that I couldn’t have possibly understood at the age of 1 and really have only begun to understand now at 32. I was told again and again that I was fine, and I know their intention was to normalize and soothe but it contradicted all that I picked up (I’m an emotional sponge and I’m pretty sure always have been.) I was from a very young age a people pleaser so I did my best to be the best child ever, the most gifted, the least needy, etc. I also know now that I worked hard to manage my parents emotions. I was careful about what I would talk about with either one, trying to sidestep possible mines that would explode in passive aggressive commentary or terse calls behind closed doors. I tried to make sure I didn’t leave anything important at one house or the other on weekend trips and that I gave an acceptable summary so one parent’s business wouldn’t be accidentally unveiled to the other.
      I took on the narrative of “I’m great, this is all I know” from the time I was able to answer the question. And while I was for the most part just fine, and handling all of it well, that narrative gave little room for any contradictory emotions. Sometimes it’s just hard being transported between two houses, and managing clothing and blankets and favorite stuffed animals, and missing one parent or the other.
      I know my parents did the absolute best they could. I know that there was no lack of love for me. I know there is no book on parenting, that they were so dang young and that I ended up a fully functioning part of society. I would say, looking back now, I wish my parents had spent more time managing their hurt, loss and frustration with each other as I grew up. I know they were disappointed, I know my mom felt guilty for not providing me with a “normal” household. I think that guilt was so very damaging (mostly to her) and I wish she had found a way to give herself grace all those years. I do not blame them for getting a divorce, there was just as much potential for good, I got two families, etc. The part that was damaging was the cover up of emotional strain, the currents under the surface, the feeling like I had to perform so that my fun time at either house wasn’t too fun or that I wasn’t giving some secret information. As an adult who hopes to have a kid one day, I wonder what it would have been like if they were both able to give themselves what they needed to show up mentally healthy, or even just a little healthier. If they had found security in their choices and support systems. I wonder if then they would have been able to see my times of frustration or sadness as par for the course and acceptable instead of bad marks on their imagined parenting scorecards or a decision in favoritism.
      Each co-parenting/divorce/separation situation is so different. I know my parents worked their butts off to give me food/water/shelter/fun and love, I just wish they had also found ways to more fully emotionally support themselves.

      I am so glad that you feel like your best self, that is so, so wonderful and important. I don’t know how one comes to a civil place with a person that left uncivilly, I send you all the strength for navigating that journey.

    • A says...

      That was eerie reading your comment! My husband left me at 6 months pregnant too! And my son is 2.5 years old. Being a single mom is SO much simpler than co-parenting…I hate it- it’s triggering each time I have to send my son to a man that lived such a double life.

    • raq says...

      C- I wish I could hug you. I could have written your comment myself, except my parents broke up before I was born.

    • Samantha says...

      Thank u very much for sharing. I had a similar experience as J. My husband left me after a 3 year long affair and we are sharing the care of our 2.5 year old now. The hardest part for me is that the woman he betrayed me with for years and made me a single mom is now my daughters stepmom.

    • Cat says...

      C- thanks for your comment. As a parent navigating the beginning stages of a very difficult divorce, it’s helpful to hear that maybe we don’t always have to pretend everything is 100% fine 100% of the time for our kids. My kids are young, so I’ve been having a hard time balancing the desire to pretend everything is SUPER GREAT, but also be truthful when it’s obvious that they (especially my oldest) are picking up on the fact that everything isn’t great. Sending a hug and thanks. xo

    • Margarida says...

      C – Thank you for your post. It brought tears to my eyes, being a mom of a (now) 4 year old girl, who was only 9 months when her parents’ marriage ended. In particular the part “I know my mom felt guilty for not providing me with a “normal” household. I think that guilt was so very damaging (mostly to her) and I wish she had found a way to give herself grace all those years”, which resonated deeply. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Wishing I can give myself grace and that my daughter will one day look back and be as understanding as you.

  33. Savannah says...

    I needed to read this today. I’m 3 weeks into my brand new apartment, new life and 10 days away from what would have been my seventh wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for 11 years – since we were 18 years old – and in many ways grew up together. The hardest part has been coming to the realization that we both still love each other very deeply but know our relationship can’t work. Every day is a battle I don’t feel strong enough to win but when I come to the end of each day, I have a moment of reflection and say “You made it.” And right now that has to be enough.

    • Lillian says...

      I was there, almost exactly there, 12 months ago. It’s gonna be ok, I promise. In fact, I promise it’s gonna be better than ok xxx

    • Savannah, this is me right now too. We just sold our apartment and I am in the process of finding my first ever solo apartment. We’ve been together 12.5 years, since I was 18 and I love him more than anything. Separating isn’t my choice but I know that I can get through this. Everytime I want to cry, I let myself and then I put on the kettle and think to myself “this too shall pass”. We can do this.

  34. Claudia says...

    After a 10 years’ relationship I decided to separate from my boyfriend (we never married) and it was the right decision.
    Although I wasn’t in an abusive relationship I did live with someone that couldn’t make a decision, that enjoy alcohol a little too much, etc.
    But the thing is, when we met 10 years before, all the signs were already there, and you only choose not to see. Yes, it was a beautiful relationship, he was my best friend, we did lots of things together, enjoyed watching the same movies. Until it was not.
    After the separation I kept the house (because it was mine to start with) and suddenly it was only me and my cats and it felt so good. I lost weight, I started doing yoga, I think I was finally happy.

    • Jess says...

      Claudia,

      Thank you for your comment. I am going through the exact same thing but am three weeks away from the new apartment and life. Excited to be on the other side!

    • Claudia says...

      Claudia, I got chills reading this. Not only do we have the same first name, what you wrote sounded so much like my story. “10 years…the signs…until it was not.” The main difference being he kicked me out of the house out of the blue, just days after I fell down pretty badly on the street (ok, so it was slightly abusive. I had stitches and a broken thumb, also got a broken heart). I did get the cat back though. I learned so much about myself, that I’m stronger than I thought and that love is supposed to make you feel light, not heavy all the time. I kept myself busy fixing up my new house, got out of my comfort zone regularly and life starting becoming much less scarier. I’ve been in a relationship for almost 2 years with such a kind guy that makes me laugh hard every day and makes everything in life feel easy, even though he suffers from kidney failure. Funny how I dated a healthy guy and life felt so hard all the time and now I’m with someone that actually has reasons to be bitter but is the happiest and most positive person I’ve ever met and makes everything feel so easy. I even started writing essays about all of this, after much encouraging from friends. Thanks to all the ladies for sharing your stories and COJ for starting it all. Sending much love from Portugal

  35. Emily says...

    When I look back I see that most of the pain was that he was starting a family with his girlfriend. That’s how he told me. “I’ve been sleeping with someone and she’s pregnant.” He kept asking for me back for a few months. He built up to disclosing the big plan “Let’s just run away.” By the time they had their little girl he confessed to me he didn’t feel any connection to their baby. I felt somewhat vindicated by that fact and then I felt deeply sad for them. I’m 6 years removed from it all, with my own daughter now. I haven’t talked with him since that last disclosure. I think I’ve forgiven him, over time it’s just gotten easier to wish good things for him. I’m thinking this might mean forgiveness. I don’t like it, but he will always be a part of my story. The catalyst for so much change.

  36. Jennifer C. says...

    We were married at 18 (me) and 19 (him) years old. We were deeply in love and didn’t ever want to be apart. Even though I have no regrets about marrying so young, we had yet to fully realize our true selves. He didn’t know how a move across country would make him miss home so much that he would be miserable. I didn’t know how co-dependent I would be and that his misery would morph into my misery. We divorced a couple of years into it. He moved back home. I stayed across the country. A couple of more years passed and we both grew up and were able to experience the grass on the other side of the fence which is never as green as it seems. We still loved each other very much and decided to try again. We got re-married on our original anniversary date 5 years after the original date. We had lots of issues to work through but it was worth it. We’re still happy and in love 28 years later! I recommend divorce for all happy marriages (or at least ours)!

    • What an amazing story. Congratulations!

  37. Kat says...

    This post really made me think!
    I’m a child of parents who had a lot of (loud!) conflict as my sister and I grew up but now are growing together in a way I never anticipated and show such deep care for each other. I am personally very glad they didn’t divorce, as I love being with both of them in a room without effort now as an adult, but I wish that conflict and working to resolve relationship tension was a more easily spoken part of our social norms.
    I see the girls I babysit now working through their elementary school relationships and it is HARD WORK and very emotionally draining for them.
    Understanding respectful relationships and resolving conflict are skills that need to be taught, and a relationship that doesn’t work is definitely not a failure.
    Learning to trust someone else, learning to share parts of yourself and knowing how to respect someone and expect respect in return is not information you’re automatically born with, yet I don’t see it being taught openly or with vulnerability. And when a relationship breaks down, as everyone in life will experience, we need help to process it without judgement or blame and to learn what might help in the future.
    All relationships take work, and not all conflict is negative, but I feel there’s such a binary in how popular media presents future relationship options to children (i.e. single is sad and married is happy). I have yet to find the concept of healthy conflict discussed widely, except by Esther Perel.
    We’re all making life up as we go along and doing the best we can with what we have, with or without a significant other, but hopefully always with good siblings/friends (and even those relationships can be trying and take a lot of hard work)!

    • Siv says...

      I loved reading this comment! Xo

    • Andie says...

      Yes! This. Relationships — all kinds — take hard work and there should be more dialogue around that! Maybe together with the Cup of Jo team, you can help start that dialogue? :)

    • Kat says...

      Thank you Siv and Andie! I’m actually writing about it now as part of my PhD. I started my study thinking it would be about play and wellbeing and through the data I’m finding it’s actually about inclusion and exclusion and how power structures are continued in how we provide playgrounds in our urban design. My little brain is doing lots of learning! ?

    • Cat says...

      This is so, so true.

  38. Grace says...

    My parents got divorced when I was 10 and it was the best decision for them and for me and my sister. Although it was hard and sad for everyone, they modeled for me how to be a responsible adult and the importance of taking care of your own emotional and mental health. Sometimes adults forget that children see and hear everything, even when it appears they’re engaged with activities. Through their divorce, my parents taught me that it’s okay to stop loving someone but it’s not okay to fight all the time with someone, that’s when you have to make a change. I did see some really horrible fights throughout the process and although they were mildly scarring, my mother was very open to talking about those moments later and working through them with me.

    I have friends whose parents stayed in unhappy marriages for years “for the children.” Obviously what’s right for one isn’t right for all, but I wonder what deep lessons my friends have learned about what is “normal” in a relationship. If you watch your parents live lives of sadness and silence, what models do you have for your own life?

    • Suzanne says...

      Thank you, Grace!

  39. Stephanie says...

    There were months where my goal was simply to get through the next hour. I took care of myself the best way I knew how and that often involved taking lots of taxis because I didn’t have enough energy to deal with the public or public transportation. It also involved sitting on the couch and staring at the wall for hours. I couldn’t listen to music, I couldn’t watch anything other than reality tv. I was extremely late for everything. Most days I shed tears. Most days I felt scared. My coworkers gave me space and picked up my slack without question. My friends swooped in when I needed them most. When your life is turned upside down from divorce, figuring out what you want your new life to look like as a single thirty-something can be unsettling. I’m proud of myself for making it out on the other end. And I wouldn’t change a thing. The past 2 years of my life have opened up doors in my heart that can never be closed. I understand love and compassion in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible without going through my divorce. Someone gave me the advice to try to find the meaning in the pain because pleasure is coming. Well, what they say is true. I’m now in love with a wonderful person who is a much better fit for me in every way. – Stephanie, 34, married for 9 years

    • AMB says...

      ” I couldn’t listen to music, I couldn’t watch anything other than reality tv”…yes!!! In the midst of a divorce right now and all I can handle are silly light hearted sitcoms or the My Favorite Murder podcast. What does that say about me??? :) My therapist keeps saying two things: Be gentle with yourself and listen to what your body is saying it needs. So hard to do when you’re used to being a “strong, independent, go-getter of a woman.” Your story is giving me hope that as an almost newly divorced 30-something, there is something new and better coming. Thanks!

  40. Laura says...

    Divorces are weird, they are all so different. My divorce was very amicable and when we made the decision to split up we were both so elated, we actually celebrated. I felt such a tremendous sense of relief. Not to say there weren’t hard parts later, it was very hard, but my ex-husband is a good person. One of the hardest parts for both of us was just missing the other person…but then I would think of how completely miserable we both were in the relationship and remember the immense relief I felt when we agreed to split and I knew it was the right decision. Harder was the reactions of family and friends who couldn’t seem to accept that my ex and I were on good terms and happy with the decision we made and created drama and spread rumours and refused to be supportive. That hurt the most but helped me learn how to identify real friends and understand that you can love family members but not like or trust them again. Anyway, my ex and I kept in touch for a few years but have now grown apart but I still think of him (but not the relationship) with fondness. One thing I found that helped me get through it was I refused to bad-mouth him to anyone and only discussed my grievances with my closest friend…even though I did feel a lot of resentment and it was very tempting because I felt I needed to justify everything to everyone. I just figured, if I want to move on from this and make it easier then I needed to move on from it. Rehashing all the little hurts and resentments was pointless, it’s just over.

    • Chelsea says...

      This is very much how I feel! My husband and I are going about things very civilly, we’re not fighting over things, we both know it’s what’s best for us. There are some complicated reasons for why we’re splitting which makes it difficult to explain to friends, but we know what we’re doing. It’s still hard. He’s been my best friend for 5 years. Losing that closeness has been the most difficult thing for me.

    • Em says...

      Laura, do you mind me asking how you started the process of splitting? I have no idea whether my partner feels the same way I do, and it’s very daunting not knowing how to have a conversation about it – but at the same time I can’t keep carrying on like everything’s great. There’s no anger or betrayal, just a feeling it’s not right. I’m worried it’s just me.

  41. Sally says...

    My parents divorced when I was 12 years old and I do not feel in any way damaged by it. I have a great relationships with both my parents. There were some teenage tantrums but no more then the normal. kids will always find something to resent their parents for as teenagers. They do not talk to each other but are cordial at family events. My parent are now both happily married to other people. I was the last child to leave the house and I cant imagine leaving them in a miserable marriage. I get to watch them feel happy. I get to watch them be contented a grow older with a person they love. My parents are people who deserve to be happy, not just vessels who are supposed to cater to my happiness. Though to be clear I am very happy and in a great relationship and planning on getting married. I don’t fear commitment, I know first hand divorce is hard on everyone but you can find joy and love again at any age.

  42. Hannah says...

    Even though I’m in a happy, committed relationship and there’s no reason for doubts, I sometimes get anxious about the what-ifs. What if something happens? What if we become unhappy? What if we fall out of love? This post reminded me that, no matter what happens in my relationship or in general, no matter how tough and shitty it might get, I’ll be okay and I’ll make it through. Thank you!

    • Nicole says...

      Hannah, I share those same worries and doubts. I too found comfort that you can survive so much and that it will be okay.

    • annie says...

      one of my oldest friends once told me, “no matter what happens, you’ll always have yourself. ” i never cease to be comforted by that in times of doubt/worry. <3

  43. Flic says...

    I’m lucky enough to be in a happy marriage, but that last comment made my throat tighten with emotion. “If you’re doing it, you need to be[…]Everyone in my family became who they needed to be from this situation. We all became the heroes of our own journey.” THAT is strength, perseverance and growth. What a positive mindset for any life derailment. Grief. Getting fired. Ending a toxic relationship (with anyone). Just wow.

  44. Sadie says...

    Oh Stella and Joanna. Thank you. It is so enormously helpful to me to sit here reading the inner thoughts of so many other women going through divorce. I never in my wildest dreams thought my partner and I would be divorcing. We tried for 8 years to have a family and went through 4 rounds of IVF to conceive our two beautiful children. It’s been such a grieving for me to give up and release the idea that we will not be this family I dreamed of. Somehow though, I feel sadder for our kids than I am for myself as I fell out of love with my husband a few years ago, but I had denied it to myself thinking I could go on in a loveless (and sexless in the end) marriage because I had everything else I ever wanted. We really tried so hard to make it work, had a trial separation, couples therapy, individual therapy. I felt such a failure. But as painful as it is, I relasied that being true to myself is really the only way.

    I have no idea what the future holds, but I don’t have to know.
    Something that helped a lot was opening up to people. Just a few close people and telling them what was going on in my private life was a relief and helped get rid of the sense of shame I was feeling.

    • Ann says...

      I identify with so many of you and have found this article and replies immensely uplifting in my struggle to figure out whether to leave my marriage of 30 years. Sadie’s experience of “I fell out of love with my husband a few years ago, but I had denied it to myself thinking I could go on in a loveless (and sexless in the end) marriage because I had everything else I ever wanted” is exactly what I am experiencing . We have have been in couples and individual therapy for almost 5 years and he really wants to keep trying. Unfortunately, I experienced a love with someone else along the way and can’t seem to get over it – both the love experienced and the guilt. I have tried to leave a few times but always come back home. I feel incredibly stuck but maybe I just need to figure out how to be true to myself.

  45. Kim says...

    I know most people have probably seen this beautiful, wise quote from Tiny Beautiful Things, but just in case, here it is. Someone sent this to me when I ended my 7 year marriage at 31 (with three kids in the mix) and nothing has ever resonated with, or helped me, more. Love to everyone going through a tough time. It gets easier.
    “Go, even though you love him.
    Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you.
    Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his.
    Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him.
    Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.
    Go, even though your friends will be disappointed or surprised or pissed off or all three.
    Go, even though you once said you would stay.
    Go, even though you’re afraid of being alone.
    Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does.
    Go, even though there is nowhere to go.
    Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay.
    Go, because you want to.
    Because wanting to leave is enough.”

    • Su says...

      Wow. I love this. Thank you.

    • Rachel S says...

      I’m sorry but this is just horrible advice. It’s one thing to end a relationship because there is a clear irreconcilable issue or because he is abusive or has betrayed you. It’s another to leave just because you want to without knowing why or what you will even do. EVERY worthwhile relationship has its ups and downs. Every relationship takes effort, communication and hard work from time to time. True love takes selflessness and leaving just because you feel like it is so so selfish. In a situation like what is described above, SO MUCH devastation could result from leaving… both to the person left behind and the person leaving who discovers that they really aren’t any happier after than they were before. Please, if this is you, get some professional help before you make the decision to leave. If you don’t, you may regret it for years to come.

    • I believe these words are from Cheryl Strayed (author of “Wild” and “Tiny, Beautiful Things”). Just wanted to give her credit for her amazing words.

    • Dawn Karrington says...

      Love this! Thank you for posting. Trusting yourself is enough.

  46. Eve says...

    I can’t leave my partner because our daughter loves him too much. I can’t bear the thought of seeing her heartbroken, I love her too much.

    He’s her hero. He’s her daddy. He’s her everything.
    He’s a serial cheat. He’s a control freak. He’s insecure.

    I’m tangled up in this thing called Life. It gives me nightmares.

    • S says...

      Eve, I am sending you love and strength to do what is ultimately best for you and your situation!

    • Marlen Bernardez says...

      Get help. You deserve better!!!

    • Eloise says...

      Eve,
      My heart hurts for you. Just a thought: Your daughter can (and will) still love her hero. I promise. Be as kind to yourself as you can, every day, no matter what is going on. Hang in there.

    • lily says...

      Eve, I’m sending so much love and strength to you.

    • laura says...

      This thing your tangled up in called Life is your only one. I urge you to leave, Eve. Everything will work itself out! I promise you that!

    • Che says...

      Fwiw, this was my mom’s situation almost exactly– and finally, when I was an adult, my dad left her anyway and married one of the women with whom he cheated. I’ve grieved watching her grieve the time she sacrificed. As an adult I realize how much of my dad’s messed up behavior I internalized or intuited, and how much it still shaped how I live my life– so even though my mom worked to protect me, the truth came through in pieces. My mom also turned to me as a friend/peer during the divorce, which was probably a result of our close relationship, which was built in part on her protecting me from my dad’s “other” life and control freak behavior. However, it’s really hard to have to navigate your folks’ divorce and setting healthy boundaries in your new relationships with each parent without also having to be a shoulder for your mom to cry on. Things leveled out and I have loving relationships with both parents, but it took probably 6 years. I know this is all anecdotal and not what you asked for, but I can’t pass up an opportunity to share what we learned through this process because there’s no blueprint for how to handle it!

      Lots of love.

  47. CS says...

    Sometimes divorce is for the best (my parents’ case), no doubt. Sometimes, though, midlife angst creates a nebulous need for change (in females too, not just men) and marriages that deserve to be saved and could be saved are destroyed. I think one has to take a good look at where they are in life, what issues from one’s past may be surfacing, and how one can or is needing to grow. Maybe get counseling – and not necessarily with your partner – sometimes we just need to work through our own stuff. I am pretty sure there are people out there who have looked back and realized that they made a mistake leaving a good person and a good situation. Be sure, before you call it quits, that you’ve explored your reasons and your choice.

    • AnnaP says...

      People would say this to me when my break-up was new. It was not helpful advice. I did all of the work, all of the counseling, all of the worrying, all of the doubting of the little voice inside of me that was steadfast. If someone is brave enough to face all of the sacrifice that comes with divorce and share their experiences with me, my plan is to just be a supportive listener and expect that they have already weighed the consequences.

    • Suzieq says...

      Well-meaning people who urged me to “work it’s out” or “give it time” because “he’s such a nice guy” were unknowingly advising me to stay in a toxic situation. Don’t assume that you know your friend’s reasons for divorce; do assume that her reasons are sufficient, valid, and well thought out.

    • CS says...

      Like I said, there are times when divorce is the best choice. I’m the last to judge. All I am suggesting is that it is wise to keep an open mind and take a good look at one’s reasons so that one doesn’t live with the regret of ending a good marriage (If it is good and not toxic). Read “The Breaking Point” or other books on female midlife. Sometimes ending a marriage is the healthiest thing to do, but occasionally it is not. Just keep an open mind and understand yourself. I thought this perspective ought to be mentioned as well because it might be helpful to someone.

  48. Steph says...

    My parents were in a rather loveless marriage most of my childhood until they finally split at age 18. I still remember hanging out with my high school boyfriend and his parents. His parents were holding hands and all I could think was, “THAT IS SO WEIRD”. I had zero experience of my parents being affectionate with each other. It took me a few more years and seeing more married people being affectionate to realize my parents were the off ones. Staying in a bad marriage is bad for EVERYONE.

    • r says...

      THIS!! my SO has a lot of weird notions about affection and trust because of his parents marriage. even though I grew up with parents who weren’t together, I was able to see other happy relationships around me and aspire to that.

  49. Cristina says...

    This post hit home so hard that the first thing I did after reading was text the link to my mom, who is in the midst of a very tumultuous and overwhelming, but very necessary divorce after 41 (!) years of marriage. As her adult child (who went through her own divorce last year), I have been awestruck not only by the similarities in the array of emotions we have both faced but also by the way in which our roles have swapped for one another. I am now on the other side, dealing out the same advice and encouragement she kindly equipped me with when I was suffering. No matter who you are or where you are in your marriage, divorce. is. devastating. Nobody wins. As hard as it is to hear and as impossible as it may seem, life does go on. Silver linings are all around our peripheral as soon as we can find our footing to turn our heads.

  50. Anna says...

    I have been patiently waiting for this blog post – my 10 year marriage ended rather suddenly the week before Christmas just passed. I thought he was my everything, until I learnt how to live life without him. The day after it ended I decided to give myself 2018 the year for me, the year I brought myself joy and acknowledged that he was a hand-break to my hopes and dreams. So I felt my grief, I allowed friends into my pain and to hear my laughter again, I went to counseling, and I saved for my dreams.

    Now I am sitting and writing this comment from my friends guest room in Victoria BC, slowly visiting dear friends across Canada and the USA, as I move to my dream in NYC – a dream that started as a child, grew as an adult and definitely has been fed by this blog over the last 7+ years of me visiting this site.

    Letting go of the handbrake in my life was the best decision ever, it came with pain and loss. But now a little girl that grew up in the countryside of New Zealand is about to start her new independent life as a fresh 30 year old on the streets of NYC.

    PS Yes I still hurt at times, yes I miss companionship, but those days are getting less and I know a new world is waiting for me.

    • Emily says...

      Anna, I just want to say you’re so brave. I’ve been going through similar transitions and it’s hard, but also wonderful to be reacquainted with old dreams for my life. Also, I live in New York City (going on 10 years) and I’m also 30 – if you have any questions or simply need a local contact (NYC can be so overwhelming at times!), I’m happy to answer! Best wishes for your new start :)

    • Anna says...

      Emily you are so so kind, I would love to take you up on your offer as a local contact, I am not sure how to do that – maybe the cup of Jo team can pass on my email address to you? Unsure how it works. But if it does, lets have a coffee in NYC later this year.

  51. Tammy says...

    We recently told our daughters, who are 5 and 7, that my best friend and her husband are getting a divorce. We’re very close to the whole family, so I was worried about how they would take it. My 7 year old asked a few questions while my little one sat there pensively. Finally she turned to me with a look of astonishment on her face and said, “They’re getting a horse!?!” I laughed until I cried. It helped put the whole thing, which is thankfully free of drama, in perspective.

    • Kara O says...

      hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Leigh says...

      That is adorable!

  52. nicole says...

    i wish i have the courage to do this. i’ve been saving up for the divorce proceedings but every time i look at my kids, i feel bad for putting them through the wringer. im a teacher and i see first-hand the negative impact a divorce does to a child. my marriage is not abusive in any way. i just feel we are incompatible and i am much much happier when he is not around. im perfectly content to be by myself and/or with the kids. i do not like it when he touches me or tries to initiate sex. he just makes me annoyed and uncomfortable with his mannerisms and attitude. i just wish he would disappear from my life. a friend once told me there’s never a perfect time to divorce or have children. the moment in time will occur. im still waiting for my moment in time when the last nail hits the coffin shut.

    • Vero says...

      I hope you find your strength to do what is best for you Nicole. I hope you set yourself free, your partner free, your children free, and of course, it must come at a time when you have the strength, will and support to see it through.

      On the flip side, I have seen firsthand what happens when two people two should get divorced don’t do it and stay together to avoid harming the children. First of all, it my family’s case, it did happen eventually. It happened when I was 21, sister was 18 and brother was 13. I don’t think it made it easier. I had molded my ideas about love and relationships based on what I saw in my parents’ relationship, and that was very difficult when being in relationships of my own. I saw that love wasn’t playful, adventurous, romantic or spontaneous. Their relationship wasn’t about anything other than their children by that time, and it showed me that by the time you are in your 40s/50s, your role of mom or dad is more important than your role of spouse or lover. I saw a lot of fights. A lot of yelling. A lot of silent treatment. Two people who were opponents instead of teammates. I had both parents slander the other, trying to get their children involved, trying to get them to take sides. And it hurts to have a parent share any of this with you.

      I did a lot of counselling to unlearn these things. To learn about strong communication, asking for what I want, maintaining my identity as a woman and as a partner, if I ever become a parent. I learned a lot about not holding grudges, not expecting the other person to read my mind. About how shared values and communication really are everything. That without trust, my relationship can’t be healthy. About accountability. But before I learned these things, I recreated this dynamic of my parents relationship and it brought so much heartache and anxiety and feelings of betrayal.

      I grieve for the years my mother spent in that unhappy relationship, trying to put our wellbeing above her own. It took her seven years after the relationship ended to pick herself back up. She has very little of her own identity. She is 60 now and has lost 15 good years, first being unhappy within the relationship and after, drowning in grief. She carries a bitterness towards my dad who, very soon after the divorce, moved in with another woman and has found great love. I grieve for the years he spent putting effort into a relationship my mother didn’t want. It is much healthier for me to see him as a man of 60, in love, enjoying his life, being accountable to his partner, following a path he wants to be on.

  53. Julia says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I got married to my husband because I got pregnant. I knew he was a good guy when I got pregnant (and honestly was at a point in my life where I knew I needed a change, so I thought, hey, let’s do this). We got engaged a month after I had my son, got married 10 months later, have been married for almost a year, and I’m already wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Having my son is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I love him so fiercely, but I don’t think my husband and I are compatible, and it’s making me question everything.

  54. Adriana says...

    I got divorced after 7 years of marriage and 14 years together. It was very hard since we grew up together and had (honestly, still have) a lot of love for each other. We had inadvertently become best friends and we stopped being in love with each other but didn’t want to accept this had happened. After the divorce the melancholy of being transported to good memories and special moments was so hard, so deep, so bittersweet. I love this scene of the movie Eat, pray and love because it gave me a mantra… whenever I missed him or thought of him I just sent him love and light.
    We are not in touch since the divorce (I am in a new relationship and a baby girl and I am happy and I know he is in a relationship and happy too) but In the few occasions in which we have talked or seen each other it is still heart wrenching as the moments are so filled with gratitude, caring and love.

  55. Jessica says...

    For all the lovely people asking the best thing to say to a friend getting a divorce: I got divorced quite young, when most of my friends were just getting married. In the early days of my divorce, I was in a friend’s wedding, perhaps the last thing you really want to be doing at such a time. And the day of the wedding my friend’s dad, the father of the bride, very casually came up beside me, put his arm around my shoulders and gave them a squeeze, and said, “we’re here for you, kiddo,” and just as quickly and quietly walked away. That was the best thing anyone said to me, and the only thing I really needed to hear.

    • Samantha says...

      This made me tear up.
      The day after my ex and I decided “this is it” I was on a plane to attend a close friend’s wedding. I didn’t/couldn’t tell her why my partner couldn’t make it, but I did tell another friend attending “We broke up. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”
      So that night we danced, and the next day she came over bright and early with coffee and bagels and we cried. It was so powerful to be able to share the secret and then shelf the pain for a day to celebrate someone else’s love.

    • Stephanie says...

      Yes yes yes. It means so much not to ignore it and to let your friend know they are not alone.

    • Nataša says...

      What an amazing gesture.

    • D says...

      This is so sweet. I had something similar happen. I went through a big break up from a long term relationship prior to being in a friends wedding. We continued to live together and didn’t tell anyone because it seemed inappropriate during all the wedding prep. In the end I needed to tell my dear friend and just let everyone know a few days before the wedding. I remember the parents of both the bride and groom being so sweet to me when I showed up at the rehearsal. It made me feel like everything was going to be alright. In a classic twist of fate I ended up meeting the man who is now my husband at that wedding.

  56. Carly says...

    What I learned from my divorce:

    Get soft. Get teachable. It should be a warning sign when hard things make you hard. Grow and expand instead.

    Don’t publicly blame or talk poorly about your ex. It doesn’t make you look or feel better, even if you have legitimately been wronged.

    It will get better even if it doesn’t feel like it now. It will get better.

    • Kel says...

      ❤️

  57. Heather says...

    I’m 32 and going through a separation. My husband left our daughter and I when she was just seven weeks old. It came as a complete shock and I was completely devastated. I knew our marriage wasn’t perfect but I thought that we loved each other enough that we would fix our problems. I am originally from Canada but moved to Europe to live with my husband. I gave up my job and everything I had so we could be together and now I’m left with nothing. It’s terrifying having to start my life over but I am determined to do everything I can to build the best life I can for myself and my daughter. Divorce and separation suck but it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one going through this.

    • Allison says...

      Heather – sending good vibes to you and here’s hoping your journey has some extra sunshine soon.

    • Isabelle says...

      Heather, I’m a Canadian living in Switzerland and I went through a divorce many years ago with 2 young children. It’s been though, I won’t lie to you, but afterwards, life will be beautiful again, I promess! Women are strong, you have this strength within yourself.
      My hearth is with you, sending love and confort

    • Alexia says...

      I believe in you!! ❤️❤️

    • Elizabeth says...

      I’m in a similar situation, Heather. My husband left when I was 8 months pregnant. I’m actually also Canadian and moved to the other side of the world for him, giving up a lot In order to stay together. It’s been half a year and I am still so heartbroken it sometimes makes me sick to my stomach. But like you, I am also more determined than ever to give me and my daughter the best life that I can. I know we can do it.

    • B. says...

      Wish you all the best!

    • Ciara. says...

      You’re amazing x

    • Mariana says...

      So sorry to hear that…Hang in there Heather!

    • Elise says...

      Good on you! You sound like you’re going to do brilliantly x

    • Heather says...

      Thank you everyone for your kind comments! They mean more to me then you will ever know and I wish I could give you all a big hug. ❤️

  58. NOTHING is worse than living alone for 50 years despite the fact that you are married. You don’t leave because of the children, because of finances, and on and on it goes. Then you’re too old, sick, ruined to leave. You can no longer take care of yourself in any way because your misery has eaten you alive. The children are long gone, so is the paycheck that you didn’t think would be enough to support you & them. Living with an unkind, thoughtless, liar, cheater, creep is a life sentence not work living. Tell yourself that every day when you question your decision to stay or to leave.

    • jules says...

      Thank you Diana. I am guessing you speak from experience. This is important for any of us with abusive or low-integrity people who are afraid to leave. thank you.

  59. Sarah says...

    I needed to read this today! Thank you for this thoughtful blog. XO

  60. Katherine says...

    My then-fiancé and I were living together, and I knew I needed to get out. An old college friend of mine heard what was going on, asked me for coffee, and without any prompting gave me a key to her apartment, telling me to come or stay over anytime. I ended up using it when I finally broke off the engagement and suddenly had nowhere to live. She knew I never would’ve asked her myself, questioning whether we were still “close enough” or if I’d be a nuisance. I still tear up just thinking about it.

    • Sarah says...

      What a wonderful gesture!!

    • What a sweet and thoughtful friend!

  61. Sandra says...

    I was in a 10-year relationship with my then-fiance that ended right before I turned 30. It was so hard…so many nights wide awake at 3 a.m. wondering if the breakup was the right thing, if we should have worked harder, etc.

    In hindsight 20 years later it was the best thing for both of us. The person I wanted at 19 when we first met wasn’t the same person I wanted at 30. I think if you’ve just fallen into bad habits in your relationship or bring a lot of past baggage involving personal relationships to the table that can be fixed with counseling. But in our case there was a pretty big degree of I just really wanted him to be someone different than who he ultimately was (and vice versa). We had also broken up twice before the final breakup. Sit-coms be damned, I really think if you are on/off again a lot there is a reason and maybe it’s just better to let go. Ross and Rachel shouldn’t always end up together.

    He got married to someone else within a year of when we broke up. I spent a lot of time single, figuring myself out with therapy and branching out and trying new things. I ultimately met someone and got married at 39 and now have a child.

    Now over a decade into this marriage I appreciate that there are highs and lows, especially with young kids. But I love my husband and am committed to working on our marriage together.

  62. Amber says...

    At 33, I left an emotionally, verbally, financially, and borderline physically abusive marriage (and it all kind of sneaks up on you) with two small children and it was the best thing I did for me and my sons. Leaving saved our lives and the Universe has immensely rewarded us! Because my ex is a narcissist, things got worse after I left him. Tips for divorcing an evil, narcissist husband: sever all connections, most importantly financially; document everything; get a good attorney; fight for your children with your life and with every penny you’ve got; invest in counselors for your children and co-parenting counselors – all of whom are skilled in high-conflict divorces and can manage/see through narcissist behavior; ignore the rumors he spreads about you; be safe; know you are strong and are breaking the cycle of violence for your sons; and never, ever give up. Freedom is priceless.

    • Dalia says...

      So proud of you for getting out and doing whats best for you and your boys!!! Stay strong and don’t let him suck you into his drama!

    • K.M. says...

      Amber,
      I came here to leave my own comment after digesting this post and many of the earlier comments, and your comment was at the top and since my first sentence was going to practically mirror yours, I thought to respond. Only my first sentence would have read: “I am 39 and in the process of mustering up every ounce of bravery and might to leave an emotionally, verbally, financially, and borderline abusive marriage.” Your words give me so much hope for what is on the other side. Thank you for being one of the many brave and amazing women in this space. XO

    • K.M. – you got this. Sending all my bravest and strongest thoughts to you!

    • H says...

      Kudos to you. I just broke off my engagement with my partner of 6 years. He is a textbook case of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). You’re right, all those things sneak up on you and it’s easy to explain them away but I finally listened to my gut after pushing the feeling aside for so long. It’s so difficult to explain to someone who has not experience it. Hang in there xoxo

    • Amber says...

      Congratulations on leaving, H!

      K.M.,

      I, too, am sending my bravest and strongest thoughts to you! You deserve happiness! There is so much peace, joy, laughter, adventure, and freedom on the other side. Really, life is so much easier without a toxic partner. Here are a few quotes that have gotten me through the past six years since I left:

      “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” ― Janis Joplin

      “The Universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf.” – Shakti Gawain

      “It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” – W. Somerset Maugham

      “Once you’ve tasted freedom, it stays in your heart and no one can take it. Then, you can be more powerful than a whole country.” – Ai Weiwei

      All so true! Meditation is also helpful for healing.

      With love,

      Amber

    • Marlen Bernardez says...

      Yep, yes, absolutely, yes. They should teach a course about this in college. It’d save so many lives.

    • K.M. says...

      Thank you Emma and Amber for cheering for me from the side. And Amber for the quotes…I love them all and am adding them to my ever expanding list of quotes I keep on my phone (they really do help get you through).

  63. Cynthia says...

    Be supportive if you have a friend going through a divorce. My department head went through a divorce last year and I was there to support her and offer helpful advice. She was getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship and was seeing a therapist, and came out of it as a strong person. I just listened because she needed someone to listen to her.
    I’ve never been divorced, but my husband and I have had our share of ups and downs.

  64. Kate says...

    I divorced twenty years ago this month. At one point I had a panic attack and truly couldn’t see how I would get from one day to the next, but then I woke up the next morning and saw that the world continued on and maybe I could too.

    It was hard and sad and humbling, but I have never once felt regret. I left with nothing, but now I truly appreciate everything. The greatest moments of my life have come since then. I am grateful I went through it and so happy with the life I have now. It took time to feel that way, but good things sometimes need a little time.

  65. Kristen says...

    For a long time I ran from the loneliness and pain in my first marriage by focusing on the parts of the image that sold the story of “doing well”. This worked…. until it didn’t. In the divorce I left nearly everything (my car, my DOG!). I was a wreck- cried at random times. Everyone definitely knew very quickly that I was NOT doing well. And the most liberating and key part of the process, was to EMBRACE that I was a mess. Talk about true freedom!

    My main piece of advice, JOURNAL. JOURNAL SO MUCH. See your own strength come through for yourself, and then revisit that strength whenever you need it.

  66. Emily says...

    My father moved out a week after I graduated from high school. He had bene unfaithful to my mother with the same woman for over a decade. They had intermittently separated, only once that I was aware of, but remained married b/c in the 1980s in rural Pennsylvania, divorce was uncommon and my mother felt afraid to leave.

    I have to say, I had a happy childhood. I was occasionally aware of my parents’ unhappiness with one another, but I benefited from having an intact family.

    For those recovering from divorces, raising kids through divorces, and for adults who were children of divorce, I highly recommend the book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. It’s a must-read.

  67. Lana says...

    I am 32 and have recently separated from my husband of 7 years. We were going to try to get pregnant this year. We were preparing to buy a house. Initially he said he wanted to be alone but then later admitted that he had feelings for someone else. It has been three months and now he and his new person are expecting a baby.
    It is so painful to imagine him being a father to someone else’s child but I am grateful that that is how things are unfolding. This finally made me go to therapy and made me look at our relationship in a different light. I see now how for years we just competed with each other and held resentment. We loved each other and maybe still do but the relationship was full of suffering.
    I have noticed that at first when I started dating other people I wanted to make sure that they are a very obvious *upgrade* from my ex. Silly things such as 6-packs and nice cars. When my therapist and I talked about that she said something that was very hard to hear: “The war is over. You lost.” I felt destroyed after hearing that. Then I felt liberated. I feel much lighter now that I don’t have that resentment in me. I will still have thoughts towards my ex that are not kind but I believe in my ability to let go of them eventually. My goal is to be able to wish my ex with all my heart a true deep happiness then I can truly be free.

    • Megan says...

      “The war is over. You lost.” That made me cry just now because it sums up how I feel. It’s been almost a year since my husband left me for another woman. He just walked out on me and our two small children. I do feel like I lost him to another woman because that’s exactly what happened. But it doesn’t mean that this other woman is better than me, though I struggle sometimes to accept that. My husband is walking his own path and it has nothing to do with me. Ultimately I won because I have my two wonderful children and the house and I won the financial support from him to keep my life going. But still… it’s devastating to think of him with someone else. It gets easier each day as I realize how much happier I am now that I’m living the truth. I think one day the heartbreak might actually go away.

    • Sadie says...

      “My goal is to be able to wish my ex with all my heart a true deep happiness then I can truly be free.”

      That, my friend, is so enlightened and such a pure goal to have. Forgiveness and then some, for no other reason than to know you have truly let go. You are amazing

    • Sara says...

      So much respect and admiration for you, Lana. It is not easy to examine ourselves and sit with such difficult realizations. But like you said, in the end truth leads to freedom, and freedom makes way for deep love. Peace to you.

    • H says...

      Megan – As the one who left my husband for another man, I can tell you it is not that the other person is better than you in any way. There is nothing you are lacking. People are like puzzle pieces. Sometimes it is just fit.

    • My ex-husband and I divorced when I was 27. We had only been married for two years (dated for 9 years) but I found out he was having an affair during the course of our short marriage. It’s likely he was cheating before we said “I Do.”

      I was young and had no clue what to expect in a husband let alone a good husband. Anyway, when I found out my ex-husband was cheating with his female, best friend from HS I sent her an email saying:

      “Congratulations! Now you get to do the work. You get to wash his laundry, cook his meals, edit his resume when he’s searching for a new job, put up with his moody personality, listen to the same boring ole stories a million times. I hope you’ve enjoyed being the mistress because now he’s all yours. Bonus: now you get to be the one wondering if he’s stepping out on you.”

      Shortly after my ex-husband and I divorced, they broke up. Looking back I probably shouldn’t have emailed his mistress but I still chuckle at my younger self being so bold and wise.

      I know it’s easy to think that the other woman has won and you lost but did she really win? Who wants a man (or woman) who could — so easily — go against keeping their word?

      You’ll get to a place of wishing the best for your ex but is understandable and even okay that you’re not completely there yet.

      Sending you light and love!

    • Kristy says...

      I agree with letting go of the concept of *upgrading* but man “you lost” is harsh! And something I’m not entirely sure I agree with?

  68. Rachel says...

    My then husband and I were living in Massachusetts when we separated, and I was moving back home to Georgia. My sister flew up to help me make the long drive home with my dog. We stopped in NYC for dinner, because she had always wanted to go but never been. She took over driving after dinner, and as I sat in the passenger seat I just sobbed, for the first and last time, over the situation, over feeling helpless and so unsure of my future. After that release, I was done having any feelings over the situation. It was inevitable, and unavoidable, and I knew everything would turn out okay.

    Several years later, that dog died, and that was far more devastating than losing my husband, as terrible as that sounds. My dog was literally the one constant in my adult life, the one thing that had stuck with me for nearly a decade. Relationships and friendships had ended, I made decisions that disappointed my family and strained our relationship, I had moved 2,000 miles away and back, but I always had Barney. That was a far more devastating loss, and the first time I truly felt alone.

    • g says...

      Oh, Rachel! My heart truly goes out to you. I had two cats with my ex; one passed away just as we were separating and he ended up keeping the other. I cry more over those cats than our marriage.
      Sending you good energy.

    • Kate says...

      I’m glad you had your sister and your dog to help you through.

  69. AMB says...

    At 32, I just signed and sent off my divorce papers last week after 4 years of an up and down marriage that started with a separation one month into the marriage. My husband was hiding some big things that came to light right after marriage. I left and we took a year to grow and heal before coming back together. We really tried for the last few years, but it felt like we came back together as people who no longer fit together. It feels so hard and confusing to reconcile loving someone and not wanting a divorce with also knowing deep down that the only way forward is through the pain. The loneliness and the business, the relief and the mourning, the freedom and the fear of it all in juxtaposition to one another…it’s a lot. How do I embrace this season of slowing down and thoughtful self care and also acknowledge something I don’t think I’m supposed to feel yet which is: is there a good love out there for me?

    • Sadie says...

      I think, AMB, just acknowledge it quietly to yourself. It’s natural to ask that. I separated from my partner in January this year after 16 years together and we have two young children. There’s no way on Earth I would be in another relationship anytime soon… I’m thinking years, actually. However I am having strong dreams about kissing, very passionately with another man almost every night. I miss making out so much! My partner and I hadn’t kissed or been physical for over 4 years. Ugh! Desire and the need for love don’t just disappear.

    • SuzieQ says...

      Sadie, from one divorced mama to another, you don’t need a relationship to be kissed passionately. ;) A “friend with benefits” can be a single mom’s saving grace. No expectations, none of the work of relationship building, no meeting the kids. Just a little fling with a nice man you see once a week or so. You deserve to be a woman as well as a mom — and I guarantee there is a nice guy (or gal!) out there who would be delighted to help remind you of that.

  70. Lauren says...

    3 years ago I got divorced after a 13 year marriage. Since then I have met a wonderful man who loves me the way I always deserved to be loved, had a beautiful son, and gotten two promotions at work. When I had the courage to do what was right for me, my entire life opened to possibilities. It turned out, for me, that putting myself first and acknowledging my needs changed everything in the best ways possible.

  71. Chelsea says...

    I’m in the beginning stages of a separation right now. It’s mutual. There was no horrible event that drove us apart. And it’s still so hard. We have to keep living in the same space for a while. He’s moved into the guest room which is easier. Kind of like roommates who used to sleep together. The urge to cuddle and need to be held is very strong. I’m coping the best I can. We don’t have any kids but losing a life together is a strange concept. It’s what best for both of us.
    Chelsea, marriage of three years

    • Melissa says...

      I split up with my husband almost two weeks ago, but the first week he was still living with me and I have to agree with you on how difficult it is to fight the urge to cuddle.

      I wish you the best of luck for the future x

  72. Becca says...

    As strange as this may sound, my divorce was the best thing to happen to me. Leaving my husband was extremely hard because he was the only romantic relationship I knew and my only family. But it forced me to re-examine my life, how I relate to others, my upbringing and concept of love, and what I need and want in life. My divorce made me realize that a lot of my ideas about how things should be were flawed and actually holding me back from happiness. I learned how to express my emotions, how to cope with loss, and how to navigate uncertainty. I learned how to be vulnerable and rely on my friends, and my friendships grew stronger than ever before. I’m a better friend now because I can be vulnerable and open and I’m more comfortable talking through difficult emotions. My divorce shattered my life, but a much better one grew from the ruins.

    • Sonia says...

      Becca, when I read your comment it was as if I could have written it myself. Every, single, word rang true for me as well. You put into words exactly how I feel about my divorce. I am thankful everyday that things happened the way they did because I have grown so much. Your last sentence was beautifully written and summed up exactly what I believe about my divorce as well. Good luck in all you do! I wish you all the happiness you can take!

  73. Jenny says...

    My soon-to-be-ex-husband might always be the love of my life. He’s a deeply creative, kind man who was a human home to me. But he didn’t support my decision to go to medical school and refused to seek help for his own medical issue even after it affected us both everyday. I love him. I loved us. I’m proud of him. But I’m so proud of the me that, approximately one year ago today, packed up her Volvo station wagon full of clean laundry and my dog and hit the road for medical school in California. Thinking about bravely facing those changes now almost knocks me off my feet but resolute past-Jenny just did it. I’m still heartbroken but I’ve had so many adventures. That love made me a better person and so is this path.

    • Kim says...

      I never comment but you go Jenny.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Jenny, you are amazing.

    • Mariam says...

      From a med student with a similar story – I 100% relate. YOU GO JENNY!

    • Jenny says...

      Jenny, that was so moving and so fabulous. Medicine is SO hard but so worth it, I promise. When it gets hard, remember that you chose this life to have fulfillment in helping other people. It works or me. I feel for you but I’m also so excited or what is to come for you!

    • Meg says...

      Jenny, your comment broke my heart, but then made it soar. The trust in yourself and the love that you have shown for yourself are so admirable and inspiring. <3

    • Alex says...

      You’re going to be an incredible doctor. In a few years (?months?), everything you will love about your life would not have been possible if that relationship had continued. And I feel very strongly that he won’t always be the love of your life. All the best.

  74. M says...

    As I sit here on the couch with my 3 week old baby girl and 5.5 year old who is about to start kindergarten, it seems impossible that almost 5 years ago I was devastated and alone with a baby trying to navigate divorce and protection from an abusive ex-husband. Second chances are a beautiful thing, and my daughter (now my daughters!) get to see their mom treated properly, loved fully and respected. And they will get to see my strength as a woman and love for my husband too instead of my terror and lack of independence that became “normal” with my ex.

    We separated for 5 months before I filed and that was just so I could look at my daughter and said I tried if she ever questioned me in the future. Side note: she hasn’t because he is not in her life.

    Divorce is sad. Or it can be. But it is not failure. It can be a fresh start and for me, it was a life defibrillator.

    • M says...

      I am going through a divorce right now. You are right; it is SO sad, but I am coming to terms with the fact that I am not a failure. I am hoping that I too will have a second chance.

  75. jade says...

    I needed this. In the first stages of a divorce. Thank you.

    • M says...

      Me too, Jade. This is so hard, but this makes it feel less isolating. xo

  76. Jean says...

    Just love this.

    And off-topic: CoJ, would it be possible to include a search bar in the Comments section? I’ve found myself searching for comments other commenters refer to, wanting to search for a particular mention, etc. While I am usually down to scroll through the hundreds of comments, a way to search would be amazing. :)

    • Katie says...

      I love this idea too!

    • Eloise says...

      Yes, please!!

    • Jeannie says...

      Try out this keyboard command:
      Command + F (mac user) = BAM, search bar pops up

      Clt + F (PC user) = BAM, search bar

      Hope this is helpful!

    • Hello. I use the handy shortcut CTRL + F (or Command + F on a Mac) to find mentions or words that I am looking for. It brings up a search bar at the top of my browser. Would that work for you?

    • Marygrace says...

      Unless I’m misunderstanding what you’re proposing, your browser’s search function should already be able to do that. Just type ctrl + f (as in, hold down the ctrl key and then tap the f key) and a search bar will pop up in the upper right-hand corner. Type whatever you’re looking for and it will find any instances on the current page.

  77. Casey says...

    Tears streaming as I read this and think about my future. Only putting this here for the first time, though the thoughts are often in my head.

    • Ashley says...

      Sending you hugs tonight, Casey.

    • Melissa says...

      Hugs, Casey

  78. Fern says...

    There is so much bravery in these stories and comments. My parents’ marriage was a nightmare. (Is? They just separated for the 4th time; who knows if they’ll ever really go through with it. I’m 32, and 1000 miles away. *shrug emoji*) My dad was the primary abuser, but over time, they both morphed into perfect psychological weapons for each other. I cannot overstate how damaging this was for me and my sister. I’ve had years of therapy, a couple attempts on my own life, and a series of deeply painful relationships where I had to unlearn all my trauma. I’m in a great marriage now, with stable brain chemistry and strong, healthy habits, but it’s Work every day not to sink underwater. I am fundamentally uncomfortable with tranquility. Everything I knew about love growing up was that it’s supposed to hurt. All of which is to say: please don’t stay together “for the kids.” When I spend time with my parents individually now, I see how kind and sane they are apart from each other, and I grieve for what could have been.

    • wb says...

      Love this comment and am right there with you, Fern. Unlearning trauma, and working to stay above the water, indeed.

    • J.B. says...

      My parents were similar, although they divorced when I was 6 months old – they continued to be psychological weapons even when apart.

      Damaged people can often attract other damaged people I think, at least in their case, so well done for breaking the cycle. It’s so damn hard but oh so worth it.

  79. K says...

    Here’s what I’ve learned from being divorced, a status I never ever thought would be an identifier for ME!

    1- being alone= better than being in an unhealthy marriage

    2- In accepting my divorce, I’ve had to shed some past judgments I’ve unconsciously held toward people who were divorced. Coming from married parents and married grandparents, I had assumed hidden fault in adults who were divorced, without even realizing I harbored those negative feeling. I now look back and admire the strength of the divorced moms I knew, knowing they likely had *many* more challenges as single women during that era (80s). I respect that they prioritized themselves and their children, despite the mountainous obstacles.

    3- The hardest part is the months and years leading to the decision to leave, and maybe the few weeks to months following, until you find your peace and experience the relief and strength that comes from relying solely, or mostly, on yourself. You don’t realize what you’ve endured until you have some distance from it.

    • Rebecca says...

      I completely agree with all three points. Looking back I can’t believe what I endured in the 3-4 years leading up to my divorce. The first six months after deciding to divorce were overwhelming, both emotionally and logistically, but I can say with absolute certainty that my life is way better now than it was in the back half of my marriage. And, going along with your second point, I’ve learned to let go of others’ perceptions of me, which has been utterly liberating. My divorce may seem like a story of failure on the outside, but I never knew my inner strength until I had to summon all of it to survive and then thrive–to me it’s the greatest accomplishment of my life.

    • Julie says...

      Yes. Yes to all of this.

  80. Erica says...

    Thank you for this post! I was 24 when I got married, and was divorced by the time I was 26. I’ve had some jobs longer than my first marriage, but I have no regrets.

    We were 19 when we met, and just grew into different people. I kept thinking getting married and sharing a home was this grown up step that you were supposed to take, like graduating college and getting your first job, without thinking about whether it was something that truly felt right in my heart.

    Fortunately, I learned to listen to my heart and knew I wouldn’t be happy for eternity with that person.

    As crazy as it sounds, (I’ve always been a very logical person, almost to a fault I’m sure), it was the end of 2011, and everyone was talking about 2012 and the end of the world. I just knew in my heart that if the world really did end in 2012 for some crazy reason, I’d regret not getting out of that marriage.

    At first I felt ashamed and embarrassed, like I let my family down. And it helped to reach out to another friend in her mid 20s who had just gone through this (it happens more often than I realized!)

    I think if falling in love can “just feel right,” then knowing you’ve fallen out of love can certainly just feel right sometimes, too.

    • man, i relate to this so much. it’s very isolating to be a divorcee in your twenties. i’m glad you rediscovered and deepened a friendship to support you.

      i agree – when you know, you know. i spent too long ignoring that knot in my stomach before we were married, but sometimes relationships can feel like a moving train you can’t step off. somedays i still feel like a quitter, but most days i remind myself that it takes courage to start over.

    • This describes what I’m feeling right now perfectly. I met my husband when I was 20, got married a few years later, and now I’m 28 and we’re getting divorced. I have always rushed through life, making commitments before I was ready, because I thought that hitting these milestones before anyone else made me impressive and would quiet my own insecurities. I don’t regret any of it—the marriage, the house, the master’s degree that I didn’t need—but I don’t need any of these achievements anymore in order to feel whole. My husband asked if we were only together because I was afraid to be alone; and it took a bit for me to admit the truth to myself, but once I realized I could stand on my own and feel better than I ever had, there was no turning back.
      Love to you and to all of these other amazing women figuring things out on their own. It’s hard but the most worthwhile thing we can do, especially with so much of our lives left to live.

  81. Sabine says...

    Looking for advice from people who have been there…

    My friend is having a very tough time in her marriage. I don’t want to get into details, but it’s bad. They’re awful together, they’re both miserable, and it’s been this way for years. The worst part is that she isn’t herself. She’s such a wonderful, caring, and loving person, but she’s mean to him (by her own admission). There are three children involved, so she’s scared to leave and ‘damage’ them. They have been to marriage counseling and it doesn’t seem to make a lasting difference.

    My question is, how do I handle this as her friend and confidant? I try to just support her and tell her she needs to do what makes her happy, whether that’s stay with him or leave. I do feel a bit like a fool for riding the extreme lows and then being expected to be happy for them during the highs and feel like it’s all normal.

    What should I do? How can I help?

    • Jeanne says...

      I rode this ride with 3 of my close friends including my best friend who, for 15 years, was married to an emotionally abusive man (diagnosed Narcissistic personality disorder, anger management and bipolar) so I understand what you mean. I think a lot of it depends on how close you both are. She is like a sister to me so I was willing to listen to all of it including the “damaging the children” part. (And that became more of a euphemism for being afraid to go through the divorce) But it’s in my personality to be more “frank” in my discussions. I knew she was scared so I’d prop her up in the self-confidence/standing up for herself area when needed. And I would reaffirm the seriously negative behaviors… “This is not a typical marriage problem you know” , “the children are being damaged by normalizing this dysfunction and risk repeating the same mistakes” or “I know it’s hard to see but you have this amazing, peaceful, happy existence that is beyond this relationship”. The resulting divorce was absolutely horrendous but in the end, it made our friendship stronger. And she is happily remarried!!!

      I think you want to ask yourself how emotionally vested you want to be, for your own protection. With another of my close friends, I opted to keep more distance just for my own well-being. Best of luck to you!

    • alyce says...

      Based on my experience, I had to accept that it wasn’t my role to help, or to proactively advise. I tried to listen non-judgmentally, and reiterate that she she talk with a therapist if she felt she needed that type of support. It was bad for my relationship when I gave advice that she didn’t want to act on, because it angered and frustrated me. So I had to be accepting of the fact that, even if she wanted to complain to me about her relationship, she wasn’t asking me to fix it. And I also had to give myself permission to change the subject, when I couldn’t bear to hear more about her challenges with a relationship she didn’t want to/wouldn’t/couldn’t change.

    • lindsay says...

      I was coming here to leave a comment as a child of divorce, so I’ll chime in here. My parents got divorced when I was 4, both married different people, then divorced those people when I was 21ish (mom) and 27 (dad). During the second divorces, both parents said that they held onto damaged marriages for so long because of us kids, they didn’t want to damage us. And I was much, much more damaged by watching my parents in marriages that did not work than by their divorces. Happy single parents, I think, are much better parents than miserable married ones. So I would suggest reassuring your friend that divorce could actually be better for her kids, if it’s better for her.

    • Christine Schwalm Design says...

      She’s got to figure it out on her own, there’s really no other way. But once, when I was in a not great relationship, venting to my friends for the millionth time about something annoying he’d done, my friend Camille said to me, “Chris, what would you say if this were one of us?” And immediately I replied, “Oh, you’ve gotta break up with him”. And the immediacy of my response sort of shocked me into doing it.
      So next time she complains about, maybe ask what advice she’d give you. And assure her that whatever her choice, you care most about her happiness.

    • Jmcb says...

      If I were you, I would go to therapy. Learn about establishing boundaries. Talk about how you can’t change people but you can change yourself.
      I would discuss what needs of yours are being met thru this relationship. Would your friend have the same concerns over your marriage? Is it about her or you wanting to help people?

      It is ok to ask your friend to limit negativity of her relationship spouse. And to recommend a therapist for her.

    • Jmcb says...

      I replied but it didn’t go through. But establish boundaries with your friend. Ask to hear only positive things about her husband. Stop trying to save or fix her. Her marriage is clearly doing something for her otherwise she wouldn’t stay. You are providing emotional labor.

      A therapist can do that. Friendships aren’t supposed to make you resentful. Nonviolent communication will be key.

    • Caroline says...

      Hey Sabine, it is important that you care and that you show it and tell her exactly with those words. In that Situation – I am passing through the same as your friend – one of the Things that make me more miserable is that nobody seems to understand or see what is going on like you do and described. Yes, People dont want to get involved and that is fair. that silence makes me feel even more alone and Question if my point of view of the whole Story is Right (if there was such a Thing as Right in such a Situation). Coming from a friend, it is very welcome that we know that someone is grasping what is going on, under the appearances.

      To listen, listen and listen. And hug and support her in her steps forward – be it finding a new place, be it she realizing that is fun to be alone, be it she understanding that that Situation is more harmful to the Kids than if she were happy, relieved, mind-peaceful….

      Sorry for my english, i am not a native english speaker but we share for sure that same heart language. :)

  82. Gina says...

    Society tells us that you date, then get married, then have kids. So after dating a man for a couple of years we got married. It was the next step. Had he not been abusive, we’d probably still be together and have a couple of kids. But because of the abuse, I left. Having already broken society’s rules, it freed me to really think about what I wanted out of life. I remarried, but kids just aren’t for me.

    • I would love to see a follow up on this article but also with a couple of men in the mix too! I understand that the demographic is mostly women here, and I love women supporting women but I think it’s important to understand the feelings of heartbreak from the male perspective as well. Just helps to get a well rounded understanding of emotions ☺️?.

  83. Marney says...

    Thank you for helping to make divorce less of a dirty secret! I was divorced twice by the age of 29. I had great intentions for my marriages, and absolutely legitimate reasons for getting divorced. I’ve never shied away from talking about it – I refuse to be embarrassed. My now husband of 11 years could care less, and I’ve always talked to my now nine year old about it.

    • Jenny says...

      Marney! I love this approach. Thank you for sharing it, I will try to adopt it!

  84. Gina says...

    My parents, after 33 years of marriage, split up the two months before Thanksgiving, my sister’s birthday, Christmas, my dad’s birthday, and my wedding. I thought, really, after 33 years you couldn’t get through two more months? But, when it’s time it’s time.

  85. Andrea says...

    I had a baby in my teens and his father walked away, we were obviously very young and stupid but it was devastating. I met a man a couple of years later and although I wasn’t in love I just wanted a husband and a father for my baby. Biggest mistake ever. It was a very ugly marriage, once the I do’s were said I learned just how awful and emotionally abusive he was and twice he hit me. Even at not quite 22 years old I knew this was wrong and this was not the man I wanted my son to call dad! I walked away with nothing and just felt pure relief! Fast forward to my son being nine I married his father and here we are over 25 years later going strong! My advice ladies, always listen to your gut! As I stood their getting married the first time I remember thinking this is wrong Andrea, it’s okay walk away. And I didn’t! And every one thought I was crazy for marrying my son’s dad but I knew in my gut, I was doing the right thing. It always made my second husband nervous because right off the bat I said I’m with you because I want to be not because I have to! And going through such a horrible first marriage gave me the courage to know that I CAN hold out for what I want and never ever settle again!

  86. J says...

    I so admire the women who have commented here. I’ve been married for 15 years with two children. I recently found out my husband has been having affairs for the past year and half. I suspected it and even asked him about it, but of course he lied. So when I found out I can’t say I was surprised but I was horrified to know the details and the numbers. It has been an awful few months trying to decide what to do. We have started therapy, which has been helpful, but I am so full of anger and occasionally rage, that it’s hard to make a rational decision about the future. I wish I felt as confident as some of your readers but I don’t. I’m worried about my kids, finances (we live in the Bay Area), continuing to keep the life we are all accustomed to, and shamefully I’m not ready to give up this image or idea I have of the family I want. I hope I find some clarity and peace soon. My heart goes out to those feeling lonely or lost during this difficult process. And bravo to everyone on the other side. I hope to see you there soon!

    • Gina says...

      I can’t think of the right words, but I’m rooting for you and your future, no matter what you decide.

    • KM says...

      I just wanted to say that I’m sending you strength and my very best “hug” vibes. “…shamefully, I’m not ready to give up this image or idea I have the family I want.” Please – banish all feelings of shame, as best as you can. Shame (on your part) has no place here. There is only room for empathy and understanding toward yourself… Treat yourself with the patience and tender kindness that you deserve. The same way you’d treat your closest friend! It’s okay to be confused and all over the place and yes, attached to the “idea” of the family you want for yourself. It’s an idea that you’ve probably nurtured for such a long time – not the sort of thing that disappears from one day to the next. And it’s okay not to feel strong! We tend to only notice our own strength once we’ve come out on the other side of the storm. No matter what you decide, as long as it’s in line with what you feel in your gut, you’ll be okay. Don’t concern yourself with what others will think of your decision – as with most difficult decisions, if you look deep inside yourself, with honesty/courage/empathy, you’ll know what to do. Sending you a big hug!

      PS: I’d highly recommend listening to therapist Esther Perel’s TED talk on infidelity, as well as her podcast (each episode is a recording of a marriage counseling session she gives two anonymous clients).

    • Meghan says...

      Esther Perel talks about how in the past, divorce was shameful, but now, choosing to make it work can be viewed as lacking confidence or independence or something. There are no easy answers. I divorced because I didn’t have kids; no idea what I would have done had we had them. My un-asked-for opinion is to do what you really want, deep in your heart, if you can sort through that. Deep down, I really wanted to leave. I felt the marriage was dead. But it sounds like you might want to stay, and if so, that’s a powerful choice too!

    • Nikki says...

      sending you internet hugs. my heart goes out to YOU

    • K says...

      I was in your shoes about 2 years ago. My husband and I did intense couples counseling (and still go weekly) and learned more about ourselves and each other than we ever could have hoped to without that difficult time. While we stayed together and recommitted, it was the hardest decision I ever made and may not be the right one for you. Trust the counseling process and know that you aren’t alone in this. Oh, and don’t google anything about Affairs late at night, the stories you read inevitably make you feel worse :) Sending all my best wishes your way!

    • Eloise says...

      Take the time you need to decide, and realize (please) that deciding what to do/dealing with this is not a linear process. It’s ok to decide stay, one day at a time, until you have the strength to decide what to do. And, know that even when you do decide, there will be days/weeks where you doubt your decision. Hang in there and be as kind to yourself as you can.

    • Claire says...

      I went through something similar a year ago, and had many of the same feelings and reactions at first. I just wanted that clarity to come, and to know what to do. A friend advised that I just keep moving forward with what felt right, which at the time was working on the relationship. But if that stopped feeling right, to course correct, and know that it was always ok to change my mind. She was right. I felt that I gave it my all, but about 8 months in, something shifted, and I needed him to move out. Then 4 months later, I knew I needed to get a divorce. And you know what? It feels Ok. I’m glad I gave myself the space to get there when I was ready. Hugs to you. It’s going to be Ok. You’ll figure out what’s right for you and your family. Just give it time.

    • KM says...

      I just wanted to say that I’m sending you strength and my very best “hug” vibes. “…shamefully, I’m not ready to give up this image or idea I have of the family I want.” Please – banish all feelings of shame, as best as you can. Shame (on your part) has no place here. There is only room for empathy and understanding toward yourself… Treat yourself with the patience and tender kindness that you deserve. The same way you’d treat your closest friend! It’s okay to be confused and all over the place and yes, attached to the “idea” of the family you want for yourself. It’s an idea that you’ve probably nurtured for such a long time – not the sort of thing that disappears from one day to the next. And it’s okay not to feel strong! We tend to only notice our own strength once we’ve come out on the other side of the storm. No matter what you decide, as long as it’s in line with what you feel in your gut, you’ll be okay. Don’t concern yourself with what others will think of your decision – as with most difficult decisions, if you look deep inside yourself, with honesty/courage/empathy, you’ll know what to do. Sending you a big hug!

      PS: I’d highly recommend listening to therapist Esther Perel’s TED talk on infidelity, as well as her podcast (each episode is a recording of a marriage counseling session she gives two anonymous clients).

    • Celeste says...

      J! What a devastating thing to have confirmed. What a strong thing to share your story. Sending you the love and peace and clarity you need right now.

    • gm says...

      Don’t be ashamed of fighting for the family you dreamed of. But, also, don’t be ashamed of something beautiful, albeit imperfect, coming to an end. You’re doing your best in such a painful situation. xo

    • Stephanie says...

      ❤️❤️❤️

    • Ariana says...

      I felt so sad for you reading this. Especially because you used the word “shamefully”. I’ve been cheated on before, and with that experience came so much unwarranted shame and a huge hit to my self-esteem. I’m still unpacking it! And it wasn’t even a marriage! I hope you get therapy independent of your relationship and learn to unload your shame, too. I’m not sure of the details in your situation, but as Gina said I’m rooting for you!!!!

    • Em says...

      J, thanks for your comment. I could have written your comment about my own situation – the 15 years, the two kids, the concerns about infidelity, and the hopes his denials were true. I always thought that if I was with an unfaithful partner, it would be easy to walk away. But, now I find myself with full knowledge of an affair my husband has carried on for almost two years and I don’t know what to do… and, for all the reasons you mention (except for the Bay Area – I’m in the sweltering Midwest!). Just wanted you to know you’re not alone. And, I too am in awe of the women who have the courage and the self-respect to make the often difficult decision to leave. Wishing you the clarity and peace you seek and hoping for the same for myself.

    • Jill c. says...

      I just had to say that I was there…where you are now. It took me years to figure it out…to envision a different future than what I had always thought we would have together. I cried so much, I tried so much, I attempted to see if I could change myself to make it work… it was a very slow process. I grieved my marriage for years while still being married….but I still held on. For me, it just got to the point that I knew I couldn’t go on in the way that we were – I felt anxious all of the time and was having so many physical symptoms (stomach issues, sleep issues etc) and I realized that this was my body telling me it wasn’t right. It was so difficult- I was so afraid and I wasn’t sure how I could handle it financially with two young children…but I did. My point is that it takes time – sometimes a very long time – until you decide what is best for you. Whether you stay together or not, you’ll know…just give it some time.

    • Callie says...

      It is an excruciating, gut wrenching decision to STAY with someone when they’ve given their mind and body to someone else, I will say that. I feel like it is the bravest thing I have ever done, hands down.

      I’m praying for you right now, sweet girl.

    • Jackie says...

      Thank you so much for sharing your comment resonated with me because I’ve been married 30 years found out husband has been cheating for decades and numerous try to did not want to leave because he’s a lawyer and we had a nice and financial stability and all those things that I thought my future should be. But when I found out he was continuing to cheat after he swore to me he had not been doing it for 9 months but again I found he was with numerous women… I realized I could never trust him. Could I really live the rest of my life wondering where he was all the time? When he told me he was at his office working what I believe it? Think about this if you want to spend the rest of your life always wondering? If he lied to you for the past year-and-a-half believe me he’s going to continue to lie to you honey. I do not mean to be harsh or upset you but in reading so many other comments from others you have to start to realize that people say they’re better on their own. The Best Is Yet To Come! I know it’s hard. I’ve only been out of my house 2 months and have not filed yet but will do so shortly. It’s not easy at all and I still question every day if I’m doing the right thing. But when I realized I will spend the next 30 Years with him wondering everyday if he’s actually at a doctor’s appointment or in the office or in church or is he in the bed of a lover.

    • L says...

      As hard as it is to see yourself on the other side, you will get there. I was married for 21 years when my husband left me for another woman. It wasn’t the first time he had cheated on me, but I thought we still had a chance. When I was going through the divorce, two different lawyers and the pastor at my church insisted that he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. At first I really didn’t know what that was, but I eventually did some research and felt stupid and relieved at the same time. That explained a lot about the man he is. He decided to hand me 100% physical custody of our 3 kids, but my lawyer insisted that he have visitation and see them 10% of the time. He has never come close to that. I am thankful to be out of an emotionally abusive relationship, but my heart breaks for my children who feel very unwanted by their father. I was a stay-at-home-mom when he left, but worked hard to keep us in our house and go back to school to get my career back up and running. It is hard being a single mom and definitely not what I ever saw myself becoming, but I found strength in myself I never knew I had and I have three teenagers who know that I love them more than anything. Please know you will get through this. I am so sorry you and your kids are suffering.

    • E says...

      J, I was in the same situation and I am so sorry you are going through this. For me, not having having trusted my own instincts was as devastating as having trusted my husband.
      But I agree with the other replies that indicate that you’ll know when you know. It can take time to see things clearly, to process, to plan. Follow your gut — it knew then and it will know what to do when the time is right.
      Going through a divorce is awful, being divorced is not.

  87. Laura says...

    I have been waiting for this post. Thank you.

    Last week marked 4 months since my husband of 7 years announced he was moving a couple miles away to his own apartment, and it has been such a weird co-mingling of grief/joy/freedom. My 3-year-old son and I have stayed in the house, but I have felt the mad rush to make it mine in every possible way- throwing out junk and selling the furniture.

    One thing I really struggle with is that I had a beautiful marriage— we grew up and thrust ourselves into adulthood together, and he was my best friend, artistic collaborator, business co-owner, and the person I literally gave my weight to when I gave birth. Life threw some impossible circumstances at us, and I think it felt way easier to start over for my husband than find our way through. So many people vilify their marriages after divorce, but I wish I could celebrate it. It’s so incredibly sad to celebrate it alone— my husband has started a whole new life.

    Anyway: what a ride this has been. Thank you to everyone who has shared their experiences so beautifully (those instructions, Robin, are perfection). I never imagined this would be my life, and I am humbled and excited for what the future might hold. Ladies, I hope you know that you are not alone.

    My boss once told me to “put my big girl pants on,” which was her favorite saying. I think of that as I get up the courage to phone the lawyer and the accountant, and ask for what I need. Sending love to you all.

  88. kash says...

    My parents split up when I was in university, and while I think that for younger kids it makes sense to put up a brave face, if I could have changed one thing about how my parents handled it I would have asked them to be more upfront about how they were feeling. Not to trash one another–that would have been awful–but to be open enough to admit “I’m really frustrated with the situation” or something. It was really hard to navigate as a brand new adult (I was 18)–I could TELL that everyone was feeling tense and weird, but the party line was “we are ALL FINE.”

    Unrelated but relevant: these amazing pictures of Nicole Kidman walking out of her lawyer’s office the day her divorce to Tom Cruise went through: https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/730ekr/nicole_kidman_after_signing_the_divorce_papers/

    • Kirsten says...

      I do agree with this. My parents got divorced very suddenly when I was 18–and we NEVER really talked about it. They sat us down and said my dad was moving out and that was really it. It was so traumatizing. Though I’m in what I’m sure is a solid and great marriage now I live in fear that our partnership will break down someday, partially because I still don’t really know what it was that brought my parent’s relationship to its knees.

    • Haylee says...

      This.

    • J.B. says...

      Yes! This for sure.

      Good friends have just separated after 18 months of marriage, and over a decade of dating – they were the rockstar couple and it was totally out of the blue. As a child of a divorce where it was never really explained this really rocked me.

  89. Kendall says...

    “What I actually wanted (though didn’t realize) was to live with my boyfriend. But I had been raised evangelical Southern Baptist, and was too young to know that I could just do what I want, consequences be damned. So we got married basically just so that we could live together. Insane, I know.”

    This does not sound insane to me AT ALL, and I think a lot of people who were raised in an evangelical environment would identify with your story. I basically did the same thing. I married a guy I started dating at 19 when I was 24 mostly because my mom was pressuring me about sinning. It has actually worked out ok for me in the sense that I love my husband and kids and am happily married, but it is very clear to me now that I was not ready to get married so young. It’s a confusing place to be…happily together with your husband but also wishing you hadn’t gotten married in the first place. It’s very difficult to become who you are when you’re linked to someone else.

  90. Rosie says...

    Finally. I’ve been waiting for years for this post – not every life is curated and boy does it feel lonely when you’re trying to navigate abusive husbands on your own. I moved to a new city with my husband and left him 6months later after years of abuse. I know no one- I have a 1 and 5 year old. women my age have little ones and families, plus no one wants to hang out with the divorcée-they want in tact couples to spend their Saturday nights with. My life has gotten so much better without the abuse and I’m so happy. But now I live in the Midwest after leaving Brooklyn and everyone has known each other since college 20 years ago. I’m not alone in my situation and I’ve been reading your blog for 10 years- I just wish there were more posts about real life.

    • Laura says...

      Dear Rosie, congratulations on leaving your abuser, you are so wonderful and brave! And doing the best thing for yourself (and definitely for your kids) is always the right choice. You will grow so much in the following months. I send you warm hugs and solidarity from a fellow survivor here, there are SO MANY of us even though nobody seems to talk about it (which I’m sure you’re finding out already). You can check out the Captain Awkward blog if you want to find more stories like yours, some great peeps and pretty magnificent life advice in general :). Much love and all the best. XxXx

  91. lil j says...

    Thank you for raising this life experience for so many – I’ve been separated for 3 years and divorced for one year *this week*. The drawn-out agony was the most soul-killing part of it, and questioning myself the whole time. I think my ex was actually surprised when I definitively filed for divorce, because he never really believed it of me. We had been so intentional when we married (late in life to some), partly because I had survived my dad leaving my family, and trust was a huge issue for me. But also because of that, my ex and his family made it clear that they were superior because their family had stayed together. But I had discovered that truth-telling was powerful, and actually was able to open some conversations within his family that had always been kept secret, and healing crept in. Come to find out, that past family environment had created a safe place for his serious and secret addiction to thrive for 30+ years until I uncovered it accidentally after 12 years of marriage, always feeling like something was “off”. I came to learn the term gas-lighting, and a lot of other words that I had no knowledge of previously. Wiser, yet shattered, we did all the workshops, counseling, all the talking, all the trying, but in the end, the secret life and betrayal was so severe that I had to break free to survive. I didn’t want my child to grow up thinking that this façade was love because it most certainly was not. I felt freed but shattered from my journey through this warped looking glass. I discovered that I had slowly subverted myself to him subtly, over the years, even though I had once been so independent and certain about knowing that I didn’t have the answers to life’s uncertainties. I had kept all of this inside – all the struggles, all the discoveries, because I really didn’t know how to talk about it to anyone safely. Even my closest family was shocked at all I had been carrying alone, keeping up the surface appearances. Their love and support has meant the world to me, and knowing that it’s not my job to convince anyone of the truth of what I survived. I’ve been working on coming back to life – balancing caring for myself and my child. Making all the practical steps – getting a lawyer, a job, a place, a ‘new to me’ car, adjusting my child to a new school in a new community, and just focusing on the question every day “What do I need?”. Knowing that I’m ‘pulling for me’ to overcome this challenge, hoping to help others out of the deadly silence, and acknowledging that every addiction is equally devastating. Thank you for holding this circle open for all of us to speak! Love you, Cup o’ Jo!!!

  92. Megan says...

    6 months ago my fiancé decided that he didn’t want to marry anymore. Broke off our engagement and has not spoken to me since. A lot of people have told me how lucky I am that at least he left before we got married so I don’t have to go through a divorce.. but also it feels like I did go through a divorce .. just minus the legal part of a separation. Starting over again.. but at least I have a killer wedding dress for the right day with the right man!!

    • Stacy says...

      The same thing happened to me last year, and I heard many of the same sentiments: “at least its better than a divorce”. Which, while it may be true, is not comforting. It’s a hard situation to be in because broken engagements are spoken of less than divorce or “regular” breakups. It’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life, until its not. Anyway, just wanted to say I understand what you’re going through!

  93. Rebecca says...

    When I was going through my own divorce over a year ago, I scoured the COJ archives looking for any posts on divorce. When I couldn’t find any I sent an email suggesting that they consider writing one. Back then I was very much reeling and looking for the support, compassion, and wisdom of this community to make me feel less alone. I’m so happy that someone who’s in the same position that I was in 18 months ago can find that in this post! My mantra over the first several months was (to paraphrase Robert Frost) “the only way out is through,” and now I can happily report that I made it to the other side. It was far and away the most brutal year of my life, but I’m happier and healthier than I’d been in a long time.

    To those whose friends are going through a divorce, my advice would be to keep reaching out as much as possible. Being newly divorced can be painfully lonely, and staying busy with friends was the only thing that kept me from despair.

  94. Morgan Q. says...

    I’ve been divorced for seven years now and my #1 piece of advice to anyone going through it is to set yourself up so you don’t need a penny from your ex. Do not build a life based on child or spousal support. It’s great if you get it, but it’s too easy for your ex to control your life. If they miss a payment, it can take months to get the courts involved and in the meantime, you may not be able to pay for childcare or even your rent. Protect yourself – this might mean going back to work, putting your kids in daycare, or downsizing your home. I had to do all of those and it was so incredibly painful. But the freedom of knowing my ex had absolutely no financial control over my life was worth every single tear I shed during that process.

    • Jeanne says...

      I’m so glad you said this. I’m at an age where my friends have older kids or they are out of the house and about 60% have divorced now…silver splitters. By and large, we ALL agree the biggest piece of advice is exactly your comment. There is so much pressure to put the kids first that most of my friends left successful careers and became stay at home moms. Upon divorce most of them were financially at risk or ruined, even with wealthy husbands. And if the ex was vindictive, oh…I can’t even describe the never ending abuse. I have a friend with a $5 million judgement and never saw a dime. What women don’t know is that the court can rule in the woman’s favor but it’s not their job to get the husband to hand it over. And as such, he hid the money and never did.

  95. Cate says...

    I do not think anything written either in the original post or in the comments glorifies divorce,but having been married for 33 (gasp!!) years I would love to see a series that addresses the tricks of the trade! I am referring to the resources both internal and external that can be so helpful in working through the truly tough times that endanger every single marriage!

    • Kirsten says...

      Yessssssss please. I would love this. As a child of divorce I feel like I’m never sure what it takes or if it’s even possible. Congrats on 33 years!

    • Cynthia says...

      Good idea! I’ve been married for 40 years, and we have gone through some rough patches.

    • J.B. says...

      Another vote for this please!

    • M says...

      Yes please! My husband and I are in a very rough patch right now. I know in my bones that I don’t want to divorce, but sometimes I don’t know how to get through this. We’ve tried individual counseling, couples counseling, and sometimes I think the only way to fix this is for us to be done with some external stuff that is the cause of this rough patch. We both want this to work, we both love each other, and most days we’re on the same team. But the days we aren’t…oooof.

      Advice for those who have been through these would be wildly helpful.

    • Sara says...

      This is a fantastic suggestion. In the meantime i highly recommend following the work of Alexandra Elle (@alex_elle on IG), she reveals the work that makes a marriage tick in the most poetic ways.

    • J says...

      @ M

      I’m sorry to hear you’re going through such a rough patch. I can certainly relate. After 12 years together, my husband and I were very close to initiating a divorce last summer, for lots of reasons, the most important one being that I just felt not only alone but desperately lonely and angry in our marriage.

      We tried therapy but actually found it made it worse, tbh – which was a surprise because we had previously found this therapist to be extremely helpful. I was just too angry to really process anything.

      I wouldn’t say everything is resolved now, but what kept us together were deliberate steps we made to talk to each other without anyone else – and crucially, time for me.

      For example, not to talk “through” our son (e.g. – can you share X with Daddy); to plan for time away from work/our son/our families – we’ve committed to vacationing (even if just for the weekend) solo at least once a year; we printed our wedding vows and hung them in our house. And at least once a week I get up early and exercise and it’s just MY time. That’s alone time that doesn’t feel lonely.

  96. g says...

    Thank you so much for this, Stella! And for everyone sharing. It’s nice to feel connected . In the social media world where the muddy stuff tends to be edited out in lieu of photos of the happy, smiling couples… this is needed. This month marks one year for my divorce. This post has reminded me that I’m not alone.

  97. Sarah says...

    Not the same kind of sadness or heartbreak that often accompanies a divorce, but I wonder if others have experienced friend breakups and whether that might be an interesting discussion?

    Maybe because I was a late bloomer on the dating front and didn’t have a lot of experience in practicing standing up for myself in relationships until my late 20’s, it wasn’t until I met my husband that I started to understand that one of my friendships was actually really unhealthy. I was the frog in the pot of boiling water with this girl who was my roommate for many years, where I didn’t see how toxic things were until the end. Ending the friendship was absolutely the right thing to do, but I felt bitter and angry about the way she treated me for a good year afterwards. It still makes me feel bad occasionally.

    • leah says...

      my divorce was *also* a friend breakup in that my husband cheated on me with my best friend. your experience sounds pretty similar to mine (minus the whole adultery thing) — i didn’t realize until it was too late what a horrible, toxic presence she was in my life. i’m still angry at both of them, and grieving the loss of both of them, but my life is so much better without them too. it’s complicated.

    • Lynn says...

      Definitely a worthy topic. I’m a known friend breaker upper…which maybe sounds worse than it is. I don’t have tim for toxic relationships and I expect a lot because I give a lot which not everyone is comfortable with. Mix matched expectations can be confusing and uncomfortable to address.

  98. Tara Ilsley says...

    Thank you for this! Last summer I lost a baby on my birthday and my husband and had an affair shortly after.

    We were together for eight years, and it was shocking.

    Alas, here I am 32 and single. Creating a house of my own. We just signed divorce papers. I still cannot believe that my future children will not have his eyes. I am still grieving us. But it gets easier. I feel lighter. oh and friends, girlfriends are everything. I’ve never felt alone, because of them.

    Little moments hurt the the most. Changing the emergency contact, having no partner pick you up at the airport, the quiet house, just having a person to connect to and suddenly they are gone is so shocking it felt like death. I wrote this poem this spring after planting tomatoes, alone which brought me to my knees but DAMN my tomatoes are tasting like MAGIC this summer <3

    Today I planted the tomatoes alone.
    I placed them so close together, the way you hate.
    You said they would never grow like that, but they always did.
    The tomatoes are all heirlooms, your favorite kind. ​Br​ight yellows and deep purples.
    The joy of eating our tomatoes last summer was one of my last beautiful memories.

    I was still pregnant and our baby was the size of a sesame seed.
    We liked the name Adrian for a boy. Maybe that was just another one of your lies.
    I still have our list of baby names we liked on​ ​my phone.
    Had you decided when we planted our tomatoes last summer that it would be our last?
    Had you touched her skin yet​?​​​

    Did you know a year later I would go to our local garden store, alone?
    I sobbed the entire way home.​​ So many ​firsts alone.
    I feel the loneliness in my bones. I water the tomatoes every night.
    The tomatoes are my healing, their roots – my new beginning.

    • You know, I find it so funny how perspective can shift. I’m not sure if you’ve felt the same at all. So, no one to pick me up the from airport felt lonely at first, and then shifted to making me feel like an adventurer. Having to figure it out on my own. This is silly, but I had come up with a persona for myself called Adventure Sarah when I was in these modes. I started wearing a little kerchief tied around my neck (a la a Girl Scout) and whenever I would wear it friends would say, “Oh! Adventure Sarah is out!” I now have a goofy collection of kerchiefs from friends who would find them and give them to me and I’ve worn them all while navigating travel and life for the last year.

    • Laura says...

      Thank you for sharing this poem. I started a garden right after my husband announced he was leaving. I have gone out there every night to check on things, and it has been one of my greatest gifts: to see that things are still growing, and to remember the first garden we had together. Sending love and wishes for peace to you.

    • Erika Kuhn says...

      Beautiful.

    • Devastating! Your poem is so beautiful. I’m so sorry you went through that. You should write a book- your words are beautiful.

    • Zoe says...

      “Changing the emergency contact, having no partner pick you up at the airport, the quiet house, just having a person to connect to and suddenly they are gone is so shocking it felt like death” – Tara, you took the words right out of my mouth but you’ve made me feel a little less alone knowing someone else is surviving and by the sounds of it thriving like the gorgeous tomatoes you’re deliciously tasting. Wishing you a new lifetime of happiness, whatever it may look like.

    • Kristie says...

      Thank you for sharing your poem with us, it is poignant and vulnerable. May your tomatoes grow fat and juicy, watered with tears perhaps but growing with rays of hope too.

    • Ali says...

      Adventure Sarah! This is my favourite thing I’ve ever, ever read on this site. I need an adventure kerchief!

  99. Karina says...

    This is just fantastic.
    As someone who has lived through the craziness, heartache, dizziness, and desperation of divorce- it always makes me so much more confident that I’m not the only one. There is support. There is another day. I am ok and will be ok…

  100. Seems like there’s not just a 7 year itch, but also a 15 and 25!

    • freya says...

      and a 6!

  101. Sharon says...

    I divorced a few years back. I was blessed to have a very nice ex, and he made it easier than it could have been. However, I found the hardest part of the whole thing was getting right with the idea of being single. Of telling everyone that we had separated. Of making it official.
    You spend so much time as a part of the married unit. Even when things are struggling, your identity is still wrapped up in being your husband’s wife. I had to rewrite the way I saw myself.
    All that to say, once I got right with it in my own head, the rest was a breeze. It’s only scary before you start. Getting started is the hardest part. But once you and your spouse decide, it all gets easier…

    And its been the best decision of my life. It gave me the courage to trust myself and be OK on my own. Today I feel incredibly lucky to have had the ability to write a new life for myself and allow my ex to do the same.

  102. Yes to all of these! Those are such powerful thoughts. The moment of truth for me was rushing him to the ER for self-harm. I knew in that waiting room that despite the fact that we loved each other very much that it was a deeply unhealthy relationship and the kindest thing I could do for both of us was to separate. I made sure he got a steady job and was seeing a therapist while we took time apart and was able to finally tell him that I couldn’t hold us together anymore. We were married for just short of 3 years, but have been together since we were 19. Our court date is in September (just a month before what would have been our 11-year anniversary) and this year apart has turned out to be the best thing for both of us. I feel centered and whole and healthy and joyful every day; he’s still working and has quit drinking and is having a blast playing Uncle to our friends’ kids. Even knowing what I know now, if I had to go back I would still do it all over again. Some of those years were so incredibly happy and despite the horrible moments, the life we built together is something I’ll cherish forever even though I had to give up the future we were planning. It’s still hard to let that go, but now I’m filling my future with plans for the kind of person I want to be myself. Also, redecorating, reorganizing, and reconfiguring the apartment we shared has 100% been the most therapeutic process, but a close second has been diving into fitness and wellness and really learning to take care of myself in a fulfilling way.

  103. What Robin says … I’m taking it all in :)

    “This what you do: you wake up with the sun, you make yourself a spinach omelette for breakfast, you drink a lot of coffee, you put your head down and work, you take a lot of walks, watch your alcohol intake, you go to bed early. You talk to people. You ask for help.”

  104. Audrey says...

    Just six weeks past the court date for a divorce I didn’t want. My husband walked out on Thanksgiving after 17 years of marriage/25 years together — no explanation, not even “I don’t love you any more” … We’d been in a rough patch, but I believed (as did the therapist we were seeing) that nothing we were facing was “fatal.
    He filed for divorce in January, and that was the last piece of work he did. I handled all the details of the split (so as not to be stuck in limbo, with a lawyer on retainer) and ended up having to pay him for the house, so that I didn’t have to add “find a new place to live” to the the To Do list of the last seven months.
    He’s ghosted me entirely, and I’m left with a heart broken in a million pieces, a house I don’t know how to live in alone, friends that I’m sure are ready for me to move on already, and endless, exhausting hours of trying to be strong, keep it together and put on a brave face.
    He’s also a bit of a public figure, so I can’t quite escape his presence (though he’s left town, he still comes through via his work) — and on the horizon is his latest artistic work, which he told me before he left was something I probably wouldn’t want to avail myself of, once it’s out in the world; so I have that to look forward to.
    All this to say, thanks for this post — I can’t quite believe I won’t always feel this overwhelmed/rejected/brokenhearted, but the comments here are something I’ll come back to when I need reminding of that fact

    • Claire says...

      I am so sorry to read of this. Such difficult circumstances and what a daunting, painful transition. Your story sounds so similar to what some of my friends have gone through- blindsided, with a big WTF component that is so hard to wrestle with. From what I’ve born witness to with my friends – yes, you will go on, and you will absolutely be ok. I think that recovering from a 25 year relationship probably takes a while, helped along with some focus, and deliberate, intentional effort (has it been less than a year since it all started? longer than that, if so). I wish you lots of support, kindness, understanding, and healing. And, if not now, then someday soon- happiness.

    • B Geri says...

      My gosh Audrey, I can’t imagine this. I think you are very strong in doing this heavy lifting all on your own. The silver lining…years from now you will not believe how much you have changed for the better and how much your life has changed for the better. You do not want to go through life a minute longer with a partner who would do this to you. I speak from experience here when I say I went through a tough divorce with a jerk. It has now been 4 years post divorce and I am perfectly fine. My unsolicited advice to you is this: continue doing the hard work now in getting him and this experience out of you system. Flush it all out now and you will eventually emerge healed and smarter than ever.

    • Rachel L says...

      Dear Audrey…I’m so very sorry that you’re going through this. It doesn’t help now, but he does NOT sound like the type of man you would want to grow old with. I’ve been divorced too…but my ex was NOT on this level, thankfully. I’ve been with my perfect (for me) second (I call him my REAL) husband for 20 years now, married for almost 12. You WILL come through it. Please know that…and give yourself permission not to move on until you’re ready. You’re grieving, totally. And I have to say that you’ve already proved you are strong and capable by the way you’ve handled everything thus far. xx

    • Adrienne says...

      Audrey, I scrolled through dozens and dozens of posts and finally saw yours. Yours is the only one that is similar to mine. I was blindsided after 23 years, right before New Years, right before my 50th and it Still is unbelievable to me. He has some (legit) midlife crisis issues going on, but still, to not have told me what he was starting to feel quite awhile ago, for us to have been getting along fine and life was “normal” and we were even proceeding with ‘pre-retirement’ plans and then to just hear “I don’t think I want to be married anymore” last summer, but he ‘didn’t want to feel this way’ so we were to work on it. He didn’t and kept traveling. And yes, I found out there is someone else. ALL of this is such a blow and shock to me, and our kids, even after seven months. One of the biggest shocks is because, unlike in many of the other situations listed here, until this, he was not a jerk, was a great partner and parent and we had few arguments/difficulties. I gave him a lot of space this year, thinking he needed it and would have more clarity/realize what it is he was doing, but that hasn’t happened and now, reluctantly, I know it won’t. I have no idea how to ‘go forward’ as people keep telling me. How do you do that when you feel the last few years are now erased and your whole future has been blown up?
      I totally relate to much of what you’ve written, especially your last sentence of not quite believing you’ll always feel brokenhearted/rejected – and I’m adding resentful and disappointed in how he acted So differently and selfishly from the person I, and our friends, knew and loved.
      I will think good thoughts for you Audrey, and everyone else in these posts.

  105. M says...

    Elizabeth Gilbert put it best when she said that the only thing worse than getting divorced was staying married. I read Eat Pray Love in college and that line went right over my head. It wasn’t until I found myself in the exact same spot years later and that line suddenly made so much sense. Once I acknowledged how unhappy I was and what I needed to do, a sense of peace washed over me.

    • Eloise says...

      THIS! Must go reread Eat Pray Love now.

  106. Lisa says...

    My parents divorced when I was 5, and I’ve always thought it was ridiculous when others expressed sorrow for me or judgment of my parents. Even when I was very young, I recognized that having two healthy, happy families was infinitely better than the alternative. It still frustrates me to no end to hear someone say, “I feel so sorry for the kids.” They have no idea what they’re talking about. Sincerely, the kids.

    • Siv says...

      Thanks for the reassurance Lisa. I left my ex because I wanted to set a good example for my daughter — she needs to see how a woman should be treated in a loving relationship, and her father was not treating me well. I hope that she will come to understand my decision when she is older.

    • Heather says...

      Having friends with kids go through divorces now, I can reflect on how divorce was great for us, and also awful. It’s brought up a lot of old stuff for me I didn’t think I cared about, but seeing friends be so thoughtful and deliberate about looking out for their kids, I’ve realized maybe I care more than I thought.

      – It was great b/c my parents borderline hated each other, and we were all living in a stressed house. A fighting house.
      – It was great b/c my mom “found” feminism, and immersed my sisters and I in it.
      – It was great b/c my sisters and I bonded through the whole process, and I assume we are who we are today b/c we went through all of that. And I love us.

      – It was awful b/c my parents – being humans – went through a crazy couple of years of depression, dating on hyper-speed (with new potential stepparents sweeping in and out of our lives), and trying to pit us against the other parent
      – It was awful b/c my parents botched shared custody horribly. We barely saw my dad.
      – It was awful b/c the fighting didn’t entirely stop when they divorced. They fought over child support for 12 years.

      I think the hardest thing for kids is a loss of stability. If things are unstable, and the divorce makes them more stable? Great. But for us, for a long time, the divorce made things even LESS stable .

    • Laura says...

      I think it is entirely dependent on the circumstances created following the divorce of whether or not the kids thrive. I have to agree with Heather, in that my life became LESS stable once my parents were divorced, and I still have a lot of emotional struggles due to that. However, some of my friends also have divorced parents, and their parents created so much stability for them, that they do not carry the same pain that I do.

    • Nancy says...

      Thank you! My parents also divorced when I was five and I couldn’t agree more. “Staying together for the kids” is a disservice to oneself and the kids. My parents are far happier apart than they were together…. Why would it benefit me to grow up with two unhappy people forcing themselves to live under the same roof?

    • M says...

      I agree that every situation is different but, BUT…it does not benefit a child to grow up in an angry, tense, stilted, awkward home all because two people tried very hard but it didn’t work out and now just don’t have the balls to call it quits.

      Don’t feel sorry for me – I know what love IS NOT. Which is just as important as knowing what love is. Sincerely, all the other kids.

    • Heather says...

      Just to clarify – I’m not suggesting *in the least* that parents should stay together for their kids. I’m saying that there is a way to separate that makes it easier on the kids. Anything you can do to help make their lives feel steady, predictable, secure, safe…

  107. jill c. says...

    I am currently going through a divorce after being married for 13 years and quite honestly I wish I had done it sooner. The years leading up to it were so stressful and well, toxic for everyone involved. The moment my husband moved out of the house I felt like I could breathe again. Suddenly there was peace in the house for myself and my kids. Since he moved out a year and a half ago, I have purged the house of anything unnecessary or that I just didn’t love and I’ve also purged my closet b/c i realized that my old clothes didn’t reflect who I was anymore. My kids and I laugh again and I feel lightness where I couldn’t when my ex and I were together. And funny enough, my ex and I get along so much better now – and his relationship with our kids is so much better now too. Honestly it was the healthiest decision I could have ever made for my family and I am grateful every day for finding the strength and means to move on from a relationship that I was so adamant about keeping together for so many years.

    • Jennie says...

      I feel like I’m you three years ago. Ten years married and I’m really struggling. My husband had an affair for over a year which I found out about last year and since then we’ve separated and got back together twice. I don’t look at him the same way anymore but we have three young children who I’m trying to do my best for. But perhaps my best is to start divorce proceedings and give myself a chance rather than live with the knowledge that I don’t truly love my husband anymore. Thanks for making me see that divorce is the right outcome, for everyone, in some situations.

    • C. says...

      Jill, I so relate to this. Thank you for sharing. I’m approaching my 12th anniversary and am finally ready to get a divorce. I’ve spent the last few days tossing so much stuff out. Purging really does feel good and helps. Reading this gives me hope about where my kids and I can (and I hope) be in a year from now.

  108. Mouse says...

    I had an amicable, easy (as they go) divorce after 5 years of marriage; no property, no children, no pets. I had a career so I refused to take from him what my lawyer told me I should have gotten. I was relatively young and though devastated, was able to see that I would be able to build a life from that point.

    What blindsided me was the feeling of failure. I felt that I failed him, our families, our friends and myself. I was not someone who had often failed in my endeavors. It taught me so much.

  109. Gabi says...

    This is awesome. What a great conversation. I love the honesty here, the bravery, and the respect – for everyone around these women, but also for themselves.

  110. Sarah Christine says...

    I’m not going through a divorce but I am taking Robin’s advice about the spinach omelette regardless!

    “This what you do: you wake up with the sun, you make yourself a spinach omelette for breakfast, you drink a lot of coffee, you put your head down and work, you take a lot of walks, watch your alcohol intake, you go to bed early. You talk to people. You ask for help.”

    Beautiful. All of it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she is wonderful xoxoxoxoxo

    • Fiona says...

      I LOVED THIS TOO!!! Amazing advice for every one .

    • Abi says...

      I’m going through a breakup with the person I had built my life with, and I just (as trite as this sounds) made these words my background. They are so stabilizing!

  111. Divorce is so tricky, and I admire women who are able to persevere and are able to come out stronger afterwards, despite all they’ve been through!

    Paige

  112. Erin says...

    Best advice I ever received: don’t ever marry someone that you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.

    • Lora says...

      What interesting advice! It actually really resonates with me because my husband and I broke up twice when we were dating. Part of the reason I eventually decided to marry him was because he was still kind and good when we were broken up. He could be honest about his confusion with the relationship but still be a decent dude. So many others became strangers/jerks as soon as we broke up. I felt like I knew his several sides to his character which gave such comfort.

  113. M says...

    There was nothing bad about my relationship. We had similar views on life. We never fought. I did not know anything different and felt lucky to have met someone who seemed to fit well enough. I was not unhappy. I was not really anything.

    It was only when I fell in love with someone else that I realized the depth and breadth of love that is possible. That a partner could be so incredibly perfect for you. That love can bring you a life more full than you could ever imagine.

    I would have never thought I could be unfaithful to someone in a million years. I was always disgusted with characters who were cheating in books or movies. I was disgusted with myself. No good comes from googling how successful relationships are when they begin under such circumstances. But I trusted myself, and years later I am still so glad I did. Divorce is hard, but we have only one life. It should be shared with someone who makes your heart soar.

    • Heather says...

      Thank you for sharing this. I have wasted some energy lately googling same topic lately, and all of the results tend to fall under a “you’re a horrible person.”

      My whole life I thought it was all so gross and selfish, but now I’ve realized it’s all a bit more complicated than that.

      I feel like we need an entire post about this.

    • Marlena says...

      Thank you for this, M! I, too, fell in love with someone who was not my husband. Same story as yours – the marriage wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, it just was. Then I met my (now) husband, and BAM! Like a tidal wave that I had no interest in getting out of. I have zero regrets about leaving my first husband under the circumstances that I did. I would do it again and again and again if I had to, in order to experience this depth of love. I believe that humans are too diverse and complicated to be bound to one kind of story their whole lives. Some people spend all their chapters with the same person in bliss. Others have many different starring characters. I consider us blessed to live in a time where men and women can be honest about their hearts and have the freedom to pursue love when it happens, even if it happens outside of a certain kind of story.

    • Sophia F. says...

      Thank you for this! I have had a largely fine 13 year relationship, 6+ year marriage and two kids with a good man. A year ago I met someone (not looking!) who utterly reshaped my understanding of what a relationship could be – within two weeks of meeting I felt better known, understood, and appreciated than I had in all the years I’ve spent with my husband (whom I’ve been with since I was 19!). I experienced a kind of love that I hadn’t even known existed, as corny as that may sound. He left my city for work nine months ago and we tacitly agreed that we were done, despite no desire to be done, but… I can’t possibly be complacent and happy in my marriage now that I know what else could be. But… I’m a SAHM of two kids under five, and am so financially and logistically trapped. I am truly at a loss as to how to move forward with my life.

    • M says...

      Thanks for sharing, everyone. It is nice to know we are never alone.

      Sophia – I am so sorry you are going through this. It sounds like you found the same kind of love I did. If you know you cannot be happy in your situation, it seems impossible to stay. Can you reach out to a support network? Confide in a friend. Go to therapy. Ask for help. Know that this horrible situation feels like it will last forever, but that if you make steps toward moving forward, it will not. All my best to you.

    • Suzieq says...

      I’ve never experienced a love like this, but it sounds wonderful! I’m so happy that you did.

  114. Laura says...

    When I told one of my friends that I was getting a divorce they held me with both of their arms, looked me straight in the eye and said “I’m sorry”. Then they high-fived me and said “and CONGRATULATIONS!” It made me feel so seen and supported those two sentences, the support for the awful times ahead but the joy at the openness of my life again. I’ll never forget that kindness and I say the same to all my newly divorcing friends now too.

  115. selby says...

    i really really love this list, and wish i had seen it during my first heartbreak three years ago. i looked at so many articles to survive the hard times. i dyed my hair (how cliche), later got bangs (even more cliche), deleted all of my instagram photos of him or even somewhere we had been together, cried a lot, and trained for a marathon.

    the best quote i had that i screenshot and kept on my phone was, “the sooner you realize it’s never going to go back to the way it was, the sooner you will move on.”

  116. Audra says...

    While I do think divorce is the right answer for some people, it’s not the right thing for every couple. I feel like this article glorifies divorce and leaves out the very real possibility of restoring ones marriage through counseling and other means.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your comment, audra. i really appreciate it. and i completely agree with you that divorce isn’t the right answer for every couple.

      the women we featured here went through divorces for very real and deep-seated reasons. i don’t think anyone enters into it lightly. many, if not all, of these women tried counseling and communication and lots of different ways to try to help the relationship. but in the end, divorce sometimes feels like the best/only path for everyone involved. we weren’t trying to glorify divorce — just normalize it for the people who need to go through it .

      thank you so much, audra!

    • Eloise says...

      I don’t think it does this at all. Counseling works for some, and not others. Some are also not open to counseling. I think this post shows people they are not alone and their is a community of many who understand at least some of what they are going/have gone through. Thanks, CoJ.

    • Sasha L says...

      That’s just another post Audra. It’s ok to have a whole post about divorce and separation without ALSO talking about couples that stick together. A post all about wedding dresses is needlessly glorifying weddings? A salad recipe that leaves out lettuce is a disservice?

      We’ve got to stop negatively judging those who divorce.

    • Morgan Q. says...

      I hear this sentiment a lot and 99% of the time it comes from people who have not gone through a divorce. It’s a horrendous experience and to suggest there’s glory in it or that people didn’t work hard enough is really disrespectful to people who have lived it. I’m sure you don’t mean to offend, but please try to be more empathetic and careful with your words. Until you have gone through the experience you truly cannot judge.

    • Jessica says...

      Hi Audra, as someone who has been divorced and who is very confident it is one of the best decisions I ever made, I can assure you that I still wouldn’t wish the experience on my proverbial worst enemy. I don’t think there’s a person alive who gets married who thinks, you know what, a divorce would be a really great way for this to come to an end. Talking about how to handle divorce with grace, dignity, kindness, empathy, and good humor isn’t glorifying divorce but simply acknowledging that life doesn’t always go the way we plan or wish or hope for, but that it also doesn’t have to become a tragedy. I know you probably didn’t intend for your comment to be hurtful, but the overwhelming majority of divorced people are just people who have tried very, very hard to do their best–and sometimes divorce is just that: the best you have to work with in a difficult situation.

    • abby says...

      Audra try to see all of the women here saying ‘thank you’ for this post and see that this conversation is for them, maybe not for you, and that’s perfectly ok. Many of them cite abusive spouses and some had husbands leave without warning. The conversation you are suggesting is valid yet it belongs elsewhere for another time/post.

    • Laura says...

      Well in my opinion in our culture we have an overload of marriage and happily-ever-after propaganda which is just not realistic and means women get way too hurt when things don’t work out (which, statistically, is most of the time). You see, Audra… different strokes for different folks.

      Divorce, contraceptives and equal access to education are the three best things that have happened to women in modern history. That is just plain fact, like it or not.

      Well done again Cup of Jo and especially Stella for this post.

  117. Jessica says...

    For those who are staying in a marriage ‘for the kids,’ my parents divorce was a very positive turning point in my childhood.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i completely agree. when my parents separated, it was hard but also a huge relief. there had been so much tension in the house, and everyone was so much happier afterward.

    • Laurel says...

      Same! I was 11 when my parents split up and even then, as sad as I was I knew it was the right thing for my family. Now that I am an adult, I am really proud of both my parents for making the decision to divorce. My mom is manic depressive and selfless acts are not her strong suit but I know she knew then how unhappy my dad was. He is someone who will stick through a situation even when it’s not working. It was the hardest choice for them both and I know they are both better people for it. In a lot of ways, and so am I.

    • Shaina says...

      I wish every day my parents would have divorced after a brief seperation when I was 14. They ended up getting divorced when I was 28 and it ended so horribly. I always thinking about our family’s potentional back in September 1999. How differently things could have been for everyone. My parents say they stayed together for the kids but I don’t even fully believe that. Even at 14 and now as a parent, I don’t see how they couldn’t have seen how damaging their marriage was for us.

  118. Shannon says...

    When I was at (one of) the darkest days of my divorce, a divorced friend said to me, “It’s okay to still love him” and her powerful words resonate with me to this day. I have never once regretted my decision to leave my emotionally abusive husband and get a divorce. Intellectually, I knew it was the only way to survive, but emotionally, I kept trying to convince myself it could work if I only tried a little harder. So hearing her simple words, “You can still love him, even though you know you can’t be married to him,” really changed my perspective. Thank you for this blog post!

    • Danielle says...

      That’s so beautiful, thank you for sharing! I can really relate.

    • Sarah says...

      I agree. I am married now with a 2 year old and feel hopeless. I think I realize that while I am no longer in love with my husband, I do love him very much. I almost wish I hated him so that it would be easy for me to make this decision.

    • Shannon says...

      Exactly, Sarah! My son was about the same age (2) when we split up and it just complicates things exponentially. I certainly didn’t want to love my ex anymore (the father of my child), but I did, so it felt powerful to acknowledge and simply accept that truth. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.

    • Phoebe says...

      I’ve only kept the friends who’ve acknowledged my love for my emotionally and financially abusive ex over the course of my 1 year separation and 3 year divorce. Anyone who wouldn’t made me feel like I was wrong to have married him, or that I should have seen the signs. But abuse is often insidious and pernicious, and who he is now is not who I fell in love with. For myself, I had to believe that I was not wrong love him as I did and that love didn’t die with my marriage. I’m just coming out of this (still waiting on the final decree), but Shannon you are the first other divorcee I have met who has said this and my heart resonates with yours.

    • Laura says...

      This is me, right now… scared to leave (hurting the kids, his reaction) but also still love him, even though I *know* hiw abusive this relationship is. It’s so hard to have to make a decision with my head when I’m used to letting my heart lead.

  119. mb says...

    I am so thankful for everyone posting their own break-up stories. All this has got me to thinking about friendships as well. I have noticed that my closest friends hardly ever speak about their relationships and any problems they might be having. I think it’s partly out of fear of coloring how I view their partners and a desire for keeping intimate life private. Meanwhile, I’ve had a few devastating months that my partner and I have just now started to navigate. I am still uncertain of what that might look like for our future. Is this “privacy” even in front of your friends a thing? We used to tell each other everything! Now I find out from my friend she is thinking about getting a divorce the same week she moves out of the house–she wasn’t thinking about it at that point, the decision was made!

    • Laura valle says...

      I’ve wondered this too…

    • Mary says...

      Yes to this! My husband and I went through a difficult patch a few years ago (after 12 years of marriage). I realized that even though I have a solid group of female friends on whom I can rely for almost anything, I didn’t have a single person that I felt comfortable talking to about my marriage insecurities. It made the experience all that much more stressful, isolating and difficult. Cheers to COJ for bringing this out and here’s a second request for stories about difficult periods of marriage or relationships that you have gotten through/passed.

    • Laura says...

      I think it depends on the depth of the friendship, the intention behind what you share, and also if your partner is okay with the person you are sharing with. My closest friend and I share everything with one another about our marriages, but both our husbands know that we are sharing with one another what we are sharing with each other (sometimes that is just venting about insignificant things, but we have also gone through life seasons where it’s been some really deep and painful things we worked through in our respective marriages). I feel safe sharing with her because I know that she supports my marriage; when I ‘complain’, she understands that I am truly venting or working through a situation. She validates my emotions while also validating that my deepest desire is to build a healthy marriage. I also don’t share situations with her that my husband doesn’t know that I am talking about–what he would be okay with me sharing with this particular friend is not the same level that he would be okay with me sharing with less close friends.

    • Alyssa says...

      First, yes, all my friends became significantly more private once we met our now spouses. We grew up with SATC as our female friendship influence and shared everything. Now we barely share, and I miss that friendship intimacy.
      BUT My husband and I, during a rough patch a couple years ago, chose “safe” friends we could each confide in the hard stuff. We were running into added conflict of venting to friends the other wasn’t comfortable with. This has made a big difference when we do need that deeper support from friends. And it’s rekindled some of that female friendship intimacy.
      Also, when we got married, our rabbi had us to choose witnesses who would support us specifically as a couple, not individuals. It was such a great way to enter this chapter, knowing we have the people who support us as a couple and a family, and then later choosing the safe friends that can support us as individuals when life gets hard. And different circumstances have called for the different kinds of support.

  120. Love this post! Thank you for writing this.

  121. Allie says...

    Thank you for writing about this! When I went through my divorce at 29 (2 years ago this week) I scoured all of the blogs I love for posts about divorce. I used to reread all of Caroline’s writing about her breakup just to make me feel less alone and crazy.
    We had been married for 3 years (but together for 11) and had just relocated to my hometown of Washington, DC from Austin, TX when my husband told me he no longer saw a future with me. I was blindsided, but two years later I realize he was right. I had outgrown him and I refused to change back to who I once was.
    One funny story: when we got married we registered at Macy’s for all of the fine china, crystal, flatware, etc. Since we were living in small apartments in Austin we had that fancy stuff shipped directly to my parents house (always planning to move to DC eventually) and never unpacked it.
    A few weeks after my husband left I finally mustered up the courage to go through those boxes with my mom. We decided to try to see if Macy’s would accept them as a return. I rolled a cart full of Macy’s boxes into the Home section, flanked by my two parents in their 70s. I told the woman I wanted to return everything and get store credit. “Did you and your husband just change your mind on your pattern?” she asked me. “My husband left me, I’m getting a divorce and I have to get rid of all of this,” I told her. The next thing I knew she was price overriding everything (even items that were no longer sold by Macys!) and I walked out with $2,000 worth of gift cards. I furnished my whole new apartment with those cards.
    It was the first moment I smiled and felt like I might be able to face the world on my own after all. Oh, and when Trump got elected a few months later that gave me something new to be furious and sad about.

    • Michelle says...

      Ya ya! Solidarity sisters. I love that woman at Macy’s. Thanks for sharing and keep up the courage!

    • Sasha L says...

      Allie! Good for you girl! Bam.

      We’re all gonna get to divorce Trump ?

    • Ivana says...

      About 9 months ago my partner of 5 years told me he didn’t see a future with me. I thought this would be the year we bought a house and had kids, he had concluded he didn’t want either with me.
      I’ve had invaluable, incredible support from friends and family. But no matter how welcome they were, it wasn’t the huge sweeping gestures that made the difference, it was tiny everyday things. Like my mom taking 10 seconds to whatsapp a simple ‘good morning’ to me every single day. And those little things can come from strangers too. One of the most touching moments was when I went to the bank to cancel our joint account, and the (male) staff member said to me “sorry to be doing this today” – only then did I realise it was February 14. I will never forget that little gesture of recognition and compassion for my pain from a complete stranger. Or when I told my GP that, if ever there was a need to take a break from the contraceptive pill, now was the perfect moment. She brushed it off with a nonchalant “nonsense, the last thing we want to do is mess with your hormones now”. I almost hugged her with gratitude.
      If reading this blog has taught me anything, it’s that you can have a huge impact on someone’s life by making a tiny gesture, even as a total stranger. I always try to remember that as I go about, and this past 9 months I have been on the receiving end as well, and I believe in it even more now.

  122. Elizabeth says...

    I’m proud of how my ex-husband and I have treated each other post our divorce. Our marriage came to an explosive end but since then we’ve always put our son first. I think he has adjusted well because we made a point of keeping his life as close to the same as possible. I consider my ex husband a friend now and joke with him that he wins the “best ex husband ever” award.

    • L says...

      Could you share advice on how to do this, please? I’m going through this now and we have a 5 year old little guy and I want to have a nice relationship with my soon to be ex husband for our son

  123. Liz says...

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  124. My marriage was controlling and stifling but I was raised with “till death do us part” so I would never have left under my own steam. My husband told me one night that he didn’t love me and never had (which was a lie), and I thought I would cry forever. My stepson’s stepdad (!) said “it gets better, I promise,” and I remember thinking that while I didn’t believe him, he’d have no reason to lie to me, so I was just going to hang on to that.

    He was right. I’ve gone on to get my MBA (which my ex did not support at all), buy myself a house, and my new partner is wonderful. I appreciate my partner even more knowing how it could be (and was).

    To anyone getting divorced: hang in there. You are NOT a failure. Re-invest in your friends, and take it one day at a time. It gets better!

    • Allie says...

      Amen Kate! I’m so glad I had friends and sisters who kept telling me I wasn’t a failure. There are two people in a marriage and it isn’t a pass/fail test.

  125. Abbey says...

    That last comment really got me thinking. What ARE you supposed to say to someone getting divorced? Even when divorce is mutual and amicable, it is still a difficult transition and can be sad and painful. “Congratulations” feels a little funny. On the other hand, “sorry to hear that” assumes it is sad news and doesn’t validate the person if they’re feeling good about it.

    • Danielle says...

      As someone going through a painful divorce (his decision, not mine), I can 100% confirm that if someone ever congratulated me or told me it was needed/for the best, I’d want to clock them. Maybe it’s a bit like a death? No one wants to hear platitudes or anything that minimizes the very grief. I think “I’m sorry for your loss” or the equivalent is always appropriate. Just my 2 cents.

    • Lisa says...

      I can tell you what I would have wanted to hear, even if it sounds unnatural;). “Oh, I’m sure your kids will be OK, you’ve been such good parents. And I hope you are OK too, call me if you ever feel like talking.” And then a hug. “I’m so sorry” always made me feel like they assumed I hadn’t thought it through, that I should just continue feeling sad forever.

    • I can tell you what I would have liked to hear, even if it sounds a little unreasonable;)”

      First, either, “I didn’t know,” or, “I heard.” You always wonder if it’s gotten around.

      Second, “How are the kids?

      Third, “I know they are going to be fine, you’ve been such good parents. I hope you are OK. If you ever feel like talking, give me a call.”

      Then a hug.

    • diana k. says...

      I like to keep it vague but positive. Before you know the circumstance, you can’t go wrong with encouragement. Try these:

      “There you go!” (general, but positive)
      “We live and we learn” (casually philosophical, removes blame, neutral tone)
      “I’m proud of you” (either for initiating the divorce or just for surviving it)

    • Ls says...

      My friend told me and another friend she was getting a divorce last year. It came out of the blue (for us – though clearly not for her) because as she said, there was nothing really “wrong” with their marriage and her now ex-husband is a wonderful man. She seemed thrilled with the decision and excited about living on her own. Though we were confused and sad to see them split up (and, let’s be honest, had so many questions!), we just told her we were proud of both of them for having the courage to do what they felt was best for them. Then we made sure to plan lots of girls’ nights and hanging out time to give her opportunities to talk if she felt like it, but we didn’t pry. Months later, when she was ready, she told us the whole story.

    • Cat says...

      When I was going through mine, I found a simple “How do you feel about that?” to be best. It invites the person to share with you how THEY feel about it, which is the important part.

    • Olivia says...

      Regarding what to say to someone going through a divorce, for me the best thing was when someone asked, “how are you today?” with the emphasis on TODAY. Asking ‘how are you,’ seemed insincere, and there was no way to even begin to answer so generally. But when someone asked about TODAY, it helped me to focus on something manageable. If the day was really difficult, I could say something concrete and meet a (usually) sympathetic response. If the day hadn’t been so bad, that question helped me to reflect on my progress. When someone asked that question, I believed that they were genuinely interested and willing to sit with me for a moment in my little corner of the present. I was never disappointed.

    • Zoe says...

      This is a great question, because I honestly disagreed a lot with the last bit of advice. Yes, there are some women who may want to be congratulated, but for other women, divorce is a very painful thing that they may not be necessarily wanting to go through. A friend of my mom’s went through a divorce a few years back and she was incredibly saddened by it- she loved her husband but he was going through some tough personal issues and they felt that divorce was their only option. Fortunately, through many years of counseling and working through issues, they are now remarried and very happy. I remember my mom saying that her friend had a falling out with another friend because all that woman wanted to do was celebrate my mom’s friend’s divorce- throw her a party, get her drunk, etc. and that was not the appropriate thing to do at all. So yeah- I don’t think “congratulations” is always (or often) the correct response.

    • Claire says...

      Maybe start with, “How are you?”

    • Amber says...

      Yes! “How are you?” is a simple, thoughtful response.

      For me, “Congratulations” would have offended, while “I’m sorry” would have been comforting. But as noted by each of these comments, each divorce is so different. Let the person experiencing it express their own joy or sorrow by simply asking how they’re doing.

    • Anonymous says...

      I went through a painfull breakup recently and the best thing my friends have told me was: “I’m sorry that you have to go through this”. I don’t know why, it just felt right.

    • Erin says...

      During my divorce, I appreciated a friend who started the conversation by asking how I was doing, listened to me update/vent a little, and then said, really kindly, “You’ll get through it, but you have to get through it.” This felt like both a recognition of the fact that the process of divorce is lousy, and a vote of confidence in me as a human being.

  126. Lana says...

    I was out with girlfriends last night talking about how hard marriage can be. Women give so much of themselves that (at least for me) I find myself not very interested in sex and having a hard time communicating with my husband. I wish CofJ would do a post about getting the romance back!

    • Lisa says...

      This would be a great topic. In the meantime, I’m not sure if it’s okay to recommend other websites here, but A Practical Wedding has a section on love and marriage that includes posts about sex in marriage, emotional labor, etc.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a great idea, thank you!

    • Meredith says...

      Also, try reading the book Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski. It’s illuminating!

  127. Siv says...

    I love this post CupofJo team. I am currently going through a divorce after 4 years of marriage and 1 daughter later. The grief comes in waves and despite the anxiety from the unknown and from the lost dreams, I’ve never felt more free or excited about life. It is absolutely 100% the right choice for me. I didn’t fully realize how much I was sacrificing of myself to make my relationship and marriage work until I left and distanced myself from the situation. Divorce comes with a funny dichotomy of emotions, but I try to let myself really feel and embrace all of it in order to heal. Some days are much harder than others but I know I will get through it by taking it one day at a time.

    Some great advice I’ve come across is this:
    ▪ Lower the bar for a while.
    ▪ There’s good stuff waiting.
    ▪ It takes a very good partner to beat no partner at all.

    Thanks so such a timely and much needed post. Sending love to anyone going through a similar situation! XO

  128. Elizabeth says...

    I got divorced after seven years of marriage. We were very young when we got married–I had turned 20 just two weeks before the wedding. I’m 31 year now, and it’s honestly almost funny for me to look back on the struggle I had with leaving. I can’t believe I was ever torn or conflicted–in hindsight it’s so goddamn clear that we never should have married in the first place!

    What I actually wanted (though didn’t realize) was to live with my boyfriend. But I had been raised evangelical Southern Baptist, and was too young to know that I could just do what I want, consequences be damned. So we got married basically just so that we could live together. Insane, I know.

    We entered graduate school at the same time. I was working on my master’s in English lit, and he was in medical school. It was a lonely time for me. I came to realize in those early years that we were incompatible on almost all levels. We never fought–he wouldn’t have it. Anytime we had a disagreement that caused my voice to have any level of passion in it, he would walk into another room and ignore me. Not one to be ignored, I would sit inches away from his face and say his name over and over again to break him down, which I was never able to do. I even found myself wishing I could push him so far as to hit me, just so I could get an emotional display from him (not something I’m proud to admit). The apathy was slowly killing me.

    I ended up having an affair and falling in love with someone else, which ultimately ended the marriage. Again, not something I’m proud of, but I certainly found a new perspective on infidelity. I’m much less judgmental of the unfaithful, as I realize how easy it is to find oneself in such a position. But the guilt I felt from the affair was too much. I lost an unhealthy amount of weight, whittling down to 98 pounds on my 5″3 frame. My face broke out in cystic acne. I had crippling panic attacks every morning where I would lay on the bathroom floor, wrapped up in my shower towel until the absolute last second where I would have to peel myself up and get ready for work. Eventually I became suicidal and figured I would overdose on insulin from my insulin pump (type 1 diabetes over here) so that my parents would think my death was accidental rather than suicide. Then, thankfully, I thought, “This is literally crazy.” I went to the doctor, told them my struggles, I got a prescription to help me through the anxiety and depression, and I left.

    I remember touring a one-bedroom apartment, the first time I would ever live by myself (I went from father’s house to husband’s house). It had high ceilings, a huge walk-in closet, a cute kitchen island where I saw myself making coffee each morning. I had told myself to take baby steps. You’re just looking at an apartment. Now you’re just putting down a deposit. Now you’re just scheduling a moving truck. Now you’re just changing the banking info. One step at a time. I was terrified but also excited. I had nothing–NOTHING–not even a spoon, not even a sheet. I left him with everything because I was so guilt-ridden that I thought I deserved the struggle. I moved the last week of January and only had an air mattress to sleep on, which leaked air through the night. Each morning I woke up cold and stiff, the air mattress having completely deflated through the night while I lay on a cold floor.

    But I NEVER second-guessed myself, which is how I knew it was right. When I was trying to stay and work it out, I was always so conflicted. So miserable. And it’s because I wasn’t listening to my gut, that primal brain we have. The second I aligned my actions to what my intuition had been screaming at me all along–the depression, anxiety, weight loss, acne all just ways that my body was trying to get my attention–I was lighter, happier, freer.

    My advice? TRUST YOURSELF. You KNOW what’s best for you. You know it. You may need to find ways to access it. Get quiet. Get time alone. Get a journal. Get a therapist. But find a way to confront the truth that is housed in your body. It’s there and you can trust it.

    Remember that while the end of your marriage feels so specific and particular and unique, it’s actually not. You’re experiencing something that tens of thousands have experienced before you; are experiencing along side you. Take comfort in the universality of your experience. They did it. So can you. It’s going to be okay.

    • Briana says...

      “But find a way to confront the truth that is housed in your body. It’s there and you can trust it.”

      Well if that isn’t just the best life advice I’ve ever heard…

      Thank you for sharing these oh-so-applicable words. (I’m not going through a divorce, but your words still rocked me!)

    • Kara O says...

      Thank you for sharing Elizabeth! I love your story.

    • Rebecca says...

      I could not love this more! You’re words are so, so empowering!

    • “My advice? TRUST YOURSELF. You KNOW what’s best for you. You know it.”

      Applicable to so, so, so many situations. And look how clear it is that your body was trying to tell you this truth!

      I have this quote taped to my door: “You are the answer you’ve been waiting for.” Along the same lines. Wish you the best! THANK YOU for sharing. :)

    • Donna says...

      Sounds like your ex was a Scorpio like mine.

    • Becca says...

      I also got married very young (still in college!) out of a sense of moral purpose, and found your comment so compelling. As I approach our 5th wedding anniversary, I am fighting harder and harder to hear what my inner voice is telling me. I want to believe in a version of myself that is not bound by a sense of shame and artificial “shoulds.” Cheers to us!

  129. JB says...

    I was three months pregnant when I found out he was cheating. Our baby was two weeks old when he left for good to be with the other woman. We’d been together for 11 years.

    Now, three years later, after a serious roller coaster of emotions and soul searching I’ve realized it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

    I’ve revisited old friends. I know who I am as a person. I know who I am as a mother. I know my values. I know what I want in life.

    With him it was all about what he wanted and making him happy. Now it has to be about keeping myself happy which has had the added benefit of making me a better mother.

    Best advice for anyone going through it:
    – Hire the best lawyer you can afford and follow their advice, even if you want to stay out of court because there’s so. Much. Paperwork. (But also remember your lawyer is not your therapist!)
    – Don’t let your kids hear you trash your ex
    – Take the high road. Always.

    • sarah says...

      In a very similar situation and all I want to do is get a drink with you, mama! :)

    • Rebecca says...

      You are so impressive, JB! My parents’ divorce was of course very painful for me as a teenager (though better than living with people in an unhappy marriage), but they both took the high road and never, ever said an unkind word about the other, and it made such a huge difference for us. I am forever grateful for that, and I am sure your child will be too.

  130. Kati says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article!

    I told my partner of ten years (and parent of our three kids) in June that I want to end our relationship. Right now, I feel like my soul is in thousand pieces and with the last bit of strenght, I’m holding it together.

    Still, it was the right decision. Because if I would have stayed, those thousand pieces would have fallen apart for good.

    • heather says...

      I’m right here with you sister. I also told my husband of 10 years to move out of our house in June. It’s been the most painful ‘right’ thing I’ve ever done.

      I described it as “my soul or my marriage.” Fortunately, we are strong enough to hold our souls together, but it is hard.

  131. Julia says...

    When I went through my separation and divorce I was 27, had been married for 5 years, and had a 1 year old son. I moved into my own apartment and began to reorient my life, and my son’s life. One day I was at a library book sale and stumbled across the entire Anne of Green Gables collection, something I hadn’t read in years. I bought it and worked my way through it, book by book. Completely unexpectedly, Anne reminded me of the essential things that I had forgotten: how to be vulnerable, how to dream, whimsy, and how to hold out for that which your heart desires most, what love can look like. I can honestly say that Anne of Green Gables got me through one of the hardest periods of my life!

    “It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.” – Anne of Green Gables

    • Heather says...

      LOVE this.

    • tnm333 says...

      I love this Julia. (Also an Anne with an “e” fan.) Although thankfully I am not in a particularly dark period myself, you have inspired me to re-read the whole series…

    • Lauren says...

      I find Anne of Green Gables so comforting too! They just re-did the series on Netflix and I was grinning the entire first episode. Her spirit is contagious.

    • Lia says...

      In the middle of reading the first book to my 5 year old daughter and so glad to be revisiting it! Anne is an inspiration.

  132. M says...

    I was never married to my sons father and our relationship wasn´t all that long before we split up – our son was 1 at the time and for 12 years we have been doing the patchwork thing with 50/50 custody.
    Tomorrow is my sons 13th birthday and he is on holidays with his dad. This is the case at least every second year and being without him on his birthday is so fucking hard…This is not what I wanted for him (or me and his father for that matter), ever. Still I will have to push through like I have pushed through so many moments of sadness and loneliness.
    Don´t get me wrong, it was absolutely the right decision to not stay together with his dad and we are both happily married now to other people but the fact that I don´t get to be with my son all the time will always remain the biggest sadness and failure of my life.

    • I divorced my son’s father when my kiddo was 3 (after 9 years of marriage). We do the every other year birthday as well, and 13 years later, I still hate it. My son will be moving out to go to college in two years, and I have to remind myself that I likely won’t see him on his birthdays (or most days) soon, but that doesn’t help.

    • D says...

      This. This is the reason my husband and I have not made our divorce final for a year. Do you ever wish that you tried harder to make it work with your ex, just so that you had more time with your child? Would love to hear from people who almost divorced and decided not to.

  133. Zoe says...

    I cannot tell you how how I am that you wrote about this. I actually cried as I read it As a 31 year old going through a divorce I don’t want after 5 years of marriage I’ve never felt so alone in the world and especially the blogging world where everything seems to be about happy families, happy marriages, happy kids, happy everything (absolutely nothing wrong with that and I still love to read them but can be a bit lonely). I’ve been trying to get up the courage to email A Cup of Jo to ask if they would have someone write something on divorce so can’t tell you how soothing this was for my heart. No one tells you when you get married there’s a chance you’ll have to mourn someone who is still alive at some point. The feeling of failure and loneliness is something I didn’t understand at all before this season. So thank you for making me feel a little less alone in the world today. Z x

    • Liz says...

      Hi Zoe,
      You are absolutely not alone. Just keep going. Do what you need to in order to mourn the loss of the living, but take care of yourself. I am in the midst of a divorce from my husband after 17 years of being together and 10 years of marriage. We have a three year old. I have moments of panic when I first wake up in the morning and I look out the window. It’s always the same thought: I am alone, doing this on my own. You will feel lonely, but you are not alone. Something not working does not mean you failed. With each passing day, I feel lighter, yet stronger. I wish the same for you. All the best!

    • CS says...

      Rooting for you, Zoe!

    • Oh Zoe, I am so sorry to hear this. This is the worst spot in this process, I promise you. I just hit the one year mark after six years of marriage/15 years together. I had days where having an oven repair person come over felt like a massive accomplishment. Or talking to a stranger without feeling like crying was a major struggle. But I promise you it will progress and you will feel better.

      It’s too soon for you to think about right now, but I can tell you that the first date I went on (and I had been with my husband since 18 – now I’m 34. So I had never been on a *real* date!), felt like the most exciting night of my life. Or how people knew when I was on dates and would text me excitedly throughout. Or how the first time someone walked me home and kissed me I felt like I was 17. Another relationship won’t solve what feels terrible right now – and it shouldn’t. But I promise you the world will open back up and you will laugh a little. And then a little bit more the next day, and the day after that. It’s hard. It’s so hard. But you’ve got this. One foot in front of the other.

    • Katy says...

      Hi Zoe,
      I’ve never replied to an internet post (ever)! But I wanted to respond to you because I too am early 30s, 3 months into a divorce I didn’t want to a man I love. This week has been particularly hard for me. I just want you to know that you aren’t alone! My therapist has told me to give myself hugs to feel better! So, sending you a hug and lots of healing energy.

    • Mallory says...

      I just wanted to say that I am right here with you. I’m 28 and last night, my marriage ended and I don’t want it to. I have been with my husband for 12 years (married for 6) and even though I suspected this was coming for a few weeks, it felt abrupt. The only thing getting me through each moment right now is the belief that I don’t want to be with someone who wasn’t willing to work on our problems or who would only be staying if I “convinced” him. I know I’m just at the beginning, but he has treated the end of our marriage very graciously and kindly and we hope to part as amicably as possible. This is somehow almost worse to me, as I wonder if I felt angry if it would be easier than feeling as sad as I feel now. I suspect I will ultimately feel grateful for his kindness, but now it just feels hard. I don’t know how to start going through our stuff and sorting out what’s his and what’s mine without falling apart in the process. I can’t imagine ever finding anyone who I can be as attracted to or connect as well with. I have hope for this moment and that’s what is getting be through it now.

    • Amber says...

      I’m 34, have been divorced for three years. It was devastating.

      In the thick of it, I listened to an OnBeing interview with Pauline Boss about ambiguous loss and it was so helpful for me. It is incredibly hard to grieve someone that physically still exists.

      https://onbeing.org/programs/pauline-boss-the-myth-of-closure/

  134. Lucy says...

    I’ve moved out this January, after 10 yrs of marriage. I’ve felt deeply unhappy for many years but I thought something is wrong with me that i’m not happy with this great man and i just need to work hard and fix myself. This led to a lot of therapy and self-improvement, but i felt worse and worse. then finally i allowed myself a thought that maybe my feelings are right, maybe i don’t love my husband, no matter how kind and smart he is and how well we function as a team. it took another year to gather the courage to leave. i had very little support from family and friends, wasn’t sure if i’ll be able to support myself and my kids, and afraid of what the divorce will do to them. but once i left, i’m so proud and so gratefull to myself – choosing to believe myself and act on it is the greatest gift i’ve ever given myself. i’m in a whole new territory right now, reinventing myself and my life. the hardest part is not seeing my kids half of the time – we have a 50/50 custody arrangement. would love to hear from others who have been in this for several years, how is that working for them.

  135. Rachel says...

    I love the idea of commenting “congratulations”! I recently separated from my partner of 20 years and while it’s a challenging time of transition I don’t doubt my decision at all. An acquaintance said to me “Is this an ‘I’m so sorry’ or a ‘good for you’ situation?” I assured her it was good for me and I really appreciated her asking.

  136. Sarah says...

    This is a topic that doesn’t get talked about enough! My parents have been in a state of almost-divorce for more than a decade and finally at the age of 65, after taking care of everyone else, my mom is beginning to take steps on her own. I received a phone call this week from my mom saying, “You know what? I’m going to do WHATEVER I WANT. I’m building a studio in the mountains so I can just watch the weather roll in.” She deserves every bit of that. I’m so proud to be her daughter.

  137. julee says...

    This is a great post. And this part: “…you wake up with the sun, you make yourself a spinach omelette for breakfast, you drink a lot of coffee, you put your head down and work, you take a lot of walks, watch your alcohol intake, you go to bed early. You talk to people. You ask for help. It takes all of what you’ve got to keep going, but you’ll make it through.”

    My marriage is okay, but this is resonating with me as advice for LIFE, right? So well said.

  138. Eloise says...

    Stacie has it just right. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, even if it was “your” choice, and that their aren’t (many) day’s you’ll cry/wonder how you’ll manage, but….just right.

  139. Nancey says...

    Oh yes, I was married for 15 years and my marriage ended 6 years ago, my Daughter was 9 when we started the process and heartbreakingly my step daughter was 15 and we are very close. But she is not mine, it’s so confusing. So I moved out and I didn’t take anything with me because I didn’t want the house to feel empty for the girls. My heart broke every single day leaving them, I knew they would be with me half the time but just the thought of them rattling around that big old house without me broke me to pieces every minute of every day. I left with just my clothes and our cat and started a whole new house set up on a farm down the road from them. The one thing my daughter said to me was ‘I can’t walk past your room and know you won’t be there anymore’. But you know what? It was ok, she is a happy and healthy 14 year old, my step daughter who is 19 and I are closer than ever and most importantly we have a happy happy home and their relationship with their father is wonderful, the separation made us happier all of us. But the beginning hurt horribly. BTW, I left because my ex wouldn’t speak to me for months at a time, it was horrid, and I consider it emotional abuse. He’s a great dad though.

  140. WoSu says...

    I’m going through a divorce. It’s scary, sad, finding my own feet is hard – even if you 100% know this is the right move and he isn’t the right one.
    This. Is. Everything. Thank you.

  141. michelle says...

    This is timely perspective. My partner and so broke up after four years. We weren’t married, but we planned to be. It’s been two months and I’m just adrift. Reading Caroline’s break-up post and hearing from different women here is comforting. Thank you.

    • Liz says...

      Hi Michelle! I was recently in a similar spot as you: had my boyfriend of almost 5 years (who I was living with and adopted a dog with), without warning (or at least as far as I could tell) break up with me and move out. I was beyond devastated. I felt like my life had been taken from me. But that was three years ago and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am now that he broke up with me then. My only wish now is that it had happened sooner. I was certain he was “the one” at the time of our break up, but honestly, the relationship ending allowed me to realize all the ways I had been changing myself to fit that relationship and rediscover the person and life I truly want, meet amazing people through dating and exploring new friend groups (and of course a lot of not so amazing people (thanks, tinder :) )), and gave me an excuse be more bold, adventurous, and independent. I am currently dating someone who I believe is so much better suited for me than that first boyfriend. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that it may not feel great for a while, but the best for you is very likely yet to come. Regardless: hug!

  142. Julie says...

    Yes to congratulations! I’ve always disliked people’s instant permafrown at divorce news. The way I see it, if you’re peripheral enough to this person’s life that you didn’t see it coming, and the news is finally rolling out to you, the right response isn’t to act like it makes YOU sad personally. By the time it’s public news, it’s usually been going on so long this is a relief to at least some of the parties involved, and a more neutral response, or one based on offering future support, friendship, and belief in the person’s future is a lot more helpful.

    Most of all when someone gives you news like this, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. It doesn’t matter what you always thought, or whether you saw it coming. Or whether you think they should or shouldn’t try harder, etc. Support, support, support. Belief, belief, belief.

  143. Something about Robin’s comments in all these categories really resonated with me. I am happily married, but I’d listen to her take/get her advice on any topic at any time and I’m so sure I’d take something from it, even if it wasn’t 100% applicable to me or my situation. XO

    • Lindsay says...

      Agreed! I love Robin. Guest contributor?! :)

    • Katie says...

      Yes! Especially her last suggestion. Haha, I am not going through a divorce, but that is some solid advice for getting through a variety of hardships.

  144. Taylor says...

    My last long and serious relationship ended after much hand-wringing about whether or not he would ever want kids; I have always wanted to be a mom. I’m so grateful my ex made the decision and told me definitively he would never want kids because after we split I had to figure out how to do so many things on my own, and learn to like myself and figure out how I could raise kids on my own (I was so tired of dating and told everyone within earshot that I was going to do the kid thing on my own).

    I ended up meeting my current partner who is a better human being than I knew existed; generous and kind and loving and curious, and he’s going to be a wonderful dad, and HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL. If I had told myself that I would be with a man like this, let alone that a man like this existed after my split with my ex I would have laughed in my own face. I was content? resigned? in my previous relationship and thought love was overcoming endless hurdles to stay together, now I know that real love is a partner to embrace life’s hurdles with you, not what creates the hurdles.

    Sometimes leaving is the best thing, you really never, ever know what’s coming.

    Also, a great anecdote: “Don’t marry a man unless you’d be proud to have a son exactly like him.”

    • Taylor, it sounds like you and I are living parallel lives. Similar ex story, similar new partner story; when dating, I always evaluated potentials using that exact anecdote, and I, too, used to believe that love was overcoming endless hurdles to stay together. But this past year, luckily, I have learned that it doesn’t have to be that way, and I am so damn happy my ex and I broke up because I would have never had the joy I have in my life today if I hadn’t left.

    • SJ says...

      My husband and I are on the verge of splitting for the same reason. As devastated as I am right now, reading this comment gives me hope for the future! Thank you for that.

  145. Kirsten says...

    I love this – so very therapeutic – but also interested in women who contemplated divorce, decided against it, and were later happy in their choice. Commenters: have there been women who have regretted their choice – or reversed their decisions? Curious about all sides of the story.

    • Katie says...

      Oh that would be very interesting.

    • Sara R. says...

      Oh yes, I agree – I love this article, let’s do more like this. Went to therapy and it was successful. Had an affair, ended it and stayed in the marriage. Separated but then decided not to divorce. Changed something significant about the relationship in order to make it work (e.g. went from monogamous to an open relationship). I’d love to hear it all!

    • Stephanie says...

      Yes, same! While I know there’s truth to the story of one day realizing all the red flags you’d missed–solid reasons to leave a marriage–I also believe many of us miss the real good in our relationships. Especially in marriages that are challenging simply because they involves two imperfect people–people who could perhaps learn and grow together over time. I’d love to hear from women in these situations as well!

    • d says...

      I am married 17 years, and twice have deeply considered divorce (once at about 5 years and again at about 12). At 5 years, after much reflection, I decided that I needed to change something that fell short in myself rather than leave him. I was hurting for other reasons and taking it out on him. Once I realized this I apologized and stayed, working on myself rather than him. He was great and so patient with me as I worked on this.
      At 12, things were more complicated. I felt I was covering for some of his issues, had been for a long time, and couldn’t any more. But I was able to discuss each one with him, and gently hand those things back to him to deal with in his own way. This gave me the freedom to focus on other things that I wanted to do for myself, which he fully supported.
      My husband is not perfect by any means (neither am I!), but he genuinely cares about me and our marriage. Choosing to stay has made us both better people.

    • Colleen says...

      I was with my husband for 4.5 years, and then married for just 1. I left him for someone else. It was pretty scandalous at the time and he didn’t deserve it. I still sometimes feel guilty for hurting him (7 years later), even though he is happily remarried and has 2 children. I went through 2 relationships after ours that were painful, and I felt like I deserved it. I blamed myself for everything.

      There were definitely times that I regretted my decision, but not anymore. Now I am engaged to a great guy and we are getting married in November. And from what I can tell my ex is happy. All that is to say, everything happens for a reason, even if it takes us years to understand what it is. Even though my ex husband is a great guy I wasn’t getting what I needed out of the relationship, and now I know that he wasn’t either. Looking back I know I made the right choice, even if I made mistakes along the way. I have never been happier than I am now, and I don’t think I would appreciate what I have now quite as much if it weren’t for the tough times.

    • Kelly P says...

      My husband and I separated for several months and ended up working it out. It was such a hard time, but we are better for it. I’m also always intrigued by couples who have a similar separation and reconciliation story. It’s been 5 years since our split and I think they’ve been the best years of our marriage. It’s actually our anniversary today :-)

    • Anon for this says...

      Yes. Oooooh yes.
      I literally had a conversation with my husband that went along the lines of ‘this is not what I signed up for, and I am not staying in this marriage. I’ve been looking at apartments and have a plan, so we need to plan how to either fix things NOW or how to end things gracefully, because I’m done’. And doing 2 adults worth of work while doing all the childcare AND earning most of the money was NOT what I had signed up for, and being single would have been a VAST improvement.
      But after that conversation? He shaped up. Like, hard. And I gave myself permission to lose my shit when things started to slip, instead of letting it go on for weeks and weeks (translation: that period burned me hard and my tolerance is not to be stress-tested anymore, and every time the house gets a little messy all I see is a downward slide into misery and I can’t handle it at all). And I don’t regret staying, because in the end it was the right call and I do love him… but that conversation was 100% responsible for the improvement we’ve seen, and I sincerely regret not having it about 9 months earlier – 9 fewer months being burdened might have helped me have a little more tolerance for the ups and downs of life.

    • K says...

      My husband had an affair and I seriously contemplated divorce. It was only after a lot of therapy (individual and together) and my husband showing over and over again a true recommitment to our marriage that I was able to decide to recommit myself and stay. I am happy in my decision but stress that it was/is HARD WORK and I can 100% understand why some women would not be able to overcome the hurt and trust issues and move forward with divorce. I’m grateful that I gave my individual situation space and time to heal and we came out stronger for it.

    • Jenny says...

      Kirsten, I can’t– won’t, can’t– reverse our decision but I regret it a lot. It has taken me months to leave the regret and wondering phase. A friend (who split from her partner of a decade, not married) told me to stop replaying the movie. The romanticized past I had in my head on loop was only hurting me.

  146. Rachel says...

    This is so dang powerful. Thank you for sharing your stories. Also thanks to the COJ team for realizing that these types of stories need to be heard, too and are equally as important to be told. As a child of divorce, bravo all around.

  147. Hannie says...

    I’d love to have a glass of wine with Amy & her sister! They sound delightful.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      same!! :)

    • Rebecca says...

      Same! My mantra these last few months came from a Lucy Dacus lyric “Hold your own hand/Walk on without a plan.” I wrote it on the wall by my bed.

  148. Astrid says...

    I’m all on board with the last comment. Congrats, if a divorce happened, it was probably needed.

    • Inch says...

      And with all respect to that writer, I am not on board with that comment at all. I found myself alone after my partner in a LTR decided that his future did not include me. While it wasn’t a divorce, “just” a breakup after years together, it felt pretty much the same to me, with the division of home, property, finances, etc. If I had explained that my LTR was ending and someone has said CONGRATULATIONS!, I’m not sure if I would have been devastated or enraged but my emotional response would not have been positive. Just because something is happening because it needs to happen, doesn’t mean it’s a wanted thing. Would we presume to congratulate someone on a surgery they need to have?

    • Rachel says...

      Agreed. It can be so hard to hear “I’m sorry” if you are the one who made the decision. Speaking from experience, it would be great if more people could acknowledge that a lot of thought goes into making this kind of decision and the person who made it needs support.

    • KIRSTY says...

      I’d have been absolutely devastated by a ‘congratulations’, even though I was the one who left and it was absolutely necessary. It was one of the saddest, hardest times of my life, wrapped up in huge amounts of stress, guilt, shame and sadness that something I’d put my heart and soul into hadn’t worked out.

      There’s not really a ‘one size fits all’ response, and a lot of people got it totally wrong (particularly because nobody really knows the ins and outs of why you split), so when hearing someone has recently become single I like to ask ‘how are you feeling?’ and let them take the lead. If they’re happy, great; if they’re not, I’ve opened the door for them to talk about it a little more.