Updated: May 5
Divorce is something you are quite familiar with; you have known about it since you were young. Growing up you hear various opinions on the subject, but as a child you despise it. Divorce is the cause for many issues growing up, like why you can't relate to your classmates in school when they talk fondly about their home life, to how you must raise your brother on your own until you are in high school. For years you hate people who choose divorce over making it work, including your mother. Growing up you boast that you will never be like your mother because when you get married, it will be for life. Much later when you are faced with divorce it reminds you of your parents, like a band-aid covering an old wound you don’t wish to expose. The fear of what if emerges, what if this makes you just like your mother? This thought paralyzes you at first, but you have learned so much since then. You take the time to remember how you got here. It takes you back to the summer of 1999.
You come home from school one afternoon and Mom tells you to go play outside, you don’t question her because you always take the opportunity to play outside over homework. It’s a typical hot California afternoon today, one that's best enjoyed in the shade. Your backyard does not disappoint; it has plenty of shade to spare while you play. Ancient sturdy trees extend their long arms over you, it makes your private playground feel quite enchanting. You lose track of time like you often do outside until your mother calls for you. Your brother is sitting on the pale blue love seat, she tells you to go sit next to him and wait. Your father comes home, but all is not right. Suddenly your father is given ten minutes by a stranger in a suit to grab his belongings and leave. Your father falls to his knees in front of you and weeps while holing you and your brother, who are also weeping in confusion. Ten minutes feel like ten seconds, and just like that your father is gone. Your mother has fled into her room leaving you all alone to try and process what just happened, all while you hold your little brother as you both continue to cry. That same night you are introduced to someone, this someone will be the first of three stepfathers you will have. Your hatred for divorce begins that night, and it does nothing but grow for you here on out.
Life slows down for no one, and you are no exception. You are guilty of many things from then and now; skipping class, doing drugs, and running away to name a few. But now you live with your father, and you think things will be better. You were wrong. Since your father has never been able to shake the heartbreak and frustration of forcibly being ripped from his family and home, your new pastime is dodging the things he throws at you while he's intoxicated. But you don’t blame him, you blame divorce, and your mother. Once you graduate high school as part of the 2008 class, you meet a guy through a mutual friend a few years later who you think is 'the one’, that love at first sight kind of thing. You start dating him, but since he just joined the military, it’s a long-distance relationship right from the start. Within that same year, to your surprise, he asks you to marry him. Everyone tells you to wait but you want out of that town, out of California. You tell him ‘I do’ and pack all your belongings and head into the unknown towards your new life as a married woman. Your new home is Jacksonville, North Carolina, and you are the happiest you have been in a long time.
You're both in the honeymoon stage for the first half of your marriage, everything is roses. You are now constantly learning new things about him, and the more you learn, the more you start to realize just how much you don't know about him. Some of the things you start to learn gives you some concern, like his quick, intense anger. Soon, things get worse. One midsummer afternoon when you come home from running errands, your husband's car is home. You find this odd because you thought he had duty this weekend. When you come inside you notice he's not in any of his usual spots, you look all over for him until you are face to face with the closed-door of the spare bedroom. This is the first of many times you will find him masturbating to pictures of a woman in his unit; one you met on spouse day. He was so angry that you didn’t knock before walking in. He questions why you were even here and punches the wall in anger, you stand in silence and listen as he screams and belittles you, all while her pictures are still up on his screen, pants at his ankles. He never apologized for his behavior or his actions, which in turn makes you think it's your fault all this is happening, and the start of yet another dark chapter in your life begins.
From that day forward you start to think of ways to fix your marriage. Since you think it's your fault somehow you start working out, thinking it must be your appearance. With hard work and dedication, you tone up and lose a bunch of weight. And he is suspicious of you. He places a key logger on your computer to try to see if you are cheating on him. He also starts collecting survival weapons, ranging from huge hunting knives to switchblades. You feel uncomfortable, your gut tells you to get out, but you stay. He finally agrees to see a therapist with you, after six one-hour sessions, she comes to the conclusion you are too afraid to make. In the car ride home, he tells you if you leave him, he will jump out of the car and commit suicide. He said it will be all your fault. You finally say you are done; no one deserves this. With some help from his staff sergeant and your new friends from work, you successfully file for divorce.
Growing up, you always thought divorce was bad, you despised anyone who got one. You think back to your younger self, but you don’t apologize to her for your decision. You have now been through hell and back, and for you, the only way out was divorce. Not all divorce is the same, you see that now. While you still dislike the idea of divorce, it's not in the same way you did as a child. You don’t like it because you know how soul-crushing it can feel to know that someone who you once were madly in love with, one who you thought was supposed to share the world with you, is all coming to an end. You hate it but accept it, because the world is not black and white. You know now that while some get a divorce for selfish reasons, like your mother, others do it to save their life or sanity, maybe even both. When asked if you had to go back and do it all again, you wouldn’t hesitate. You would gladly go through all the heartache again; you would never try to take away an experience that helped you grow and allowed you to learn more about yourself. You are almost thirty years old now, you have had one divorce, and you are nothing like your mother.