First the bad news
In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people get married for the first time by age 50, according to the American Psychological Association, but somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those marriages end in divorce (and here are some of the signs that’s where your marriage is headed that way). At age 28, I joined the first group. Earlier this year, after 23 years of marriage, I joined the second.
My ex and I got divorced because we didn’t want to remain married to one another. It wasn’t a decision either of us took lightly. It took us all these years to get here, including nearly two years of divorce discussions—during which time either one of us could have made the case to the other that ending our marriage was a mistake.
Divorce is not a cause for celebration. It’s the end of a marriage, and no matter how bad that marriage was, the fact that it’s over is sad. Whatever dreams you and your spouse had for your life together are, well, kaput.
It wasn’t until the divorce papers were signed that there was finally space to mourn. But like all mourning, mine eventually subsided, and what had felt like loss came to feel like an opportunity. And that brings me to the good news.
I’m now able to see that my marriage was a success
While I was still in my marriage and clearly neither my husband or myself was happy, I felt like a failure. Why can’t I be happy? I’d wonder. Why can’t he? Why is it so hard for me? For us? What’s wrong with me? With us? My head was an echo-chamber of anger, disappointment, shame, and self-loathing.
With all that noise, it was easy to overlook the fact that my marriage had lasted two decades, and produced two amazing, brilliant sons (if I do say so myself) who were now both in college. Together my husband and I had managed to go from newbie adults with zero assets to owning a beautiful home in the country that we were able to afford, among other reasons, because we had invested wisely and made good decisions along the way. While the divorce was ongoing, I lost sight of that.
But once all was said and done, there was room in my heart to let myself look at all we’d achieved as a couple. Come to think of it, I realized, we had had quite a successful run. No, it didn’t last forever. But nothing does. And maybe our final and greatest achievement was knowing exactly how long to stay and exactly when it was time to wave that white flag.
Here are some expert tips on getting the love you want.
I used to be lonely; I’m not anymore
When marriage is good, it should be the ultimate antidote to loneliness. When marriage is not good, however, it can feel like an almost bottomless source of loneliness. The fact is, you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. You can feel lonely in a crowd. You can feel lonely with friends. And you can certainly feel lonely in a marriage. I sure did. It’s not that my husband and I didn’t spend enough time together. It’s that my husband and I didn’t “get” one another. Nowadays, I fill my social life with people who do understand me and who embrace my quirks. (Here are some tips on how not to feel lonely.)