A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

These Are the Top 10 Benefits of Being Divorced

Being divorced is totally awesome. Nah, just kidding. It does, however, have its perks. Take it from me, someone who has been there, done that.

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Woman divorcing and taking off wedding band
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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.

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Young couple carrying big cardboard box at new home.Moving house.
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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.

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young beautiful businesswoman writes a message on her smart-phone during the lunch break. Attractive female student doing homework in a coffee-shop

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.)

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Two multi ethnic affectionate girl friends embracing as they sit in a coffee shop enjoying a cup of coffee together
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I got my girlfriends back

Although my husband and I were both painfully aware of our mutual unhappiness, we had made the decision to separate a secret until we knew for certain what we were going to do about it. Unfortunately, this process of knowing for certain went on for quite a number of years.

The effort I put into not telling my friends weighed on me. The things I needed to talk about most were off limits. Friends would call, and I’d let it go to voicemail. They would text, and my replies would be increasingly made up of happy emojis. It was only when my ex and I finally agreed to go public with our plans to divorce that I was able to come clean with my friends, who, thankfully, understood why I had been shutting them out.

Working on improving your friendships? Here are 24 little ways you can be a true friend.

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Mature Female Friends Enjoying Outdoor Meal In Backyard
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I got to see who really liked me

My ex and I met in our first year of law school. We were friends for three years before we began dating seriously. Throughout all of that time, we moved in the same circles and had many of the same friends. Many of those friends attended our wedding, and many are still friends with one of us today. Which ones? Well, that depends on the friend. But virtually all of them seemed to believe that they were required to make a choice. It didn’t matter that I told all of them, over and over, that no one should have to choose. Virtually none of our mutual friends have remained mutual friends At least now I know who really likes me.

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Friends taking a break from work walking by the river and drinking coffee.

My ex and I are besties now

OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But my ex and I are back to being friends. That’s how we started, after all. Over the years, however, the friendship faded. I knew that didn’t bode well, but I felt powerless to do anything about it, and we grew to resent one another, as people sometimes do before they realize they shouldn’t be married to one another anymore.

But then the ink dried. And I was finally able to see that my ex is really still the same guy he was back when we first became friends in law school. In fact, we get along so well as friends that my ex has settled into my guest room while he looks for an apartment. I even helped him with one of his online dating profiles.

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Close up portrait of fit young woman in sportswear standing outdoors and looking away. Confident fitness model in park.
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I feel better about myself

One thing my ex didn’t do when we were married was give me a lot of compliments. I’m not sure why I was OK with this since I love nothing more than a good compliment. I wanted to be told I was beautiful. I wanted to be told I was smart. Instead, I was told to lay off the late-night snacking and that for a smart girl, I could be kind of stupid about things.

After our divorce, I began to understand that feeling good about myself would have to come from within. Looking to feel better about yourself? Try these tips on how to be confident.

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A traveler brunette girl is looking at the city skyline during in the evening.
Nat Chittamai/Shutterstock

I feel hopeful about the future

As my kids shuttled toward adulthood, I tried to envision what it would be like to be empty nesters with my husband. Instead of a picture perfect situation, I envisioned myself a wizened old woman, my white hair spread out like feathers on my pillow, my husband sitting beside me in some broken-down chair I’ve been yelling at him to get rid of already, watching the New York Jets play on his smartphone, and asking me if I’m sure I don’t want him to go out and buy a box of Clairol Nice and Easy to cover up that gray.

That’s not a particularly hopeful image, but as you might expect, it evaporated the day that we decided to divorce. Now I don’t know what the future holds, or who’ll be in it. But I’m hopeful. Read on for relationship advice from couples who’ve been married 50 plus years,

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Mom with two preteen children walking outdoor, cool autumn weather
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My children respect me

My children knew that something was amiss in their parents’ marriage. They knew our marriage didn’t look like what they saw on television. They knew it didn’t look like what they saw at their friends’ houses. And by that, I mean, they never saw us holding hands. They never saw us kiss on the lips. They never heard us say “I love you” to one another, even though we always said it to them. I’m sorry to say that, and I’m even sorrier to say that what they did see was, at times, unpleasant. They saw bickering. They saw verbal jabs. They saw criticism, contempt, and resentment.

They say that children learn what they live, and this thought terrified me for many years. When my children became teenagers, I would sometimes tell them that what they were seeing was not how a marriage should be. I would tell them not to consider us a role model as a couple. They weren’t surprised. I don’t think I was telling them anything they didn’t already know. But it was important to me that I take a stand on this topic, and eventually, one of the reasons I decided I wanted to be divorced was because I didn’t see how I could credibly tell my children that this isn’t what marriage is supposed to look like while still remaining in the marriage.

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beautiful and young couple kiss each other on terrace

I get to experience the thrill of a first kiss

Who doesn’t sometimes fondly recall the thrill of a first kiss, and sometimes wish that there were a way to get that feeling back? Well, sorry, married people. That’s not happening. It’s just one of those trade-offs. But if you should ever happen to get divorced, you can be certain that if you long for the thrill of a first kiss, you will get to experience it.

So, yeah, it’s a bit awkward to be writing about this. But I’d be remiss to leave out the fact that one of the perks of getting divorced is that you get to experience the thrill of a first kiss again. And again. And again… until you’ve found the person you want to keep kissing.

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There’s a possibility I might fall in love

When you’re unhappily married, love is frustratingly out of reach. You can remember the love you once felt. You can see the person you were once in love with (and you have to see them, day in and day out). But that feeling… where did that feeling go? And how will you ever have any chance of having it again if you remain married to this person?

When you get divorced, you’re closing the door on that love, but you’re opening up a nice, big window and letting in all the possibilities, like fresh air, scented with sunshine and gardenias. I don’t know whether I’ll fall in love again, or if when I do, it will be reciprocated. But there’s that tantalizing, delicious possibility. Read on for surprising marriage advice from happy couples.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren has covered knowledge, history, the British royal family, true crime, and riddles for Reader's Digest since 2017. Having honed her research and writing skills as an attorney in the 1990s, she became one of HuffPost's first bloggers in the early 2000s, graduated to reporting hyperlocal news in the 2010s, and has been researching and writing news and features for various publications ever since. Aside from Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in Mashed, Tasting Table, Eat This, Not That!, Grown and Flown, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, Insider, Business Insider, and many others.