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The Moment I Knew Divorce Was Imminent

And why separation was the greatest gift I have ever received.

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illustration of hands about to sign divorce papers and wedding bands
Alyah Holmes
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“I am taking the kids to my parents’ house. I want a divorce and will file paperwork soon.”

It was a Saturday morning. I was hung over and exhausted from fighting with my then-husband the night before. And all the nights before that one too. I don’t remember what we fought about but I remember we never really made up. For years, I had known that divorce was in our future, but I was still shocked when he and the kids walked out the door. I didn’t know what to do, really. I cried. I went to my own mother’s house and told her what had happened. I consulted our state government website, where I quickly learned he had already filed divorce papers.

In that moment, even in the midst of my shocked-but-not-surprised response, healing and acceptance began. I could no longer hide from the truth. Our truth. It had stared me in the face for years while I tried to hide in every corner and bottle and emotion I could find. It was easier to do that than to face the fear of the unknown that came with being a divorced mother.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the pain and separation, the so-called failure of divorce, was the greatest gift I would ever receive. And although the lessons, growth, joy and freedom that came from my painful, messy divorce didn’t come easily or quickly, my God were they worth it.

Behind the realization of every divorce is an invitation toward acceptance, an invitation to healing, happiness and a different future. These women all responded to the invite.

There Is Happiness if You Dare to Look Forward

“My ex-husband departed to Europe for a month to attend graduate school, which I was putting him through. Although we talked on a daily basis at first, after I did not hear from him for a few days I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I knew something was very wrong. During a routine email check, I saw an email from a woman with a smiley face in the subject line. A few days later, I picked him up from the airport and before we even pulled out of the garage, he asked for a divorce. Two years later, he came back and told me he regretted everything. I’d already moved on. Now, 19 years later, I am remarried and couldn’t be happier.” — Heather, 46, Arkansas

Know Your Worth (and Add Tax)

“My husband of 24 years refused to renew his life insurance policy because [he thought] I did not deserve to be a rich widow. He made six times what I made, while I stayed home with three kids and managed the back office for his business. I eventually found my voice and started to stand up for myself. He then requested a divorce — via our office email! I responded ‘OK,’ to which he said he was bluffing. Too late, Sunshine. At 58, I am five years free and happier than ever. Half of what was never enough for him is more than enough for me.” — Nathalie, 58, Florida

Practice Gratitude While Looking Back

“I was married to the love of my life for seven years. We lived on a sailboat that we built ourselves. We had an open marriage in that we were intimate with other people. I knew divorce was imminent when I realized that I no longer wanted to live that open marriage lifestyle. I brought this up to my husband, but he was against monogamy and said it was a dealbreaker for him. So I left him and the sailboat behind. He tried to take back his dealbreaker ultimatum, but it was too late. I was hurt too much, and we divorced. He is the love of my life, and I can't imagine feeling that way about anyone else, but what a joy to have experienced that kind of love. For that I am incredibly grateful!” — Melissa, 40, Georgia

Closure Comes From Within

“I never thought my husband would leave me. We had known each other since we were 6 years old, and he always loved me so much ... until he didn't. He woke up one Friday morning while I was at the gym and packed all his stuff. When I got home, he said goodbye. That was nine years ago. What I have learned since then is that closure needs to come from within. Eventually, you have to decide that your happiness is bigger than any unanswered questions you might have. I have no regrets because I learned a lot from it all, mostly about myself and how resilient I truly am.” — Shannon, 37, Canada

Laughter Makes Life Lighter

“One afternoon my ex-husband and I were driving back home and arguing as usual. In the heat of the argument, he said, “you are nothing without me.’ For the first time, I had nothing to say. No need to argue, no wish to have a point. Instead, I laughed! My whole body felt lighter. I just laughed and looked at him. And in that moment, he knew it too: it was over. It was finally over. I felt calm for the first time in years. I was able to hold space for everyone. I’m nearly 54 years old now and I haven’t felt sexier, more lovable and at peace with myself ever before.” — Anne, 53, a self-described digital nomad, traveling the world

Have any of you gone through a divorce? Let us know in the comments below.


Follow Article Topics: Relationships