Yesterday marked the 4th anniversary of my divorce. My divorce—not ours. I am still trying to separate myself from the relationship. I am still waiting for a day when I won’t think in terms of how long I have been divorced or how many years I would have been married. This year would have been our 20th wedding anniversary, but instead it is my fourth annidivorcary. And this year on the very day that marked four years, I received another reminder of all that was emotionally lost. I received a letter from my ex-husband’s attorney and a new proposal for an updated divorce agreement. The letter, as most of these conversations have been over the past four years, suggested that I have—once again—been the one who has been wrong.
This year more than ever I have realized that what ended our marriage was more than an affair. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what I could have done differently, but the answer is nothing. I loved my then husband and that love was unconditional. I tried to be a good wife. I tried to take care of our children, the home, and him…but that wasn’t what he really wanted. I wasn’t what he really wanted. I realized that shortly after the divorce was final. My ex could be charming, but he could also be hurtful. He could say things that made me feel so worthless and in the next breath, praise me as the woman he would never leave. But he did. He did leave.
I have spent so much time thinking about what I could have done or said that would have made a difference, but there was nothing. He knew I loved him, but that wasn’t enough. He knew I was faithful. He knew that I would never leave him. He knew that I was struggling and instead of supporting me or helping me, he added to my fight. It is exhausting to know that the person you love and have built all your dreams around-is having an affair. It is not the physical aspect of the affair that is so damning, at least it wasn’t for me. It was the realization that my husband did not flinch or hesitate to continue to hurt me. He could look at me when I was at my most vulnerable—when I knew about his girlfriend and begged him to end the relationship—and when I was on the floor sobbing, he could walk out and run to her. There was no second thought. I could not have done the same.
When I look back asking what I could have done differently, I rarely stop and think about what he could have done differently. He could have tried. He could have helped me when I needed him. He could have remained faithful. He could have cared enough about his vows to focus more on his marriage and less on having an affair. He could have acknowledged how I was struggling and offered help. He didn’t. And ironically, I am surprised that after our divorce, he has neglected to do all that he said that he would.
Today more than ever, I realize that my ex-husband is not my friend. He might not have “intended to hurt”me with the initial affairs, but since the end of our marriage his intent is pretty clear. I am the enemy. I see his hatred and disdain when he looks at me. It honestly confuses me. I have done nothing to intentionally hurt the man. I have been the easiest woman to divorce. No fight. I have always considered his feelings, his new children, and his new life. I try to make things as easy as possible for our children, yet I do not feel he acts with the same intent. His actions have made and continue to make my life more difficult. And he has made me the enemy because I believe it is easier for him than admitting he left someone who actually loved him. Note: loved is past tense.
Yesterday was a difficult day. A day filled with confusion, sadness, and regret. Today, I am trying to look forward with hope that maybe next year July 31st will just be another day of summer.
I don't know if I believe in Karma, but if it exists...well, I have said it before, it has the aim of a potty-training toddler. The only real difference is that in my life, Karma doesn't merely tinkle. No...in my world Karma seems to be more of a steady stream. Sometimes I wonder when it all comes raining down, I wonder why me...again. But I have learned to never, never, never ask, "What's next?"
I think all of us must feel this way from time to time. Isn't it human nature to fall into the mindset of, "What have I done to deserve this?" When life seems to be running smoothly, and the blessings flow, do we stop to ask what we have done to deserve the happiness? No, probably not. The truth is that life is not about what we do or do not deserve. I am a mother. Nothing that I have done in my life is great enough to deserve the children that I have. My children are gifts from God. I need to work on seeing the harder situations in my life as gifts as well.
This past week, there was a classroom discussion of what we cling to when everything else seems to be falling apart. What keeps us going? What would we not want to live without? By the end of the day, I had realized that among family, friends, and faith, I also cling to a sense of humor. As I explained to my students, sometimes it is really difficult to see the bigger picture. If we can laugh at the ridiculousness of a situation or step back from a painful situation to look at that bigger picture from a different perspective, we can eliminate some of the heartache.
That is what I am trying to do today: step back and look at the bigger picture. This past week has been full of challenges on every front--home, work, personal, financial, etc., etc., etc. I don't even want to type what issues have been popping up this week. The icing on the cake (or sprinkles on the rim) was probably driving home late last night and realizing as I strain to see through the rain and fog, that yes. YES. Yes, that is a crack across my windshield. Insert eye roll.
WARNING: Whining alert. When I first met my ex-husband, I was working while he was in school. I was the one who really took care of the cost of living and paying bills. When he left college, we were a team. Everything that we had, we had because we worked together. He was my best friend. He was my emotional support. And now, he is a source of heartache. Sometimes it seems unfair. It seems as though good fortune has shined on my ex since he left me. And it seems that I have had a four-year run of bad luck. Maybe some of you have experienced this, too. But today, I am trying to step back and look at the bigger picture...clean off the rim and hope for better aim.
I have been thinking about the previous year and thinking about this post for a while. Last year wasn't a banner year by any means. Some people mourned the loss of many famous people. I mourned the loss of a close friend. Some people are still fighting about the presidential election. I am still trying to determine the impact the chosen politicians will have on life as I know if...if, they even will.
It's a big, big world. But in 2016, my world just got smaller. It was a year of reflection and realization. I realized in 2016 that sometimes friends are only friends in a social media count kind of way. I realized that my parents are not the people they once were. They don't even remember the people they once were. It is difficult watching a loved one forget chapters of life as the end of the story draws near. It is no easier watching someone my age die--and to wonder what happened to enjoying the harvest? When did life expectancy narrow to mid forties?
There just aren't any guarantees. The only truth we have is being true to ourselves. Last year taught me to renew my faith...to turn to God...to stop lying to myself. I am where I am because of the decisions I have made in my life--not because of anyone else. I need to seize the opportunities in front of me and enjoy the people who are in my life while they are still in my life. It all comes down to choices.
My friend Kim lost a battle with cancer. I did not even know it had returned. We had plans to get together before the holidays, but instead she went into hospice care and I couldn't even visit because I had the flu. Before I could recover, she had died. There was no reason for my not seeing her. We lived 20 minutes apart. We were constantly going this way and that for our jobs, our children, etc. We made choices that did not include getting together. I will never have the opportunity of meeting Kim for "coffee" (she never touched the stuff). I have no one to blame but myself for the choice I did NOT make.
The truth is 2016 took many friends from me--both physically and emotionally. This post could go on and on about the loss that was 2016, but instead I would like to consider what was gained. I gained a new perspective. I came to accept that certain aspects of my old life were never as good as I have tried to make them. Moving forward, I need to at least be honest with myself. Moving forward I need to make time for the people I love the most, and I need to part ways with less than healthy relationships. Last year taught me that the life I live starts with the decisions I make. I intend to make better decisions in 2017.
Ephesians 4:31-32 is underlined in my Bible for a reason. I come back to it over and over again.... "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger,brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
It is easy to become bitter and angry, but I have found that it is also easy to let that go. Don't get me wrong. I have struggled with bitterness and anger, but I have struggled more with forgiveness. I can be kind and compassionate. I can stop speaking poorly of people who have hurt me. It is the forgiveness that has been difficult.
Forgiveness is different than acceptance. I can accept that my husband had an affair. I can accept that I am divorced, and the man who swore he would never leave me or marry another is now two children into a new relationship and engaged to be married at some indefinite point in the future. I can accept these truths. I struggle with forgiveness because in the back of my mind, I correlate forgiveness with "it's okay," and it is anything but okay that he broke his vows.. And while I am not yelling, screaming obscenities, or fighting with him--I am not ready to say, "it's okay."
This past week, our youngest had surgery. My ex and his fiance wanted to be there. And it was right that they were. I made sure to tell the nurse to expect them, and that it was fine for them both to come back to the room where our daughter was being prepped for her procedure. I sat in a waiting room with them, and I spoke with them--not as my ex and the woman he had the affair with--but as my daughter's father and future stepmother. I did not feel bitterness, rage, or anger. I thanked them for their help before driving our daughter home. Our daughter was able to have both of her parents there for her; she did not have to experience the arguing that some children with divorced parents have to encounter. I hope somehow despite the mess that her father and I have made, she can can a relatively happy, healthy, less than messy childhood.
That is why we salty mommies have to let go of the rage. It isn't for us; it certainly isn't for the people who have hurt us--it is for those little people we love. I have gotten rid of bitterness, rage, and anger, and even though I am not ready to say, "it's okay" --that is also okay.
No one ever gets married anticipating divorce. Just like many couples, my ex-husband and I planned to have a long, happy life TOGETHER. We both came from broke and broken homes. We used to say that we were going to break the cycle of crazy. But that did not happen.
After nearly two decades and three children, my knight's armor lost some of its shine. And I apparently did not do enough to keep him from falling off of his horse. Before I think I fully comprehended what had happened, I was alone with my children; he was with his pregnant girlfriend; and I felt devastated. And then angry. Very, very angry. I was angry with him. I was angry with myself. And I was angry with God.
The girlfriend was no surprise to me. I had known. And I did everything that most women in my position would have done. I tried to "save" my marriage. I wanted to figure out what went wrong so that I could fix it. I could not believe that my husband did not love me. I had been praying for God to somehow bring him back to me. I had prayed for God to help my husband find a way to love me again. Again? I actually still believed that a man who had shared such intimacy with another woman somehow loved me. Kinda crazy.
So when it all fell apart, I was angry at God for not answering my prayers. I did not even realize that I was angry right away... I was rather numb for the first year and a half. In fact, it took someone asking me about my walk with the Lord to allow me to break down and realize how much I blamed God for my failed marriage. It was during that little meltdown, which unfortunately just happened to be during a job interview, that I woke up--the numbness wore off, and I knew I had to get myself together.
When I started searching for answers, I found I had more questions. But the one article that I read that really stuck with me was an article from Focus on the Family. I cannot tell you the name of the article or who even said this, but the passage that stood out to me stated that God will not allow you to stay in a marriage that will continue to be damaging. In other words, if your spouse continues to have affairs or abuse you, God is not going to allow that to continue. The article went on to state that God does not want children raised in that type of atmosphere.
That was what I needed to read. I won't get into details about my divorce, but I will say that there was a pattern that clearly indicated the marriage was over. My knight in shining armor had fallen off his horse. It didn't matter how or why. He was down for the count. And I was determined to handle my situation with grace.
No matter what your situation, children do not need to see or hear how ugly adults can be to one another. Find a way to speak to each other with some decency and do all that you can to make sure your children are as protected from as much pain as possible.
I am not my grandmother, nor would she want me to be. Ladies, none of us are Grandma. We are not our mothers. Most of us are not the women of Proverbs 31. We are today’s women of faith: we have our bumps and bruises…our imperfections, but we are not broken. We pick ourselves up time and again, and with God-given grace we survive all life’s trials. We are SALT (Surviving All Life’s Trials).
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). At one time, salt was a currency. Roman soldiers were paid with salt and those who weren’t “worth their salt” received little because they were not worthy of their full allotment. If salt loses its saltiness, it is worthless as stated in the book of Matthew. In ancient times, salt that lost its saltiness was mixed with gypsum and used to seal roofs. The word gypsum means “bitter.” The analogy, as explained by Jack Wellman in his article, “Why are Christians Called to be Salt and Light?” is that Christians who become bitter lose their saltiness and are not good for much more than repairing a leaky roof or to be “trampled underfoot by men.”
My grandmother died thirteen years ago. She was an amazing woman who had lived a life that had seen both World Wars and those that followed, women’s suffrage, the stock market crash and the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, and so many changes in society. She lost her husband and remained alone for 23 years. I remember how heartbroken she was…even though I was young, I remember. But my grandmother was a woman of faith. She had to be. Her faith is what she clung to after her husband was gone. She had raised her children. She had five grandchildren and multiple great grandchildren, but the love of her life was gone. There was no starting over.
I remember sitting at her funeral service and listening to Pastor Mark talk about how she had just the right amount of salt. I didn’t fully understand. My grandmother had been a cook before she retired, and she was always taking food to the church for one event or another, but that wasn’t what Pastor Mark meant. My grandmother had just enough salt to add the right seasoning to her life and to others. She was not bitter. She was sad, but she did not let that sadness spoil the good she could still do with the rest of her life.
My grandmother would have been so disappointed to have seen my marriage end. She loved my ex-husband like she loved the rest of her grandchildren. She respected him and thought he was a good man. She would have been disappointed, but she would have told me to pick myself up and move on. She would have told me to be strong, and she might have even made some less-than-Christian comments.
But more than anything, Grandma would have told me to get over it. She would have told me I deserve better, and she would have been right. So this is me getting over it. I hope that something posted here might help other women who are also struggling.