Lessons from a loser: 4 lessons I learnt from divorce

Man, I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I’ve got so much to talk about, but I also feel so fiercely protective of my life now. This ‘journey’ I have been on has taught me so much, but it’s also heightened my already Everest-level cynicisms about life, love, luck and loss.

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For any newbies to this half-abandoned archive of my PMS emotions, the story is pretty simple: my high-school sweetheart husband and I tried unsuccessfully for 8 years to make a family, attempting au naturel, IVF, and adoption. This deeply affected our marriage and my health, and culminated in said high school sweetheart lying, cheating scumbag having an affair with an 18 year old strumpet (who I had idiotically welcomed into my house and treated like a daughter). I was in hospital with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism when I found this out, and subsequently, our 15 year long relationship came to an abrupt and fiery end.

I’ve now been divorced for over a year, and, while I grew up with divorced parents (and therefore thought I knew a thing or two about it), it turns out that there has been some pret-ty major lessons along the way. Some have been surprising refreshing, while others have felt like great and incomparable injustices.

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  1. Divorce time is D I V O R C E time

So you just heard your not-so-close friends Kim K and Kanye are getting a divorce?* Guess what – this most likely means that they are getting a divorce. The truth is, unless you are besties or family with a couple, by the time you find out about relationship problems it is probably unsalvageable. While miracles can and do happen, generally people take that D word super seriously. Marriage is a huge investment and a massive commitment, not many people throw it away lightly (*cough* Kim K *cough*).

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I can’t tell you the amount of people who contacted me once the news broke to plead/beg/pray/demand the restoration of my marriage. Not only was this highly hurtful and insulting as I had absolutely no way of restoring something my ex didn’t want, I obviously had tried with my heart and soul to ‘fix’ things before the horrible reality hit home – it was over and there was nothing I could do about it. By the time divorce news was out in the open, I was well into the long road of acceptance and recovery.

  1. Nobody cares

This was one of those refreshing realisations. When my marriage failed, I felt absolutely and utterly humiliated. I felt as though I had very publically declared to the world that I would stick by this guy until death, and yet, here I was, very, very publically failing at that. I felt disgraced – like my life had been a lie, and I now had to face the world with egg on my face. I felt like people were judging the kind of woman I was, the kind of wife I was, even the kind of human I was to ‘allow’ this to happen.

Thankfully my experience has been different from my diabolically low presumptions. People (well, the ones that matter at least) don’t actually give a damn D word about divorce. They care heaps and heaps about what is going on personally for you, but they, by-and-large, don’t view divorce in judgmental terms.

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  1. You lose, lose, lose, lose

This has been undoubtedly the hardest lesson. No matter whose fault it was, no matter who ended it – everybody loses.

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Of course I was always well aware that divorce would cost me my husband, my house, my lifestyle and half of all my things, but I never realised how much more you actually do lose. On top of the deep connection you have to your spouse and any material assets you have accumulated together, there are plenty of other unavoidable losses, for example:

a. Your legacy

One of the loveliest things about being in a partnership is the witness you bear to each other’s lives. Someone observes your successes and failures, they watch you grow and change, and can remind you of your achievements and goals. They can look back with you, knowing how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. This might not be relevant to everyone, but for me my ex-husband was there when I graduated high school, when I first went overseas, when I first moved out of home, when I graduated uni, when I underwent IVF, when I bought my first house, etc. I find it incredibly strange to enter a world where the people I date haven’t witnessed any of this journey.

b. Your future plans

Leading on from the previous thought, you also lose every notion you had of your future. Even though life (obviously) doesn’t go according to plan, people generally have an idea of what they are working towards. At the very least, I thought I knew where I would be living and who I would be married to. I now have a completely blank canvas, which is in some ways nice, but there is also a grief involved with closing the door on things long hoped and strived for.

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c. Friends

Yep, this one really sucks. In my experience this has been a gradual and prolonged loss. Many of my friends were really there for me when the shit hit the fan, but then slowly withered away as time went on. My understanding is that something like this is just very difficult for people to know how to navigate.

The ex and I spent most of our time with other couples, so to begin with there’s always that awks problem of feeling the need to ‘choose a side’. Then, there’s the relationship dynamics – two couples having dinner, going to the park, watching movies, etc. works really well. A couple with their distraught, single friend bitching and moaning on the couch isn’t an ideal Saturday night for anyone. The invitations dry up very quickly. And finally, some ‘friends’ simply can’t deal with the changes you go through during this hellish process. Thankfully, there are some absolute gemstones who have carried me and loved me throughout it all.

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d. Family

This one tears me in half. I come from a very small family – it’s really just my mum and I who live in the same state. So every year, for fifteen years, we joined together with my ex’s family to celebrate Christmases, Easters, birthdays, graduations, weddings blah blah blah.

And now there is nowhere to go.

For fifteen years I had a large, loud Italian support structure around me. For fifteen years I had in-laws and siblings and grandparents and cousins and aunties, and now they are largely inaccessible to me. Sure, I’m still loved and cared about deeply by them, but I can’t exactly show up at a family BBQ comfortably. This is a loss that seems enormously unfair, and I would be lying if I said I don’t spend a lot of time creepily watching families at the park wishing I had what they’re having.

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e. Innocence

By innocence I mean trust and optimism and faith and hope – God help any of my potential suitors. Being cheated on, and lied to, in such an extreme way, over such a prolonged period of time, has all but destroyed my trust and faith in the opposite sex. I am filled with anxiety and dread that it might happen to me again. And, it’s simply not something I feel that I could survive a second time. If the man in my life so much as goes into the bathroom with his phone, my stomach starts doing backflips – men are now presumed guilty until they prove and prove and prove themselves innocent. This is clearly not a good launchpad for healthy and successful relationships, but it is unfortunately a reality for me now which will take bucket loads of counselling and good fortune to correct.

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  1. You are stronger than you realise.

Obvs I would never recommend divorce to anyone, unless of course you have a penchant for being dragged arse-first through personal annihilation and then pushed unwillingly back into the same body to restart life all pessimistic, fearful, scared, empty and alone… but, having somehow made it out the other side, I can confirm that what doesn’t kill you does indeed make you stronger.

Last year I was in a place where I was sick, I was going through a divorce with 8 years of infertility pain under my belt, I had no job, I had no house and then my car decided to die as well. I had zero hope for the future. But somehow, piece by piece, the jigsaw of my life began to come together again. I just had to push through that most awful part. Life isn’t all sunshine and French bulldog puppies now, but it’s a life I have pushed hard for, and I’m thankful for that.

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Phew… that ended up being a lot longer than I expected! As I said, I’ve got heaps and heaps to share and this one has been bubbling away in my mind for ages. I wish that I could have made my first post back a little more upbeat and positive, but the nature of this blog is to say things as they are, and, believe it or not, divorce is pretty shitty. So, sorry for my absence and sorry for the downer deluge but I still love this site, and all the incredible support and stories I receive on here.

x

*As far as I know Kim K and Kanye are doing juuuust fine.

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5 thoughts on “Lessons from a loser: 4 lessons I learnt from divorce

  1. I have been sent here by a wonderful friend who I think is a friend of yours too, Mandy. I have/am going through something similar and can relate to so much of what you have written.
    Good on you for being so honest. My new mantra in life is “The universe rewards the brave”. its what keeps me moving forward.

    Lots of love xxx

    • Hi Tara, I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through. It really is such a shockingly awful thing! Thanks for your kind words. Honestly when I wrote this I had no idea if people would even read it – most of my friends are happily married or not married yet so I didn’t know how relevant it would be. It really makes me happy to hear that it’s being shared with people that might relate 🙂
      And, your mantra is brilliant! I’m going to hold on to that belief too!
      Much love, Sharlie xo

  2. Pingback: When love leaves | Lady Breaks

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