I look at my stats all the time. It’s always fun to see how many people are reading every day and see which articles are still alive after months. So this morning when I hopped out of bed (late-ish) and checked my stats, I noticed something that made my heart leap out of my throat. Someone found me because they were asking the internet gods the question “is divorce the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”
I know why my site popped up, because I have said that it was. I said asking for a divorce and going through it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Even though mine was friendly with no financial consideration or children to contend with, and even though my ex and I didn’t ever really fight. Even though we agreed about nearly everything.
What makes my heart even sadder for this reader, is that they’re asking this question right before Thanksgiving. Holidays are harder when you know things aren’t right, even if you haven’t done anything about it yet.
Thanksgiving was the holiday that my ex and I celebrated the most, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, trying to put together what the last year and a half of my life means in context. While I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in a decade, there’s still pain there.
Here’s what I would say to this reader, if they asked me this question now, eighteen months later:
- Yes, divorce was hardest thing I’ve ever done. That’s still true. Now that I’m removed from it, I think that feels even more true. It’s hard to even remember how sad it all was. When you go through a lot of pain, your brain gives you amnesia. Only you know if the pain is worth it for you in your particular relationship and situation.
- It was worth it–for me. I don’t know if that much pain is worth it for everyone or every relationship. It was worth it for me, but I was pretty sure it would be ahead of time. I knew I could get through it and be better on the other side. Not because I have any particular strengths or wisdom in that area, but because I knew the decision was the right one for me in my relationship. And I knew it was ultimately right for my ex, too.
- I didn’t have children. If I had kids, I wouldn’t have left. I wasn’t unhappy day-to-day. I was unhappy looking at the grand scheme of how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I knew that we were missing something we both needed and could find in other people. If I’d had a two-year-old to parent, I probably would have stayed for the sake of family. I would have been less happy, but I probably would have made that sacrifice. There are lots of reasons people with children get divorced that are good reasons, I’m just saying as a parent-less adult, I had the luxury of only worrying about how me and my ex would be. And I knew we’d both be better off in the long run. Only you know if you and your whole family can handle it, and if everyone will be better off in one year, two years, ten years, etc.
- I didn’t have to worry about money. We both have good careers. We never really had joint finances. The house we had bought a few years before had a small enough mortgage either of us could have taken over on our own. So dis-entangling our finances was pretty simple. Only you know the state of you and your family’s finances.
- I didn’t have to deal with extended family drama. We both have really supportive families who never gave us pressure to change our decisions. I knew I could lean on them for support. You should make the decision that’s right for your family, but you don’t owe anything to anyone.
- I didn’t have to deal with religious concerns. We are both atheists, so we didn’t have to consult or consider religious institutions in our decision. How does your faith interact with your needs?
- I had been going to therapy for six months before we talked about it. This was not an impulsive decision. I had been working with a therapist for six months beforehand. I would encourage any one debating this to find a therapist they can talk to.
- I was in a relationship where I was a complete equal emotionally and financially. If you are in an emotional or physically abusive situation, please tell someone in your life who can help, preferably someone with authority.
- The grief came in different waves. About ten months later, I found I was in a really hard spot, harder than it had been a few months before. It may get worse at times you don’t expect. For me, that passed.
- I am here if you need someone. If you want to talk, feel fee to send me an email privately. I would be happy to talk more. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a deep breath. You are the only one who knows if you’ve done the emotional work necessary to know if this is the right decision for you. Please email me if you’d like to talk more.
Please share in the comments any words of wisdom for this reader at this hard time. I hope they come back and see them.