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It Has Been 20 Years Since My Divorce, And I Am Better For It

03/17/2016 05:53 EDT | Updated 03/18/2017 05:12 EDT
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This year, 2016, is officially 20 years after my marriage breakup. For those of us who grew up in the 1950s, we thought the future would be much like our parents. We married, had families, but then, unlike our parents, many of us divorced.

Twenty-five years ago I would have told you I was the luckiest woman in the world. I was married to my best friend who I adored and had two wonderful sons. I had it all including the home and picket fence.

No Luck

As it turned out, there was no luck in my marriage. The marital secrets he revealed crippled me emotionally for years after the breakup. I was such an innocent in 1996 and he knew it.

Even in the earliest, darkest days and nights after he left, I was determined to get better emotionally. There are family and friends who thought I talked too much about it. I probably did. But, we are all on our own timeline with grief recovery.

Get Over It They Said

The advice that you will get over it -- is not true. Far more apt is what someone said to me back then. Life after divorce is like having had a broken arm -- there is always a slight twinge in the damp weather. It's a much longer, softer lens when I look back but it is part of who I am. My history.

My Sons

Throughout, my sons have always been a source of strength for me. They were in their late teens at the time. We became a very single-parent family quickly, creating new traditions, forging a solid family unit. They forgave my mistakes and emotional stumbling and were my cheering section with my successes.

I don't believe older children find divorce easier. When a marriage disintegrates, the family unit as it has been known does too. The expected future -- lost. Painful for children at any age.

And just how does a parent walk away from a family and turn their back on everything they have known? In so many divorce stories, that narrative repeats over and over. So often, those people who cause the marital breakup, create a future where they drop in and out of their children's lives based on convenience.

Skilled Counsellor

One of the many miracles in my life was finding the most understanding and skilled counsellor during the death throes of my marriage. For the next three years, she helped me piece together a life I thought was shattered. I began to realize my own self-worth and how love had indeed blinded me to the result of constant personal denigration.

A strong lesson in choices was a theme during our sessions.

"Don't feel sorry for him," she said, "because he made the choices that brought about the end of the marriage. "

The Years That Followed

The past 20 years have been about my choices. I had no control over what had happened in my marriage but I did have a choice in how I lived my life going forward.

Again, I was fortunate to have a career I loved, and a supportive administration who allowed me to pursue and excel in my chosen field of guidance.

I had always wanted to live and work abroad and was able to do that. Packing two big satchels and moving to a brand new country on my own was an extraordinary, empowering experience.

Twenty years ago, when he left, I was denied one future. It hasn't been easy. However, now I believe that leaving was the greatest gift he ever gave me.

Personal Relationships

Dating was more of a challenge. Marrying my childhood sweetheart had given me little opportunity for emotional growth. I had to learn how to date again. In retrospect, that was fraught with its own hilarity. But each time a Mr. Right Now came into my life, it gave me another opportunity to learn how to have a healthy, mature relationship. Training wheels for the future.

My own space is as important as shared space. On the evenings that I own the remote control -- I am happy that I do.

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