Beth Jones celebrates her new life after divorce; here's why she's glad her husband left.
A long-divorced friend was at a dinner party recently and raised her glass to a woman who'd been separated for a month.
"Is it OK to do that?" the separated woman asked. "To toast to the end of my marriage?" My friend assured her it was. Many of us, given enough recovery time, eventually toast our divorces. And we do it with gusto. 4 New Ways To Approach Divorce
I thought I had a good marriage. Stuart and I both had dynamic jobs, we'd traveled together, and we'd enjoyed each other's humor. But when my then-36-year-old husband left me for his 20-year-old personal trainer, I realized things hadn't been so idyllic.
I'd followed what I believed to be an appropriate life trajectory and timeline: college, relationship, job, marriage. Very tidy—or so I thought. Married at 29, I thought by 35 I'd have a child or be well on my way to having one. Instead I'd had a miscarriage that prompted my ex to pack his bags while I was out of town. The night I returned, he told me he wanted a divorce and moved in with the trainer.
Within months of his walking out the door, I understood that Stuart had given me a gift: The rest of my life and, more importantly, a chance to redefine it. And it was going to be a life far richer and infinitely more fun than the life I'd have led with him.
I thrived. I spent more time with my friends. I felt lighter in my mind (as well as in my body—I lost 10 pounds). I traveled. I took classes. I got a tattoo. I learned how to ice climb. I quit my job. (Fortunately, I didn't have children to leave in the lurch). 5 Ways To Enjoy Your Post-Breakup Misery
I learned who I was in ways I'd never have figured out if I'd stayed in my untenable marriage—a marriage where I would have inevitably wasted years trying to be happy and trying to make him happy when it was never, ever, going to happen. But while I felt incredibly old when we finally split, within months of letting go of Stuart's (and my own) expectations and the burden of a bad marriage, I felt younger than I had in a decade.
I also learned how to be in a functional relationship. I reviewed the missteps in my marriage, made a few more romantic mistakes after my divorce, and eventually realized that I was fine alone.
Some women have a good radar for inappropriate men early on. I wasn't one of them.
As a female friend of mine put it (who was briefly married while very young), "I came into my own after my divorce. I was married to someone who was a terribly wrong match and now feel a freedom to set the bar higher and look for a partnership that's really good. My divorce was about freeing myself from society's expectations and learning to dictate my own expectations." In Defense Of Starter Marriage
Once I was "complete" within myself (in contrast to the sappy "You complete me" from Jerry Maguire, which implies we're all incomplete alone), I was more ready to find a truly "right" partner. I also pursued having a child on my own (though ultimately I ended up having a baby the old-fashioned way—even after inheriting a friend's frozen vial of unused donor sperm).
Now, a decade after my divorce, I'm remarried and have a 5-year-old son. I might have gotten lucky, but I also got smart.
After the heartbreak and self-blame brought on by my divorce, I realized that I could have a life that's better than I would have hoped for. But much of the good came after I received the hard gift of my divorce. For that, for getting shoved out of my former life, I raise a toast to my ex-husband: "Stuart, thanks. I might not have escaped on my own!"
Beth Jones is the co-author of Three Wishes: A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood
(Little, Brown & Co.)