People talk about divorce like it's the end of the world. It's not. It's actually a beginning.
I remember I would wake up in the morning, looking forward to my day, and then would roll over and see the still warm, empty space next to me in bed. My stomach would sink. My husband had gone to the gym and I was glad because that meant I wouldn’t have to see him.
As the day progressed, we talked occasionally on the phone, mostly about bills and the kids’ schedules and whether he would make it home in time for dinner, communications about the running of our family business. We were good at that.
I remember every night seeing his car drive in the driveway and thinking "Ok. This is it. Tonight I am going to give him a hug and be happy to see him."
And he would walk in the door and go right to the stack of mail and rifle through it, something he knew I hated. There would be a perfunctory kiss, he would get a drink or two, and we would spend the rest of the night operating in parallel, dealing with homework and bedtime.
My husband and I never fought but we were desperately unhappy. Eighteen years of a thousand little cuts, of unresolved conflicts, of the contempt of the familiar, had wrought serious damage.
And even though we were barely existing in the same space I really believed that somehow we would find our way back to each other. We had shared dreams for the future after all and how could we let those go?
One day he told me he wanted a divorce. He didn’t want to work on our marriage. He was done.
I was devastated.
What followed was one long year of divorce proceedings. It was horrible. And then it was all over. Eighteen years of marriage. Done.
In spite of all of that, or perhaps because of it, here I am, 5 years later, living a life that is happier than I ever could have imagined. Yes, it is different from the one that I thought I would be living with my husband but it is most notably different because I am happy. Truly happy.
Here are 5 reasons why my divorce made me happier:
1. My kids are thriving.
The first thing that my son said to me when he learned we were separating was "Good. Because I hate coming home. There is always so much tension." And this was true. Now, when he comes home, either to me or to his dad’s, his home is cleared of the anger that used to cloud it.
My kids also now have a much better relationship with their dad. Before the divorce, I came between them. They spent more time with me and saw how unhappy I was and they distanced themselves from him. Now, they see their dad separately from me and it has made them all closer... which is a gift.
Because I talk to them more openly than I did before, and I have a good understanding of what went wrong with my marriage, my kids have a much clearer picture of what it takes to make a relationship to work. That is something that I wish I had had when entering into my marriage.
My kids are doing great in more ways than one. And that, to me, is the most important thing.
2. No more "thousand little cuts".
You know what I'm talking about. Every day there was some kind of slight, big or small. The mail that was rifled through, the 3rd drink, the coming home late again, the snapping. We were constantly at each other, not overtly, but in ways that caused pain. We had unresolved issues and tons of resentment.
We struggled to stay calm in each other's presence. We lived in the same house but we were always lonely.
Now my days are filled with a happiness and contentment that I haven’t known in a long time. I wake up in the morning without that sinking feeling in my stomach. I spend my days working and being with the kids and living my life without the constant dread of that next little thing coming that would cause me pain.
This has made me a better person and a better mother. And have I mentioned? Happier.
3. New friendships.
One of the most wonderful parts of my single life is the number of new friendships that I've developed.
When we're married, we tend to insulate ourselves from the rest of the world because of our relationships. We might have friends who are other couples but really, our primary relationship is with our spouse.
Now, I have many, many friends, of all different stripes, who make my life fuller every day. And they say that the number one cause of sustained happiness is good friendships. How lucky am I?
4. I am my own person.
For years, I identified myself as someone’s wife. Yes, I was a successful mom, realtor, and life coach but every decision that I made about my life was made in consideration of my relationship with my spouse.
Now I live life the way I want to. Yes, I have my obligations to my kids and my job and the U.S .Treasury Department but I get to live in a way that makes my heart sing.
I recently moved from Vermont to New York City, have a thriving life coaching business and volunteer extensively with the National Alliance on Mental Illness — all things that I love.
5. My life is full of hope.
When I was married, I was so lonely and sad that I never had any hope for the future. When you are living a life mired in unhappiness, any positive thoughts for the future are impossible.
Now, I know that the sky is the limit. I can have all of the personal success that I want as long as I'm willing to go for it. I have my own business, of which I am proud, my kids are turning into amazing adults and I have a man who I love deeply with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life.
I have been through a lot but all of it makes me who I am today. And I love who I am today…
Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt. Her lawyer stated that she "did it for the health of her family." A reporter declared "Love is Dead."
I would say that love is not dead but very much alive.
Angelina, recognizing that her marriage could not be salvaged, made the difficult decision to get out of it, for her own health and the health of her family. So that they all could have the chance to be happy again. It's the end of something that wasn’t working and the beginning of something that will.
I am not saying you should just walk out on your marriage but I do encourage you to consider the bigger picture… your happiness and the happiness of those around you. As I've said before, if you are living a life that makes your heart sing those you love will be better for it.
I am living proof that it happens.
Are you living with a difficult relationship? Contact Mitzi Bockmann.
This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.