Heartbreak

Why You Should Get Divorced At Least Once

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woman looking out of the window

Do you have trouble with intimacy? Are you angry all the time? Does the thought of holding hands disgust you? Get divorced.

Everyone else seems to be doing it. I did, and it was the best decision I've ever made. It led me to this conclusion: everyone should get divorced at least once.

Now, hold on, you naysayers. No, I’m not bitter about my divorce. No, I’m not discounting the sanctity of marriage or the work a couple puts in to make something work. Nor am I saying to stop trying to figure out your problems.

I am saying that going through a divorce forces you to look at life and relationships from a new perspective — one that’s more refined and focused on your needs.

Only through getting a divorce did I learn what I wanted and what I needed. Most importantly, what I wouldn't put up with in the future.

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Of course, I didn’t go into marriage expecting to get divorced. I’ll be honest and tell you that I considered it an option in case I needed to get out. Maybe we were doomed from the start; who knows?

But our marriage did start on a good note. We met in college (while I was on a date, no less) and had tons in common. We could stay up for hours chatting at night. It was no secret that we would get married.

Once we did, that’s when things began to change. My once-confident, engaging, motivated boyfriend turned into a sluggish, apathetic, unemployed husband.

Then came the emotional abuse, infidelity, and thinly veiled controlling behavior. I thought I had my life figured out with the person I was supposed to be with. Little did I know that my first marriage would shatter that shiny image.

I knew the end was coming nearly a year in advance. Several ultimatums (get a job by October or I’m out, see a therapist or I’m out, engage in marriage counseling or I’m out), and a few excruciating months of couples’ counseling later, we were still stuck in the middle of a nightmare. So I ended it.

It was a painful and drawn-out divorce, cost way more than I wanted, and took much longer than I expected.

But through the process, I learned that I had to dissociate myself from the torture I was going through, which made it easy for me to see my ex through an unbiased lens.

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The cracks in his persona that I blocked out with love became more evident, and I ended up questioning myself. Why would I ever have been involved with someone like that? I was better than that!

If any of my friends were in the same position, I would put them through the wringer! It was a complete cliché coming of age, finding yourself-type of revelation.

Until you go through that pain, angst, and suffering, you learn how little you know about the many faces a relationship can have. You just plain haven’t experienced it.

Sure, you know the good times and how to put your love for each other first. You don't see the completely different person someone can become at the drop of a hat. You can’t pull yourself out of the relationship long enough to see who that person was, to begin with.

I don’t regret getting a divorce. But I also don’t regret going through that marriage. I learned that I didn't need to take a backseat to my husband’s whims. It showed me that marriage needs to be a true partnership, not just the illusion of one.

It clued me into warning signs in relationships that I could now spot a mile away. One later boyfriend refused to go out in public with me. Nope, gone. Another insisted on accompanying me everywhere I went. Goodbye! And yet another became furious when I wouldn’t come to see him immediately every time he asked. No thanks.

Through the glory of a failed marriage and messy divorce, I learned exactly what I needed to be happy. Not just for a great relationship to work, but for myself. And that is knowledge I prize more than anything else in the world.

I am remarried now, and I adore my husband. We talk things through, move forward, and love each other unconditionally. My past informs most of my decisions, making us a stronger couple.

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Jennifer Billock is an award-winning writer and best-selling author covering mental health issues that relate to families at every stage. She's been published in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Wired, and National Geographic Traveler.

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