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Divorce: A Love Story

Is it because I am sick?” he asked, “I know I haven’t been very energetic, but I think things are going to get better now.” The room was dark, we couldn’t see more than each other’s silhouette as we lay in our bed. Our silhouettes are different than when we were dating 10 years earlier. He, still shorter than me, but now smaller. Some would call his face gaunt. His cheeks sunken in. But as I see him every day, it’s hard for me to notice. His head, always shaven. The chemo didn’t make him lose the hair on his head. We lay next to each other in the bed we have shared for nearly ten years. The bed he still sleeps in today.

I gasped a deep, audible gasp, “Oh my god, of course not.”

Two years later, these words still bring on a wave of guilt. After cancer came into our lives, was there ever a way for me to tell him I wanted to leave where he wouldn’t blame the circumstances? His sickness had nothing to do with me ending our marriage. Sure, the thoughts had been there earlier. Thoughts are things, I repeated to myself. Maybe his cancer shone a light on our differences. Cancer has a way of causing you to discover your deepest demons, your hopes, your dreams. You don’t have to have the disease yourself—just be in its ugly path.

I ended our marriage that night, in our bed, lying side-by-side. I cried until the sheets were wet, my eyelids heavy, and nothing left to say. I ended our marriage believing that he was finally going to be healthy again, and I could begin to live the life I wanted. A life full of adventures, passion, and experiences. He could continue to live his simple, content, and happy with his day-to-day routine.


Was I naive?


The decision to get married is made at a unique point in life and is expected to stick, till death do you part. Many people marry when they are very young, sometimes due to circumstances like religion, or, as in my case, motivated by unplanned pregnancy. Then as they grow and mature, they change. Everyone will change over the course of their life for better or worse. Sometimes a couple changes together and sometimes apart.

I met my husband when I was too young to think about marriage. I was twelve years old, and he was a family friend. I saw him as someone with a lot of energy and zest for life. He was an excellent listener and the most open-minded person I knew. Later when I was older, I would confide in his friendship until our relationship grew romantic. I was attracted to aspects of him I knew in no one else. He was fully present and listened. He took me places and engaged in activities that my family never would. He enjoyed going to the theater and to Thursday night art walks. We would walk downtown, weaving in and out of small, local art studios. We would stand in front of photographs and feel sophisticated as we admired what we liked and disliked about each image. We would stare in awe at paintings local artists created, and then go out to eat and talk about them. He was the only man in my life that I felt connected to, and I didn’t want to lose the one who made me feel safe, happy, and loved.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I cried long and hard, unable to process my new reality. I hadn’t suspected I might be pregnant, I was asked by my healthcare provider to take an at-home pregnancy test as we worked out issues with my birth control. We had moved into my mom’s house a few months earlier after she re-married and moved. We were both settling into what was our new normal, living together, splitting the bills, and talking about our future. When two lines appeared on the cheap test, I suddenly felt unsure I knew how to read it at all. I took another with a friend by my side. We were in a public bathroom after sweating through a Zumba class. The low ceilings and poor lighting made the room feel like a cave and the air felt heavy and musty. She’d had two kids, both planned. She enthusiastically congratulated me. Once she saw I was crying, she tried to comfort me with her belief that babies were a gift. She said my partner would make an excellent dad, and that once the shock wore off, I would see my daughter for what she is, a blessing. We hugged, and I returned home to share the news, but not before taking a third test to confirm. This one without lines but instead read the words, pregnant.

At first, I accepted the fact that we could get married later after the baby was born, but then I cried because I didn’t want to wait. Pregnancy was my realization of how little control I had in my life now. We were faced with a new certainty; we would be parents. I was a pile of hormones crying on the bathroom floor. I suddenly was sure I wanted to be married before I became a mother. He sat next to me on the floor of our tiny bathroom where I was trying to hide my tears and offered, as gently as he could, that we could get married now if that's what I wanted. He offered, not asked, to marry me in the middle of my ugly sobs. Tears and snot pouring from my nose and my eyes, I agreed that getting married was the best decision. And so, we did, two weeks later.

I was 20 and he was 39. Our wedding was small just the way I wanted. We had our closest friends and family at the ceremony, and I wore a dress that I adored. The dress was a strapless lavender ball gown I found at a secondhand store for $275. It had sequins and small beads around the tight-fitting bust. There was a small arrangement of calla lilies gathered at my waist and a long train behind me. The dress zipped up with no more room for my pregnant belly to grow. My grandfather walked me down the aisle and we indulged in pasta and cookies after the ceremony.

When I married at 20, I had little clue what I wanted out of my life. I knew I was going to be a mother. I hadn’t yet settled into myself. I hadn’t yet discovered who I was. He had a past that came with experiences I didn’t know I wanted or needed. Yet, he was patient with me as I lived out my 20s. I saw myself grow and change while I saw him remain the man I married. I went from being inactive and overweight to owning a successful nutrition business and pursuing my passions as a competitor in different sports–60 pounds lighter. A driven entrepreneur with the heart of an athlete and the support of my husband. He had the same job as he did when we met, regardless of his frustration with it. His greatest joy in life was our daughter, and me. Yet, I thought about a different life often. I was a product of a broken marriage and I wanted mine to be different. I wanted mine to last. Nevertheless, my mind wandered. I daydreamed about getting divorced and being with someone else throughout the years we were together. I didn’t know if I wanted a break from the whole notion of marriage or if I really wanted mine to be over. I also didn’t know if it was normal to think about other people or a different life while married. As the years passed, I looked towards acceptance of the decision I made ten years earlier when I said “I doat 20 years old, 16 weeks pregnant.

I began to question the belief that a single person could meet your needs forever. To me, it seemed impractical. On an evening after work, I opened my phone to an article about open marriages. I found it fascinating, maybe even appealing. We had just finished eating dinner and I sat cuddled up on the couch reading with the intensity of an eager student. After reading, I searched for other stories and my fascination grew. The idea you could have one person that remained your life partner while dating and being intimate with others sparked an interest for me. I had a strong open dialogue with my husband as he had always been a great listener. His ability to listen without fear or judgment was a quality I cherished. And so, without hesitation, I asked him, “What do you think about an open marriage?” He looked up from the computer in his lap without much surprise. I don’t even remember what he said, all I remember is that he had a conversation with me. He indulged my curiosity and he read the articles. He handled my questions with patience and without fear. Never taking me too seriously. To me, this was my way of nudging him, my way of helping him see I wanted something more. My way of telling him I needed more excitement. To him, it was a typical weeknight where his wife shared various random things with him, with little to no meaning behind them. Something in me wanted him to feel insecure. I wanted him to worry. He didn’t. As the conversation came to an end, he did agree with me on one thing: we weren’t the only person that would satisfy each other’s emotional needs. We would have friends, family members, and hobbies to fill in the gaps. It was asking too much to be each other’s only person. Maybe I wanted him to get angry, to feel insecure about us. Maybe I wanted him to give me an easy out. Excuse me from our marriage. Maybe I wanted him to pick me up and take me to our bed and tell me that he was willing to please me in any way he could, as long as I would stay his forever. But that wasn’t the man I married. The man I married loved me, but he operated slowly. He didn’t react. He didn’t get mad. He never made sudden changes.

And so, I put all of my pent-up energy into my hobbies. At one point in my life, that hobby was bodybuilding. Our daughter was three, as was our marriage. By the time she was four I’d made a new friend and introduced her to the sport. I’d found her in the gym where I spent a large majority of my time. She was several years younger than me and full of enthusiasm. I hired her first as a babysitter but the bond between us was instant and so within a week of meeting her she had plans to move in and be my full-time nanny and gym partner.

Weeks away from our next bodybuilding competition, we made a spontaneous 4-hour drive to Portland for a posing clinic. We had 8 hours in the car to kill. The sun was shining on I-84 as I drove. Suddenly she asked me, “Do you like being married?” I had been married for 5 years. Yet, I couldn’t answer her question without tripping over my own musings. I wanted to tell her I did, but she was living with my husband and me. There were mornings at home when she witnessed my irritation toward him. Evenings when she saw me roll my eyes or walk away frustrated. I saw her feel what I felt. He was being goofy when I was trying to be serious. He was working late, forgetting things we had planned. I was being distant, spending most of my time at the gym or working in the evenings. During the year she lived with us, I’m not sure we were ever even intimate. And so, I was honest. I told her I didn’t like being married. I told her I believed most people didn’t enjoy it after a certain amount of time–maybe I had reached that time. Still, it didn’t seem like there were reasons large enough to end my marriage. My husband was supportive. He loved our daughter and spent time with her so I could pursue my passions. He never blinked when he heard of my next big goal or venture. He was my closest friend and knew me better than anyone. I had changed my definition of marriage to believe that the most important traits were friendship, and someone to split childcare duties with. Intimacy and romance were for dating, we were married. My advice to her on that hot summer day was to avoid getting married. I envied her single life, her child-free existence. We were on different paths, and I encouraged her to stay on hers. I told her that it was unrealistic for one person to meet all her needs. I told her this, and I believed it. Now believe I gave her bad advice. Today, 8 years later, she lives with her boyfriend whom she has chosen not to marry.

Marriage is a choice two people in a relationship have. Some people are happy to be together without marriage, and others exchange vows with the intent to be together for the rest of their lives. Regardless, marriage is a choice. But what about divorce?

It wasn’t until 1985 that all 50 states followed the no-fault divorce law allowing anyone to get divorced without a significant cause, such as infidelity or abuse. Until this time, in many states, you still needed permission from a judge to end your marriage. Meaning, now you do have a choice to end your marriage. A choice that many of our parents and grandparents didn’t have. “You don’t have to explain it or try to justify it,” another friend said to me one day, “you can get divorced simply because you want to.” The belief that divorce was a choice was foreign to me. People that get divorced had experienced infidelity, I thought. Their spouse had a problem with addiction, or they were a victim of some sort of abuse. They didn’t get divorced just because they thought they could be happier. They didn’t get divorced just because their heart wasn’t in it anymore. In my mind, divorce needed a significant cause. Personal needs were not good enough.

It’s hard to say where individuals learn what is an acceptable cause for divorce. For me, that definition was led by example. My grandparents are still married, though I question if they are happily married. They bicker and argue, and I have never seen them be affectionate. My grandma yells at my grandpa because he can’t hear. She doesn’t find his jokes to be funny, and often they hurt her feelings. They are from a generation much different than mine. Men and women were not equal. Women bit their tongues more often or hid their needs altogether. My parents, on the other hand, are divorced. Their divorce was ugly and messy. My first memory of divorce was of me wishing my parents would get one. I remember searching for the positive outcomes if they did. I remember imagining how their divorce would benefit me. I would get two bedrooms, I wouldn’t have to listen to them argue and I wouldn’t have to see my mom cry.

My parent's divorce, though for the best, was still frowned upon by people like my grandparents. It wasn’t supposed to happen. In their mind, two people who agree on a life together need to stay true to their word. My mom was 16 when she got married. Like me, she was pregnant, and it was frowned upon to have a baby out of wedlock. Teenagers change likes and dislikes throughout the day, let alone throughout their lifetime. The chances of two 16-year-olds staying married in today’s world are minimal at best. It was no surprise that when I got pregnant my mom practically begged me not to get married just because I was pregnant. I wholeheartedly believed I wasn’t. I believed my love story would have a different ending than hers. Pregnancy aside, I see now that my mom’s distaste for me marrying someone so much older than me fueled my fire to do it despite her protests.

Two days after telling my mom I was in a relationship with someone 19 years older than me, she pleaded with me to rethink our relationship. She told me I was young, and driven, and that he wasn’t. She told me that she didn’t want me to miss out on opportunities in my life because of our difference in age. She knew him well enough to say these things, but I didn’t want to hear them. It was the first time my mom and I ever argued. I didn’t understand. She liked him, they were friends, I didn’t see the problem. We were both crying. We were both yelling. In the living room of the home I grew up in. The same living room I wished my parents would get divorced in. The same living room I would raise my daughter in when only a year after this argument my mom would rent us the house. And only three years after that we would buy it. Years into our marriage I would begin to resent the house and all the bad memories it contained. All the tears it witnessed. I would end up giving it away in my divorce. My mom and I communicated less after this argument. Eventually, with the birth of my daughter she would have no choice but to come around. My daughter brought with her a shift. My mom became accepting of my new family. Was it change? Or was it inevitable that time would heal our differences?

After fighting so hard for our relationship in its early years, I felt ashamed that I now wanted it to end. My husband and I had many good years together. And if we were still married, I’m sure we would have more. Yet, I was yearning for a deeper connection. I didn’t like the person I was becoming the longer we stayed married. In my heart, I didn’t believe I could be her in our marriage. Small things started to set me off. My husband’s family coming to town turned into a crisis. He would feel my tension and come up with reasons to give them to not visit. I hated myself for this. When they would visit, our house would get turned upside down. Their dogs would chase our cats. They brought bags of food and left it all sprawled on the kitchen counters. The counters I kept tidy and organized, something I am embarrassed to say frustrated me. What really sent me over the edge was their surprise visits and unscheduled nature. Showing up at our house in the middle of the night to stay for the entirety of a weekend unannounced. His family shared an entirely different culture than mine as they came to the United States from Mexico when he was only 7. Mi casa es su casa was taken literally as he grew up in a multi-family home where chaos was a normal part of the day. I, on the other hand, grew up in a larger space with just my mom and sister. The change was often too much for me, and I began to feel uptight and inflexible. On the outside though, we appeared to have the ideal marriage. We had a beautiful daughter, and we didn’t argue or fight. When we did disagree, I would express he felt like the perfect roommate. The perfect person to raise my daughter with. But not the intimate partner I wanted. And then, without any sort of warning or preparation eight years into our marriage, he got sick.

The quickest way to believe you have fixed a marriage is to think you are going to lose the person you’re married to. When cancer came, I suddenly couldn’t imagine my life without him. Negative thoughts about my marriage simply vanished. I was ready to fight for him, and I did. I was also prepared to fight for my daughter. She has the dad I dreamt of, and now she may lose him. Stomach cancer has a 20% survival rate. Though cancer statistics are complicated, we started living our new life with constant uncertainty. I imagined the odds meant I would lose him, but he remained optimistic. Regardless, cancer helped me remember my love for him. I felt ashamed forever thinking I was falling out of love. We battled through eight rounds of chemo, the removal of his stomach, and learning to eat again.

At an appointment that followed a cancer recurrence, he was told that without more treatment he would probably only live another year. But we were doing treatment, which would ultimately give him a greater chance of a cancer-free life. He hung onto the belief that he only had one year left to live, who wouldn’t? Each time cancer recurs, hope slips further. We were pulling out of the doctor’s office when he mentioned the current countdown. “I’ve got about 8 months,” he said. I rolled my eyes, keeping my focus on the road, I asked him, if so, what we were doing. If he really believed he only had 8 months left to live, why were we wasting it? He was going to work each day. We were doing the daily stuff, mowing the lawn, meal prepping, taking our daughter to school, and swim practice. We weren’t living the way I would if I believed I had 8 months left. I asked him if he wanted to sell the house, buy an RV and go explore. He laughed at me. Told me that was ridiculous. He asked what I would do when he died. I told him I would figure it out. And I would.

I wasn’t afraid of living without him anymore. By this time, we’d been on the cancer rollercoaster for over two years. I’d lost him and got him back. This was his second diagnosis. I wasn’t afraid of losing him, I was afraid of watching him live a stale life. I wanted to enrich his final days. He said what would help him was living life as normal as possible. I honored his wishes, but I left the conversation realizing how different we wanted our lives to be. How much we had changed. There was a time early in our marriage when all I would have wanted was to keep our day-to-day as normal as possible too, but I didn’t want that anymore. Ultimately, I had returned to where I was before he had cancer. I was back to realizing that I loved him, but I didn’t want to be married to him anymore. No matter what, I had to help him through this. I believed my feelings could wait.

Immunotherapy put him back into remission, and I had reached my breaking point. I was approaching a monumental birthday, 30. As my birthday neared, I felt myself begin to panic. I was about to be 30 and I felt like everything I had worked so hard to build, my career and marriage, were no longer serving me. I no longer wanted my life. I wanted to have more fun. I wanted to feel passionate about something, anything. I thought about signing up for another race, and so I registered for my second half Ironman. I was searching for something to bring me enthusiasm for life again. Then I injured my shoulder and was unable to swim, a necessary skill for a triathlon. I couldn’t hide from my unhappiness anymore. I consistently had to talk myself off the ledge of miniature panic attacks which felt like they came from nowhere. I believed I was being irrational and so I kept dismissing myself. Until I broke. Lying next to my husband on that Thursday night, I told him I didn’t want to be married anymore. He lay next to me and listened, holding my hand. He listed things that could change, he remained calm, and he asked reasonable questions: What do you want? What would make you happy? Can we work on this? But I had shut down, I didn’t want to work on it. I didn’t want to fix it. Then he said something that surprised me. He said that if I left, I would need to learn to forgive myself. He said that he knew I would beat myself up over this. And I have. This was the start of what would become a long battle of guilt, believing I was the most selfish person in the world. Punishing myself for changing my mind about the decision I made 10 years earlier.

It was Valentine's Day when I decided I wanted to leave. It was cold outside, the weather somehow mirroring how I felt. Snow fell from the gray sky adding to my somber mood. We sat in our living room and spent the entire day watching the HBO series, Love Life. The two of us in our matching brown recliners. The feeling of, ‘This is it?’ washed over me. I was 30 now and this was it. I scribbled in my journal the choices I thought I had. A pros and cons list to staying married or getting divorced. A list of what I wanted if I left, and what I would sacrifice if I stayed. Then I closed the journal telling myself to sleep on it–save the decision for another day. The days kept adding up, but this was the first time I had written it down. I couldn’t continue to feel resentful toward someone that didn’t deserve it.


Four days later, I chose divorce. It was hard. I saw the pain I caused in my husband, and I knew that wasn’t the end of it. Right when I thought telling my husband was hard, we had to tell our daughter.

On a cold Sunday afternoon, my daughter and husband met me at LeBeBe’s, a cute coffee and pastry shop themed as if you were visiting a café in Paris. The snow was blowing outside making the sky dark, and the atmosphere mellow. She ordered an oversized cookie, and he and I—a cup of coffee. My stomach hurt too much to drink coffee and I was too nauseated to eat, but we were setting the scene for normalcy. Then we told her I would be moving out. My memory is fuzzy as to what we said exactly, but tears immediately dropped from her eyes. She too felt blindsided. Tears poured from my eyes the second she began to cry. She sat on my lap, 9 years old, learning her entire world was being split in two. We assured her of many things; we would continue to have a family game night (this has now transformed to ice cream night) she would continue to sleep with her dog (this meant we would have split custody of the girl and her dog) and she would help me find an apartment where she would have her own room (a room at both houses). Most importantly, we assured her that we loved her. She had nothing to do with our separation, and the reasons were far more complicated than she could comprehend. A week later, she was helping me move into our new two-bedroom apartment. We completed the move with the purchase of a blue and red betta fish she named Princeton.

When I envisioned getting divorced, I painted a picture in my mind that my ex and I could still be friends. I didn’t want to end our relationship, I wanted to change it. I wanted us to be different from all the angry divorcees I witnessed. Often the tension that comes from divorce tears two people that once loved each other apart. My ex is a calm and caring person who loves our daughter and me. He wanted me to be happy, even if it meant losing me. There were days when I may have doubted we would make it out the other side as friends. I sit back and review the last two and a half years thinking, how did we do this? How are we all okay? Each day, a little more guilt dissipates. There is that other cliché, “Time heals all”– maybe it’s true?

To my own surprise, I soon fell in love again, and I saw my daughter fall in love with my new partner as well. I didn’t expect it. Just like I didn’t intend to fall in love with someone new so soon, giving myself another reason to carry guilt. When I thought about bringing someone new into my life, I imagined my daughter kicking and screaming. Instead, she was accepting. She saw her mom happy, she saw her mom in love, and it was contagious. I watched her hug my partner with delight and snuggle with him on the couch.

Eight months after our divorce, as we were all settling into our new lives, cancer came back with a vengeance. After everything we had been through, I cried harder than I ever remember crying. I cried in the arms of my new partner while my ex-husband lay in a hospital bed four hours away having a feeding tube placed inside him. He lay four hours away in his stale hospital room alone. A room bigger than it needs to be, filled with too many chairs given he can’t have any visitors due to COVID. His frail body was cold as he lay in his bed. Already a small person standing at five-foot-four, his inability to keep food down has eaten away any extra weight he may have once had to keep him warm. He was about to enter a new reality that, in the past, I would navigate with him. I laid at home imagining the new low his life was hitting–divorced, losing his ability to eat, and facing the familiar uncertainty cancer brought–when our family dog was hit by a car and killed under the care of his family member. He called me from the hospital to tell me. I sobbed that night, my body trembling uncontrollably as I imagined telling our daughter our dog was killed. I sobbed imagining the ‘what if’ scenario of me having to tell her it wasn’t the dog, but her dad. A reality I had been dreading since his initial diagnosis. The only thought that got me through was the realization that somehow, we were going to get through this. Just like we always had. He returned home, his eldest daughter flew in from the east coast to stay with him, and I continued to show my support by accompanying him to his doctor appointments.

Each appointment I went to with him, I wondered if the nurse or doctor knew we were no longer married. We would sit side-by-side in the doctor’s office, I would act surprised by the symptoms he would mention to the oncologist. I wasn’t with him 24/7 as I had been before. I was also trying to maintain my relationship at home with my new partner, aware of how uncomfortable it may be for him; me still caring for my ex-husband, still crying for my ex-husband. Our divorce was unusual. During one of my therapy sessions, I mentioned this. I loved two men in such different ways, I worried about how it appeared to other people. My therapist reminded me it didn’t matter what others thought. What mattered was the immediate people around me: my daughter, my partner, and my ex-husband who was still my friend.

As time passed, my curiosity as to what my ex said when people asked him why we got divorced began to haunt me. I wanted to know what he said for no other reason than to know. And so, I asked him.

We met up at The Local, a trendy new coffee shop in downtown La Grande. Because of the civility and mutual respect that remained in our relationship, we are still able to get together like this. On this day the two of us sat on the sunny patio, cars rushing by as the five o’clock hour sends many people home after a long day of work. As conversations go, we talked about our day and the weather. I ask him how he is feeling, and he updates me on the new foods he has tried to eat. Then I came out with it. I hadn’t wanted to have this conversation with him to respect the pain he might still be experiencing about our separation. I wanted to give him space without me bringing up painful feelings and conversations. I hoped enough time had passed now.

“When people ask you why we got divorced, what do you tell them?” I explained to him that this question circled my mind more often than I cared to admit. He looked out in front of him and watched a little brown bird bounce along the patio. Its two little legs like springs launching it to its destination, picking up scraps of ice cream cones left behind. This little bird was mesmerizing even to me, even when I just wanted him to answer. Then he turned to me.

“Nobody has ever asked me that.” I was stunned. I had been telling myself stories about what people must think of me throughout the process. The stories I imagined floating around this small town. Leaving him when he was sick. Moving on too quickly. I was forgetting that nobody really cared about my divorce. They had their own lives to navigate and think about. Not only that, nobody had ever asked me why we got divorced either. When I tell people why, it was because I felt the need to justify, not because they had asked.

I sat with this knowledge. He sat quietly too. I asked again, “Not even your family?”

“No. I don’t think they want to ask. They probably believe that asking would upset me.”

“I hope you know I didn’t ask to upset you.” He smiled, “Of course.”

Of all the challenges that I confronted during my divorce one of the biggest was the guilt I couldn’t let go of. An abundance of love and understanding was the biggest asset in my healing. I’ve had to learn that I am allowed to change my mind, something I didn’t know I struggled with until I got divorced. Once discovered, I saw it in many other areas of my life. Letting go of a goal that no longer felt worth pursuing and changing my daily habits often paralyzed me. To those who feel guilt leaving their marriage, who feel incredibly selfish as they try to move forward with divorce, I will say: you’re allowed to get divorced because you want to, just like you were allowed to get married because you wanted to. There is no certainty in life, nothing is permanent. The choice you made when you were young shouldn’t dictate your future. Today you may want something that in 10 years will hold no interest for you. That’s okay. There really is no way to know. 19-year-old me has very little in common with 31-year-old me. We would have nothing to talk about, we’d lack many common interests, and the conversation would be dull. Being married wasn’t all for nothing, and I don’t see the time as wasted, but some things aren’t worth sticking out if it means sacrificing yourself.


*


I spent countless hours writing an essay about my divorce. I wonder why I wanted to write this essay. I wonder why anyone wants to write a personal essay. I started to write it for a friend considering ending her own marriage. I felt an overwhelming amount of grief for what is coming for her. I can see what her future will look like if she moves forward with her divorce, there was no way around the pain, only through it. Then I realized I kept writing it to try and understand my own divorce. There are so many feelings to unravel, and I needed to put them into words. The first draft: not honest enough. The second draft: left out poignant details; the reasons for my guilt. The most recent draft helped me learn to accept the choice I made really is the best one for me. The biggest realization is the most obvious: change is inevitable. Why am I punishing myself over it? It took me six months to write this essay. 18 months after leaving. In the end, I feel proud that we did it. We didn’t end our relationship. We changed it.


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