“Getting divorced isn’t a failure. It’s an end to something that didn’t turn out the way you expected.”
It may feel like you’ve failed when your marriage first ends. After all, your intention was to spend the rest of your life with this person. But sometimes, letting a relationship end is the best thing for the two people in it, and it is entirely possible to find love again.
The two women I spoke to, Ashley and Maggie, had very different marriages that both ended in divorce. While they each had unique life experiences, their stories have one thing in common – each of them found a new love and the women they are today believe that their divorces were not only necessary, but perhaps even the best thing that could have happened to them.
Authenticity Leads to Greater Love
Ashley Durden was married for 7 years and has two beautiful boys with her now ex-husband. When she got married, she thought she’d found the man of her dreams. He checked off all the boxes on her list, and she did everything she was supposed to do to make her marriage succeed. When her marriage ended, she felt as if she’d failed. “I did everything supposedly perfect, checked off all the must-haves for a Christian wife, woman, mother, and it still ended in divorce.” (Photo credit: Steph Grant Photography)
Leaving her marriage was devastatingly difficult, but she saw this life shift as an opportunity for self-reflection. She told me that her inner dialogue was full of questions and she allowed herself the space – a space that wasn’t allowed in her marriage – to answer them honestly. “I decided I want to like who I am, and be authentic in what I do and how I present myself to others and to the world around me. It might cause conflict and rub people the wrong way, but I don’t want to spend another 7 years not living authentically.”
For Ashley, this meant accepting and embracing the fact that she is queer. She could have stayed in her societally prescribed role, but she allowed herself grace and decided she deserved more than that. “And the next person I’m with deserves more, too.”
Getting over her divorce was a process, but one that was made a little easier by learning to love herself exactly as she was. “Once you start talking to yourself in a different way, even if you aren’t aligned in your behaviors, you leave space for new opportunities to come.” This journey of self-love and acceptance led her to find a new love in an unexpected way. She met her boyfriend, Asher, online and one of their first conversations was about his own self-love journey as a transgender male. Meeting him, she realized “It was time to throw out the checklist and create my own, not one that was given to me.”
Her criteria for a successful relationship? To be with someone who she can be herself with all the time. She and Asher have been together for over a year and she is the happiest she has ever been.
Ashley’s advice for anyone going through a divorce: “ Have grace with yourself. There’s a loss. You’re losing something and that’s painful. You’re allowed to feel that pain, express it and have space for it. Don’t try to rush it or fake it. Sometimes divorce is the only way for the two people in that relationship to grow. When you are ready, ask yourself what you would hope for in the future if you could have absolutely anything.”
Happiness Really Does Come From Within
Maggie Diaz was married to her childhood sweetheart for 26 years. When the marriage ended, she was not only devastated but also lost. She didn’t know who she was outside of her relationship and had to embark on a journey of self discovery. “It was scary being alone, but I prayed a lot, and I asked God to give me guidance and to help me feel comfortable within myself.”
The scariest part, she says, was not having someone to lean on, but she eventually discovered that she could lean on herself, on her faith, and on things that brought her joy, like music. “There is a song for everything. When I feel sad, I listen to music and I might cry a little bit, or I might put on something upbeat and dance to it. I lean into my feelings.”
There is a misconception that happiness comes from a relationship with another person – a romantic partner, a family member, a friend – but Maggie is a beautiful example of the fact that the most important relationship you have is with yourself. “I like to have what I have now. It’s not perfect. I get lonely sometimes and wish I had someone here to talk to and to hug, but I get my hugs from my grandbabies and my kids.”
After spending almost three decades in a relationship, she came to appreciate the freedom that comes with being alone and curating the space she lives in. She moved back into the house she shared with her now ex-husband and re-decorated. “I told myself that everything had to look different. Now I can come and go as I please, but when I come home, I am at peace. I find my center.”
When asked if she’d be open to a new relationship in the future, even after being alone for almost 10 years, she said yes, but that she wouldn’t settle. “At this point, I know myself well enough that I don’t need someone to love. I love myself, and until there’s something or someone that makes me feel more comfortable than I am now, I don’t need anything else.”
Maggie’s advice for anyone going through a divorce: “I wouldn’t say don’t get married again because there is someone out there for everyone, but love yourself first. Divorce is hard, but it’s doable, just take it one day at a time.”