Does Happiness after Divorce Exist? The short answer to this question is yes, there is hope. That short answer does little to offer comfort to those battling such a decision or enduring the pain and disparity that comes with such a choice. I am not speaking of divorce from a spouse that you despise, those divorces obviously bring happiness with the separation from someone that brings you such trouble. My story is for those that are enduring a relationship because despite all else they cannot imagine quitting on their marriage; for those that are facing divorce despite loving a spouse that does not feel the same love.
I married my first wife shortly after returning from my first deployment. That marriage lasted almost three years, which in the military really shouldn’t be too surprising. When she said she wanted a divorce I was about to deploy a third time, to say I was devastated would be putting it lightly, I fell apart. We saw a marriage counselor a few times, she even came around to saying maybe I don’t want a divorce, but no changes were made. I deployed and after being gone a few weeks I was out of excuses for how little she tried to communicate with me. I couldn’t continue to function with this mockery of a marriage, so I agreed that a divorce was our best option.
My head wasn’t in the right place, I still loved her and couldn’t believe I would no longer be able to call her my wife. The first night she had told me she wanted to end it I collapsed completely, and the few remaining weeks before deployment I had barely held it together. Now that it was over things should get better right? Unfortunately, that’s not how this all works. Those memories haunted me for years, I felt like a failure, like I had broken my promise, that I had quit on my marriage.
I tried to have relationships afterward and for years it wouldn’t work. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to make a relationship work, so I gave up. I felt like the desire to have a spouse, let alone a family, was just a dead part inside me. There were a few times where something may have worked, but I was still dead inside and you can’t find happiness with someone else if you’re not happy with yourself. I had resigned myself to finding happiness in my guns and the gym, and truly believed I’d never find another way. I don’t want to say I drank the pain away, but I ran from the pain as often as I could. I threw myself at the gym, at any distraction I could think of, and yes there were nights where I sat and drank and just continued to ask myself why wasn’t I good enough? What had I failed to do that she so easily forgot me, why did I love someone so much that cared so little for me? Every relationship I tried I felt empty and alone, I was inside my head telling myself they really didn’t care for me, that this was going to end. I was consumed with loneliness, regardless of how close the relationship seemed. I was drowning in my despair, never feeling the connection I thought I’d had with my wife.
Distractions can only last so long, in the end there was no escaping this perpetual isolation and grief. As many hours as I’d spend at the gym, as much as I’d try to focus on hobbies, work, or any other distraction, in the end those thoughts would always be waiting. There was no escape from them, it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, I was never good enough. She ended it so easily, she forgot me without blinking. Why was I so torn up about someone that so easily forgot my existence?
I can’t say I ever answered those questions, it took years for them to stop haunting my every day, and even longer for me to no longer feel pain when those thoughts rose from the depths. While I don’t think I’ll ever have the answer to those questions, I also don’t feel any reason to try to answer them. I can’t tell you how to solve the pain you feel, I can’t offer the secret that will erase such despair. I can tell you that it can heal, that happiness can be found again. For me I found my healing through someone who was experiencing a similar pain in her own divorce. We were simply friends that were open with how much pain we were in, and we just continued to talk through the pain. I even fought the realization that I was in love, for over a year I refused commitment because I didn’t want to lose that connection to the empty loneliness that came with every relationship. Thankfully my wife is more stubborn than I am, we’ve been married for two years now and have two incredible sons that are just pure handfuls of joy. It hasn’t been a smooth journey, but I’ve found myself happier than I ever was before.
My story, my words here, will mean nothing to someone stuck in a similar place if they are unwilling to work towards happiness. Pain is familiar, it’s a blanket of safety that you can smother yourself in to prevent new pain from finding its way in. It is far easier to hide in that fortress of emptiness than it is to venture forth into something new. Until you’re ready to accept the painful memories of the past for what they are, the past, you can’t hope to find a new happiness that won’t be poisoned by the old pain. If you do find a way to move past that pain, you may find that while it invites more potential pain, it can also bring you far better happiness than you knew before.
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