Who would have thought I would get a second chance at love or find happiness again? Certainly not me! I was convinced that the window for my “happily ever after” was, once and for all, closed and locked; yet here I was ready to take my son’s hand to walk down the aisle to my soon-to-be husband! The music began to play, and I spied my daughter, an 8-year-old vision in her special bridesmaid dress, smiling in anticipation of seeing me process toward her, my fiancée, and his four children.
People like my husband and I don’t seem to get second chances. He and I met four years previously working in the developmental disabilities field. Our similar senses of humor and children (My daughter was the same age as his youngest son, his daughter the same age as my son, then he had two older sons, ages nine and twelve) bonded us with understanding.
It didn’t take us long to learn that we had both endured heartbreaking divorces and were learning to live life again as single parents. We found comfort in having someone else to talk to who could understand what it was like to watch their marriage crumble to dust, then pick up each little piece in order to protect our children from the fallout, all the while juggling a world of responsibilities.
I felt like I had finally arrived home when we actually started dating; but, my path into his life had not been one of optimism or joy. Years before the end of my previous marriage, I was diagnosed as clinically depressed, and found myself broken by loneliness and devastated that my dreams of a loving marriage were fading before my eyes.
I became a mom raising two children and taking care of a home by myself, while my disinterested husband continually withdrew more and more from our home and our marriage.
He stopped talking to me, refused to help me with our young family, and didn’t notice that most nights I would retreat to our bedroom alone and in tears, not knowing how much more I could take.
After attempts to resurrect our marriage through counseling and looking for common ground for us to rebuild on failed, we finally made the decision to go our separate ways. I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me, and I didn’t know which end was up. One thing was for sure: I had to find my purpose and a way out of the dark well I resided in!
My children were the sun to my dark night. I lived for their hugs and sweet voices. I threw myself into their activities and used them as my incentive to keep moving forward, no matter what! At this stage of my life after divorce, I believe I faked optimism more than I actually experienced it. Partly I did so for my kids to encourage them to have faith; but, I also did so as a prompt to myself.
What did I learn? First of all, I had to fully embrace forgiveness. I learned that forgiveness does not mean that one has to accept the actions of another, nor does it mean that they have to like the one who wronged them. What forgiveness does have the power to do is release the grip that all those negative feelings and emotions have on one’s ability to be happy or to have a future. I discovered that forgiveness was an enormously liberating experience! What’s more, I found it necessary to also forgive myself. I had to make peace with my faults and bad decisions, and for the guilt I had toward my children for breaking up their home.
I found comfort in the realization that I had actually made the best choice for them.
Divorce was a painful choice for all of us, but removing them from a home with two parents who were weighted down by apathy and anger allowed them to have two parents who were better versions of themselves, thus better parents! The other significant benefit of divorce to my children was to be rescued from an environment of conflict so that they can grow up in a more peaceful setting.
Once I allowed the weight of my troubles to be lifted through forgiveness, I was prepared to own the fact that I deserved happiness! Happiness was a choice I had to make, and it was one that I finally felt entitled to pursue because I was unshackled from the burdens of the past. I believed that I was intended to have joy in my life, and it was about time I claimed my right!
Why shouldn’t I be happy? Why shouldn’t I love and be loved? Why should I see my failed marriage as the final chapter of my life? The answer to all of these questions was that happiness belonged to me as much as anyone else! A bad period of one’s life does not determine the fate of the rest of their life!
So, on a beautiful April day, surrounded by my precious new family, I joined my life with the love of my life. I said “yes” to happiness! From that day forwarded, I vowed to be a committed wife, mother, and stepmother, and I made a pledge to myself to demonstrate to my children what it means to take care of yourself, value yourself enough to be in the right relationships, and the necessity of believing in, finding, and owning your happy!