With December fast approaching and being the most popular month for break-ups and January for divorce, we asked you to share how you’ve weathered the storm in your marriage or healed from a heartbreak. A community member responded (@inspire.bewell) – Lauren reveals the turbulent years that led to her divorce and the steps she took to heal and discover herself.
But, he left first…
We met in college and became friends while I was in a previous relationship. Once that relationship deteriorated, we grew close. A year in – after countless nights falling asleep on the phone – he had just been drafted as a professional athlete and he proposed. At the time, I was preparing to attend medical school. We got married 5 months after the proposal (due to athletic training schedules) and I immediately realized the challenge of adjusting to married life, especially in a new state, away from all my friends and family. I deferred Med school to pursue another passion of mine so that I could have the time to travel and support him.
I was a behavior therapist for children with autism, and I got my master’s during that 2nd year of marriage (in yet another state). We were living a life neither of us had been prepared for and it was a huge adjustment. Our good times were really good, the excitement, the adventure, but arguments were volatile. My expectations were very high. I was only emotional when angry or scared, he was emotional when needing intimacy or frustrated, and it made a pretty toxic soup. He was a 26 year old black guy who made it out of the hood and into pro sports and I was a 22yr old black girl from the suburbs trying to create the ‘American dream’ .
Neither of us had a healthy idea of what a thriving relationship would look like
Growing up, his parents lived together but barely communicated and definitely weren’t in a relationship with one another. My parents lived together and simply stuck it out for optics. We simply knew what we didn’t want, and we did the best we could to make our relationship different than everything we’d experienced. We enjoyed most of our time together throughout the struggles. The stressful moments seemed insurmountable, though, because often it took intense arguments to get us to a place of understanding and empathy for one another. So much damage had been done to our hearts through those years of arguing and acquiescing and a lot of him shutting me out emotionally – about money, about jobs, about conceiving children, about helping our families, about our families helping us, about family relationships and dynamics we wanted to expose our children to, and about changing life circumstances.
About 3 years in, we agreed we wanted children, and it was a challenge at first to conceive
After we did, things got incredibly stressful with his profession. The lack of stability started to create riffs between us and because I had deferred my initial career goals, I was completely lost when it came to ways to support him. I often felt and tried to communicate to him that I felt lost and confused, unseen, unfulfilled, and completely unsupported by him because I had passed on a career that my identity for so long was wrapped up in, and it felt like I gave up ME so that he could feel great, and he never learned how to return that support to me. I grew less and less fulfilled, I had decided not to pursue medical school so we could put our energies into the family we wanted, and his pro sports career was done once we started having our children.
We played the blame game a lot
Having seen our parents’ inability to communicate with one another for years, we tried so hard to be intentional at communication for a while. We knew how to push each other’s buttons really well (especially having been friends first) and we knew one another’s character very well. So, on good days we were patient with one another. But when things were stressful, we were less capable of introspection and accountability.
We were not able to see eye-to-eye on how to move our family forward
We were married for 12 years with 2 beautiful young children and a lot of memories when he started to pull away. It was after we had moved back to our home state (our 10th move in 12 years) and he’d had to come to terms with not meeting his own professional career goals the way he desired and I’d had to create a niche for a career that wasn’t thriving in my home state the way it was in other states we’d lived in. Things were tough because our finances were struggling as a result of all the moving, transitioning.
The blames continued to pile up and we had children to raise
The more we tried to “make it work” – this looked like me trying to control every aspect of the children’s’ lives and the home and him trying to stay out as long as he could during the workday so that I wouldn’t judge him for “sitting around the house” – the more the house crumbled. I did not trust him to provide a life for us, and he didn’t trust me to value him as a provider. Once he felt beat up enough by my lack of confidence in him, his feet were out the door. In a last-ditch effort to save the marriage (not the relationship – don’t worry, I’ll explain) I asked him to come to counselling with me. He reluctantly agreed and it only made it clearer that the pain that we’d each caused one another was so deeply irreparable that we would risk losing our entire identity in repairing those wounds just to be whole enough for the children…let alone ourselves.
We split at the end of that final 12th year
It was like a vacuum had sucked all the blood out of my veins. He sat me down and was surprisingly very gentle with my feelings, but very clear on what he wanted and didn’t want. I was in disbelief for a few weeks following, just because it was the only life I had ever known. I hadn’t entertained anything else. My friends were very hard on me and completely dismissive of him, especially since he had grown very distant, cold, and outright hurtful to me in the months leading up to that conversation. We tried as best we could to keep our families out of things, but my family is not good at that. Having witnessed our worst argument, they were constantly reminding me of his disdain and disrespect for me, and very intentional about being around in case he was to become physically aggressive. He never was.
Communicating with him and trying to keep peace in front of our children during separation transitions was very difficult
I still felt like I was connected to him, and I had invested so much that I didn’t know how to be anyone but his wife. I broke. I slid quite easily into depression and anxiety. I’ve always been lean…but I’m 5’7” and I had dropped down to 100 lbs. and was struggling with panic attacks and severe digestive distress. I could not digest food, could not keep food down, and was mostly on a liquid eating regimen just because I knew what my body needed, but she couldn’t manage it. I was able to confide in my close cousin, who gave me the best guidance I needed to heal and learn myself and then trust myself to thrive.
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I realized that I had put the marriage on a pedestal and had never taken the time to learn myself
who I was, who I was to a man, who I wanted to be to a man, what I desired from a man, and what a healthy relationship looks like. I had no idea how to cultivate our relationship and had no good examples in my own community.I came from a long line of divorced women, and all I had ever relegated to was “can’t be me”.All along, I had never realized I was clueless. I expected a man to love me fully when I couldn’t even show him how I desire to be loved.
I took up a boxing class at a local gym
I did this mainly because I needed to do something to help my body heal and I was so sad all the time that I couldn’t eat, and I didn’t have the motivation to do anything. I was deteriorating and I could barely serve my own clients because, as a nutritionist, I literally talk about food all day. The boxing class was introductory, and it was like a gym membership without the gym, just a room full of bags to let your anger out on. That felt really good.
I started seeing a therapist at that time as well.
I began to be transparent with myself, with my children, with my family. I started spending time with myself (not just alone – there’s a huge difference). I started learning who I am and what I like. I reflected on what I liked about him, and I gave thanks for the memories. I forgave him for all the hurt and pain he caused when he was callous to me when I tried to love him, when he was awful and disrespectful to me, when he assumed I would take his children from him, and for not being able to love me in any of my love languages because I was incapable of communicating them to him in the first place. I spent a lot of time in nature. In nature, I was able to hear from and commune with God, literally experience the presence of God, and allow my body to heal. It took about 6 months to gain even 10 pounds back. I still struggled to eat because my digestive system was so depleted of the happy hormones. I didn’t want meds, but I was intentional about eradicating depression and anxiety from my life.
I eventually found a gym where the coaches are high calibre boxers and trainers
I was immediately drawn to the mental grit it takes to train and perform in a sport where you’re constantly drained of energy and pushed to your ultimate limit. I grew up dancing, playing musical instruments, and never being allowed to play sports (despite how much I loved them – Daddy issues, another story for another day). So, for me, boxing became an amazing way of tapping into the tougher parts of me that I never knew existed, yet still thrive in my femininity. I’ve learned so much in this journey…the beauty of self-love – even the hard part when you have to face the fact that you, alone, can hold yourself back from greatness – the beauty of surrender – where you let go and for real let God be sovereign over your life…the joy in knowing myself – I asked myself questions like “Why do you enjoy winning an argument?”, “Why do you respond defensively when someone asks you something?”, “Why do you care how people see you?” and I actually gave myself honest answers. I took time to sit with a journal and with a question until I was able to identify an answer. I put so many tears on pages and into tissues. I feel so free now. I am so balanced. I feel so abundant. And it’s because I know who I am, and I know how I love, and I know how I desire to be loved. I am comfortable accepting nothing less than amazing.
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I want my sistas to know that YOU are the most important masterpiece.
Learn you, respect you, adore you, honor you. The love that you give to yourself will draw that same love back to you in waves, but you’ve got to get in touch with that love to know it and appreciate it. The love you give should be reciprocated to you in your language and vice versa. Never be afraid to ask for and expect exactly what you want, and to understand what it means to maintain it. Spend time with yourself. Being alone and lonely are two different things, so master the difference. Give yourself credit for growth, but also don’t be afraid to admit when you’re the one holding yourself back.
We decided not to get back together and pursued a divorce in 2019.
We committed to growing individually and healing so that we could be good for the children. We are kind to and patient with one another at our own capacity. Some days are easier than others, but we have found a pace in the last 3 years where we can commit to our individual growth and commit to loving our children really well in our respective homes. I would do nothing differently. My journey is part of who I am in this beautiful moment. I’d be remiss to think that I could make a better path for myself just by doing anything differently. I am grateful for everything I felt because I have that much greater joy for the little things. I am truly blessed.”