It’s a familiar story. Girl meets boy. Over the next six to seven years, girl and boy start a relationship, have fun, travel, buy a house, move in together, get engaged and get married…
The tale takes a turn here though and, 13 months after getting married, girl and boy separate and eventually divorce. I was only 26 when my marriage ended – this is what I learnt.
1.It’s important to understand your finances
I grew up in a family where my Dad did pretty much all of the financial things. Hence when I had my first grown up relationship it seemed natural to let my partner also take care of the finances. When I opened a letter from a solicitor after our separation detailing our assets and what settlement would look like (house, car, significant purchases and superannuation) I had no idea what any of it meant and at the time it seemed like there was no way of finding out either. I was embarrassed with my lack of understanding and didn’t push hard on any of the issues I thought weren’t right. In no way am I good financial manager these days either, but I have a much clearer idea of what is what.
2. Get independent advice from a solicitor
I didn’t do this because I just wanted to pretend that the whole marriage had never happened and wanted it to be sorted as quickly as possible. I did not seek advice from anyone, except the internet. Upon reflection, this approach and signing anything that arrived in the mail from my ex-partner’s solicitor was not in my best interest.
3. Talk to a mental health professional
When I eventually saw a psychologist it was because I had depression. My initial coping mechanism was to get a job about 300km away from the whole mess and leave town. Leaving my family and support network of friends and colleagues wasn’t a great idea and eventually led to me simply not being able to function because I was paralysed by so much hurt. Seeing a psychologist helped me at this point but, heavens, I wish I had gone sooner. I know my triggers these days and have since proactively sought professional help before things get hard.
4. It will hurt
Even though I had known the marriage was not working, when my ex finally asked me to leave, it hurt. It was like an anvil crushing me physically. I wasn’t even in love with this man but by God it hurt. The rejection hurt, the failure hurt. It just hurt.
5. You will try and hide it
Separation and divorce is a pretty big, scary, adult thing to deal with when you are 26. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I was also certain that there was something very wrong with me. I hid this piece of information from a lot of people, especially new people that came into my life. It’s still not something I tell just anyone.
6. People will judge you
In particular, folk who want to get to know you better. Casually dropping that you were married, when asked about your previous relationship, can be a bit confronting for some. Other people will probably just make an ill-informed and sexist call that you are a “crazy bitch”, which was the conclusion I heard a colleague come to about me once. Nice.
7. You will self -inflict more damage before you get better
Whether you choose to over-work, over-party, or under-value yourself, it will happen. For me personally, it was a combination of all three. I worked hard and played hard and also craved reassurance from any man with a heartbeat that there was nothing wrong with me. When I finally realised I had to make myself better, I started to find some balance and real happiness. Through this process I also learnt to love myself. That relationship, the one with myself, is one I will have to invest in forever.
8. You will get to know yourself better
When you are in a relationship, you do lose bits of yourself. That’s cool and it’s a spin-off of being co-dependent. You each have your strengths and you help each other out by leveraging them. When you are on your own, you learn what your true strengths are, and then some. You have the ability to surprise yourself and learn who you are.
9. You will be okay and, dare I say one day, grateful
In the scheme of shitty things that happen in life, divorce is up there. But staying in a loveless marriage, where trust for any number of reasons has been destroyed (cheating isn’t the only issue that can destroy trust), and is only going to cause pain and hurt to one or both participants is even shittier in my book. It’s a hard slog but you will be okay. And one day, although it might take years, you will be grateful. I’m grateful for what the experience taught me about me, and I wouldn’t be where I am now – amazing husband and two beautiful girls – if it hadn’t happened.
10. You will love again
First and foremost, yourself – I hope that anyone who goes through a divorce learns to love themselves first. Once you do that there will be love again. I met my now husband very late one Saturday night at RGs in Fortitude Valley through mutual friends. It was a very chance meeting, but one that I am sure was meant to be.