What Being Separated For a Year Has Taught Me
I’m separated… from my husband of would-have-been nine years this past spring. There’s no need to go into the gory details that led to the most tumultuous time in my young life of 29 years. If you’ve been married for any significant length of time, then you probably have a good idea of what can go wrong. I didn’t expect this, though. I wasn’t the wife who one day woke up and stopped loving her husband, or who decided she wanted different things, or just hated his quirks and decided to jump ship. I was side swiped. Never saw it coming. Until it did… and for the last 12 months, I’ve been trying to understand what went wrong, baffled how I never saw parts of it beginning to unravel, and coming to grips with what my new future is to hold, which still is a mysterious black hole looming in front of me.
Thanks – or no thanks, depending what you think – to the state of North Carolina, a legal separation of 12 months is required before a divorce can be finalized. I suppose they use their Bible belt religion to their advantage, and decide to give couples some time to see if divorce is really what they want. Yet even after a year of heartache, of more pain than I ever could have imagined experiencing, and time to sit and think about the last ten years of my life, I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’ve come to the end of the line, to the time when I can officially cut the matrimony cord, and I’m still confused. But, regardless of what lies ahead, this past year has taught me some pretty crazy things, a mixture of good things, bad things, and confusing things, such as…
Don’t center your universe around one person.
Even when you think you have someone nailed, they can surprise you, in wild ways. Those who you put your whole self into, your whole life into, can actually be someone else entirely, and you don’t even know it until that facade breaks, which leaves you completely unraveled because that person has been your entire everything. It’s a pretty scary thought. People are not simple, they are full of deep complexities, and only reveal what they want to to others, even those closest in the world to them. It just makes you think about how really amazing, intricate, and baffling the mind, soul, and emotions of a person are. I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust anyone – I, unfortunately, am in that phase right now, which dear Lord, please let it pass soon – but you should just realize that people are complicated, they screw up, they aren’t perfect, they are just as messed up as we are. Everyone is capable of causing hurt and pain. Don’t live in denial, don’t put all of yourself into another imperfect person, don’t lose yourself in a sinner, don’t form your identity around your spouse, don’t live and breathe and be all for one person. I did that with my husband, and when the ball dropped, I had an extremely difficult time digging myself out of him.
Men’s muscles are overrated.
If you can’t twist open the pint of Talenti yourself after 30 minutes of sobbing and bleeding palms, use a tiny screwdriver to pry the sucker open. Works like a charm.
I can sleep alone.
I was the wife who begged my husband not to go away on business trips, who hated being alone at night, who needed him with me so much it was pathetic (it probably also didn’t help that I went straight from my parent’s home to him, never living on my own). I called it love, he called it immature. I was scared of someone breaking in, honestly. I didn’t think I would be okay or have the tools needed to take care of myself. I relied on him for so much. I didn’t think that was necessarily a bad thing, but looking back on that bitchy hindsight, I should have been more independent, should have believed in myself more, should have realized that I didn’t need a man to take care of everything, including my protection. Since sleeping alone for the last 12 months, I can honestly say that it’s not all that bad. I don’t even put my gun in my nightstand before bed anymore!
Enough said, eh?
Sometimes you need something bad to force you to do something good.
I stayed at home with my kids for years. I hadn’t made money or worked in years, and I was a-okay with that. My husband does very well for himself, and we were blessed that I was able to be a stay at home mom. As soon as shit hit the fan though, I panicked. I was terrified that I would become homeless the next day, Clean Juice would never serve me vegan donuts and acai bowls again, my kids would starve and have to become dumpster divers, I would need to move back in with my parents, and I could never order through Amazon ever.again! That premature panic caused me to open my own photography business – practically overnight – and start bringing in an income for the first time in almost 5 years, an income that isn’t just monetary, but chock full of personal fulfillment, confidence, utter joy, passion, and independence, feelings that I never have felt working before. If you told me ten years ago that I would be photographing weddings today, I would have laughed in your face and said, “I have a husband, I don’t need to work anymore.”
Keep hitting the gym and putting makeup on your face.
If you’re back on the market, no matter how painful and begrudgingly depressing that may be – at least put some effort into keeping up the abs and lashes.
Life really isn’t that terrible, even when you expect it to be.
Yes, the first few months at the beginning were terrible, a surreal, horror movie-like terrible. But once the trauma passed and things simmered down a bit, life started again, just with a new normal, and a weird, sad underlying hint to my days. But I kept living them. There were many times when I wanted to give up, when I didn’t think life could be anything worth living again, but I kept going and moving forward, through the hurt and the pain, and discovered that life was still good. There were still good things happening around me… to me… for me. Some days were hard (still, they are hard), some random moments I would find myself sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing, wanting my old life back (just the other day, in fact), but I let myself feel those moments, I embrace the pain and emotion, and then I wipe my tears and I live again. Because my life, even though different than how I had planned, is still good, still really good. I learned that you can still find happiness in the darkness; that when the bad things finally happen to you, you can survive them, and with time, enjoy your life again.
It’s been a quick 12 months, and this is just the tip of the iceberg of the things I’ve learned this year, amidst an even longer list of things I’ve regretted and screwed up this year, but I’m just one of those complex people living among all the others. Being separated has made me toss the rulebook and planner out the window and rely on my faith, myself, and the few constants in my life. This year is a blip on my radar in the grand scheme of things, and even though I don’t know where life is going to take me or where I’m going to end up anytime soon, I’m kind of looking forward to the rest of this enlightening and confusing journey. C’est la vie.
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Dani lives in North Carolina with her two preschoolers. She is a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom who loves to clean and organize anything and everything. Her happiness is found in Jesus, days at the spa, and combating dark chocolate peanut butter cups with everyday workouts at the gym. She owns a wedding, lifestyle, and freelance photography business, Dani Nicole Photography.