My first husband and I were going through some challenging times in our marriage after two and half years together and trying to work things out (or so I thought). He came home unexpectedly late from work one night, and without greeting me or even looking at me, he blurted out, “I’m seeing someone else.” I was completely blindsided. In that instant, my world collapsed around me. Any softness inside of me seemed to harden. Any lingering innocence evaporated. Yet when asked today if I wish I had never married him, I always say “No.” This experience and all that followed taught me valuable lessons that eventually molded me into a more self-aware and self-assured woman. Here’s what I learned:
- Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can truly find yourself.
I initially felt defeated, worthless, and hollow after my husband’s announcement of infidelity. I had to grow up a lot during that time and was forced to stand on my own two feet financially and emotionally as our marriage imploded. Although I struggled, and for a time didn’t even have enough money to eat regularly, the whole experience showed me that I was stronger than I had previously realized. It also propelled me forward and forced me (in a good way) to create a new path and pay more attention to what I wanted and needed out of life and in a relationship.
- Playing the victim puts someone else in charge of your life and happiness.
I originally blamed my ex for our problems and the ultimate demise of our marriage. For years I perfected the “scorned woman” persona thinking, How could he do this to me? But the truth is that our marriage was far from perfect before all this happened and I was avoiding confronting my own unhappiness. It’s easy to point the finger at someone else and blame them for your troubles. But the time comes when you have to give up the victim role and take responsibility for your own life and outcomes.
- Life may not turn out as you planned, but there is always another life waiting for you as long as you don’t let the old one destroy you or hold you back.
During our legal separation leading up to the divorce, I pursued a long-time dream of singing professionally by taking voice lessons and forming a duo with another woman. While performing one night in a local club, I met my current husband, the love of my life. We’ve built an amazing life together, and I’ve gone on to start my own business, write several books, and otherwise flourish. Would all this have happened had I stayed in the original unhappy and unsatisfying marriage or continued to play the martyr? I seriously doubt it.
- Stop telling your negative stories and create a new positive one.
In the early years after my divorce, I would often repeat the tale to anyone who would listen about how my ex hurt me and did me wrong. I finally realized that retelling those stories over and over again was creating a barrier to my becoming a full person and living a full life. For a time, I let that one event define me. Eventually, I began to tell a different story about the new things I was doing and things I planned to do in the future. That helped me to let go of the past and create a new positive reality.
- Seeking professional help if needed in times of crisis and major change is a sign of strength.
My ex and I had decided to see a counselor before all this happened in an effort to work on our relationship. Although I was willing to do anything at that earlier stage to save my marriage, I still thought he was the one who needed the help. I was just going along for the ride. But after only a few sessions together where we bickered endlessly, the counselor suggested we come in separately. It was in those sessions that I realized how much help I needed in working through this difficult time in my life and confronting many of my own issues. While I once thought of seeking professional help as a sign of weakness, I now know that getting help is a sign of strength. I still see a counselor/therapist periodically for a “tune-up” when life’s challenges get overwhelming.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned is that’s life’s darkest moments can be our greatest opportunities for growth. It’s not about how many times we get knocked down but about getting back up, stronger and more resolute each time.
Donna Cardillo, RN, The Inspiration Nurse is the author of Falling Together: How to Find Balance, Joy, and Meaningful Change When Your Life Seems to be Falling Apart. She is a transformational keynote speaker, retreat leader, master motivator, and humorist. Contact Donna at www.DonnaCardillo.com, on twitter @DonnaCardilloRN, and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DonnaWilkCardillo.Author/
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