There really is healing through divorce, says Three Boys and a Mom writer Rachael Boley.
Throughout the past five years, I have felt a myriad of emotions toward my ex-husband…
Infatuation. Obsession. Co-dependence. Love. Lust. Anger. Fear. Hate. Disgust. Apathy. Sadness.
The list goes on. Every emotion that exists, I have felt them all.
When we separated a year and a half ago, I felt like an exposed nerve, just a fleshless soul walking around with everything showing. I felt everything and there was nothing to cover my naked bones. Nothing to stop that raw ache from pulsing through my body.
I knew from the get go that there would be no way around any of it. The only way was through. Skinless, exposed, broken, bleeding. I had to just walk through the fire.
It hasn’t been a pretty process, but in its own way it’s really been quite beautiful.
It doesn’t feel beautiful when you’re going through it though. When you’re walking around in the world with no skin on, every time the wind blows, you wince. Every time someone touches you, you want to scream. Every time you move, you’re reminded of what’s missing.
But eventually, your skin starts to grow back.
For a long time I believed that in some areas of my life and body, I would always feel skinless. I thought it would always be painful and parts of me would never fully heal.
I’m amazed that just a year and a half after having my flesh ripped off, I stand before you today fully covered.
You don’t have to ache forever
Now that doesn’t mean that just because my skin has covered my nerves again I never feel any of those painful emotions connected to my past. The truth is that something like divorce does change and affect you forever. But that doesn’t mean you have to ache forever. It doesn’t mean you will always feel like you’re walking around with a gaping gunshot wound to the head and chest as you desperately try to cover yourself with Band-Aids.
There actually is healing—real healing. Real freedom. Real redemption. Even if the reality of the story never gets any better, you can.
I had lunch with my ex-husband this week. I sat across from him knowing all the facts of our life at this point. I looked at him for the first time with no feelings of anger, remorse, regret, resentment, disdain, or expectation. I sat there with this man who has dropped the ball in every possible way and felt nothing but peace.
We talked like old friends. We laughed. He told me about his new relationship. We sat together without the unachieved expectations, without the boiling pressure that existed in our marriage, and without any feelings of ownership for each other.
While it is disappointing to have to accept the fact that the father of your children only sees his kids once a month and only pays his own selected amount of child support if he has any left over cash that month, it simply is what it is.
Decide what you’re going to hold onto
I have learned throughout this last year that holding onto negative feelings, whether warranted or not, is simply not useful. My anger is not going to make him be the man I want him to be for his sons. My resentment is not going to make money appear in my account. My unforgiveness is not going to change any of the facts. It’s only going to steal my peace, my joy, and my life.
I can no longer afford to give him that much power over me.
I have learned through this relationship that love and hate are not opposites. You cannot hate someone who you don’t also love. Each of those emotions is birthed out of a deep passion for someone or something, just on opposite ends of the spectrum.
I realized this week that when I stopped hating him, I also stopped loving him-at least in the same way I did before. Because of that, my heart is healing.
He’s the father of my children—that fact will never change. I will always hold a type of love for him as the person who gave me the greatest gift of my life. Although I do not respect the way he has stood in that role, I can respect that it is because of him that I get to stand fully in my role as a mother.
Today I don’t hold that same raw, throbbing ache of wrecked love that I had for so long. My chest no longer feels like its being squeezed every time I see him. I no longer want to punch walls when another weekend goes by that he hasn’t seen his children.
Now and then, and then and now
It doesn’t make me physically ill anymore knowing that he has moved onto another relationship. In fact, I almost feel actively happy for him. That’s a normal part of this process. At some point, everyone moves forward. Or at least, that’s the hope.
I have fully released him.
He’s the father of my children but that’s where it ends. How he chooses to fulfill that role is his responsibility, not mine. How he chooses to spend his money is his responsibility, not mine.
Yes, there is an injustice in the fact that he gets to do some of what he does and have no consequences from it on the surface. But the reality is that there are much deeper consequences than what meets the eye.
Whether the legal system ever holds him responsible for his children and whether he ever rises to the level I hope he will for the sake of my sons, it is him who will have to live with those choices. It is him who will have to look our sons in the eye when they are older and answer for his decisions. It is him who has to lay his head on his pillow each night and live with whatever he does or doesn’t do in this life.
One of my biggest mistakes in our marriage was owning too much of that responsibility for him. It was never mine to hold. Not then, and not now.
I have no control over what he does. All I have control over is me.
I can be the kind of mother my sons deserve and live my life in such a way that they will be proud of me as they grow up. I can do my best each and every day and provide the kind of example they need to hopefully grow up to become strong, courageous men of the world. I can stand in my truth and allow him to stand in his. And I can release him from the grip of those crippling emotions that used to hold so much power over my life and live freely in the healing that comes from that release.
I’m not happy that he’s chosen the path he has as a father. I’m still sad sometimes about what that may mean for my sons as they grow up. But I have learned to accept the reality of what is rather than holding onto the hope of what could or should be.
There are scars on my skin from my past. There are consequences I haven’t even seen yet. But there is freedom and there is healing despite the pain of the past; and today, that’s where the beauty lies.
This piece originally appeared on Three Boys and a Mom.