Despite the fact that an estimated 45% of all marriages in the US end in divorce, I was committed to not be on that side of the bleak statistic. My own parents divorced when I was 11. I remember how difficult it was for me to understand that they didn’t love one another any more, that my love for them both wasn’t enough. I was powerless to bring them back together. Those feelings haunted me far into my teens.
I was going to have my dream wedding, marry my dream man, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately adult reality does not always align with childhood dreams. Before I go on, I want to be clear that while I am writing from the specific point of view of a single mother, I know every single mom’s trajectory is different. Some women must bravely escape the confines of an abusive marriage or relationship, while others are widowed, and for some, being a single mother is simply a beautiful choice. I celebrate and salute all of you.
Like all great love stories begin, I met Charlie in an accounting class during college. We were both in the business track –– he would graduate, I would not (story for another day). We fell in love fast and hard and made the decision to get married at 22. It was quick but we were young and in love, so why wait? I remember thinking at our wedding, “this is it. This is what they mean when they say ‘true love.’”
However, Charlie, being a young man in his mid-20’s at this point, was living like, a guy in his mid-20’s. He was going out after work, coming home wearing the bottom shelf of the bar. He wasn’t happy. I was not happy. But we were still holding onto the idea of a “perfect” marriage and both just thought one day everything would settle. So naturally, we added two kids to our family.
Fast forward. It’s days before my 31st birthday and Charlie and I have dinner plans to celebrate early. He calls to tell me he’s running late –– he sounded funny but I brushed it off as I finished getting ready. I remember waiting and waiting, the look on the sitter’s face when I told her that Charlie would be home soon as the hour got later, and having to call the restaurant 3 times to push the reservation back. Charlie finally stumbled in the front door after 11pm that night, drunk. He told me that night he was leaving us.
Even though Charlie and I were unhappy for a long time, the divorce was excruciating. I alternated between feeling ashamed, saddened, and embarrassed –– but mostly I was devastated that my kids were now going to come from a broken home. Divorce was bringing to light every bad thought or feeling I ever had about myself. I felt insecure. I felt depressed. I felt exhausted. I felt defeated. I was at an emotional bottom and I knew I needed help.
My friend had been using Talkspace, which to be honest, was the only reason why I gave in. I liked the idea that I didn’t have to go anywhere, or see anyone, or sit an uncomfortable silence. I was happy to send a text and put my phone away, which to me, helped compartmentalize a bit. I could send a message, sit in my sadness and anger and confusion, then put it all away for a minute. It felt manageable.
I was matched with Kirsten, a nice woman who knew about divorce from her own personal experience. Once I got into a rhythm, texting her became part of my day. It was a little bit of structure and security I could look forward to each day. Kirsten got it and she got me –– that was one of the things I really appreciated. I was so worried about my kids. Were they going to grow up to be maladjusted, and filled with rage, would they blame and hate me? As I had my parents for several years.
Kirsten not only validated my feelings, and gave me support, but she gave me something I had never developed on my own: coping skills. I didn’t realize that I never really learned how to cope with tough emotions or situations. Anger terrified me and fear shot paralysis through my body. I would often lose my voice and try to make myself smaller to avoid situations of conflict. I realized this behavior ( with many other factors), contributed to the demise of my marriage. I was so afraid to speak up and communicate that I chose silence. Kirsten helped me see that. And to change those behaviors.
I’ve learned that kids are more resilient than we think. Mine are able to have a relationship with their father even though I was not, which I am eternally grateful for. Spoiler alert: they don’t hate me. Kirsten helped me learn that I don’t have to be perfect nor do I have to “make up” for two people. I am enough on my own just by showing up and showing love. Trust me, it’s been a road to get here and I still have a journey ahead of me.
Sometimes I think back to those dark days when I felt so alone, paralysed, how difficult it felt to reach out to anyone for help. But I am so thankful that I don’t have to take this trip alone. It’s a tremendous relief to have Talkspace and Kirsten in my corner. I’m beginning my journey as the person I didn’t even know I wanted to be back when I was married. Who knows, maybe I’ll start dating again soon. Either way, with Talkspace, I now know that my life is not over. It’s just beginning.