How My Unexpected Divorce Was the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me
I was 25 years old and, in my mind, was living the life I’d always wanted. I was married to someone I adored, owned a home on the East side, had the perfect fluffy white dog, and was on the same page as all of my friends. I had ticked off all the boxes of where I felt I should be in life.
I’d just returned home from a work trip to San Francisco where I’d been deciding if we were going to move there for my job. I’d been traveling around SF checking out neighborhoods we might live in and spending time at my company headquarters’ office to make sure the vibes felt right for me. I was up for a promotion and couldn’t wait to take the next step in my career, and in our lives.
When I got home, my husband walked in the door of our bedroom and said the four dreaded and totally unexpected words... “We need to talk.” My whole body stiffened, something was wrong. He’d been telling me how depressed he felt for the past year, but had assured me it was his job, his lack of friends, genetics... it was never me. Up until that point we’d been on the same page and committed to figuring things out. But now, something felt different.
He told me that while I was gone on my work trip, he’d taken some time to think. He’d created a list during the week of everything wrong with me, and proceeded to read the list off to me. As a self-aware perfectionist with extremely high standards for myself, none of these were a surprise to me. But as I sat there silently, they, understandably, stabbed into me nonetheless. He’d decided because of all my faults, I was never going to make him happy. There was nothing I could do, he had made up his mind... and he wanted to get a divorce.
Shock doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. We’d said ‘I do’ and just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. How did that change to ‘never mind’ so suddenly...?
I walked around like a zombie for the next 5 months, absolutely devastated to my core. I cried myself to sleep most nights, forgot to eat most days, and had a running talk track in my mind that I was a problem. Why would he leave if that weren’t true? He had told me all the reasons I was the wrong person for him, so how could I be the right person for anyone with all my flaws? It was one of the lowest and most embarrassing times of my life. I felt like the biggest failure on the planet.
During this time, I began seeing a therapist who opened my eyes to self-love, self-care, and how to tune into my intuition. She debunked every myth I had about myself and slowly (VERY slowly)... I started to believe her. You see, it took me going through the biggest, most visible failure of my life to learn how to value myself and know my worth. It took me hitting absolute rock bottom to learn how to cultivate new strength in a new current. It took me being forced into a terrifying space of the unknown, to see the tiny box I had placed around myself.
But the biggest lesson for me to learn, (a journey of discovery I’m still on today) was that I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by putting everyone else’s needs above my own. As a natural people pleaser and chameleon personality, I’d always muted parts of myself in order to create space for others first. I decided I had the power to change this tendency, and it was time to focus on tending to myself. Kind of like the oxygen mask on an airplane - you’ve gotta get your own mask strapped on first before you can attempt to help others with theirs.
Around the time of year when the fireflies come out, I started forcing myself out of bed and making small changes to my routine. I listened to happier music and sang more. I worked out in ways that made me feel good about myself and eased tension. I shopped at the local farmer’s market and started a journey of living a more natural lifestyle. I read books and listened to podcasts that lifted me up and helped me tune into my truth. I learned to say no when I needed to. I found a roommate who made me laugh so hard I would cry over late night glasses of wine. Slowly but surely, I discovered my own, unique joy. And it had nothing to do with who I was with, or what was going “right” in my life.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and in my hindsight, getting divorced was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t regret getting married, I’m grateful for it. It taught me a vital lesson, in a way I couldn’t ignore, that being true to yourself and letting go of things not meant for you, will bring you to what you truly want and deserve. I thought the happiest time of my life was over, boy am I glad I was wrong.
For anyone reading this who is going through an unexpected hard time, I’ll share with you the life mantra I spoke over and over to myself that got me through it all - "Your story isn't finished, your work isn't done, and your light isn't through shining." Trust me, you’re just getting started.
Chelsea Dunivan is an Office & Event Manager, plus a self care blogger on the side over at That Girl Chelsea. Chelsea is an introverted, old soul who is passionate about creating a balanced, holistic lifestyle full of self care, conscious living, and joy. She lives in a 1930s bungalow she calls “The Lavender House” in Austin, TX with her fluffy pup Banjo, supportive and tattoo covered boyfriend, and a trillion plants (#plantlady). You can find her strolling through the local farmers market, sweating it out on her mat or bike, stopping to pet your dog, laying out at Barton Springs, or popping open bottles of wine at home with friends and family.