The details of what lead to my divorce are not important, what is important is the fact that I stayed in a 31 year marriage for 28 years longer than I wanted. Doing so pleased everyone but me. I found everyone’s desires more important than my own. I was a giver. I gave away my hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They were not taken from me. I tossed each one into the wind while I unhappily tried to be Superwoman and perfectly meet my children’s needs, and begrudgingly meet my ex-husband’s expectations.

My self-sacrifice was not unselfish. It met my needs as well. Through my two children, I tried to heal myself of the old wounds of my childhood where I felt unloved and unwanted by a harsh father. I spent my life pouring into them everything I didn’t have when I was a child. My goal was to never let them spend one moment thinking they were not loved or wanted.

Through my ex-husband my needs of shelter, security, and other resources were met. He also offered a sense of protection and companionship that a man can offer a woman even if there is no love between them. I was unhappy for decades running the same hamster wheel, but I had such low self-confidence and great fear that I didn’t realize that I could effectively change my life and make it without him. Still that nagging sense of wanting a divorce never left me.

In preparation for my—yet to be claimed—freedom, I decided to go to counseling about a year prior to separating from my ex-husband. I knew that the end was coming and I did not feel strong enough to leave at that point. Through counseling I hoped to gain strength, confidence and the tools to deal with the fallout to come. Nine months after starting counseling, I began attending a divorce recovery group. I knew that I needed community and the support and strength it provided. Within this period I introduced self-care into my life. I began exercising and eating healthy. I lost unwanted weight, kept up on my appearance, expanded my interests and hobbies, tried new experiences, deepened old friendships and entered into new ones, and more. All the while my strength and resolve steadily grew.

As the end of my marriage came near, I almost called the whole thing off. After all it’s easier to keep going in the same direction than to implement change even when you are unhappy. I remember telling my friend Annie that I was not going to make my self-appointed deadline for moving out. She could tell that I was backtracking and in very real danger of not following through with my plans. Annie knew how unhappy I had been and called me out on it. She told me everything that a real friend should when they see their friend making a self-sabotaging choice. She didn’t hold back or try to be gentle. It was the best thing that she could have done, and though I didn’t make my deadline, I wasn’t far past it.

Even though I wanted the divorce, leaving was not easy. I suffered severe depression for the first few months, because I felt like a failure and an evil person for leaving. All of my life I had been a daughter, a wife, and a mother. I had no idea who I was to myself or what my purpose in life was if it wasn’t found within these roles that I wore like a badge. Slowly the fog of depression lifted and I knew that I had made the right choice. I never again doubted that. My hope for a happy future returned and for the first time I enjoyed my present life, not living in the past nor wishing away the present for some undetermined future that may never come. In a strange way, I felt as if I stepped back into time and continued my personal growth from the point that everything changed when I got married at the age of 16.

I do not regret my past nor do I wish to change it, because from it I was blessed with two wonderful children and eventually three precious granddaughters. I do seek daily, however, to steer my life into the future of my own choosing as the winds of the Divine ever correct my course. For the first time I feel that I am the person that I was created to be and that I am where I am supposed to be at this moment in time. I know that God has a good path for my life and its my job to put one foot in front of the other in a forward direction. Together with Him, I will get there, though I may fall many times along the way.