For years, my marriage had been loveless. When I look back on my personal journal entries from this period, it was a very dark time in my life. I had decided that I was going to stick it out until my youngest daughter turned 18. I was literally counting down the days (it was over 5,000 at the time) until then knowing that I had to hang on.
My wife was completely unaffectionate and ignored all romantic and physical advances. I thought there was something wrong with me. But I was resolute. I had two beautiful daughters with her. I had lost 225 pounds for myself, but in the back of my mind, I thought it would also save my marriage. We had been through so much and come so far that I couldn’t just give up on us.
In a moment of anger, a line was crossed and it became evident that the time had come to end the marriage. To stay together, I finally realized, was becoming worse for my children than leaving. At first, I was humiliated by the separation. I felt like a failure. I slept more because I didn’t want to be awake. I poured myself into my work and hobbies to avoid dealing with the reality of my divorce.
At some point, I think we both realized that we didn’t love each other and that didn’t mean there was something wrong with me or something wrong with her. We just weren’t meant to be together. The truth is that we didn’t fight very often. Most of our friends were shocked to hear we were getting divorced.
I was only able to start to accept what had happened by adopting a Stoic mindset (the indifference to pleasure or pain), and realizing that I had to make the best of a bad situation and rise above the circumstances.
Once I accepted it, I was able to move on to a role as co-parent with my ex-wife. My ex and I have found tools to make interaction with each other easier. We use a shared Google calendar to communicate events and drop-off times. We are able to text and talk about 95% of the time without issue or concern.
We both love our children, but she and I were like pickles and ice cream. I love pickles and I could single handedly kill a half-gallon of ice cream. They are both incredible and delicious. But put them together and no one would order that in a restaurant. Some combinations just don’t work, but that doesn’t speak to the worth of the individuals. I want her to find happiness in whatever form that is for her.
Enough time has passed that, honestly, I feel very little when I think of her or interact with her. We had both fallen so far out of love that there was very little emotional fallout after the final decision was made to split. It’s hard – part of me wonders how my life would be different if I’d met someone from day one who truly loved me as opposed to someone who just loved the life and children I provided. Would I have stayed obese? Would I have wallowed in self-pity? Prior to our divorce, I struggled for so many years with feelings of being trapped. I was gripped with thoughts of suicide and misery and my life was at 50% of what it is today.
After the divorce, my work wasn’t over. Shortly thereafter, I also lost my father. He was only 68.
I sat down with a counselor and we worked through everything, starting from my youth. I realized that all my life I had allowed my goal of perfection to become a mechanism that had kept me from being able to forgive myself for my mistakes. I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, which changed my life. I continued working on embracing a Stoic philosophy, which allowed me to find a way to move past the mistakes and trials of my past and find self-love and forgiveness.
Writing was another invaluable tool. I have always kept a journal and I am an aspiring writer. It’s also my greatest form of therapy. Getting my feelings onto a page not only makes them seem more “real” but it also allows me to sit back and be (more) objective about my problems. Have you ever noticed that you can give great advice to someone else going through the same exact problem you’re going through, and yet you struggle to pull the trigger and execute your own advice? Writing my problems down and then reading them either later or the next day allowed me to almost see my problems from the perspective of a neutral third party, giving me the clarity and mindfulness I needed in order to act.
Dating after divorce was complicated on two levels:
First, it was weird dating again because I was used to being married.
Second, it was the first time I was getting out there not being morbidly obese.
It took me some time to transition. The first time I was set up on a blind date, she walked in and my jaw hit the floor. She was gorgeous, so there was absolutely no way she’d be interested in me. I was (and in some cases still am) “fat in the head.” A funny thing happened, though – she thought I was handsome and funny and interesting and she stuck around for quite a while. We had a very successful relationship that ended only because she did not want to be a step-mom (which is kind of a package deal with me now).
It also took me a while to learn how to date again. Dating has changed so much since I was married: apps like Tinder make it easy to meet multiple people a week, which I did at first. I was trying to find my dating legs and I don’t think there’s any harm in doing that because I was upfront about it.
My encouragement to others, especially after a long relationship, is to take some time to learn about yourself before you get into anything serious. Date a lot; meet a lot of people (not to say you should sleep with a lot of people!). Find out what you like and what you don’t. That being said, don’t get too specific. I am against ideal mate profiles because I think they limit us too much. It’s okay to have deal-breakers (e.g. I won’t date a heavy drug user), but don’t be so specific that you end up looking for a 5’6” redhead who likes Coldplay and knows how to play the harmonica.
To move on and date successfully, I’ve had to learn one very important thing: I AM NOT BROKEN. Everyone comes into relationships with a history, not just you. We are shaped by our histories inasmuch as they make us the people we are today. And if you aren’t okay with the person you are now, you shouldn’t be dating in the first place. Accept your ‘mistakes’ (I would guess many of your mistakes weren’t mistakes in the first place) and love forward.
If you sometimes feel broken too, let me say this: please seek help. Talk to someone. Especially if you think you don’t need to.