I’m not writing this to elicit sympathy for myself, though. This is, rather, for all the many thousands of others that are going through the same thing as me at this moment in time.
The statistics don’t tell the whole story, but I know how many of you are out there, and I know that you know that divorce is exponentially more challenging than you anticipated.
There’s too much that we don’t talk about. And I think it’s time to start that conversation — because while there’s an ample online support network for military spouses, those of us who ultimately walk away from this life are, typically, faced with proverbial crickets and tumbleweeds.
Military divorcees: I see you. And let me tell you one thing: you will get through this.
Not only will you get through this, but you will be a better person for it, because giving into the black-hole mindset should not be an option; moreover, it cannot be an option. I say this as someone who is learning this lesson on her feet — having, on many occasions, taken several steps back for every singular and shaky step forward.
Military divorcees — my X-Men, if you will, because you can bet we’re a team — it’s imperative to try to see the good: to become your own person again, to set yourself free from bitterness, and ultimately to consider every mistake as a learning curve. These words may sound like platitudes, but at the end of the day, there will never be a convenient guidebook to chart the stages of severing oneself from not only a partner, but a lifestyle.
The journey towards single, civilian life is different for all of us, and it’s impossible to conjure up a neat to-do list of steps for any of my fellow military divorcees to follow.
We do not need emotional cartographers, though. What we do need are friends, and family, and a little less stigma in the (often small) communities that the military places us in. In the same way we had support networks for the training exercises and the deployments, we just need a group of people on our team as we transition out.
There’s one thing, above all else, that I am learning (at snail’s pace) that helped me enormously. This is, perhaps, the most important nugget of wisdom my ex-husband imparted upon me — and this is the same man who taught me more invaluable life lessons than I could list (to include a love for specific brands of ballpoint pen, Brussels sprouts, and feng shui).
The key is patience. Patience, above all else. I’m still not even close to his level yet, but the point is that I’m trying my damn best.
Patience is crucial: with ourselves, with others, and with the ghosts of the military community that we were once part of. Instead of cringing at milspouse media, for example, understand its importance for those who need it, and then keep it at arm’s length. Instead of making rash decisions for your new life, give yourself time to create your new set of emotional armor — and all the malfunctions that you’ll have along the way. And instead of being quick to slander your ex’s name, recognize that there are two sides to every story, and turn the animosity into a conversation. Patience gives way to forgiveness, after all.
Interestingly, when I started writing this piece, I had forgotten a letter to my friend going through divorce that I’d penned a few years ago. “You stand tall, you plant one foot in front of the other, and you continue.” — these words ring truer than ever for me now, in the ashes of everything.
Military divorcees, remember: not all the ghosts from your marriage are there to haunt you. There are, and will always be, friendly poltergeists from your marriage mixed in with the ghouls. Sifting through and separating the two things will be immeasurably difficult, but trust me: given time, you can do it.
Give yourself that time, a sprinkling of patience, and some self respect — and you will get through this. We all will. After everything, and despite all we’ve been through: I believe in us.
Life after marriage is not dead. It can, and will, be as vibrant, and rich, and (most importantly) as happy as you would like for it to be. If your marriage has perished, that’s okay; instead of seeing those years and months as time wasted, come to consider it a series of lessons learned, and give yourself the time and respect to resurrect yourself as a human being. If you can do that, what lies in wait for you on that longed-for “other side,” when the papers are signed and you’re flying solo, will be a new identity and, ultimately, a life of your own.