I don’t think anyone goes into a marriage with the thoughts of divorce on their minds. When a person falls in love and decides to commit their life to someone, there isn’t really much thought to “What if this ends in divorce?” And if you are doing that, maybe slow down and consider it a red flag. But that is the beauty and risk of love. It’s always a risk, but one we decide is worth taking. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, richer or poorer. We choose a person and plan forever with them. More than plan it we COUNT on it. At least I did.
My first glimpse of marriage came from my parents. They have been married over thirty-five years with five children and six grandchildren, and I don’t think I have ever even see them give each other so much as a dirty look. The story of how they fell in love all the way up to today plays like a hallmark movie. Even the hard parts looked easy for them. Maybe this is what made marriage so appealing to my sisters and me. I have three older sisters who were all married with children by the time they were twenty-one. (and there isn’t anything wrong with that) But I got to watch my sisters and their spouses face various struggles, and while I am admittedly a hopeless romantic, after seeing this my tune changed. I decided I would never get married. Mostly as a joke, but also because it scared me to death. I’m an all in kind of girl, so as I watched how the fairytale that was my view of marriage crumble into real life situations, I was horrified. I was determined to learn from my siblings. I would do marriage differently. I would wait until I was older and more settled. Even though I was still hopelessly in love with love.
I decided I would do my own research on how to have a happy marriage, and how to prepare myself for marriage. I told you in the Relationship: Single and Surviving series that I took a year off of dating, and this research was all going down at that time. I was twenty-three and very much girl power, Beyonce Lemonade, mode. Until... I met a guy that just seemed like he was MADE for me. I kept him at an arm's length for a while, and he respected that to an extent. We made conversation for three months and never met in person (partially because he lived six hours away) but, we built a friendship that seemed perfect. Too perfect. Even after we met. Like to the point that my mom said to me, “I hope you marry this guy.” Which if you know anything about my mom your jaw would be on the floor.
So I did just that. At twenty-four, I married the guy everyone thought was my knight in shining armor, my prince charming. I had witnessed and researched and felt like I knew what real marriage looked like (from the outside at least).
That meant that I knew marriage isn’t always easy and love is a choice. I went into marriage with my eyes open, not expecting a storybook fairytale, but my own real life love that would last a lifetime. I was ready. My family and friends would often tell me “You’re so ready to be a wife, you’re going to be such a great wife, etc.” I was flattered, but still afraid. Still going into marriage prepared to hit a learning curve, but choosing love every chance I got.
The day we got back from our honeymoon my husband changed. It was like he was a completely different person. He became cruel, he yelled, he drank, he scared me, and he constantly made me cry without remorse. I told myself that this was normal and the first year of marriage is one of the hardest. Adjustments aren’t easy and he was just stressed. I needed to work on the things he was angry about and help lessen his stress. But this caused a tremendous amount of stress on my body and I got very sick. Chronically so. Doctor visits every week and on top of it all, he didn’t believe that I was sick. He felt I was using this as an excuse to leave him and be with my family. So he slowly pulled me away from my community and family. And I thought that was normal I even felt guilty for it. Because after all I was just trying to nurture my marriage and be a good wife.
It wasn’t until I opened up to my family and friends about some of the things that had been going on that I learned, none of what I was going through was normal. These fights weren’t just fights. This wasn’t just first year of marriage difficulty. Eventually I went to visit my parents for the first time in a long time, and they were shocked when they saw me. They thought it was my health, and told me I looked like “a shell of myself.”
They were so worried that they decided they wouldn’t let me leave because they were concerned for my well being. And then my mom overheard a phone conversation with my husband and everything started making sense. She put the pieces of the puzzle together that I couldn’t and said, “Maggie you know that is abuse, right?” that sounded like a foreign language to me. And at the same time it knocked the breath out of me. Those words were like a sucker punch right in my gut. I was shocked. I was hurt, I was scared and most of all I was in denial. Eventually abuse in many forms lead to the end of my marriage. My worst nightmare. What I had spent years of my life trying to avoid was staring me in the face. It was worse than any of the marriages I had watched in the past, and my heart broke as I realized my marriage was one that couldn’t be saved. I was standing in the wake of divorce and I had never felt more broken or alone.
Throughout the first few months of separation and divorce I became a recluse. I didn’t know how to speak to anyone. I didn’t want to show my face in the wake of what I saw as a failure. And my fault for not being “good enough”. I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I didn’t know how to bring it up. But at the same time I felt like I was walking around with it written on my forehead. DIVORCED. FAILURE. And I waited for the “I told you so’s”, judgement, and gossip to feel like salt sprinkled into my open wounds.
But when I finally did open up to those close to me, they not only DIDN’T say I told you so, they embraced me. I reached out to other women who had been in similar situations. My friends connected me to more people and they helped me find light in my darkest nights. My family picked up the pieces of my life, my soul, and quite literally held me together when I wasn’t capable myself.
When I first got divorced, I felt like my chest had been ripped open. I thought I would never heal and I would be in this purgatory of a broken place for the rest of my life. There was no way to heal the massive wound it created. But every time I reached out to my community I felt a small piece of myself healing. Every story I heard of another woman in my position that was on the other side of healing was like a lighthouse. Every friend that told me they loved me still, and came to see me nursed the gaping wound in my chest. I will not take away from what Jesus did for my healing in this time, because ALL the credit goes to Him. But, I will say that a large part of my healing came from community. Jesus often uses people to heal people. My healing came in hearing “me too” and “you will not be like this forever.” from women that meant it. Women that walked through this exact valley.
God has now placed me in the center of a community for broken women. And man I feel disqualified every single day. But then I remember that my brokenness doesn’t disqualify me, God wants to use it. He wants my story to be one that others see as a light in their dark night. Now I see my story and my brokenness healing others. And dare I say I am honored that God allows me to steward the broken parts of my story.
It’s in community that we heal. The arms and mouths of other believers that allow God’s love, grace, mercy, and healing to flow from their hands and words into you. Divorce is a gut-wrenching, life-altering, breakdown worthy thing. And, it isn’t something you should have to go through alone. Community matters. You matter. And your brokenness doesn’t disqualify you. If anything, the new cracks in your soul allow the light to shine as a beacon of hope for others.
We’ve dreamed and prayed about a space created specifically for you. Women who aren’t afraid to be broken and want community to help bring them to hope. Click the link below, we hope you’ll join!
Maggie is a Psychology Enthusiast, Writer, and an Advocate for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing. She has walked through brokenness and learned that she’s not alone there. She wants to bring radical, relatable, and raw content that allows people to see into her journey and find hope there that illuminates their darkness. Connect with Maggie to learn more.