Divorce is not only painful, but the aftermath is something that we (people who have had one or have been affected by one) must deal with for the rest of our lives. No matter the scenario of the marriage, divorce is definitely something that comes with intense emotion. Seriously, the broad spectrum of feelings can be overwhelming. The actual divorce process is hell on earth. Each day after is a step towards healing. However (for me anyways) there is always one day that is simply emotionally confusing, the ex-anniversary date. I truly can’t speak for everyone, so I will speak for myself. I honestly haven’t figured out to handle when this date comes around the calendar each year.
Let’s picture back before the wedding. So much time, energy, and resources were invested into planning for the big day. Personally, it was my favorite day. I love my kids beyond belief; however, this day was the day that made my children possible. All of my future dreams were knit into this marriage. The wedding symbolized a giant leap into my role as a husband and eventually a father. All of my friends and family gathered to celebrate on this specific date. Gifts embroidered with that specific date were given, simply to remind me that this day marked one of the most unique, life changing decisions I would ever commit to in my short time on this earth.
I love celebrations. Birthday parties, Holiday get-togethers, and other special occasions are just my favorite. My anniversary was probably the most special to me. There was no need to invite guests or involve a million other people. It was an intimate celebration of my marriage. This was a day I looked forward to more than any other throughout the year. Just a time to reflect and celebrate the day we became one, and to excitedly dream about what the future years had in store. Another thing about anniversaries is that they get better every year. The next one should always be better than this year’s. In my opinion, that’s the entire point of marriage, to grow together and closer. It’s like adding another patch to a pair of worn out jeans that I wore for our wedding (We had a 60’s themed wedding).
Sure some wear and tear might have happened, but over time the relationship becomes more and more unique. I loved celebrating the day the jeans were originally worn and remembering all events that made these things a well-worn pair of comfort. Eventually, they were just a giant quilt work of patches. I love those pants and still have them.
Then divorce happened.
Before my first ex-anniversary (probably like most people who have been divorced), I tried to block that date out of my mind. “The marriage is over. My old anniversary date is just another day on the calendar now.” However of course, I found out that is simply not true. The feelings changed, but each time it rolls around, I feel things that set it apart from just an ordinary day.
Suddenly, there’s a strange stack of emotions to process. What used to be a day of joy is now a day of hurt/confusion/anger/resentment/etc. There are as many ways to cope with this as there are people who have been divorced. Should I completely bury the past and make this a regular day? Should I take today to be grateful for the good years? This is one of those situations where there’s just nothing in playbook of life to know how to think.
The first time my ex-anniversary rolled around the calendar, I tried to block it out. That lasted about ten minutes. Suddenly, thoughts and feelings started to bubble up. I really didn’t know how to feel. I couldn’t keep just ignoring my past. Should I try to focus on the joy that was present for the bulk of my marriage or perhaps focus on the last few anniversaries that were spent alone and heartbroken? To be honest, the first year I chose the latter. My mind went to those vivid memories of crying, praying, and begging for that nightmare to end. What was once my favorite celebration of the year morphed into something I began to dread. I told myself that remembering how horrible and toxic that relationship was would help me move forward. Hahahaha. That wasn’t my best plan of action apparently. I was grumpy and irritable all day. I counted down the minutes until that day was over.
The next year I was already prepared for how I was going to handle it. I woke up and thanked God for that relationship. Focusing on only the good was my plan for the day. That worked for a while until I got sad about not being married anymore. (Disclaimer: I wasn’t sad about not being married to Crissy. Nor am I sad about that all at. Ever.) I missed having a best friend that was as close and intimate as I once had. I think just focusing on only the good wasn’t really the best choice. That wasn’t a real reflection of my history with my anniversary date.
Nowadays, I’m just accepting that I have no clue how to feel. It’s so hard to explain. I don’t really get sad anymore about the marriage ending. In fact, I feel the opposite. I love the person God molded me into from my divorce experience. However, I do feel disheartened about the choices my ex has made, and still continues to make. Not because of feelings of romantic love, but I feel that way because I know her better than anyone on the planet. It breaks my heart seeing the person she chooses to be. My confusion not only arises from the people we have become, but it also springs from simply trying to interpret the million thoughts that race through my mind on this date. Should I feel sad? Can I feel relief? Is it guilty to feel relief? How should I remember the good times, while simultaneously keep in mind the hell on earth I went through? What if I meet someone who was never divorced, how am I supposed to feel about this then? How does Crissy feel about this date? Is it ok to feel upset about some things? Have I acted in a manner to ensure I was truly Jesus to her not only during the marriage, but also after the divorce?
Bringing kids into the mix just adds a new depth of confusion for me. They were brought into this world by both of their parents. Not just me. No matter how involved the other parent might be, that person is still their parent, and this ex-anniversary date is a permanent reminder of that to me. Yes, I can and do pray for wisdom. I don’t exactly feel nervous about questions that will arise in the future, but I’m not exactly looking forward to it. Speaking of questions, they do ask me questions very frequently about the marriage and divorce of their mom and me. Each child has a different take and experience on the marriage. For instance, one of the children says things like, “Daddy, I want you to marry someone who makes you happy. You were sad a long time with mom.” While another of my children ask questions like, “What if mom said she was really, really sorry? Would you marry her again?” Of course, I tell each of my kids that their mom and I both love them more than we can possibly explain, but unfortunately, decisions have consequences both good and bad. Mom and I both made decisions that changed us and we are not going to get married again. I try to explain that while forgiveness is something that must take place, our actions have permanent consequences. It can be hard to explain this concept to children, especially when it regards their parents. The kids know my ex-anniversary date, and it always comes with new questions each year. To be honest, many of my answers focus around the fact that this is something they will understand when they get older, yet hopefully never have to experience.
I think the point of this entire post is to say it’s ok to not know how to feel. It’s important to remember the good times, but also reflect on the things that helped us grow closer to God and more confident as an individual. I think I have discussed this one on the blog before, but I view this like an axe chop to a young tree. At first the giant, gaping wound to the tree will be extremely evident. It takes up such a long surface on the tree. It’s impossible to glance at the tree without seeing that axe mark. However, as time goes by, the tree continues to grow and heal. Years down the road the tree has kept growing larger and larger. The impact of that axe mark is still the original size it once was, but seems so much smaller due to the massive new size of the tree. The scar of that evidence is something the tree will never get rid of, but the overall impact of the wound continues to appear smaller with each passing day as the tree reaches closer to the sky. Circumstances can never change the past. The only thing we can do is grow ourselves to change our view on the past. To grow and flourish enough that my axe mark becomes less important each year. For me, this date is a clear reminder of my own personal change and my story.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Seth Megow, 33, of Valdosta, Georgia. For hilarious stories featuring his kids and posts on divorce/single parenting, check out his family blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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