“‘I know that I love you.’ These words were said 3 weeks into dating who would become my future husband and one of the biggest losses of my life.
Now, reading that, you might be thinking how romantic that is. I’d always heard that ‘once you know you know.’ Or you might be thinking, ‘RED FLAG! Three weeks?’ I remember sitting on a bench we’d stopped to rest at during a hike and I panicked. ‘Do I love him? You’d be crazy to not love him, Brooke. He’s handsome, romantic, and a man of God just like you’ve been asking for…you’re just scared because you’ve been hurt before.’ ‘I love you too,’ I jumped.
I jumped fully in. 3 months later, we were engaged and a year later we were married. And less than two years later, we were divorced. NOT the ending to the story that imagined. Some of you might have seen that coming from just those few details I gave, but I didn’t. Let me back up.
I met Makale in 2017 at a holiday party with some family friends. He was living with them at the time and I was living with my parents after a gut-wrenching breakup with my college boyfriend (a theme we’re addressing in therapy now, god bless). I went with my dad to visit our friends, the Jones, who I hadn’t seen in years. I was pretty consumed in young girl heartbreak and needed a distraction. We arrived and I greeted everyone I recognized from my childhood and all of a sudden I hear a loud and jolly, ‘Hello!’ from the front door.
I turn, not recognizing the voice, and see him. Immediately, I was blushing. His smile was wide and bright, he was in extremely good shape and bounded in with energy. My legs got weak and I thought, ‘Oh no, this is not what I need right now.’ We locked eyes and immediately I could tell there was mutual interest. Not wanting to out rightly flirt with a man in front of my parents, I did what any young woman does when developing a crush: I stalked him on Instagram later.
I found out he had a girlfriend and honestly that should’ve been sign enough for me, but no. I was intrigued. Sure enough, he did message me later but I kept it brief out of respect for his girlfriend. After a summer of ignoring him via DMs, I checked his profile again and noticed all the pictures of his girlfriend were gone..so the next message he sent I gave a lengthier response. I think you can see where this is going. We spent weeks messaging and calling and finally had our first date. We were out until 3 a.m. and I watched this man give every last dollar he had to homeless men and pray for the sick we saw.
He was so bold. In everything he did, but especially in approaching people. He didn’t know a stranger and gave of his time and money generously. I had never seen a man live out his faith like Makale did. This was part of why I let my guard down so quickly and why I felt assured getting married quickly. I could see his immaturity peak through though; I could see his lack of real world experience as a 21-year-old, but I believed his heart to be pure. If he loved God and loved me, what could go wrong?
We got married October 20th 2020 and almost immediately things went downhill. On our wedding night, we were unable to consummate our relationship due to technical difficulties. I know this happens to a lot of men but it continued to happen throughout the entirety of our marriage and I later discovered the extent of his pornography addiction was to blame. It created so much distance and resentment between us that paired with our other relational issues, I felt as though I had married a stranger. 6 months into marriage, I found out he lied about being able to afford our rent and had taken out several cash advances from the bank to pay our bills. Bills he had asked to be in charge of. He was now severely in debt. I felt like I had been tricked, like the facade of a godly man was just that: a facade.
8 months into marriage, I found sexual messages he’d been exchanging with women on Ashley Madison. I remember distinctly getting into bed and feeling like I should check his phone. I had never done this, never had been tempted to, but in that moment I picked it up while he slept and my world imploded. I remember reading them and seeing the explicit photos in our laundry room and feeling like I was going to vomit. I woke him up and confronted him. He admitted to everything and wanted us to get help.
I remember talking to pastoral friends that told me I had every right to leave. But I didn’t want to be a quitter. I didn’t want to give up. I have a hard time giving up on people, even if it’s destructive to me. So we went to counseling and tried to turn our marriage around. Looking back, I realize now that the damage was too great to come back from for me, but I kept trying. I remember a few months later, in the summer, having a phone call with a friend and telling her I ‘was going to try my hardest to revive our love and keep trying.’ Two weeks later, Makale walked out.
In August 2020, I got a message from a woman via IG that Makale and her had been texting for weeks and she thought it was best she let me know. I told Makale that he needed to stay with a friend that night, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t fight, he didn’t argue, he packed a bag and didn’t turn back. When I got home from work that day, I collapsed. I called and called him but he wouldn’t answer. When he finally did pick up, he told me that he ‘had wanted out for a long time and this was the only way he could do it.’ I felt worthless.
I found out later that he had an actual affair and was planning another one. I was shell-shocked. Never in a million years did I imagine something like this happening to me. When I shared the news with my close friends, they dropped everything. Three of my closest friends drove hours to stay with me and uphold me while I tried to piece together what was left of my life. The support of my family and friends during that time is something I will never forget. The way they comforted me and supported me forever changed my definition of community.
My friend Cait stayed with me for three days, sleeping in my broken marriage bed with me as I cried myself to sleep. My friends Mckinley and Chandler drove from Tennessee to Georgia to try to speak with Makale and convince him to come home. Mckinley had a torn ACL and traveled in discomfort for hours. My friend Cassie traveled and brought food and hugs all with a small child at home. These experiences of love were a healing balm even in those early days of grief. As time passed, I realized there was no convincing Makale to come back. For months after he left, I prayed for reconciliation. Now, as I look back, I realize God was showing mercy. As our divorce proceedings ensued, the real him started to emerge. Makale immediately began seeing other people (three days after leaving) and would text me about them as if we were friends, not spouses. He stole money from me and refused to continue paying for his half of our rent. Luckily, I had a friend move in that offered to pay more than his share (another overflow of love).
As a few months passed from the initial shock of the event, the loneliness crept in. No one talks about how quietly it creeps up on you. For months, I was in an adrenaline high, trying to put out the flames of an unexpected separation. After that settled, the weight of being alone and starting all over hit me. I’m not proud of this, but I instinctually got on dating apps. I wasn’t ready and I didn’t even really want to; I just needed some validation and attention. I waded through profiles, feeling depressed and sorry for myself. I canceled probably 10 dates last minute because I just couldn’t go through with it. I was mindlessly scrolling one day when I came across Will.
He was funny, tall, and had gone to my university. So, I sent him a message. He replied back with charm and I remember feeling like I had known him for a long time. We’ve spoken every day since. We built a friendship and our conversations flowed with ease. I had never felt so safe with a man. I shared the news of my ongoing divorce, thinking he would run, but he showed so much understanding and patience. ‘Life is full of the unexpected and the heartbreaking but I’m here for as long as you want me to be,’ he’d say. Over the past year, we’ve moved very slowly and while my advice post-divorce is not one size fits all, for me, I’m so glad I found him when I did. Because he’s a safe person to be with, I’ve been able to see in action all of the healthy relationships practices I’ve been learning about in therapy and in my counseling classes.
I was especially glad to have his support when six months after Makale left, my grandmother got placed in hospice. I received the call saying she probably wouldn’t make it another week when Will and I were in the mountains together. I tried to put on a brave face to not spoil the time, but he knew I was struggling. He trapped me in an embrace and I started to cry. ‘I know you need to cry more than that,’ he said. I let out an uncontrolled sob.
We returned to Atlanta so I could say my goodbyes to her. My granny was 95 and had lived with my family until her early 90s. She was my second mom and her decline came rapidly. She had contracted Covid in her assisted living space and it led to her brain swelling and her being unable to wake back up. She passed away after two agonizing weeks in hospice and to this day I still grieve her. The weight of losing her soon after my marriage crumbled put me over the edge. I was a mess for months, unable to eat or sleep. I began writing and writing and writing.
I was in the middle of releasing my first song when she died. I played her what I had when she was in hospice and she squeezed my hand. I was so afraid to lose her and so afraid to share this song about this past year of heartache, but in that moment I felt like she was releasing me from both. She was the most generous person I’ve ever met. She was a woman that needed very little to find joy. She dedicated her late life to helping raise me and my brother. She got me up for school every single morning and we’d share a cup of tea and watch Murder She Wrote on long summer afternoons.
Loss is a funny thing. It hits all of sudden, out of nowhere. It’s caught me off guard in grocery store parking lots months later and at dinner with friends. The hole they leave never goes away, you just gain more tools to keep going. Time doesn’t heal, but it helps. Two major family losses in one year made me realize how little time we have and how precious it is. It made me face fear head on.
As I said, I released my first song when my grandmother passed in February. I released another song, ‘Ruthless’ about my divorce in July 2021. I had been petrified to make my own music despite wanting to for years. Writing had always been a coping mechanism for me, a way to release pain. It has served me well these past two years. My music has grown and my last single had over 5,000 listens. I also turned to Instagram to share my story and journey. When my marriage was ending, I knew that slowly the news would get out and I wanted to be in control of the message. I was in therapy and also getting my master’s degree in pastoral counseling and was learning so much about healing that I wanted to share with others. I have had an overwhelmingly positive response and I have been overjoyed to share vulnerably and encourage others to do the same.
If I can help bring healing to others, it’s worth it. I don’t say this to minimize my experiences or pain. One of my pet peeves is people looking for the good in the midst of terrible circumstances. Bad things happening feel bad. There isn’t always a silver lining. But just like bad things happen, so do good. It’s important to be able to feel both fully. My music and my counseling pratice has allowed me to accept this more fully.
Now I feel more comfortable grieving and letting grief be grief, as opposed to spinning it into a victory. I also feel more deserving of good things, without having to justify why they’re happening. If I could wish anything for anyone it would be to be fully present, without shame. I hope everyone can find that for themselves despite their losses and past. I know I am fully worth being loved and that bad things happening don’t mean I deserved them, I hope you can feel the same.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brooke Owens. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Tiktok,and website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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