‘It HAS to get better!’ I didn’t want divorce. But dating sounded AWFUL. We both ate our words.’: Single mom finds love after heartbreak, ‘I’m the happiest I’ve been’

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“From a very young age I was entranced with the idea of finding my ‘Prince Charming’. Someone who would sweep me off my feet, complete me, and, dare I say it, ‘save’ me. Cinderella was my favorite Disney movie, and from the age of 3, I was on the hunt for ‘the one.’ Little did I know this mindset would send me down a toxic spiral full of self-worth and self-esteem issues, codependency, lack of self-love, and enduring abuse in the name of ‘love’.

In 2015 I removed myself from a very toxic relationship that left me emotionally and mentally traumatized. I was finally starting to see the toxicity that engulfed the entire relationship; the manipulation, the lying, the gaslighting, the cheating, the possessiveness. Although I recognized it, I was far from healed from it. And what did I do instead of taking some much-needed time to heal myself from all the trauma and abuse I endured? I entered a new relationship 3 months later with someone I had met years before. And not only did I enter a new relationship, but I really outdid myself and got engaged, and then married.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

‘But it’s totally okay!’ I told myself. I ‘knew’ him. I met him 3 years earlier at a church camp for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was interesting to me – shy yet charming, handsome, kind, had a strong testimony of God, made me laugh, and had a huge crush on me. I was sold. When we reconnected, it was as if no time had passed at all. I was convinced he was the ‘Prince Charming’ I had waited for all along. Two months later we got engaged, and then five months later in February 2016 after he graduated from military boot camp, we got married at the San Diego LDS Temple where we were sealed for time and all eternity. That was it! No more heartbreak, no more dating, no more games! Unfortunately my naïve, trauma ridden, emotionally unhealed self was in for a rude awakening.

We had our issues. What marriage didn’t? But 8 months into our marriage, I realized our marriage was not healthy but I did all I could to deny it. For the sake of privacy and respect I won’t share details, but things started coming to light. Skeletons came out of the closet and I was blindsided. I had major trust issues that surfaced and it was incredibly triggering. I felt devastatingly inadequate, unlovable, undesirable, and absolutely heartbroken as I was dealing with getting my depression under control and some hard health issues that would soon resolve.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

In 2017, I found out I was pregnant with our son. I was thrilled, and for a while things got slightly better between us. But it was only temporary. Our excitement was a band-aid over the tragic wounds that pierced our marriage. It only got worse from there with more skeletons, more heartbreak, more being blindsided. My pregnancy had happy moments but was full of stress, heartbreak, and a vicious cycle of feelings of worthlessness.

I eventually had my son Leonidas (Leo) in December of 2017, and again this helped cover up the wounds in our marriage. To make matters worse, my birth experience was incredibly traumatic and neither of us really knew how to deal with the emotional toll it had on us both. I lied to myself and told myself things would get better between us. ‘It has to,’ I told myself. I absolutely refused to think of the idea of divorce, even if deep down I knew it was probably the best course of action.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

In 2018, 4 months after my son was born, my fears become reality once again. I approached him in disbelief and incredible hurt over what I had discovered again and in that gut wrenching moment he told me he wanted a divorce. Begging, pleading, and hysterically trying to make things work, I couldn’t change his mind. That was the beginning of the hardest, most painful couple of years of my life. I found out my life had not been what I thought it was. My world shattered before me. Everything I knew, or thought I knew, was put into question. I had no idea what my true reality was. I felt as though my life had been a lie. I found myself in incredibly similar circumstances of the relationship I escaped from in 2015. How could this be? The person I trusted and gave my whole soul and life to was deciding to walk away while I was begging to stay and fight. All of this was happening while I was battling with postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. Leo saved my life and was what was getting me through each and every day.

I separated from my then husband 3 months later. Leo and I moved in with his dad’s gracious parents in Oregon. It was without a doubt the hardest, most heartbreaking and challenging time I have ever faced. While I was trying to fight for my family, it became clear that I was fighting for more devastation. I decided to take the time to really find myself again since becoming a mother and I welcomed back passions I had taken a break from. Most importantly, I rekindled my somewhat stagnant relationship with God. I knew that if I was going to come out of this victorious, it was going to be by the grace of God. There was no other way for me to get through this without the help from the One who has all the power to heal my broken heart.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

Looking back at the emotional and mental state that I was in when I entered this marriage, it was clear that it contributed to the deterioration of our marriage and the behavior that I allowed to occur. Because of that, during our separation, I turned inward and did some major introspection while asking God what needed to be healed inside of myself in order to come out of the heartache a refined, wiser, and stronger version of myself. There was incredible knowledge to be gained from my present circumstances that were the cause of my unhealed past circumstances, and in order to break free from the habits of today, I had to be willing to face the demons of my yesterday.

After a year of separation, it became clear to me that it was time to let go. I prayed relentlessly for direction on where to go from there, and the answer became very clear to me once I got the news that I made the dance company I auditioned for, Moments of Grace, that was based in Northern Utah. I knew in my heart I needed to head to Utah, even months prior before I auditioned, and making the dance company was confirmation that it was time to make Utah our new home. Although some were skeptical of my decision to move Leo and I to Utah, I knew I needed to block out all the background noise and listen to Him.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

In July of 2019, through tears of fear, excitement, anxiousness, and hope for the future, I packed up all of Leo and I’s belongings into our little Ford Fusion and left behind the heartache and toxicity and welcomed in our new beginning. It was undeniably scary. But I knew I needed to do the scary thing to get to the next place we needed to be in. I just knew God would provide and we would be taken care of. And we were. So many people came together to make our move as painless as possible. We lived with 2 different families in the 3 months before we found a place to call our own and those families were without a doubt the biggest blessings we could have received. Although we were majorly blessed, there were absolutely days where I would lay in bed with stress, paralyzing fear and anxiety over how I was going to make this single mom thing work. How was I going to make enough money for us? Where was I going to work? What was I going to do? Where were we going to live and how would I afford it? Could I still dance? Did I need to let my passions go for now? ‘Breathe. Have faith. It’s going to work out.’ Those are the words I clung to.

Financial assistance, food stamps, low-income housing, jobs; I applied for it all. In the process, I landed an incredible job I didn’t apply for. Having never worked in software sales, I was graciously offered a job as a Sales Development Representative for a start-up tech company. It was the best possible position I could have landed in for our circumstance, and while in that job, I learned some valuable skills that I knew were going to help me get to where God wanted and needed me to be. I heavily grieved the closing of the chapter of being a stay at home mom to Leo, but knew it was what needed to be done. With my heart heavy but my head held high, I started full-time work for the first time for my son and myself.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

September came and we moved into our very own apartment that we called home. The feeling of moving into our own place to call home was unbelievably rewarding and proved how much I was capable of. It was Leo and me against the world; we were unstoppable.

Eventually the excitement wore down and the realities of life hit hard. Through exhaustion, healing from grief and betrayal, and bearing the load of single motherhood on my shoulders, I was becoming a stronger, unstoppable woman. Even though I was the most exhausted I had ever been, I was also the strongest I had ever been. Massive growth, healing, and self awareness was flourishing at a rapid rate. What Leo and I had together was amazing and my walls were high. I wasn’t going to let just anyone come in. I was, and still am, incredibly protective of my baby boy. High levels of screening would be mandatory. I told myself I wasn’t going to date anyone for at least a couple years.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

Then came the most unexpected blessing that terrified me but also opened an opportunity to grow more: my now husband.

David entered the picture as a friend whom I had met back in 2014. Back then we would go on some casual dates, but when one was wanting to date a little more seriously, the other was on a different timeline. We became great friends out of it and went our separate ways once I married. He married shortly after. As life would have it, we were both going through divorces at the same time. After reconnecting, he became a beacon of light in my life, and I in his. We would laugh about how awful dating sounded not knowing at the time that we would be eating our own words.

Courtesy of Delaina Leigh

Our story is quite long with lots of miracles and blessings along the way. The way God led us back to each other was nothing short of orchestrated and divine. Our wants, needs, and desires matched in a way I had always dreamed of. But I was terrified. What about my plans to not date for a couple years? The thought of dating made my heart pound with anxiety. And just when I was most terrified, I felt God’s gentle hand telling me to lean in. His hand hadn’t ever led me astray, and knowing this, I leaned in despite heavy fears. As I kept leaning in, those fears dissipated, and I learned to see David as he truly was instead of through my ‘trauma glasses’. He was everything I had ever hoped for and more for my son and I, and since we started out as friends, Leo had become familiar with him which made the transition to dating smooth and natural. As we all grew closer together and began dating seriously (in the year of COVID-19 no less) it became clear that we were progressing toward marriage. God’s hand had been guiding me to this all along and all I had to do was accept the beauty of it all, lean in, and enjoy what real, unconditional love felt like. Though my trauma and grief would sometimes like to push it away, I learned the difference between my intuition guiding me and my trauma misleading me. So in August of 2020, David, Leo and I became a family.

Jennie Munson Photos

We live an incredibly beautiful life. The transition from terrified to trusting hasn’t been easy, and occasionally an innocent action will trigger painful pasts for both of us, impacting the life we want to build together. Healing from trauma and grief is no joke, but when you’re with someone who truly loves you for all that you are and wants to help you grow, thrive, and raise you up, there’s no losing. There’s only winning. And I won the jackpot with David.

Despite the heart wrenching difficulties of these past 4 years, it has become clear that I now have the beautiful opportunity to help others more than ever before. I now have a greater capacity to love and show compassion towards others because of it. My heartbreaking trials were incredible opportunities to grow but were never meant to define me. Little did I know that being walked away from would end up being the choice that would catapult me into the greatest transformation and growth I’d ever known. As I’ve healed, learned the wonderful world of boundaries, my infinite worth, and how truly capable I am, I’ve been able to help others along the way. There is truly no greater gift than that. Pain was never my enemy. It was my guide. It was my reminder that brokenness was inside of me waiting to be acknowledged. It was my motivation to fight. I knew on the other side of that pain was a refined, freed version of myself just waiting to be found. And boy was she found. She was found lighter, happier, stronger, wiser, and inspired.

Camee Fox Photography

I’m still working through triggers. I’m still learning how to fully trust again, that not everyone is like the people who have severely hurt me, how to enjoy the good and not think that something bad has to happen to equal it out, and how to be comfortable with someone treating me the way I deserve. We’re still navigating some rough waters, but with David’s constant love, patience, kindness and consistency as I process all these hard emotions, the waters continue to settle down, the wind starts to let up, and the light floods in. Since we are both dedicated to constantly bettering ourselves individually, we can come together as a powerful partnership that uplifts, motivates, and conquers the world. There is safety, respect, openness, and a willingness to keep learning and doing our best. Life is amazing even with our struggles. But we’re learning how to conquer them, together.

Perhaps maybe our greatest rejections are actually our greatest protections from what is not meant to be ours because something far greater, more beautiful, and fulfilling is waiting for us. We just have to have faith that it will be there when we get there.”

Alisha Shaw Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Delaina Leigh from Utah. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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