“On July 5th, 2017, I served my husband with divorce papers. Our short-lived marriage was a few months away from the two-year mark. People say to fight for your marriage. You took vows. Don’t give up. Make it work. None of those were options for me after I found out he had been in a full-on relationship with a nineteen-year-old for over six months. Six months of sharing bodily fluids with someone I didn’t know. Six months of dragging my ass to therapy, working hard to repair our marriage, not knowing why it was so incredibly broken. Six months of utter unhappiness.
I’ll never forget the moment I got the confirmation of the affair. My entire body felt a surge, the way you felt when you were called into the principal’s office or got caught doing something bad by your parents. The surge throws off your entire equilibrium, making you unsure the legs beneath you will hold strong. Hotel receipts. A second phone. Shopping sprees. The list went on and on. Replica dates of the ones he had taken me on. Hotel getaways a mile from our home. The lies were woven so thick there was no use trying to untie the mess he had made.
Finding all the evidence was, in a weird way, a relief. Because I knew. I knew that this was my second chance at a happier life. If my husband hadn’t done something so drastic, something that made it so easy for me to say, ‘I’m done,’ I don’t know how long I would have stayed. On the day I handed him the papers, I looked at the bare walls where our wedding pictures had hung, thinking about all the memories we had created. It was all about to be done. And I was ready for that. Did I feel betrayed? Absolutely. Violated? Beyond belief. Heartbroken? Thankfully, no. I was no longer in love with the man I thought I had married. I had been living with a sociopathic stranger for years—and this was my chance to escape.
And though I was angry, what I really wanted to say to my soon-to-be ex-husband was this: Thank you. Thank you for not waiting until we had children. Thank you for being so careless that I was able to find everything. Thank you for showing me your true character after five years and not ten. Thank you for giving me the ability to choose myself. To know that I am enough. And that you did not deserve me. Thank you for showing me how strong I am.
I knew I would come out the other end of this so much stronger than before. He’d shown me that I was strong, resilient, and true. I hope he can learn to have those qualities one day. I wanted to thank him for setting me free so I could find a person who sees how wonderful I am and will love me fearlessly and fully in a way he was never capable of. He, in the darkest way, gave me the best gift of my life: A second chance to find someone who truly values me and makes me feel like I am the only woman in the world. I can say without a doubt that this tragic end led to an incredible new beginning.
I didn’t dodge a bullet. I dodged an army of snipers. So, when I drove away from the home we shared after serving him the papers, I vowed I would finally be by myself. That I would finally stay single, focus on myself, and really learn how to be alone. Yeah—fat freaking chance.
Shortly after breaking free from the toxic cage my marriage had become, someone entered my life. Well, not really entered…more like erupted. It was the kind of instant connection you read about in romance novels or roll your eyes at in every rom-com. He swept me off my feet in a way I had never experienced before and, in the span of five days, we fell in love. It suddenly all made sense—why the cheating had happened, why the marriage had ended. It was all leading us to each other. We connected over the fact we both had loved ones up in heaven looking down on us. ‘Your dad and my brother brought us together,’ he would tell me.
On our second night together, he asked me to join him on a trip to Italy he had booked. That sounds absolutely crazy, right? It did to me too. Upon further discussion, I found out he was leaving on what would have been my two-year wedding anniversary—and returning home on my late father’s birthday. Not one to ignore signs of fate, I looked up to the heavens and screamed, ‘Okay, Universe, I hear you!’ Maybe it was the love, or the universal signs, but for whatever reason, it suddenly became an easy decision. I was going to Italy.
We spent a month and a half meeting each other’s families, falling more in love, and planning our lives way down the road. His friends and parents would tell me they had never seen him like this with a woman before. Our relationship skyrocketed from zero to one hundred with no emergency brake in sight. Everything was perfect—until it wasn’t.
Forty-eight hours before we were getting on the plane, he told me he needed to go by himself. And for the first time, I felt the brutal fracture of a broken heart. The kind that feels like you can’t breathe. As I sat there, tears streaming down my face, I realized I had a decision to make. Either stay at home heartbroken or go travel Europe for a month by myself.
Since I was a little girl and I walked in to find my father dead on the floor, I’ve had a fear of abandonment. A fear of being by myself. At twenty-eight years old, I had never fully healed that old wound—and the universe was giving me a clear way to go face that sh*t, head-on. So, with the fear of the unknown, a broken heart still bleeding, and no plans in place—I stepped on a plane across the world.
The universe works in mysterious ways. I took that trip. I got lost in London, feeling the exhilarating freedom of exploring a new city all on my own. I walked the Red Light District in Amsterdam and saw things I had only heard about in the movies. I ate my way through Paris, one pastry at a time. I danced my way across Barcelona, where my heart finally felt like it was beginning to mend. I lost sleep in Mykonos and soaked up all the sun. And I wrote my heart out in Rome on the Spanish steps, where my journey was supposed to begin in the first place. And I came back a different human in all the best ways.
It completely changed my life. I felt new and invigorating highs and unimaginable lows. I learned not only how to be by myself but how incredibly capable I am. And most importantly, I figured out how to love myself—something I had been searching for many years. On that trip, I wrote a little book called Eat, Pray, #FML. That book is now a worldwide bestseller that has helped countless women around the world take their power back and heal. It has given me a new career, a new outlook on life, and a new purpose.
I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason—even if you can’t see it at the moment. I had to take this journey—cheating, love, heartbreak, travel, and all—to learn how to love myself and change so many lives because of it. Because, sometimes, you have to be broken wide open in order to bloom exponentially. Sometimes, the heartbreak is so, damn, worth it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gabrielle Stone. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Find her book on Amazon. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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