Married at 22, Divorced by 23: My Story
It was Halloween 2008, and I was dressed as a bumblebee. He walked into the apartment I shared with my four best friends wearing an outfit made for Tiger Woods.
We said hello, shook hands, and that was the end of my sophomore-in-college life as I knew it.
We started dating in January of 2009, adopted a Shih-Tzu together by June and were engaged by November of the same year. Things with us moved fast, moved heavy, and moved without a care in the world. We were young, we were in love, and we were moving along as we both thought we should.
I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to be, right?
A little back-story on me: I grew up in northern Minnesota in a town of about 300 just two hours south of the Canadian border. Oh, and let’s just say I wasn’t exactly the most attractive or thinnest girl on the block. Making friends was never hard for me, and I suppose you could say I was a part of the “popular crowd” for all intents and purposes. People “loved” me because I was the nice girl, the girl who was always happy and the girl who was always smiling.
The one thing I never got enough of, though, was love. Unconditional love from my parents, from my friends, or from the few short-lived boyfriends I had in high school. I never felt like anyone ever truly knew or loved me for ME. In thinking about it, I never truly loved me for me, and maybe that was the problem.
Fast forward to December 2009. I was 21, and Scott and I had just gotten engaged and were quickly making all kinds of plans. After our wedding in August of 2010, we planned to move to Arizona to buy a home and start a brand new life together. Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it? We thought so too.
Before we knew it, the wedding day came and went, and just as you imagine as a bride-to-be, it was the most beautiful, fun day either of us had ever experienced in our short lives.
Two weeks later, my 21 year-old husband kissed another girl at a bar.
Like, ARE YOU F&*%G WITH ME?! Nope, not at all. Pathetically, it happened.
Somehow, after a few days spent with my mom, I came home and chose to forgive and forget. After all, we were about to move to Arizona! “It was just a stupid mistake.” I said. “He’s just inexperienced and has never been hit on by a girl before.” I told my friends.
Yeah, THAT wasn’t nieve at all.
By October we were packed up and on our way to Arizona to move into our newly (but not new at all) purchased home in Avondale. Neither of us had jobs and the only person we knew in the state was Scott’s grandma up in Sun City. It wasn’t exactly the smartest way to go about things, but we made it work; for a while anyway.
Scott got a job as a bag-drop boy at a golf course, and I started selling life and health insurance. He made $8.00 an hour, and I was at a whopping ZERO dollars an hour. Let’s just say we were eating a lot of cheap food and watching a whole lot of TV. How were we going to re-do our awful-looking backyard and save for retirement when we could barely pay our bills? How were we going to have all this fun we wanted to have making what we were making? Long story short, we didn’t. We couldn’t do any of that on the money we were bringing into the household.
In April, Scott got an offer to move back up to Minnesota for the spring and summer to manage a golf course. There was no way he could turn down the offer; it was just too good.
And so he went. To be gone for at least 6 months.
I stayed in Arizona by myself and continued to work at my new job as a Career Counselor for the State. It wasn’t as hard as you might think, surprisingly. I made friends and stayed pretty busy, so the time was flying by. What I started to notice, though, was that Scott kept distancing himself from me. He didn’t call as often as he did before. He didn’t sound as interested in chatting with me anymore. And he didn’t say “I love you” like he used to.
In my heart, I knew something was up.
The weekend of our one-year anniversary I flew home to visit, and came only to find a bombshell waiting for me.
“I don’t want to kiss you because I don’t know if I will feel anything”, was the response I got at the airport.
“I just don’t know if I love you like I used to”, he kept saying during the three-hour car-ride home.
That weekend, August 28th, 2011, was the weekend my marriage was torn apart. I found out that he’d been seeing someone else while he was working in Minnesota; something I thought would never happen to me, especially from him. That sure explained a lot of things that weren’t clear before.
By October 2011, we had mutually drawn up our divorce papers. I had chosen to stay in Arizona by myself despite recommendations from my family – I just couldn’t move back to the place where Scott and I met and formed our love. In time, I found a new apartment moved out of our house, and was ready to start my new life; a life I had planned to live with him.
Letting go of the life I had planned for the past two years was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but at the end of the day I knew I had no other choice but to move on. What other option did I have?
Sulking in misery wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I focused on forward movement and kept on.
One day at a time is all I can say that worked for me. In my heart, I trusted that this process was exactly what needed to happen in order to bring me to where I was meant to be. I never stopped believing that everything would be okay, and that someday things would all make sense. That belief is what got me through each and every day. I bought a thumb ring that says Faith, and I haven’t removed it since.
A few months after my divorce, I still hadn’t really cried. I’m what they call a “stuffer” – in short, I stuff my feelings away and pretend they don’t exist, something I’ve always been guilty of. I had a friend remind me that I NEEDED to appropriately grieve or I wasn’t going to be able to move on.
I did my own form of grieving via my journal. I wrote down my feelings, my thoughts, and anything that came out even if it didn’t make sense. It was extremely cathartic, and I highly recommend it to anyone going through this process.
The BEST thing I did for myself after my divorce, though, was diving into relationship books to learn more about what makes them work. I had never done that before as I thought I knew exactly how things were supposed to work. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. The book that made me realize why Scott left me was Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. That book showed me the way and helped me understand why men and women so often find themselves in awful relationships. They don’t friggin’ understand each others’ basic needs!
When I got comfortable with the idea of dating again, I read Why Men Love Bitches, and THAT changed my world even more. Without that book, I think I’d still be single, honestly! If you’ve not yet read it, I highly suggest you get your hands on it, girl. Changed my dating game for good!
Besides the books, though, the second best thing I did for myself to get through this process was find a group of supportive girlfriends who would take me out, brush me off on my worst days, and enjoy life with me. There’ s always going to be new men who come into your life, but friends are truly forever; especially when you find the really good ones who will snap you out of your funks when you need it the most. Oh, and bring you wine and chocolate to stuff your face with.
The final thing I chose to do during my divorce was to redefine and allow myself to become the person I always wanted to be. When he left, I had no idea who I really was, what I truly wanted, and what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The beauty of that, though, is that I got to choose. No one else could tell me what to do, criticize me, or convince me of the life I should be living. I got to define what that meant for ME, and that was the biggest blessing of all.
Even though my divorce was hard, it had to happen so that I could fall in love with me. So that I could find the Dayna in me and let her shine for the world to see. I had locked her up for so long, and if not for Scott leaving, she would have stayed locked up forever, and who knows what would have happened to her. The Dayna that lives life now is a completely different Dayna that lived life then.
The married Dayna lived life by default; she lived life by her husband’s terms and did things only to make him happy. The divorced Dayna took the world by the horns and decided to define and live the life she wanted to for no one other than herself. Divorced Dayna chose to make herself the main priority.
I’ve never let her go, and I never will.
Two years ago, I decided to get on Match.com, and I found the love of my life. A man I literally created on a piece of paper just three months before meeting him. Though I didn’t know when I would meet him, I knew he was out there.
My first true love, though, is myself, and as long as I live, I will never forget that.
Dayna Mathews, Career & Personal Branding Coach for kick-ass women at Dayna Marie Coaching, has helped more than 500 people since 2009 on their path to creating a successful career. Not only does Dayna coach on resumes, interview skills, and job-search strategies, but she also helps people figure out what they really want. She gets down deep to help bring forth your true self so you can better personally brand yourself and stand out among the crowd. Dayna is a die-hard LinkedIn junkie, creating profiles that attract the right attention and training people how to use it most effectively to get what they want. Dayna is a hockey-obsessed, Minnesota native and a life-long Dumb and Dumber fan too.