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I’m Happier Now That I’m Divorced, but It Doesn’t Come Without Guilt

Katie Smith
Image Source: Katie Smith

When I walked down the aisle over 15 years ago and met the gaze of the man I was about to marry, it was exactly what I wanted to do. I was sure of it. There was absolutely zero doubt in my mind that we would start a family right away and grow old together. Our life was spread out before us, and we mapped out every detail with the same excitement you have while planning a road trip — nothing was left out.

We would have kids close together, and build a house in the same town where I grew up. We would get his business off the ground and running, and then I would stay at home with the kids. When they were older and more self-sufficient, I would start writing. His business would keep growing, we would retire early, and our children would always have their childhood house to come back to with their kids. We hoped they would come home and bring their clan with them for the holidays, but if not, we would travel to see them.

We built that house, and had kids close together. When they got older, I did start my writing career, but along the way, something happened, and we both agreed the only solution to stay happy was to write a new chapter which would involve living in separate places — and eventually lead to a divorce.

I have not loved every moment, but I do love our story. All of it. The baby years, the arguing, the long car rides, being in the trenches, the early breakfasts when the kids were small, and the late lunches as they got older. It was ours. I can sit here and say I also love the way we ended our marriage and started a new relationship.

Parting ways and going through a divorce was never in the plan. And even though “our story” took a detour, I am still happy — we are still happy. But sometimes I don’t know what to do with that feeling. There are nights, like tonight, when my kids are with their dad and I am sitting by my fireplace with our dog curled up at my feet and the Hallmark Channel whispering in the background, and I feel unbelievably happy. My life — our life — is different now.

But that happiness doesn’t come without guilt. I think, How can I be happy when my marriage is over? How can I be happy when my kids aren’t here? How can I be so utterly selfish as to deviate from the plan?

The happiness you feel post-divorce somehow feels different than the usual contentment you experience when you are secure with a partner. Maybe it’s because it’s not the script you thought you were going to follow. Or perhaps since we are such a traditional society, we believe happiness lies in finding a partner and having a family together — and while I believe that is true, I have also discovered something else during this journey — true happiness comes from inside of us, and it’s okay if we find that happiness alone.

I am happy that I am not married, but it also makes me feel sad and guilty. Trying to untangle the two is the most confusing thing I’ve ever felt.

I’m a better parent than I used to be when I have my children home with me because they aren’t here all the time anymore.

But I am excited to have quiet evenings alone while they are with their father because parenting solo is twice as hard as doing it with a partner.

I enjoy the freedom of making decisions on my own without consulting anyone.

It all feels strange, exciting, different, and incredibly scary. But I am happy. And it has taken me some time to realize I am allowed to feel happy about our new life.

I keep reminding myself just because a divorce wasn’t in my plan, it doesn’t mean my life can’t be wonderful. And I am starting to believe it.

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