Today I received a letter from the Supreme Court of Canada: my divorce has been finalized.
I was checking the mail like most freelancers are, always hoping for money owed, and like most morning dog walks I was chatting on the phone with Sonja. If you’re not familiar with the Sonja character in the movie of my life, she’s the first person I told when my marriage was about to end, when it ended, and when I found out about the affair. She took it upon herself to call me every single day - the part of a relationship she felt could fill the void of. The daily catch up. In the two years since my life fell apart Sonja has taught me what it means to be a great friend: unconditional love, check-ins without any expectation, listening listening listening, and holding space. This is the first lesson I’ve taken from this divorce.
I sent a picture of the paper to the important people in my life, and got back similar responses: things like “👌” and “🙌🙌🙌” and “you must be relieved.” And I think I am relieved, though I know it’s dishonest to say that’s all I’m feeling. Plus if you know me at all, I’m the first to honour allllllllllll of my feelings. Especially since primarily I’m overcome with gratitude, and there’s always room for more of that to be shared. So, while I certainly didn’t imagine myself to be divorced at 30 (though the shame and embarrassment of that has mostly dissipated, thankfully), I have decided to share a few of my biggest learnings.
Openness Breeds Connection
I had never really been open about my relationship, and truthfully people kind of stop asking once you’re married anyway. There’s a lot of “marriage is hard,” but no one really knows what that means. I just kept trucking along, always finding the good like I always try to do. So you can imagine how much my guard was let down when I called my Mum across the country one chilly day in April 2016 to tell her he was leaving me. This experience has strengthened my relationship with my family and friends alike (and especially my beautiful relationship with my new partner), but I never anticipated the closeness I’d feel with strangers.
I’m still getting messages from strangers on the internet who somehow come across that podcast I recorded with Briana and are going through something similar. Others message me on completely different issues asking “what would Nicole do?” because of my apparent ability to find the good in hard situations (until this experience I would have described myself quite differently). But I’ve also learned that while all of our journeys are different, our emotions are quite similar. The more I have been willing to open about things I’m going through, the more others have done the same. And sharing and conversing on a deeper level makes for a beautiful connection.
Every Emotion is Really Just Love
I remember in the thick of my heartbreak feeling defeated thinking “I have been reserving all this love for this one person, trying to hold a marriage together, and now I can’t give it to him. What am I supposed to do? I feel lost. And empty.” And then someone sent me this Jamie Anderson quote, and my entire outlook on the separation and life changed.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
I was able to sprinkle all the love I’d been reserving for one person into other aspects of life: thank the streetcar driver, compliment the barista, check in on people I knew were going through a hard time, be a better friend. Now I operate on the belief that every emotion is just love. Pain is just love (if you don’t love something it doesn’t hurt to lose it), anger is just love (we get mad because we care), and joy is love (I guess that one’s a little more obvious 😊). If you want to hear more about this lesson in love, you can listen to my podcast with Sara Moncrieff here. Living life this way and changing my perspective has brought more joy - who knew operating with a loving mindset would help me so much, too!
We Dictate Our Lives
Society tells us that when we break up to cut ties. And when our marriage ends with cheating we should definitely cut ties, and probably hate the other person. But I couldn’t find my decision to choose kindness and empathy, and create a new non-romantic relationship with that person represented anywhere. I felt like I was carving my own path, trusting my intuition that it would work out. And it did. Giving people the benefit and assuming they are doing their best is life changing.
I am really proud that I was able to turn a 10 year partnership and best friendship into a new platonic friendship. It took a lot of hard work, creating boundaries, and limiting expectations, but at least I didn’t feel like I was losing a friend through the already hardest thing in my life. That, and it turns out forgiveness and empathy are truly the most beautiful parts of the human experience. Not everyone understood my decision (and some didn’t like it) but once I finally learned that kindness is a strength I felt a lot better. I know this approach isn’t for everyone, but I encourage you to take control of your experiences and trust that there’s no one right path to anything.
Today a chapter in my life closes but I want to take one last final moment to honour it. Without this person coming into my life and teaching me so much, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am a better friend, communicator and partner because of everything I learned from that experience and in some strange way feel a little indebted to him for that. I now have an entirely different perspective on the work it takes to make a strong relationship, and how important solid communication is. I really did the hard work with him so that all my future relationships could benefit, and that is definitely something to be grateful for.
Maybe I’m just another cliché who’s become grateful for a painful experience, but I guess that’s a cliché I’m happy to be. Tonight I will take a deep breath before going to bed oozing with gratitude and love, while continuing my quest to always find the light. If you’re reading this you’ve probably been a part of this journey of mine in some way, in which case: thank you.
With love + kindness,