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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Anniversaries That Aren’t

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Today would have been my thirteenth wedding anniversary. Thirteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart on an empty beach in Florida. The photos from that day capture the love we had. The youth. The innocence. The promise.

wedding pic

What would have been our tenth anniversary was the hardest. He has left five months prior and we were still legally married. I used a psychiatrist’s appointment as an excuse for a sick day off work (the last day before winter break and a planned trip to San Antonio). After the morning appointment, I took a Xanax (one of three I took during the whole experience) and spent the day in my bed in my friend’s guest room. I distinctly remember not wanting to be alone and feeling reassured that her husband and then her father were going to be there throughout the day. I couldn’t muster up the energy to be social. I don’t think I ever made it down stairs, but I remember listening to the sounds coming in my door. I spent the day in a fugue state – not awake and not asleep. I tried to read, but couldn’t. I tried to sleep, but that eluded me too. I cried. A lot. I wrote. I cried some more. I could not face that anniversary that wasn’t.

By the would-have-been eleventh anniversary, I was in a much better place. I was situated in my own apartment and in the early stages of a new relationship. It was still a very difficult day. A sad day. I went to work. I functioned. But I also broke down and cried a few times. I was afraid to be alone that evening and spent the night at Brock’s. I still mourned what had been lost, but I also saw hope for the future.

Last year, on would be anniversary number twelve, I felt okay. I didn’t feel like I was a damn holding back a wall of sadness that was waiting to crush me. I felt okay. But I didn’t trust it. I remember tiptoeing through the day, as if I might release the pain if I tread too hard. The pain didn’t come. I spent a normal (as normal as a middle school can be) day at work and spent a quiet evening on the couch with Brock.

And today? On lucky number thirteen? I’m alone at the moment and I okay. No, I’m more than okay. I’ve been aware of the date but it hasn’t hurt. I left a note for Brock this morning as this same date is a difficult anniversary for him for different reasons) and I received an image with the following quote from him on my Facebook:

Good relationships don’t just happen. They take time, patience, and people who truly want to be together.

That definitely helps keep any demons at bay:) I came home to Brock and his friend, who just had knee surgery, on the couch laughing and playing Call of Duty. It was a scene that made me smile – two friends helping each other and laughing while doing it. By the time I got back from the gym, Brock was at ju jitsu, where he will be until after I’m asleep (I’m pitiful in the evening). I’m alone on December 18, but I’m not alone. I’ve let people into my heart and they are with me even now. Oh, and Tiger and Maddy too:) It’s hard to feel alone when you have a 90 lb pit bull on your lap!


Anniversaries that aren’t are strange things. They are meaningless and yet we mark them. It’s a time when we used to reflect upon the past years of the relationship. Now that the relationship is over, we find ourselves playing a game of “what if?,” wondering what this day might have looked like otherwise. These anniversaries are so piercing at first, the loss overwhelming and threatening to undo a year’s worth of work. But they don’t have to stay that way. We can let them soften, let them become mere curiosities on the calendar. I see it like a number line. I used to count the positive numbers away from my wedding day. Now, I am on the other side of zero, counting away from my divorce date. I can see today as would-have-been thirteen or I can celebrate it as it-is-three. I bet you can guess which view I choose:)

So, I am wishing myself a happy anniversary. And I am celebrating three years of loving and laughing and learning. That’s an anniversary I can celebrate every year!

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24 thoughts on “Anniversaries That Aren’t

  1. My ex and I didn’t celebrate our last anniversary together. He forgot and I didn’t mention it. That day passed with no recognition. I think that helped make it easier to ignore it the next year when we were in the middle of divorcing.

  2. My soon to be ex left on our 13th anniversary, 7 months ago. It’s been a difficult transition, but with good life-changing results.

    1. Left on the anniversary? Ouch. On the bright side, you can get both of those anniversaries done at the same time:) I have two days – one in July and the one in December.

      You’re exactly right – it is a difficult transition, especially for those of us who didn’t choose it, but we can choose to create wonderful things from it! 🙂

  3. I understand the pain completely. Perhaps not the level the same as yours, since we were only married for almost 4 years, but still. He texted me on what would’ve been our 4 year marriage anniversary, and I broke down and lost it. It was my choice to leave him, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less- probably more so since I was planning on forever. I made myself leave the house and had a massage and manicure that day. I turned it into a somewhat good day- my anti-anniversary day.

  4. Thank you for sharing that you stayed in the guest room and cried! I’ve been doing that lately (10 months separated and long divorce road ahead) and as painful as it is, it feels like just the right thing to be doing!

    I am so happy that things are getting better for you each year.

    1. That first one was horrible but each one really has gotten easier. I wish you the best on your long road. Remember, you don’t have to wait to live until it’s over; enjoy the little moments along the way.

  5. My ex and I seperated in April, our ten year anniversary would have been this past August 17. I, like you, did not leave my bed. I remember nothing more than laying in a comatose state, heart saddened and heavy, and not allowing my mind to think about what the day would have been like. Like you for sharing your experience. This is my first Christmas without my husband but I am excited to travel to another state to spend the holidays with my son with is in the Air Force. With time, we learn to focus our hearts on the things that matter today, but it is nice to read anothers experience and to know you are not alone. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and happy anniversary of a life and heart alive.

  6. Thanks for a thoughtful post. I think you may think this is interesting: My 13th year of marriage, I literally lost the diamond out of my setting, my ex lost his car to repossession, 2 of his little diamonds fell out of his ring and we had almost our 3rd year with my 2 incomes of teaching and serving tables to try to hold onto our house! We managed that year to sell it for $50,000 under market value, divorce and live separately in one bedroom apartments! I never believed in bad luck! or numbers meaning anything! I am so much happier now that we are apart, divorced and only talking once a month. It is almost 7 years of “new life” for me. Best wishes, blessings and love for the holidays for you and your family.

  7. Mine was just yesterday. And I found my self being stronger. When I was at work I broke down…… But I have a second thought why should I let the past to control my present. So I became stronger again. It hurt because yesterday makes it two years of marriage. But am happy today because every disappointment is a blessing…..

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