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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce


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“I’ve wasted half my life,” I wailed to my friend from my spot curled up against the doorframe on her checkered kitchen floor.

She turned from loading the dishwasher, “Don’t ever say that. Nothing is ever a waste.”

At that time, I certainly didn’t agree with her. After all, I had just realized that some or all of the past sixteen years had been a lie. I learned that the man I pledged everything to had been manipulating and conning me. I was in the process of losing everything I worked so hard for – from the house to the savings to even the dogs.

I felt defeated.

It was not unlike spending money and time anticipating a lavish vacation only to come down with the stomach flu upon arrival. Only this vacation spanned the better part of two decades and wiped out more than just my appetite.

I wondered how I would ever come to terms with squandering sixteen years. After all, I could rebuild my finances, find a new home and even a new husband, but time was one thing I could never get back.

I gave most of my teenage years and all of my twenties to this man.

Years that now felt wasted. Opportunities passed by and paths never taken.

I felt like I had been led blindly down a dead-end road. A worthless journey to nowhere.

I grew angry, blaming him for stealing my years. My youth. My potential.

I wrote scathing words in my journal about the unfairness of it all, the pointed tip of my pen slashing through the pages. I spent hours crying about the loss, not only of the future, but of my past.

One night, the sobs suddenly stopped and as my breath hitched down to normal, I realized that these hours spent mourning the “what ifs” were the real waste. Not the years I spent living, even if it that life ended.

In that moment, curled in a fetal position on the worn and tear-stained flannel sheets in my friend’s spare bedroom, I vowed to not waste any more time thinking about what could have been. I promised myself that I would never again view those years as wasted.


Because nothing is every wasted is ever wasted if we enjoyed it in the moment.

Nothing is ever wasted if we learn and grow from the experience.

And nothing is wasted because it helps shape who we are today.


To see those years as wasted was really a reflection of how I saw myself after the piercing pain of rejection.

But those years weren’t worthless and neither was I.

Those moments may not have been deposited into the life I expected, but they turned out to be an investment into an even better future.


Choosing to see those years as anything-but-wasted was a gift of forgiveness to myself. I made the best choices I could have at the time. And now I know better and I choose better.

And I choose to make sure to live a life that I will never feel wasted.

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14 thoughts on “Wasted

  1. Thank you. That is just what I needed to hear. I need to stop wasting my time thinking of the “what ifs”. “This is” and I have to accept it. But is it still ok to grieve for my loss?

    1. Absolutely. It’s completely normal to grieve the loss of a spouse and of an expected future. I think the grieving process is a way of coming to terms with what happened so that you can move forward where the “what ifs” just keep you back.

  2. Wow, in the midst of those feelings right now myself. I do feel at times that I’ve wasted the last decade but like you stated, it was joyous at those moments in time that seem so far away now, so indeed it all wasn’t a waste. Still feeling cast aside like I meant nothing, though realizing that the past does not dictate the present or the future. I’ve lost faith in love, not in myself. Thank you for your deeply honest post, as much pain as is involved, I find solace in the fact I’m not the only one.

  3. I love your blog! I found it through another follower, a while ago. But as I read, I am snapped back to a raw time in my own life. Though I have been remarried for twenty years. Half of those twenty were smothered with guilt and regret. I don’t think that I ever got over my divorce. About seven years ago, my first husband died. (we’d remained friends because of our kids) He asked me to come and talk to him. He wanted to apologize. By the time I got there, all he could say was that he was sorry. (The pain meds and short life left didn’t allow for much more.) I knew he knew. And I wanted that to be enough. But I still struggled with not being able to hash it all out. Recently, my first love contacted me. We were engaged and the relationship ended pretty badly. He was abusive and stalked me etc… but he was able to write me a letter in detail saying he was sorry. Since I was married, he interrupted my life, pretty dramatically. Thankfully, I have a good husband and he forgave me, for needing the closure I got. I think in the end; divorce or any break up is all about needing affirmation. Not all of us get even an apology. But I have come to realize that it is not a waste if we have to go to hell and back, IF…. we come out of it with some kind of redeeming lesson. I think I needed to read this today. Even now. Thank you!

    1. And thank you for sharing your story:) Glad you’re in a better place now.

      Your response to your ex’s apology is interesting to me. I’ve often wondered how I would respond if such a meeting ever occurred. It doesn’t seem like anything he could say would ever be enough to really make a difference,

      You are so right about the affirmation piece. We open ourselves up in relationships, expose our most vulnerable core. And when that is rejected… Ouch.

      We seek confirmation that we’re okay as we are.

      Thanks for your support:)

      1. I am writing a book. Actually, I think that I am actually in editing mode right now. It is about an ex that contacted me via facebook. He was my first love and our relationship has haunted me for decades. The book is in fiction format though, and I’ve changed names etc. But it really is more of a memoir than fiction.
        The break up was not pretty. My divorce was much more amicable. We remained friends for the kid’s sake. His early death was one of the reasons we divorced. He was a good provider but he lived hard and died early because of it. I guess I still haven’t even scratched the surface of that one… since I didn’t feel the apology the way I thought I might. My first love however wrote a letter to me that I think he may have thought would open the door for more, but it actually “was” ENOUGH and I have included a modified version of it in the pages of my book. (I had to condense it, because he really did cover EVERY little thing.) It was huge for me. I really couldn’t ask for more. Though I wish my life hadn’t been interrupted to the extent that it was, to get that closure. I am don’t really regret any of it.
        I love your blog. It snaps me back.
        I do want you to know… you never forget. But time really is the greatest healer. And of course God. (I needed to remember HIM more than I did during that time! Cuzzz HE always came through when I did!) 😉

    2. What’s really hard is when we get no apology, and instead are blamed for causing our spouse to abandon us. Not only is our voice silenced, we have to work through the guilt caused by being blamed for causing our abuse.

      Sometimes I tell people it took being thrown away like so much trash to discover my own worth.

  4. Lisa,

    this is raw and real. Thanks so much for putting yourself out there. Overcoming divorce is such a process and I think we too often focus on the end thoughts and not the hard real struggle in the beginning and middle.

    When my Ex called off the wedding and I realized I was going to be a single dad. I was devastated! I never, ever, ever, thought my experiences would matter. I too felt I had wasted years of my life. I thought all of these bad experiences didn’t matter.

    17 years later I would have NEVER imagined that those experiences would lead to a blog, a business, and ability to help others.

    No life experience is every wasted. It may not make sense while you go through it but there can be a purpose.

    Chin up to all those who are struggling through divorce. This moment will not define you and your life is not a waste!

  5. I was with my husband 36 years…starting at age 16. It has definitely haunted me that I poured so much love and sacrifice into a relationship that imploded just as my children were leaving home and we were on the verge of retirement. All those years waiting for him to come home from his extensive business travel…I’d always thought I’d finally have a chance to travel with him. It felt like I’d invested everything I had in the stock market just to watch it collapse on the eve of retirement. Sometimes the hardest thing to forgive is myself for putting my dreams off in order to support his. What a waste.

    But a friend of mine told me that regrets are useless. What’s done is done, and I truly thought I was doing the right thing for my family at the time. There’s no choice but to go forward and try to be thankful for the blessings I have. I’m proud that I didn’t just lay down and die, that I survived this horrible experience, and that I’m a much stronger person now.

    1. Great analogy with the stock market. So true and I completely relate. I felt like I spent the marriage doing the hard work and it ended before I could enjoy the efforts. Part of the reason I refuse to delay enjoyment now.

      You’ve got a good friend there. And you have every reason to be proud of yourself!

  6. After going through this, I came to a realization that the person I had married was not worth the effort and time, but the person I had been within that relationship was worth spending time with, as she shaped who I am now and becoming.

    Perhaps my former husband feels the same way about me. We’re not likely to catch up over lunch sometime and have a chat about it as that level of communication and emotional intimacy was never his strong suit.

    I love where I am now as the former “Mrs Harry” : I have worked damn hard to get here.

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