The Bitter Lessons I Learned From My Divorce

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We dated for four years and married for three years. He was a perfect gentleman during the four years of our dating. He was the kind of guy you’ll call romantic. He was always thinking about how to surprise me, make me smile or make me think about him. He’ll leave romantic notes in my purse when I visited him and send me crazy messages just to make me think of him. Life was easy with him. It was a natural thing for us to get married, in fact, all our friends knew we were going to get married even before we sent out invitations.

We had a great wedding and had a beautiful honeymoon that lasted for seven whole days. Then we went in together. Marriage has a way of changing who you are. He called it responsibilities; “When you get married, your responsibilities go up so you hardly find spaces to be all that you used to be.” I didn’t side with that. Yeah, we have responsibilities but some days we have to put all our troubles aside and enjoy life just like we did when we were young. My husband didn’t see it that way. He buried his head in his work and even came home with work to do.

I complained a lot but he found it as normal; “Bills have to be paid so work has to be done,” he will say. Then he started coming home late. His reason for coming late was always about work. The most annoying part of the whole thing was refusing to eat what I had labored to cook. When I cook he won’t come home early to eat. The day I don’t cook, he’ll be home early asking for food. This continued for a long time but I didn’t keep quiet. I complained about it every day until he labeled me as a nagging wife; “Dear I’m not nagging. You’ve refused to be the man I married to and I can’t keep quiet. Or you have another woman?”

He laughed it off but I was so serious about it. I needed an answer to the question but he thought an answer wasn’t worth it. By the third year of our marriage, we were living as co-tenants than as a couple. I would be home doing everything myself while he was away doing what only God can tell. He would come home just when I was retiring to bed. He will watch TV alone and eat something when he feels like and later comes to sleep. We could go a whole week without saying so much to each other. “This isn’t how I imagined marriage to be,” I told myself. “My parents have been married for so many years and I saw how their marriage went from grace to grace. Why is my own different?”

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I spoke to Bernice about it and she said, “Maybe his attention is with someone else. Men are like that. They get married to you and think they’ve had you for good so they can do anything.” I spoke to Araba too about it and she said, “He’s seeing another woman. Put your eyes on the ground and you’ll catch him.” Mavis was very explicit; “Life is too short to spend it with a man who doesn’t care about your feelings. You don’t have children so think fast before it’s too late.”

Talking about children also got me worried. There was no peace between the two of us so how could we even have sex and make children. In the third year of our marriage, our sex life was non-existent. At some point I started thinking back to the last time we had sex and I couldn’t remember. “Two months ago? Or three months? Naa it’s been like four months. Or?” I couldn’t remember. It was one of the issues that made me very angry about the whole thing. I had a sit-down chat with him and asked three basic questions; Are you seeing someone else?” He said no. “You don’t find me attractive anymore, do you?” He said he does find me attractive. I asked again, “Are you going through hard times that I’m not aware of?” He answered, “If I were, you would be the first person to know.”

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So why are we living like strangers in our own house?

That he didn’t have an answer.

Two months after this conversation, I filed for divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences. He tried to fight it but I was so determined that nothing could stop me. At some point, he gave up and wished me well. He packed out of the house so the two of us could begin living our separate lives. The day he left, I remember calling Bernice and Araba to tell them what has happened. They both congratulated me as if I had won some lottery. They said I could put my life together again now that I am free.

Freedom is good at first until you get too much of it and don’t know what to use it for, then it becomes boring. Three months after the divorce I started feeling this kind of emptiness within. It felt like I’d lost something big in my life. I had a big house to myself but it was hardly a home. I looked around and started missing the days I was sharing that space with someone else. I felt alone sometimes but the times that he was home, it felt like something. There was a presence but now that presence was gone. I vacated the place and rented a small apartment where there would be no memories of him. I dated a few guys but nothing was as rosy as I imagined it.

It looked like all men wanted to date you but don’t want to commit to you and that was sad. After six months of divorce, I started regretting it but I was too ashamed to admit so instead, I filled the loneliness with men who didn’t deserve a place in my heart. I thought they’ll help me forget but the more they came the more I felt hollow. One evening, I picked the phone and called my ex-husband. I wanted to tell him how I missed him and how I was ready to make things work. He didn’t pick the call. He called back the next morning when I had lost the vim to say anything. I told him, “You came to mind and I was calling to check up on you. I hope you’re ok?” He responded gracefully. The conversation didn’t last a minute since we both didn’t know what to say.

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I kept living my life, pretending I was alright in the face of people but cried when I was alone. It wasn’t easy and I wished I had someone to tell me. You can’t leave someone you had spent seven years of your life with and pretend the whole thing never happened. At some point the good times flashes your mind and you wish things didn’t happen the way they did but it was too late. I told myself, “I’ll go through this with all the courage and grace I can summon. Someday, I will learn to move on for real.”

A year and a half later, I learned from a friend that he was getting married. In front of the friend, I said, “I wish him well,” and smiled but when I was alone, I cried like a woman whose lover had jilted her. That was when I knew I hadn’t healed completely. I’d only grown a scab over the sore and that news peeled the scab off only so I could bleed again. There’s no single day that I don’t regret that decision. Maybe, divorce wasn’t the answer. A little bit of patience and fighting spirit could have done it for us.

He’s happy in his new marriage. What hurts more is that he’ll be a good man to this one because he had learned his mistakes with me. I had become that laboratory where people experiment with things and later leave when they get the right results. All is not lost. I’ve also learned something. In my next one, I’ll be patient enough. I’ll go in thinking good marriages are made and not given. 

—Sabina, Ghana