We often mistake longevity for success in marriage. While it certainly is possible to maintain a happy and healthy relationship for many years, what truly matters is the quality of your bond.
An intimate connection with your partner beyond surface-level interactions can make all the difference.
Unfortunately, many married couples find that happiness becomes more and more elusive as the years tick on. As was the case for "Tyler" and "Ava," whose marriage of ten years fizzled for no apparent reason.
"Our relationship began as quietly as it ended," Ava confessed. "There were no fireworks or uncontrollable passion, and that's what I liked about it."
Ava and Tyler had grown up in turbulent environments, with parents who often argued and fought. A peaceful and steady relationship was precisely what both wanted for themselves, and when they met, it felt "perfect."
"Tyler was my best friend. We had so many inside jokes, and we could talk about anything. It was like I had known him my entire life," Ava said.
But after ten years, things changed. The once-strong connection that the couple shared slowly faded. "I think we thought not fighting meant that things were okay, but that wasn't true," Ava said. "We were trying so hard to keep the peace that we didn't know how to meet our needs. It was the lack of intimacy that made us drift apart."
After a while, Tyler became more and more reclusive. He started to sleep late, spend his days alone, and become indifferent about Ava's life. "I wanted him to talk about how he was feeling, but he just withdrew further and further into himself, and I didn't try," she said.
"I wasn't surprised when he asked for a divorce. I guess I saw it coming, but I didn't know how to fix it. We had become these two strangers living together in the same house."
When Ava and I started working together, they'd been divorced for nearly ten months. Ava told me that she had felt much better since the divorce.
"My life is infinitely happier now," Ava said. "Tyler feels the same way. He actually thanked me for the divorce. We both realized that the relationship was holding us back from being our true selves. I guess we felt freer after we let each other go."
Shifts in perception are very common after divorce. For many people, the dissolution of a marriage is an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. After losing yourself in an unhappy relationship, it can be a relief to finally have the time, energy, and space to self-reflect and examine your needs.
Ava said that she learned a lot about herself when the marriage ended. "We had been so focused on not becoming our parents that we didn't know how to be happy. I want to make sure that doesn't happen again," she said.
Divorce isn't always the end. In fact, for Ava and Tyler, it was a chance to start anew. The two remain friends and continue to learn more about themselves every day.
"We talk more now than we did when we were married," Ava said. "It's like we're meeting each other for the first time."
Grieving and Letting Go
"Feeling lost after a divorce is natural and common. You might feel disconnected or sad, even if you wanted the relationship to end." —Steph Coelho and Sandra Silva Casabianca,PsychCentral
People fall into partners in relationships, and sometimes they get stuck. But when a relationship ends, they often reevaluate their needs and reassess their priorities. While it can be challenging to let go of a relationship you invested time and energy in, sometimes it's for the best.
Grieving doesn't have to be a solo experience, however. Ava's friends were incredibly supportive throughout the process. "I was able to talk freely and openly about my feelings and fears with people who had been through similar experiences," she said.
"I'm so grateful for all the love and support I've gotten," Ava continued. "It's given me the courage to move forward, to let go of what was and embrace what can be."
"While divorce is very common in our culture, there is still an old stigma attached to it. Remind yourself that you are not a failure just because your marriage ended." —Ann Gold Buscho Ph.D.
Of course, not all relationships end amicably. Sometimes things end in pain and sadness, making it harder to move on. "I think it's important to take time to process your emotions and understand what happened," Ava advised.
Ava feels more of herself now that her marriage has ended. "It's almost like a veil has been lifted," she said. "And I'm getting to know this new person —me."
She's focusing on herself and doing things she's always wanted to do, like start a garden, go to the beach more often, and take dance classes. She's also focusing on her career and her friendships.
"I'm no longer scared of upheaval and turbulence," she said. "It's okay to get upset. It's okay to disagree. If something isn't making me happy, I will make changes. Life is too short not to."
Like many divorcees, Ava is rethinking what it means to be in a healthy relationship. And taking her time when it comes to dating. "I'm not in a rush," she said. "I don't want to bring baggage into another relationship. I want to be in a space of openness and possibility."
Divorce can be a difficult and painful experience, but it can also present an opportunity for growth. Ava's story proves that even after the dissolution of a marriage, life doesn't have to end; instead, it can offer new chances to explore yourself and find your true identity.
Do you think that divorce can be good for personal growth? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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