Anka had been with her husband for 10 years when their marriage fell apart leaving her feeling deceived, mislead, beguiled…
The most difficult part was the feeling that I’d been totally betrayed and taken advantage of. For starters, if you feel like you’ve been betrayed it does two things. One, looking at your past, it makes you feel like you’ve wasted all this time. In reality you didn’t but that’s what it feels like. We were together for 10 years and when you’re 28, 10 years is a long time. It also undermines the ability to go into future relationships with all that baggage – you’re thinking, ‘gosh, I’ve been betrayed before, how can I trust this person?’
I was surprised by the divorce. If I were better equipped or if I had known better what to expect from a relationship, I shouldn’t have been. Part of it was I don’t think I could admit it to myself because there was so much of me invested in the relationship. That goes back to, if you define yourself by taking care of others, when they walk away what are you left with? I wasn’t ready to admit to myself and others that this clearly wasn’t working.
Also, when I took those vows, I was serious. It wasn’t ‘for better and for worse and whenever I’ve had enough I’m going to walk away.’ It was really ‘for better, for worse.’ For me to break with vows that I took seriously was huge. As it turns out it was my husband who walked away but it was part of not being able to see that this was a total train wreck. I was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic for a while, keeping myself preoccupied.
I think at some level I must have known the relationship wasn’t right because I was sick. I wasn’t feeling well physically but I just wasn’t able to admit that this was coming to an end. It was horrifying because you make a whole bunch of assumptions about what your life is going to be like – which is why I think we get married to begin with – when those assumptions don’t play out, it’s a really painful process.
There is no doubt in my mind that after a relationship ends, for whatever reason, chances are there’s some learning that can happen from that relationship. I think it’s difficult to let that learning happen if you go into another relationship right away. Usually the learning has to do with us rather than the partner which is wonderful because that’s actually something we have control over. It is within our power to learn about ourselves from the relationship we’ve just had. For me, that learning would have been nearly impossible if I didn’t have the space of a few years before I got into another relationship.
Anka is now happily remarried with two children. She describes her relationship with her husband as ‘easy’ compared to her previous relationships and says her life is more balanced now by a long shot.
Talking to Anka made me think about the impact a divorce has on someone in their twenties. That time in college and the years afterward are such a time of learning and if you are in a committed relationship during that period, it’s inevitable that your partner would have significant imprint. No wonder she felt betrayed.
I also appreciated her insight into the self-examination following divorce. I’ve reflected on what I could have done differently – for me one of the biggies was choosing not to confront early on in the marriage my ex’s discomfort with my being the breadwinner. I didn’t want to make waves, I thought he’d adjust to it, I was too tired looking after two young kids and I’d married for better or for worse, as Anka says. Ultimately, that was a poor choice and the issue just festered.
Did you get divorced in your twenties? What impact did that relationship have on you?