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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Zunter

What I Learned From My Husband's Divorce

When I first started dating my now-husband, I somehow ended up cleaning out his ex-wife’s clothes from her closet. She had left everything behind when she took off one day, never to return.

Don’t worry, she’s alive and well — I checked. (I watch Dateline.)

Years after she left, my now-husband had sent his ex the divorce papers to the place where she was living and she signed them. There was no argument, no protest — and still no real solid reason given as to why she left.

She had left him a note on the day she left, stating that she was leaving and that she wanted to pursue other avenues in life.

Now he was moving out of that house they had shared and there was a lot of stuff to go through. He asked me if I could get all her clothes out because he wasn’t sure if he was up to it. I said I would do it.

It was a bizarre experience, to say the least.

When you’ve only been dating someone a few weeks and you offer to help them move you don’t plan on rifling through another woman’s shirts, photos, and random keepsakes. But there I was — knee-deep in his past relationship.

It was almost like everything had been frozen in time in that house since she had left him.

His ex-wife’s stuff had been collecting dust there for quite some time before I showed up on the scene but I helped clean up and moved him and his son out of the house that he had loved so much during his first marriage.

I do not doubt that my now-husband had been hanging onto all of these things with the hope that his wife would return one day. He loved her very much.

It took another few months before I determined that it was okay to start progressing with our own very new relationship. I wanted him to be sure he was over his ex. I understood from my own experience that it can take time.

After all, I came from a failed marriage myself. I had stayed in that union far too long, trying over and over again to make things right until the relationship became detrimental to my physical safety.

Sometimes it can take years to recover from a failed marriage or long-term relationship no matter how happy OR miserable you were in it. Many of us hold onto “stuff” because by throwing it away it’s essentially the nail in the proverbial coffin of that relationship we invested so much time, energy, hope, and — yes — money into.

My now-husband had been under the impression that his first marriage was a happy one. He still isn’t 100% sure what all her reasons were but — honestly — do we ever really know everything that’s going on in the minds of those we love?

Maybe my husband will never know all the reasons why his first marriage failed. Maybe his ex-wife doesn’t know either.

The lessons we can learn from our past mistakes, even if we’re not entirely sure of the exact thing or things we did wrong, can still be useful.

Lessons such as having better communication and taking the time to know what both people want from a relationship before jumping into marriage, raising kids, or owning a home together can be difficult tasks to accomplish. The question of how we can ever really know and trust the person we are intimate with and share a life with remains.

Relationships can be inherently risky but they can also be deliciously fruitful when we learn how to be engaged, communicative partners instead of assuming we know what someone else wants or is thinking.

I understand that relationships are hard, people can be difficult, and staying together through intense challenges can be a tremendous feat.

Sometimes, we never get the answers we think we want from a partner who leaves us. Sometimes, we never get the closure we think we need from that person. Sometimes, the explanations or reasons someone has for not wanting to be together anymore are not as simple as we’d like.

Beyond the obvious relationship destroyers such as abuse or adultery, sometimes people change their minds or suddenly want to journey in a new direction.

Just as I learned from my divorce it may not be possible to heal or “fix” someone through love alone, what I know of my husband’s first marriage, I learned that it is possible to move on from not getting answers, or from having no real closure. I learned that the ghosts of the past can only linger as long as we hold onto them.

I learned that two people who have committed themselves to marriages that subsequently failed can emerge as more evolved and enlightened individuals capable of starting over again..


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