While you were replacing me, my time was spent comforting our three daughters through a catastrophic change in their little lives. There’s a reason divorce ranks second after death of a loved one in terms of life’s possible hardships, and I was determined to buffer their blow. Hellbent on protecting them from what was to come, I read every parenting book and tracked down the best child and family therapists out there. I set out to be their safe haven, to answer questions about our recent separation and pending divorce in an age-appropriate way and to protect their innocence to the best of my ability. While I was trying my best to heal their childhood scars, you were adding to them.
While you were replacing me, I was protecting our kids from something else, from a global pandemic that brought the entire world to its knees. As I held them close in our small apartment, you traveled far and wide with my replacement. As the girls and I braved one school closure and quarantine after the next you were enjoying the company of a stranger in our previous marital home, the very one our children still slept in a couple nights a week. While I was doing everything possible to keep harm out, you were willingly inviting it in.
While you were replacing me, I was frantically recruiting skills that lay dormant after my eight-year tenure as a stay-at-home mom. It is a scary thing, to suddenly have to face your financial security after a brutal discard and turning a blind eye to finances for so long. You left me with an acceptable amount of money, sure, but that didn’t make up for the fact that I still had to reinvent myself and reenter the workforce. While you were lavishing her with expensive dinners and first-class trips, I was looking to the future and wondering how the hell I was going to make it.
While you were replacing me, I was analyzing and deconstructing our ten-year toxic marriage with the help of serious therapy. Am I codependent? Are you a narcissist? Do I have boundary issues? Are you emotionally unavailable? I struggled to come out of the fog, faulting myself for the mess we both created. While I took on all blame and accountability for our failed marriage you carried on as if nothing ever happened, blissfully free of any remorse.
But while you were replacing me, something else amazing happened…
In the darkest corners of my sadness and hurt, I found an authenticity I never knew existed. An ability to experience such devastating heartbreak also equals the capability for tremendous love. I realized that my feelings are so intense, they deserve validation, and going forward I will never ignore them simply to tiptoe around another person’s sensitivities and moods.
During the loneliness and isolation brought about by quarantine and single parenthood, I learned to enjoy my own company. I am perfectly capable of being alone, cultivating passions and interests, and just getting to know me again. Never again will I pretend to be someone I am not or allow another person to dictate what I should or shouldn’t be passionate about.
In becoming a single mom, I found the respect for myself that was so sorely lacking. I may not be able to model love and respect between two partners, but I can model love and respect for myself. Never again will I tolerate verbal and emotional abuse.
During hours spent self-reflecting alone and in therapy, I discovered the ability to reassure and soothe myself, to look within for comfort and direction. From now on I take responsibility for my own life and happiness. Never again will I look to someone else to fix my insecurities or make my decisions.
Looking into my spilled tears, I finally woke up to the fact that I was mourning ghosts. A man and marriage that only existed fleetingly at the beginning. Never again will I waste tears on someone undeserving – I will choose to believe and see what is in front of me, not what I wish it to be.
While you were replacing me, I discovered the strength I have been missing. As it turns out, I have everything I need to forge a bright future for our daughters and myself, to be the best damn mother and female role model. The hell I have been through is not for the faint of heart, but I have endured and was capable all along. So, she can have you. Because while you were replacing me, I was doing something better. I was finding me.