It’s one of those moments I see vividly in my memory even now. Still-frame shots flipping through in slow motion like those pages of action cartoons we used to make as children. We’d stopped to get ice cream. It was maybe our third or fourth date, and we’d gone for a leisurely drive along the Mississippi River.

He seemed nervous. “There’s something I need to tell you,” he said. I didn’t tell him right away, but I already knew what he had to say. He’d been married before. My girlfriend had introduced us, and she’d told me this detail long before I even met him. This fact was a big deal to me. For years, I’d said I would never date a divorced man. I knew God hated divorce and I had decided that meant I shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

I listened quietly as he told his side of the story. They’d met at a young age, dated through his college years, got married when he was just starting out in his career. He was driven, willing to work long hours, forego vacation days, and brought in loads of overtime pay. In his mind, he did all this for them. For their future. He wanted to pay off all their loans and be debt-free by forty.

They were well on their way. In the end, they couldn’t sustain this ambitious lifestyle. I can’t say for certain because I wasn’t there, but their relationship seemed to lack a solid foundation. I remember as he shared his version, he spoke with regret. The divorce had taken a lot out of him. It had gotten ugly. Afterward, he’d spent a lot of time alone, evaluating what had gone wrong, and determining what he wanted out of life moving forward.

All that happened a few years before he met me. I sensed he had taken the time he needed to heal. We talked about what he shared, and I realized so much of that person didn’t even exist any more. I’ve alway said, “After all he went through before coming to me, I got the very best of him.”

I’ve never met her, and I used to fear the day we’d happen upon her in their same hometown. Fourteen years, four cities, three company changes, two houses and one child later, I don’t think it would phase me that much. I realize while divorce is not the ideal outcome for a marriage, we live in a broken world and sometimes it’s for the best. The reasons for divorce are complicated and varied. Never say never.

My husband still works hard, but he’s intentional about having lots of family time. He apologizes when he finds himself on a project where he’s working more hours or is called out of town. He’s never missed a holiday or major family event due to work. While having a retirement fund and living debt-free remain important to him, his approach to both is more realistic now. He learned the hard way there are more important things in life.

He told me once there’s a part of him that feels badly for the mistakes he made that led to a divorce, but if he hadn’t divorced her, we wouldn’t have the life we have now. A life so full we speak often of all our blessings. I don’t know why things go the way they do sometimes. As humans, we live with that imbalance, knowing life can knock us off our feet. The hard times in the past, in his case the grief and loss of divorce, help us realize the blessings of today. For that, we’ve chosen to be thankful.

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