Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

In 1995, after seven years of dating, I married my high school sweetheart. I was 22. As teenagers, we quickly assimilated into each other’s lives, into each other’s families, and became intertwined in every way imaginable. At our wedding, my younger brother toasted us, humorously and accurately I might add, recalling how one minute he had met my “boyfriend” and the next couldn’t wait for me to stop talking about him. I never did.

While listening to that toast, little did I know that 16 years later I would get down on my knees, distraught, and beg my cheating husband to stay. He left anyway, making his new home in Asia 8,000 miles away from our three children, then 11, 10, and six.

For years, I had supported him. Not financially – that was his role – but in every other way possible, often to my detriment particularly as it pertained to a potentially lucrative career which I put on hold to become a stay-at-home wife and mother. As part of that role, I mistakenly placed my husband on a pedestal, even during those times when we weren’t getting along. To the outside world, as well as my inner circle, he could do no wrong. Early on, I believed he couldn’t.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I had to explain to a slew of shocked and surprised people that we were not the happily married couple everyone thought us to be and, instead, a statistic. We were no different and no better than anyone else.

We did like so many divorcing couples do – we argued. Looking back, it was much more than that. We spewed venom, tapping into each other’s weaknesses and insecurities, preying on them. We wanted to hurt one another in the worst way possible and did.

While it was happening, I would often wonder how we could get to this point so quickly, but the truth is, we didn’t. Our disdain for one another had been escalating for years. As difficult as it is for some to fathom, today we are amicable. I am, on the other hand, not the least bit surprised.

For nearly a quarter of a century, my now ex-husband and I shared our lives with one another. He was the center of my universe. And, as I have come to realize over the past five years since we first separated, old habits die hard, even after the infidelity which preceded our divorce.

As is my nature, I am genuinely happy to see others do well, my ex-husband included. I continue to give him credit when credit is due him, and even sometimes when it is not, if not for any reason except to show our children that, although flawed (who isn’t?), their father still deserves their love and respect. I continue to be proud of his accomplishments, even the new ones. I still sing his accolades, so much so that a guy I was dating agreed with me that he would probably like my ex. Knowing both of them, I believe it to be true.

During our 24 years together, my ex and I created many memories – as a couple and later as parents. Those memories are ingrained in me and make me the person I am today, which means I cannot erase them from my consciousness no matter how hard I try. In fact, I don’t want to and often find myself speaking about my past life in the context of my current one, especially with men that I date. And it is with good reason.

Conventional dating wisdom tells us that we shouldn’t talk about our exes when out on dates, particularly early dates. After five years of dating, I cannot disagree more. I talk about my past marriage freely and refuse to censor myself. I am happy when the person I am dating doesn’t either, regardless of whether his words are positive, negative, or indifferent. I want to hear what he has to say and how he says it because his words tell me more about him than anyone else.

We all know that couple who harbors such ill will for one another after their divorce that they cannot so much as utter their former spouse’s name. Or if they can, they follow with some insult or epithet, one, mind you, which leaves their ex-husband or ex-wife unscathed. If my date speaks in this manner, I immediately count myself out because it means he has not yet moved on and remains rooted in his past.

From time to time, a man I am dating will express concern that perhaps I am not over my ex or the reality that my marriage has ended because of the frequency with which I reference and reminisce about my past. Such a scenario could not be further from the truth, and I would not want my husband back should he ask, which, by the way, he is not. Besides, my ex will be the first one to tell anyone that I left him emotionally long before he ever left me. After much introspection, today I recognize the truth in his words.

For me, moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. It means coming to terms with and embracing the time we shared – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and, more importantly, how I contextualize that time when looking toward a future with someone new. These days, I regularly check in with myself: Have I recognized and learned from my mistakes? Have I matured? Have I changed? Am I conscious of how I will do things differently the next time around?

We each have a history that we can never erase no matter how hard we try. During the early months after my separation, I tried and failed. Miserably. How could I not? The life I built with my husband, as well as the dismantling of that life, has shaped me into the person I am today. To deny it would mean denying my current views on marriage and relationships, subjects about which I have thought long and hard. The man who will eventually love me, and who I will love, will take me as I am with my memories of the good, the bad, and the ugly, all the while knowing the future belongs to us.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC.

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading

5 Tips For Dealing With a Toxic Mother-in-Law

In: Grown Children, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Woman frustrated with her mother in law

Many people admit to having difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships with their in-laws, however having a toxic mother-in-law can be especially tricky when balancing a relationship with your spouse. I have five simple tips that can help put you on a happier and healthier path when dealing with a toxic mother-in-law. 1. You don’t have to like your mother-in-law, or even be friends. Establish clear boundaries with your spouse. Let him know that it is OK for him to maintain a relationship with his mother without involving you. By doing this you can eliminate the pressure to please your mother-in-law;...

Keep Reading

To the Mother of My Son’s Future Wife

In: Grown Children, Inspiration, Kids, Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
marriage, wife, husband, grown children,

To the mother of my son’s future wife, I’m in the midst of dirty diapers and temper tantrums, but I do have days where I think about the future and what it will look like for my son. I wonder who he will be, what he will do and probably most of all, who he will love. I wonder about the type of woman he will bring home to meet us one day. I have my own thoughts on the type of person I wish my son would fall in love with, but we all know that the heart wants...

Keep Reading

Sometimes the Middle Child Needs a Little Extra Love

In: Kids, Motherhood, Relationships
middle child mother

Mamas, look after your middles. Those babies who are born second, third, fourth or so in the birth order. The ones who are sandwiched between the idolized older sibling and the teeny tiny baby who stole everyone’s hearts. They need you more than you know. They need a little extra love from time to time. A hug and a “good job” here and there just to remind them that nobody has taken their spot in your heart since you added to your family. Try to remember they weren’t given a choice of their place in the lineup. If given the...

Keep Reading