Reddit user u/BondEmilyBond posed the question, "What's the most surprising thing you learned from getting divorced?" The thread promptly filled with lessons, good and bad, that people took away from the process. Here's what they revealed:
1."Just because your marriage was a failure doesn't mean you are a failure, and people will judge you for being divorced far less than you expect. I felt stupid for getting caught up in a romance and marrying someone I loved but who wasn't the right person for me, and I didn't want to be seen as a fool or a failure by people, so I stuck with it far too long."
2."One thing I learned getting divorced fairly young (33) was that we only have one life, so you have to make sure you’re happy. Marriage was not the partnership I expected, especially after having kids. I was doing the majority of the household work while also doing the majority of the childcare and working full-time. I suddenly realized this couldn’t be the rest of my life. And things are sooo much better now. Also, depending on the reason for divorce, you can be friends with your ex. We have been divorced for almost nine years, and he’s better because of it. He got help, became a better dad, and is more involved. We are going on a trip to Florida soon with my husband, kids, my ex, his sister, and her husband. Families don’t have to be perfect, but it helps to try to get along for your kids."
3."I felt I hadn’t truly met my ex until we separated. His mask finally came all the way off and the lies, obfuscation, and excuses ended because he didn’t care if I knew that the truth was he’d been manipulating me all along. Once the jig was up, as it were, he had no reason to pretend to be a decent person."
4."Fighting doesn't end once you're divorced. It can get worse. Now there is no bond to put a stop at how far you can escalate things."
5."The person you married is not the same person you divorce."
6."The divorce was still really hard to deal with, but I wasn't the complete mess I thought I'd be. No longer having expectations for each other allowed us to relax and let go so that we could be happy on our own terms, apart, rather than the tug-of-war it had become when we were still together. I don't miss him. That's what's weird for me. We had great times when things were good, but I look back at them fondly instead of wishing we could still have that. I guess that means I've moved on, but I thought I'd pine a heck of a lot more than I ever have. I always have liked being on my own, though. I remember being dismayed by the thought that everything was going to change when we started dating because I had finally gotten to a place where I was happy as I was."
"It didn't take long after him leaving for me to get back to enjoying my solitude, even though I had liked living with him, too, for the most part (if I ever live with anyone ever again, I'm insisting on my own bathroom)."
7."Sometimes you don’t realize the extent to which you’re being controlled until you step away from the situation. When I left my first husband, I bought a couple of new comfort clothing items. We were still speaking at the time, and he was trying to convince me to come back. He was a VERY smooth talker, and I started considering reconciliation. I started thinking about what going back would look like, and thought, 'I don’t want to give up my tank top.' While I was at work a few months earlier, he decided to burn all my clothing that he deemed 'inappropriate for a married woman.' I was left with pants, ankle-length skirts, and tops with a high neckline that covered my shoulders. That tank top made me realize how bad my situation had gotten. I immediately picked up the phone and scheduled an appointment with a divorce attorney."
8."I expected to be heartbroken, but mostly I just felt relieved."
9."One of the most surprising lessons from my divorce was discovering the importance of self-reflection and personal growth. It's amazing how challenges can be catalysts for positive change and a deeper understanding of oneself."
10."I felt even more lonely when I was married."
11."It may sound a little cliché, but for me it was the power and value of forgiving another person. My ex wasn't horrible to me. She did some very hurtful things out of her own confused feelings, but she didn't do them maliciously. It took a lot of therapy and self-reflection, but one thing I read that stuck with me was living your life aligned to a set of core values. One of mine was, and is, compassion for others. So, even though I could have very easily been angry, bitter, vindictive, etc. toward her for what she did (and I had no shortage of people, including her, telling me I had every right to be), I chose, instead, to forgive her and to be kind to the woman I still loved."
"It wasn't an attempt to change her mind, as I knew by that point the ship had sailed. I just knew I wanted to be able to look back on that time period without regretting something I said or did. Forgiving her made it possible for me to move on. Anger felt like a cancer that would weigh me down. I didn't forgive her for her; I forgave her for me."
12."How content I could be on my own. Never having to compromise throughout the mundane moments because you are living alone is very freeing."
13."How much calmer I am. I had turned into a nasty person, always yelling at my ex for not cleaning and doing basic chores for himself. I did not want to be a mom to a grown child who had yet to realize he was an adult. Life is much more peaceful. The silence after was worth it."
14."Not from my experience, but having children with your ex means you're not really rid of them ever. They will always be around unless the children choose to remove them from their lives at some point. That includes the extended family too, so it's a package deal at every event. It's not like they magically go away after the kids turn 18, though you do get to deal with them a little less."
15."I think the thing I was surprised about was how much healing I would need afterwards, and how much it opened old wounds. I initiated the divorce and separation and I don't regret it for one moment, but naively, I thought that once it was over, it would be like stepping out into glorious, technicolor Land of Oz. I have so much more growing and learning to do. And, it's been a year."
16."Although the situation sucks, there are many positives that I wouldn’t trade and I’m thankful for. One of those is the realization of how loved and valued I am by my friends and family. I have been more loved and supported over the last year than during my marriage, but I am so thankful for each of my friends and family."
17."You know, I remember at one point in my marriage thinking, 'I guess this is just how it works.' After being unhappy for so long, it just seemed like the normal. But, I've definitely found out that no, it's not how it works! A relationship can be happy and supportive without you feeling like you have to do all the work!"
18."People everywhere are getting divorced every day and it’s not a huge, big deal. It felt like a horrifying, traumatic thing at first. By the end, it was demystified down into just something people do, and life goes on."
19."I got to meet myself, maybe for the first time. I was in a decade-long relationship that started when I was still in high school. I was 3,000 miles from home and suddenly had to reevaluate everything in my life. I found many of my interests and goals were really built around our relationship or his interests. I spent years experimenting, adventuring, and discarding parts of my life until I figured out what I really wanted. I always thought he was the fun one, but it was me all along. I built a life I love and experienced more than I ever imagined."
20."From the many divorcées I've known in my life: You should get a prenup when you get married because at that point, you still want the best for each other. When you want to get divorced, you might not recognize the other person anymore. 'We're staying together for the kids' is a lazy excuse because you're afraid to give up all you've built. You're miserable and the kids notice. Is that what you want to teach them love is? Bridezillas/groomzillas are real things and it's ALWAYS best to run for the hills. Cut it off. Stop right there. If the party and appearances are the most important thing to him/her, that's a free red flag. Disengage."
"Every single weddingzilla I've seen has turned out to be a disaster in the long-run. It means they're materialistic and all for appearances, and that extends into married life. They'll get bored. They'll expect treats and to be pampered, and if you don't do it, they'll do it themselves, or find someone who will."
21."All your actions/decisions have consequences. Whether you are consciously making them or just going with the flow, you are the author of your own story...like it or not."
22."One side of it is usually already moved on by the time the words 'I want a divorce' are uttered, leaving only one of the two people involved to be destroyed in the moment, and having to move forward while dealing with the dissolution of the legal side of things."
23."My ex-spouse is a better friend than they were a spouse. It wasn't the marriage for either of us. We're both better off for being married to each other for a short time and ending it when we realized that we were trying to shove round pegs into square holes."
24."I am not the same person I was almost six years ago. A part of me had to die for the rest of me to flourish and see how bright the world truly is. It isn’t the end of the world when divorce happens; it’s the beginning of a new adventure! I’m also shocked at how long a bag of Doritos lasts in my home now. And, they're all for me!"
25."I can survive terrible things. My divorce scenario was one of my biggest fears: my husband falling out of love with me. I survived one of my biggest fears and came out better on the other side."
26."That my life was actually easier as a single parent than it was with my husband. Even with no child support (it was ordered, he just doesn’t pay and I don’t have the energy to file to penalize/force him year after year after year) and with him only taking my two children for one night every other week, it is still easier and less stressful than being in a bad relationship."
27."While it was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through, it was also one of the best. It made me step on the brakes and question a lot of assumptions I was making in life, and it forced me to work on being with myself before being with another person again."
28."You’re not only splitting your own relationship. Friends will pick sides. Your in-laws can become distant, if not resentful. It’s like grieving a life that was meant to be, but did not happen. We also didn’t have kids, so we have no reason to talk. I haven’t heard from him in almost seven years. I haven’t heard from anyone he's related to either."
29."When I got a divorce, it turns out it was the beginning of a spree of divorces in my neighborhood amongst my friends. In a two-year period, five couples I knew in my neighborhood got divorces. All of them, to a tee, were couples that I thought were very happily married. It sparked a lot of frank and open conversations between me and my newly-divorced friends about marriage, relationships, and goings-on that I had never had before."
"Turns out I was living a really dull and sheltered life. I was astonished at how much infidelity was going on, for example. There were shenanigans going on everywhere. Meanwhile, I'm over here wondering, 'How would I even find the time for an affair, even if I wanted to have one?' So, the takeaway for me was that couples can be very good an putting on a fake front of happiness. Don't always believe the image they're trying to project through all the happy Facebook photos. Don't ever think you're alone in an unhappy marriage. Find a friend you can confide in and talk to. It has definitely helped me since the divorce, though I wish I had done it beforehand. I thought I was alone, though."
30."No one knows what they are doing. We're no better off as adults than children in knowing the correct path to take. People grow apart. People change. That doesn't make anyone an enemy. And, please keep your children out of it. They deserve love, peace, and calmness through your turmoil. THEY ARE NOT WEAPONS TO HURT YOUR EX. If you weaponize them, you'll regret it. That's a promise."
31."It was a tough decision to make, but I have never in my life felt so happy and free. I always thought I needed to be defined by having a relationship, but I’ve taken time just for myself and learned who I am, what my passion and hobbies are, discovered my own values, and started respecting myself. I never thought in a million years I’d be so happy. Should I ever decide to formally date again, that person will have had to been on a similar journey with themselves."
32."It was a GOOD decision. It was the right choice — the best thing — and the world did not come crashing down. My life was vastly improved. My only regret was waiting too long. I knew 11 months in I was in trouble. I waited five more years."
33."My separation and divorce process was really tough on me, mainly because I didn't initiate the split and I still wanted to make it work. Divorce is highly looked down upon in my culture. Once I realized that was the main reason for my pain (not wanting to be a divorcée) rather than losing the person, it made things a lot easier."
34."You can both be great people, but that doesn’t mean you’re great together as a couple."
35."So many things. Maybe not surprising things, but good to reflect on nonetheless. Sometimes it doesn't matter how hard the two of you work on yourselves and your relationship. The best intentions and effort doesn't always result in a marriage where two people feel seen, heard, loved, fulfilled, etc. You can love someone deeply and know that you aren't going to meet each other's needs. Many people in your life will not know how to show up for you. The lifestyles many of us have built don't allow for regular connection with the people we care about. Everyone is so overbooked. There's the less fun realization that some people you thought cared for you simply won't prioritize your need for support."
"After more than two years since the divorce, I'm feeling really good about the relationship I now have with my ex. We're back to more or less being best friends and doing really well as co-parents. Dating is equal parts wonderful and terrible. You realize again the joy you can bring to someone else's life, and vice-versa. The change in feelings of self-worth from being out of an unfulfilling marriage, to working on myself, to realizing that there are plenty of people out there who consider me a catch is wild. Being older now (40s), you also know better what you're looking for, so while breakups are not fun, they also come with a sense of clarity and purpose that they were lacking when I was younger."
36."How important personal time is, especially while raising kids. We had an amicable divorce — no fighting over assets or kids' time or anything like that. When we were together, we were both exhausted constantly, feeling like the other wasn't helping enough with household stuff, taking care of the kids, etc. Somehow, splitting custody 50/50 completely changed that. Now both of us can easily handle our obligations and spend quality time with the kids solo, and we each get every other week to ourselves. Had we found that balance while married, it might have been a different story, but we're both grateful we've found a happier path for everyone."
37."It made me a better partner in my next marriage. I wasn't the best person in my first marriage, but when I started again, I knew a bunch of stuff that I was NOT going to do."
38."How much stress hurts your health. After the divorce, my body and stomach aches stopped. No more migraines, and I got better sleep. I never realized how stressed out I was just being in that relationship until it was over."
39."Many married couples you were friends with while you were married will avoid you post-divorce because they don't want a reminder of the problems in their own marriages. Learned that one from my marriage counselor pre-divorce. I didn't believe her at first, but it turned out to be accurate."
40."Your friends will choose sides, even if you don’t ask them to. Some of the people that you thought were closer to you will choose your ex. It will hurt and be confusing, but ultimately, you will be better off without those people in your life. Couples therapy doesn’t help anything if either partner is unwilling to take accountability for their actions or make a real effort to change. If you don’t have kids and agree on the division of assets, you can usually file for free online. We did this in Minnesota in 2016 and only had to go into the courthouse once to sign some papers. Everyone involved needs personal therapy."
"Personal note: I was surprised to learn that I was lovable and attractive to other people. By the time my marriage ended, my self-esteem was so low that I truly didn’t believe I could find someone who would love me and I thought I’d be better off in a loveless marriage. Lots of therapy and eight years later, I no longer feel this way, but boy it was hard to get over."
41."Most surprising thing for me was how much I changed and how much of myself I lost in the shuffle of life. I changed in many ways, some not so good. I also was in survival mode for so many years that I forgot to enjoy me. Now that I'm single and the kids are grown, I can make it less about making sure the family's staying afloat and more about doing what I enjoy. Don't get me wrong, my family is everything and my ex and I are great friends, but now my daily focus is more on me."
42.Finally: "Divorce doesn't mean you failed or the marriage was a mistake. I'm glad he was my husband, and now I'm glad he's not my husband. Staying isn't always winning and leaving isn't always losing."
These are some really insightful and eye-opening perspectives. If you've gone through a divorce and would like to share any lessons the process taught you, you're welcome to do so in the comments.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.