Divorce tends to bring out the worst in all parties involved. Think: screaming, crying, and prolonged custody battles over your goldfish. And it’s not uncommon for women to look back with a few regrets about who the whole split went down. (Hey, it happens to the best of us.)
Here’s what five women would change about their big breakups:
‘I WISH I’D BEEN KINDER TO MYSELF’
“I got divorced when I was 47 after being married for five years. I had been traveling in Asia with my husband and writing about it for my website, and after the divorce, I moved back to Los Angeles to start fresh.
“When I got married, I changed my name and moved across the world. I was so all-in that when it didn’t work out, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ You never imagine that it won’t last. I felt like a failure and I was so sad. I joked to friends that I lived in Sucksville and it seemed like those feelings would never change or end. I felt shattered. I kept thinking, ‘If I had never met him, I wouldn’t have had to get divorced,’ or ‘If I hadn’t needed him, I wouldn’t be in pain now.’ I was living my life backwards.
“It took a while, but eventually I started to heal. I read Supersurvivors and it really resonated with me, and helped me realize I needed to forgive myself and stop fantasizing about changing the past. My favorite passage reads:
‘Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different…Forgiveness means breaking the psychological ties that bind you to the past, giving up the quest to change what has already happened…Rather than dwelling on the past, she found herself asking the hopeful and forward-looking question “What now?”‘
“Now, I’m thrilled with my life, and I understand that getting divorced sucks, but being divorced can be great. My one regret is that I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself. I would call my old self and say, ‘I know you live in Sucksville, but it will get better.’”—Lisa, 50
‘I WISH I HADN’T MOVED ON TO SOMEONE ELSE SO QUICKLY’
“I was married to another woman for 18 years before getting divorced. I couldn’t shake my desire to have kids and start a Buddhist spiritual practice and lifestyle, and she just couldn’t support me in those needs. I was preparing to end the relationship for those reasons, and that’s still ultimately why I left. But then I met someone who was interested in starting a family and pursuing the same lifestyle as me, and everything just clicked.
“When my wife and I finalized out divorce, I also lost my job, and so even though my new relationship was just beginning, circumstances made it escalate very quickly. I ended up moving from Colorado to North Carolina to live with her.
“I feel like it was probably hurtful to my ex to ‘monkey-bar’ from our very long relationship into a new one (with a much younger woman). My very valid reasons for divorce were completely shrouded by her pain of being replaced so quickly. I’m happily remarried now, and my ex has moved on, but she still refuses to communicate with me, which I miss.
“I feel like if I had let my reasons for leaving be the reason I left—instead of someone else—maybe we could still be friends these three years later. I regret that I hurt her and left so quickly for someone else.”—Susy, 39
‘I HATE THE FACT THAT WE THREW AWAY A STRONG FRIENDSHIP’
“I met my ex-husband when I was 14, and we were friends from then until I was 22 before I even considered dating him. He pursued me for nine solid years. We had a great friendship and I could talk to him about anything. We started dating when I turned 23, and got engaged, married and had our amazing son shortly after.
“Then real life set in—bills, responsibility, scheduling, parenting. It’s not just happily ever after; no one tells you the amount of work you have to put into it. We got divorced after about eight years.
“My biggest regret is losing my friend and not ending it on a better note. Even though we have a child together, we have not spoken to each other since May of 2017. We have so much history. I understand we are not compatible but I hate the fact that we threw away a strong history and friendship.”—Kiedra, 33
‘I SHOULD’VE ENDED THINGS SOONER’
“I’m from South Africa, and met and married my American husband there. We relocated to the U.S. in 2010, which was meant to be a temporary thing for his work, but it wasn’t. I never wanted to move—I didn’t know how I would survive away from my family and I wanted my kids to be a part of that. He manipulated me, promising we’d go back, but then emotionally abused me, and only let me take one child at a time when I’d try to plan visits back to South Africa. When it was clear we were never going to move back, I initiated a divorce.
“I wanted it to be finalized sooner but it couldn’t be. My husband threatened to take away my opportunity for citizenship, which I needed so that even if I left, I could still see my children if they stayed in the U.S. It was a long and grueling process, but we got through it. I’ve been here so long now that I’ve established work and am currently studying, and my children have lived here longer than in South Africa, so it makes sense to stay for now.
“I wish my husband and I had understood the importance of each other’s culture more. It’s been a long road to let go and be whole again.”—Shenase, 39
‘I WISH I’D BEEN MORE CIVIL—AND PROTECTED MY ASSETS’
“I just finalized my divorce last summer—a pretty brutal process that took over a year to finalize—and have since had some time to reflect on how I wish I could’ve done things differently. My ex-husband cheated on me with multiple women, and there was no going back for me once I found out. He tried to repair it and I responded with extreme disdain. I was disgusted, and I said things that you can’t take back, and we became increasingly nasty to each other. We drove the knife deeper into our hearts.
“I don’t regret the divorce—sometimes people just aren’t meant to be together—but the separation doesn’t have to be as brutal as we made it. There are things you can’t un-say, and though it was bad at that point, had we acted with more civility, I think we could have landed somewhere that wasn’t ‘I hate you forever.’ I’m not angry with him anymore, and we had some wonderful times together, so I’d love to be able to have a civil relationship with him. But we made each other enemies, and it’s a shame.
“I also regret not protecting myself better. I had assets going into our marriage and he didn’t, and we used my money to start some businesses together. I hadn’t properly protected myself financially, and I lost a lot of money in the divorce. I don’t think you have to be as extreme as getting a prenup, but at least have a lawyer draft up a list of what you both have going into the marriage. If there had been some documentation of the assets I brought into it, I think I could have limited some of those losses.”