True Story: I Almost Got Divorced

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Carolina and her relationship with her husband, Sean.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am from Bogota, Colombia, born and raised there and in Westport, Connecticut. In November, I relocated from NYC to London with my husband. I’m a 29-year-old financial analyst, a blogger at GirlHabits, and a cross-fitter. I’m on a mission to do a pull-up by year end and to eliminate all of my credit card debt and half of my student loan debt.

For fun, I write, read, take pictures, workout, and eat deliciously yummy food.

What’s your relationship history? What were your feelings about marriage and divorce growing up?
My relationship history is pretty limited. I was very insecure in high school, so I barely dated. I dated one guy before I met my husband and in between “breaks” with my husband, I went on a few dates with random guys. My dad and mom are still married, but both my grandparents are divorced and so are most of my aunts and uncles. My feelings of divorce were that it was always an option, if things went awry. And my feelings of marriage was that it was a beautiful thing, albeit a bit frustrating for both parties at some point or another.

Tell us about how you met your husband!
I was a freshman at Fairfield University and I spent a lot of time at the library. A couple months into the school year, one of my really good friends got a boyfriend and she wanted time alone, and promised to hook me up with whoever I wanted. Sean always stood out, as he dressed better than most freshman boys and I found him extremely good looking. So I told my friend “him!” and she got to work. At some point, we were crazy enough to leave a note on Sean’s car (I was transferring schools), so I had no pride, as I figured, if it didn’t work out, I would never see him again.

I still transferred schools and Sean and I were together for five years before we got married. Aside from a few breaks here and there, we managed to make our relationship work long distance. Once I moved home after college, we remained together and that’s when Sean started talking marriage. I knew my mom wasn’t a fan of marriage with him and I still felt we were very young, so I tried postponing this decision for about a year. At one point, Sean got fed up and broke up with me, so I was forced to make a choice. And my choice was be with him, so that’s when we approached both of our parents and told them about our decision. Looking back, we were so young and naïve when it came to dealing with our parents and our choice to be together.

Our wedding was pretty much hell. In Colombia, the wedding is organized by the bride’s family and my mother gave us a party according to her wishes and preferences. Although the party was beautiful, we had no say in the music, the food, or the venue. The only thing my mom and I agreed on immediately was the dress (and it was absolutely beautiful). Sean and I wanted a bigger say in the wedding and struggled with not having more input, but because we weren’t contributing money, we were forced to let my mom take control.

What were the issues that lead to your almost-divorce?
Oh, if I could enumerate them all! There were many issues that led to our almost divorce, but I think two of the biggest ones were communication and expectations. We weren’t giving each other a chance to communicate properly and openly without judgement. We still believed we could change each other into the people we wanted each other to be; Sean believed that I could be more of a homebody and I believed that he could turn into a spontaneous spur-of-the-moment partner. We also weren’t loving each other unconditionally, nor actively choosing to be together on a daily basis.

There were a couple issues that arose while the above was brewing and that was the tip of the iceberg that took us from a comfortable couple to a couple on the brink of divorce.

How close were you to divorcing your husband?
I gave myself a deadline and told myself that if things didn’t improve by April (when our lease was up), I would break up with Sean.

I was so distraught that Sean and I had strayed so far from what I knew we were capable of that I started binge drinking in December. I couldn’t handle my reality so I’d go out with colleagues and stumble home at 2 or 3 A.M in the morning. Obviously, this exacerbated the situation, but I didn’t know what else to do to express that I was reaching a personal breaking point. One of the times, I drank so much the night before that I threw up at work twice. Another time, I had bruises on my body from what I can only assume was a fall (or two) while I was walking home. Another time, I woke up in the bathroom, vomiting all over myself, with Sean taking care of me.

It was at this point that Sean issued an ultimatum and said that even if we divorced, he’d be worried about me and my behaviour. At the same time, he was also in contact with my mother (without my knowledge), asking for advice as to how we could move forward from this dark spot.

What steps did you two take to work through your issues?
We took baby steps to work through all of our issues. We held weekly talks at a local tea shop and just talked through our days and our week, and anything that was on our mind regarding our relationship. I stopped drinking as heavily as I had been doing in the past. I stopped talking to my family about my relationship and started to respect it as a sacred entity in itself. Sean was more open to a different type of relationship than the one he envisioned in the past.

Why did you decide not to get divorced?
We decided not to get divorced because we wanted in. Divorce would have been the easy way out, so we both re-chose each other. Sean has had an extremely positive impact in my life, and I respect and aspire to be more like him. He also showed me a different way of life, and I cherish that. I come from a pretentious family that I adore, but I shy away from some of their shenanigans. My mom hated leftovers; I have grown to love them. My family is big on talking; Sean and I are big on doing. My family doesn’t care for working mothers; Sean doesn’t care what I choose, as long as I choose it with him. In a way, he’s allowed a side of my personality to flourish that never did in my teens or early twenties.

How did the people in your life feel about your decision?
My family knew what I was thinking of doing and they were extremely supportive once we chose to move ahead with our relationship. My friends that knew were extremely happy that we chose to work through our issues.

Having worked through your issues, how do you feel about marriage/divorce now?
I feel that marriage is unconditional love. This might sound silly, but I also make a conscious choice to choose Sean every single day and to remind myself that he is my best friend first and foremost. And sometimes I fail. And I’m still not perfect and neither is he, but we rarely fight anymore and just let each other be when we’re having bad days. I have also found that adding a term of endearment whenever I address him makes me more prone to being sweet and that never hurts.

I feel that divorce is a window that should be kept tightly closed at all times.

What advice would you give to someone going through something similar?
I would tell them to be patient and to give it time. One of my older friends used to tell me that “time is your best friend, as it reveals all things.” I would also tell them that reaching rock bottom is not necessarily a bad thing, as you can only go up from there.

Thanks for sharing, Carolina! Are any of you divorced? Or have come close to leaving your partner?

original image (without text on top) by sarah natsumi moore, for sale here

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  1. Katie,

    I think a lot of us consider it a far-off option when things start to get rocky. But most of the issues in marriage are from what she said- communication and expectations. Your expectations have to been on the same page and you have to be able to talk. Once you realize people are who they are and they always will be and also that divorcing someone isn't going to change the little things in life, you're in the clear.

  2. Anonymous

    I'm divorced and, while it didn't change the little things in life (as Katie mentioned), it changed the big things: namely, I'm now in a relationship with someone who respects me and cares for me. We share a common vision of the future, have similar hopes and goals, and are both very happy with what the other brings to the table. We're not the same person, we have disagreements, but we communicate respectfully and lovingly and often.

    My ex-husband is a good guy and we had a lot of shared interests, but we both grew and changed substantially after the marriage in opposing directions, and are much better apart than we were together. He's also in a relationship that seems to enrich him a lot more than ours did.

    I don't think divorce is a quick fix, and I think a lot of people jump to that before trying to iron out the hard issues. However, if two people truly aren't right for each other (and almost everyone's been in a relationship that's flat-out wrong for them), and if it's ceased to be a partnership, the situation ends up being unfair to both people. If children have been brought into marriage, I see this becoming a lot more muddy and complicated — I don't have experience with this — but when the consequences and decisions are limited to the two people in the relationship, and the two people just aren't right for each other, I think a divorce can sometimes be a healthy and caring option.


  3. Anonymous

    Just want to throw in a voice of support for all that M said. Also:
    I've been going through a very, very rocky time in my marriage and so was really interested to see this interview this morning. It was great, as always, but it really served to remind me that every relationship is just -different-.
    A friend of mine once told me she was really looking forward to marriage because of the opportunity it gives us to grow as a person. All of the hardships weathered together, and all the conflicts within a marriage can really serve to make you both better people. I thought that was a great perspective on the trials (and personal growth) a marriage can bring.

    Then. In some cases, and in some relationships. Sometimes divorce is simply Right. I am bothered by people who self-righteously insist that divorce is the easy way out. It's not easy! Sometimes it's better, but it's a very difficult path as well. I think it's far braver to choose divorce (which can be traumatizing) than to remain quietly in an unhappy relationship. (To be clear, I'm not at ALL referencing the interviewee who chose to remain in her marriage and to *work* at it, not just remain quietly unhappy. Kudos to them!)

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Great points, Anon! I hope that things work out for you – in whatever shape that takes <3

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you on the 'divorce is never the easy way out' thing. It bothers me too when people say that. Deciding to end a marriage is never a simple decision, and to make it sound like some trivial option because you're too 'lazy' to keep trying is insulting to those who have gone down that path.

  4. Ginger Jane

    I'm really happy that Carolina and her partner were able to work through their issues. However, I feel that her use of the term 'unconditional love' is incredibly dangerous – because there is no such thing and loving someone unconditionally with perhaps the exception of one's self. And I think this is borne out in Carolina's conclusions too – they work hard at loving one another.

  5. Tiny Bedroom Studio

    This post really hits home with me! I have been on, and off again with my long time boyfriend. We even lived together for a period of time, broke up, got back together, broke up again. Too much fighting and hurting one another. We have recently decided to do the hard work and stick together because we do truly love each other. Hard, but I know in my heart it is worth it.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was refreshing to hear that someone else had taken the harder path and come out on the other side better for it.

    • J

      I’m in a similar predicament but have decided to walk away. I love him, but some times that isn’t enough.

      I just felt like was too short (sorry about the cliche) to continue feeling hurt and frustrated.

  6. Michelle

    I am divorced. Neither of us did anything "wrong" except perhaps ignore the elephant in the room that was having children until post-wedding when the pressure came on for us to procreate and we realised that we wanted different things.

    I like to think I did the noble thing and set him free. And I like to think that the fact his new girlfriend was pregnant 8 months after we separated meant that it WAS the right thing to do (they're now married with 3 kids). And six years later, I still don't want children 🙂

    He was my best friend. Still hurts and I think it always will.

  7. Maria

    This is a touching story, congrats on working through the issues and re-defining what you want in your relationship!

  8. Kristie

    One thing I heard before my husband and I got married was to never throw around the word "divorce." Only use it if you truly intend it and with the gravest reverence. I think whether or not a divorce is right for someone, it is a huge decision and should only be spoken about with intention.

    I really appreciate this story. Marriage is so so hard and I think that's not expressed often enough. I also think if you're willing to work for it, marriage is one of the most rewarding parts of life (THE most rewarding part for me). The keys to success are hard work and dedication.

  9. Rosemary

    Choosing each other every day – that's the secret.

  10. And Kathleen

    I find that couples who contemplate divorce but decide to stick it out always turn around to describe divorce as "an easy way out."

    Speaking as someone who has been divorced there was nothing easy about it. It was a complicated decision followed by surreal next steps. Just as some couples choose to love each other every day we chose to part ways and never spend another day together ever again. That's not easy. Being married to each other wasn't terrible (nobody was abusive or cheating) but it was in fact, too hard to be together.

    I'm now 4 years into my second marriage. And I'm not going to lie – nothing about it feels hard or complicated or like a daily struggle. Sure, there are some mundane moments involving sweats and Netflix and too much internetting but there are also multiple orgasms, spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen, deep belly laughs, big adventures and deep conversations.

    If every morning you wake up and shit feels hard just know that divorce is a viable option. It's not easy and it comes with its own set of complicated emotions but it's worth it.

  11. Karyn K

    This is such an interesting conversation, and I felt I should share this tidbit of insight:

    There are many different types of relationships and love. Sometimes it is impossible to love someone the way they want you to, and sometimes it is easy. One thing is a constant though–relationships are always work. It takes time and effort to keep the spark going.

    We all fall into routines and succumb to the mundane day-to-day drama, but it is worth it to work at your relationship. I am a huge proponent of doing what makes you happy. If your relationship is a source of unhappiness, do some introspection and see if it is coming from you.

    My last (failed) relationship ended because I could not love myself. It got so bad that he couldn't tell me he loved me or give me compliments without me doubting him or thinking he had ulterior motives. However, while I was in the "drama," I thought it was all him, but in reality–he is probably one of the best people I have ever known…and one of the best I have ever had the privilege of having a relationship with. It's over, but I still love and respect him for teaching me what love really is.

    I guess what I am getting at is that relationships are hard work…but most of the work is on yourself. Being the best you can be for them. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. It takes an incredible amount of courage to admit that you just cannot make a relationship work, and even more to walk away. The most important thing is that you try to find YOUR happiness and share that with the people you love.

  12. Anonymous

    Carolinas words are inspiring. I am going thru a seperation from my live-in boyfriend. We've been on and off for 7 years. Seems like we've reached the end. I'm so emotionally drained and heartbroken and confused. All at the same time. But Carolina's story is very inspiring. I can only go up from here. Even tho it might take a little longer than 2 days. Thanks Carolina.


  13. Anonymous

    Congratulations Carolina! Indeed the key to a happy marriage is unconditional love.

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