By Tanya Harley
Sometimes things don’t work out. We all know this, but we never want it, or expect it, or have it in our plans to be part of our story.
My marriage didn’t work. Against all that I had wanted and planned, it wasn’t going to happen. I now find myself as a young mom, a single mother, writing a new story, an edit off my previous version. One that ends with me being okay.
I grew up in South Florida and David, my now ex-husband, in Orlando. We met online during high school – before meeting online was as talked about – but because of the distance, we had gone our own ways. Years later, we reconnected.
We were together for ten years, married for five.
Before having kids, we were planning to move from Florida to Texas for his job. I’m a nurse, so I knew I’d be okay wherever we landed. He went there for two months, and it turned out that it wasn’t a good fit.
In 2018, we had our daughter, my first time as a mom.
When I went for my 6-week check-in, I told my doctor that I was crying all the time. I was on edge and irritable. I felt sad – a sadness I hadn’t felt before. It wasn’t that I wanted to hurt myself or my daughter, but something was off. My doctor said it would be good for me to see a therapist, so I did. At that time, I wasn’t put on any medication.
What became glaringly obvious looking back is that neither of us, David or myself, were aware of just how bad things were for me. Or for us, in general.
We had morphed into what felt more like roommates.
It turns out that scenario, where someone flips out because the other person ate the last Oreo in the package, was more accurate than I ever realized. It turns out that the tip of the iceberg is really just that – the tip. There had been things along the way that we weren’t communicating on or agreeing on building beneath the surface.
He thought I made decisions without him. I never knew how he felt. This played in the background, a destructive cycle that mostly went unspoken.
David ended up getting a job up in Raleigh, so we uprooted our lives to be there. I love it here, but it’s hard not having that support system. We didn’t know anyone, and with a little baby, it was a lot.
I was also working long hours. It was putting a strain on our relationship, and I hated that I’d leave in the mornings while my daughter was sleeping and often come home to her already in bed.
In 2020, around Mother’s Day, it came to a head. The pandemic was in full effect, the world was shutting down, and we had no family nearby. There seemed to be more and more unspoken things that fueled our demise.
That summer, 2020, we started couples therapy. I really wanted to make it work. I had no idea some of the issues he was bringing up in therapy were issues at all. He had never said.
Unfortunately, by late September and into October, the sessions weren’t productive.
We were screaming at each other.
It just wasn’t working.
When Thanksgiving rolled around last year, we went back down to Florida to try and see family, but I wish we hadn’t gone. It was ugly. It had completely stopped being fun.
We came home, and he said he wanted a divorce.
I was devastated. I knew it wasn’t good. I knew it in my heart. But it hurt. I had put in so much effort. I was willing to put in more, but he didn’t want to be together, and that was that. It was best to separate for both of us and my daughter to have the best life moving forward.
Our families were upset and heartbroken, too—both his mom and my mom. No one ever wants this, but you move forward knowing you did what you could. What you thought was best.
And he’s an incredible dad. He really is.
December 16, 2020, it was official.
When it was clear that we were getting divorced, I went back to my doctor. I was sad and upset, and I started to notice feeling off again. I was seeing signs of being depressed. And being a nurse, being hyper-aware, I remembered how I felt postpartum with anxiety and depression, and I wanted help.
This time around, I also got prescribed antidepressants.
I remember thinking – why would I not do this for myself.
For the first time, I feel like I’m taking care of myself. I’m doing things for me. And that feels good. As a mom, you forget to take care of yourself a lot.
I found this super cute tiny apartment – it’s kind of amazing. I’ve joined a craft beer girls community. I’ve just been really focused on doing more things that make me happy so I can be the best version of myself for my daughter.
Finally, prioritizing me.
I changed jobs, too, right before we got divorced. I’m an Endo nurse at an outpatient clinic. My hours are normal now, Monday through Friday. I love the people I work with, and I was actually recently promoted. It’s been a game-changer.
There’s a lot of ways I’m finding I can get out of my comfort zone. I joined a Facebook group for single parents in the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). I’ve met some really cool people there. I even started working out with one of the other moms.
I’ve just learned to put myself out there to meet other moms like me. To make new friends and build my new life, to keep going even in the face of change, changes that I didn’t necessarily want at first.
And we’re doing pretty good with this whole co-parenting thing so far. Although it hurt me, I’m dealing with all of those feelings in the right ways, and it’s incredibly important to me to have a good relationship with him for my daughter.
It’s a little weird, but when we’re together, we’re still kind of like old roommates. He will cook dinner some nights, and we’ll have a beer. And then I’ll go home.
As for the future, I know there will be someone who will accept me for who I am when the time is right. For now, I’ll continue meeting new people, taking care of myself, and creating the best life for my daughter.
And I’ll never be afraid to ask for help.