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Divorce Dialogues: 'The Only Person Who Can Complete You Is Yourself'

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Kate Meyers:Michelle C. is a schoolteacher in New Jersey. She got married at 26 and moved out almost three years later, when her daughter was 2. Michelle remarried in 2002 to the "sweetest man in the world." She and her second husband have a 5-year-old daughter. Her oldest daughter is a college sophomore.

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momlogic: Why did you get divorced?

Michelle C.: Because I never should have gotten married. That's the real reason. I knew it the minute he asked me to marry him. I said "Yes" and thought, "Oh my God, what have I done?!" I had just come off a bad breakup, and I got caught up in a whirlwind. We had a blind date on Valentine's Day, we got engaged a month later and we married in July.

ml: Did anyone try to stop you?

MC: I think my parents tried in a diplomatic way. They said stuff like, "Don't you think you're rushing things? Why don't you wait?" But I was at a point where I don't think I would have listened to anyone. I'm a very stubborn person, and they knew that.

ml: So even though you somehow knew it was wrong, you went through with it?

MC: I really, really tried to make it work. I didn't want anyone to know it wasn't working, so I covered it up or avoided people. I think I was embarrassed to admit that I'd made a mistake. I thought, "I've made my bed; I'll try and make the best of it."

ml: What was the hardest part about splitting up?

MC: Admitting it to my parents. When I had to call my mom and say, "I'm moving out and I'm going to move in with you guys."

ml: Was the actual moment hard, or was it the fear of the moment that was so scary?

MC: It was the anticipation. My parents sensed, even though I was putting on a game face, that something was wrong and that I wasn't happy. They just embraced me and embraced my daughter and it was a relief.

ml: How did you work out the custody of your daughter?

MC: It was joint custody, and I had physical custody and visitation was to be arranged. Very early on he moved to Maryland, and so he would maybe see her every five or six weeks for a weekend. It was very random. He moved back to New Jersey after a year, and then it was every other weekend, and if he wanted to see her, he could call.

ml: What helped you get through this time?

MC:My family and friends were very supportive, and after I was out of it for a year or two, I realized that I'd had to go through that really tough time, because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten to the place where I was good.

ml: How long did it take to get to the good place?

MC: It took a while. We lived with my parents for almost three years, but I got to a point where I truly felt "My life is good. It's me and my daughter, and I don't need anyone else." I never envisioned myself getting married again. I did not date for like six years. I was living my life. I was working. I would go out with my girlfriends occasionally. I remember that six-year mark very vividly. I went down to the beach with my girlfriend, who had a house share, and I was feeling confident. That was the summer I thought, "Oh my God, I could actually date somebody." I was finally on my own -- I had lived in my condo a while.

ml: So of course, when you stop caring, you meet someone ....

MC: I know it's cliched, but it's true. When you're OK with yourself, that's when good things happen. I tell my husband all the time, "You're the icing on the cake, baby." Because I knew I already had the cake. And I remember thinking when we were dating, "The worst thing that could happen is that I'm back to where I was, which was a very good place."

ml: What made you know that he was right?

MC: It's kind of funny. We went out for a few months, and we got to this weird point. I remember sitting across from him in this dark pub, saying, "I don't know if I want to get married; I don't know if I want to have kids." And after I said it, I felt so much better. It took the pressure off of me, and that's when I was able to see him as a complement to me -- as opposed to somebody "I HAVE to marry" -- so I was able to just enjoy him.

ml: So if a 26-year-old came to you for marital advice, what would you say?

MC: I think my advice would be, "Ask yourself what your life would be without him." If your life would be good without him, then you're probably in a good place to make that kind of decision. I think that whole "You complete me" thing is bullsh*t. The only person who can make you complete is yourself. We grow up thinking we have to meet Prince Charming and that we're not whole people until we meet "THE ONE," and it's a false message.

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