The Third Post-Divorce Valentine’s Day

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Wilted rose sad on valentine's day
I didn’t want to write about Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t thinking about it at all. But it turns out, THAT is the entire point. (Image/

My phone buzzed.

The text read: “I’m telling you now, so we don’t have to have a guilt-ridden conversation later. Today is my bday. Holla! And I am expecting a good V-day post in honor of it.”

“Happy birthday! A V-day post!? What would I possibly write about?”

“I don’t know! About being single on Valentine’s Day?… Unlessss… Wait, do you have another secret girl?!”

(For clarification, said “secret girl” was someone I went out with a few times, and it represented the first time post-divorce that I believed something serious might be happening. It wasn’t.)

“I do not. But I also don’t feel loneliness anymore,” I said.

“Well then. Isn’t that a post?” she said.

“Is it?”

“Isn’t it?!”

“Seems self-indulgent.”

“How could it be self-indulgent when… so many people follow you with the HOPE of one day, being on the other side?! Those ‘I’m not feeling loneliness anymore’ posts are very important to your story. I think.”

Maybe she’s right.

Here’s the thing: I can’t remember me three years ago. I remember wanting to die. But recreating traumatic emotion is, thankfully, not a skill I possess.

I won’t pretend to know what other people feel at the end of their marriage. It was all, just, very bad at my house. I spent 18 months in the guest room. That’s, what? About 540 consecutive mornings of waking up and realizing your life is shitty and your wife doesn’t want you? That takes a toll.

I tried to stay hopeful.

On that final Valentine’s Day, I got her a card. The one I received came from our son, but not her. The depths of my denial were apparently limitless.

April 1, 2013 was the last time I shared an address with another adult.

Loneliness is a State of Mind

I freaked out.

I can’t explain the depths of the pain, fear, sadness, grief and anger I felt. I had no idea simply being alive could feel like that. You either know what I’m talking about, or you’re very fortunate.

In the early days, I was with friends constantly. If I wasn’t home with my son, I was out having drinks. I stayed busy and surrounded by others because spending too much time in my empty house taught me how loud silence can be.

Friends and family were checking in constantly. I have never known lonely like I did then.

Lonely isn’t the same thing as isolated.

You can be standing in the middle of a bustling New York City sidewalk and feel lonely.

And you can be sitting alone on a lakeside picnic table soaking in a gorgeous sunny day with no one in sight and be the furthest thing from it.

We can’t cure loneliness simply by surrounding ourselves with others.

It has to be the right others. But broken insides don’t heal from the outside in. The healing has to start from the inside. And we don’t have much control over how long it takes.

When you first get divorced following 34 straight years of pretty much always being with someone in public, you feel like the biggest loser imaginable when the restaurant hostess asks whether anyone will be joining you.

“Nope. Just me,” I’d say, and then imagine what she must think about me since she probably thought I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to join me.

I’d sit there on my phone, or with a pen and notebook, and I’d meet the eyes of other diners, all of whom had at least one person sitting with them. I felt like every one of them was sending me pity vibes each time we made eye contact.

I irrationally believed everyone who saw me could tell my wife had moved out and thought I was pathetic, when the truth is they likely didn’t give me a second thought.

When you spend 540 straight nights in a guest room, then your wife leaves you and seems a million-percent happier about it than you, really bad things happen to your mental and emotional make-up.

I wrote honest stories here about how it felt. About how afraid I was of everything. A bunch of tough guys read some of it and internet-yelled: “Be a man, pussy!!!”

But, they can all suck it.

I wasn’t broken because I was weak. I was broken because human resiliency is a finite resource, and I’d just been through some shit.

When all you have ever known is companionship and connection, being alone and feeling the disconnection of divorce and celibacy and your child being gone half the time is the recipe for profound loneliness.

And that’s what I felt. Every time I saw an old married couple. Every time I saw any couple. Every time I saw big groups of friends laughing and having a good time. Every time I returned home from a fun weekend away. Every time I walked in the door to my quiet, empty house. Every time I woke up in the morning and realized I was the oldest I’ve ever been AND that my life was worse than it has ever been.

That’s a pretty bleak and brutal realization.

The Giant Ever-Spinning Globe

It’s not something you earn.

It just happens.

You just… feel better.

You have a million questions following a painful divorce, but I think the one you care about the most is: When will I feel like myself again?

Everyone and their individual situations are different. Maybe it’s easier for people to move on when they don’t have children and don’t have to see and speak to their ex constantly. Maybe people who have been through traumatic life events prior to divorce don’t think it’s as bad as the rest of us do. Maybe some people brush off divorce easily because of their emotional wiring in the same way some people can roll their tongues while others can’t.

My wife left on April 1, 2013. That day, and many that followed, are tied for the worst day of my life.

A year later, it was still hard.

Two years later, it was much less so.

Three years later? I spent two hours yesterday morning with my ex-wife and her new significant other, and there were zero ill-effects. He’s a good guy. We have history. And I count my blessings every day that he is in my son’s life instead of an unknown entity or someone who sucks.

You don’t “earn” healing. There isn’t a “best way” to heal in order to speed up the process. If you hurt, you just hurt. And it doesn’t stop until it stops.

There are no shortcuts. Just masks. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. People use them to numb the pain. To escape.

The only escape is the other side. The only way is through it.

The Earth spins around every 24 hours. It fully orbits the sun every 365.25 days.

And here on the ground a million imperceptible things are happening inside our hearts and souls. We watch the sun rise and set. We watch the clocks tick off the minutes. We flip the pages on our calendars.

And then we wake up, and it’s tomorrow even though it felt like it was never going to get here.

The days are dark at first. We feel out of control. We sometimes question whether waking up tomorrow is even worth it.

But early in the process, I thought of something important. It’s true, and it has stuck with me, and I will never stop saying it:

Someday, the best day of our life is going to arrive. The best thing that will ever happen to us, will happen, or at least something awesome that makes every day after more inspiring and life-giving.

Someday, we will be presented with a new opportunity or we will meet someone who will maybe become the most important person in our lives.

Since looking forward to awesome things is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I always figure: Why not start now?

Something good and beautiful is out there waiting to randomly bump into us in the future. Look forward to it. Choose hope.

And when that day arrives, we get to connect all the dots. We get to see how everything needed to happen exactly as it did. We get to have this beautiful and important thing in our lives and we get to know that all of the shit we crawled through was worth it because it was the only path to now.

I used to say it even when I didn’t feel it: Everything is going to be okay.

It’s three years later, guys. And everything is okay.

Today just might be the day the best thing that ever happens to me, happens.

And if it doesn’t?

I like having things to look forward to.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

42 thoughts on “The Third Post-Divorce Valentine’s Day”

  1. wow. you have a great way of narrating your pain, struggles and triumph. its great that you are coming through the other side somewhat scathed, but owning it and moving forward. great blog.

  2. I like what you are saying, I’m not divorced but my husband cheated on me. We are working our way through it and I can see hope on the other side for a better relationship. But I’m not a fan of this day, or anniversaries, they turned out to just be broken promises. I don’t look forward any more, the truth of any future lies only in the actions of today.
    Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  3. Today is my First Valentine’s Day after divorce and it’s hard! I look forward to it being ok with hope.

  4. Beautiful, Matt.

    It’s true you know, eventually you reach a point in your life were you realize all the crap you went through has served a vital and valuable purpose and brought you to where you are today. Crazy I know, but today I wouldn’t change places with people who haven’t been through what I have. They have missed out on some things that are important to learn.

  5. My parents divorced after 34 years of marriage. Two years later my mother was married to a man who loved and cherished her for 22 years (until she passed away). That devastating day when my father asked for a divorce turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her.

  6. You absolutely nailed every thought I’ve had since my divorce. Thank you for verbalizing what I could not. Happy Valentine’s Day.

  7. Wow! I am so glad you have a friend who feels empowered enough to push you to such an obvious (and important) post! Now we all get to win. Tell that friend “thank you!”

    I love this so much because it’s reminiscent of those old posts where you invited us to walk alongside you (what made us fall in love with MBTTTR in the first place) but even more so, I love how much hope is infused here. I am happy for those who have just discovered this blog as a place of refuge and community…I rejoice for all they have to look forward to.

    Thanks for continuing to fight the good fight and for being a voice of hope for the brokenhearted.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Matt.


  8. Too Chicken to Give My Name Girl

    I love reading your blog. Thanks. I’m on the other side of a breakup which would seem stupid to most people because it was a really short relationship, but the only one that I’ve been in to date at 27. Even though I was the breaker upper, and it needed to happen, I haven’t gotten over the man. At all. In three months of broken up-ness. I think actually I have somewhat here and there but now I see him some at my church and it is making it worse. Today we were around each other a lot; I could tell that he is most likely still single and after getting home I felt as close as I ever have to throwing in the breakup towel and reaching out again. I was about to text my talk-me-down friends but then I came across your blog and now I feel a little closer to reason. I keep reminding myself “this too shall pass.” I don’t want to make dumb decisions based on emotions which will most likely pass (someday I hope…) which my most sincere self would regret. Thanks for sharing the hope. I am going to try and embrace it today.

  9. I hope this uplifting read gives some possibility for hope to others reading who need it. I’ve been toying with sending your blog to my brother still coming through the wilderness. I might just do it today.

    Happy Valentine’s day

  10. I love your posts. They have authenticity and truth in their DNA. Thank you for sharing some of your most painful and difficult times for the benefit of others. And happy Valentines Day 🙂

  11. completelyinthedark

    I liked this a lot. Glad you’re doing well. Life is weird. Things change. Open always better than closed. I’m struggling right now but will push through.

  12. The most engaging Valentine’s Day post I have read today! It’s raw, authentic and telling it like it is! Great read and thanks for sharing you perspective !

  13. You words are therapy for me as I am going thru my first Valentines day since my divorce of a few months ago. Thanks for speaking out loud what I think and sometimes live out.

  14. Beautiful.

    currently going thru a “D” and fully get it, all. Life will be ok. I have positivity, self-awareness, support, love and two beautiful little ones. I love your writing ! I hope it helps you as much as it helps others. 😉

  15. Hi Matt, happy Valentines Day 🙂 I want to thank you.. a friend just passed on a link to your article ‘My wife left me because I left dishes in the sink’… I felt like you had lived my life.. then I read your blog and I felt like you are still living it with me… powerful stuff….it is nice to know that at least one person out there understands me 🙂

  16. After almost 43 years of marriage-your first blog spoke to an issue we have been wrestling with for years-it really struck a cord….great insight and your posts just get better. Thanks, Matt and hope you had a great day with your son-your little “Valentine” who loves you!

  17. It will be two years in April since my ex left. While August is the month our divorce was final it’s April that I count as the day it ended. In two years so much has changed. The struggle for a while was just waking up each day and calming my mind enough to do the things I needed to do. Over time I began to gain my feet again then eventually feel good about myself. After a year and a half I started dating a little then it happened, I dated exclusively which I felt from the start was probably too soon. The idea of being in another somewhat serious relationship brought out all these unforeseen things. There was the fear of rejection, fear of loving again and then unintentional sabotage. During that time I fell in love again.

    I guess I figured love is too nice a feeling to not experience again. Unfortunately it ended on Valentine’s Day. I’ve successfully sabotaged the relationship without really wanting to do that but not knowing how to not do that. It sucks, it hurts BUT it has made me realize that there are things I need to work on still and it’s too soon for me to be so serious. This is not a race. Your blog has been a huge part of my journey. Thank you for it.

    1. You’ve been around a long time now, Vince. I’m really sorry to hear about the end of this latest relationship.

      And I hope this doesn’t come off callous or dismissive, but I hope you can see the good in simply being able to have one again after all of the misery and self-doubt following divorce.

      Just seeing what’s possible allows us to hope. I’ve healed a lot on account of that. Just knowing it’s not hopeless, that good things do happen, and that someday, something really kick-ass is going to happen again.

      I look forward to that day. And am grateful that I’m emotionally able to enjoy this one.

      Great to hear from you, sir. Thank you for the kind words.

  18. At my insistence, my husband just walked out the door. Though I believe separation is the best answer for us for now, my heart is absolutely broken in two. I don’t know if our relationship will ever recover; the chasm is wide, the damage done is severe. I cannot see tomorrow or the near future with much hope, but I do agree the only way to the other side is through. Thank you for your writings. They have been helpful as I navigate this difficult territory.

    1. It would be nice if adulthood had come with some kind of instruction manual.

      I’m so sorry, Carolyn.

      I’m glad you’re finding meaning in things you’ve read here. Thank you very much for saying so.

  19. My wife and I are in the middle of gearing up for a separation, her idea not mine. I finally capitulated after the worst 4 months of my life after she told in October of last year that she wasn’t in love with me anymore. We tried marriage counseling, I;m in therapy, she drinks and tells me that she has to in order to even be around me anymore.

    Yesterday was extremely hard. I spent most of the day in bed. I find even waking up is difficult because my dreams are better than reality.

    Everyone else has sympathy for me except for my wife, the one person who I desperately crave affection from.

    I know i need to separate from her, rationally I understand this. I’m fearful for losing her completely as she wants to see other people right away (hah! Good luck finding a man whos going to put up with her BS and all the baggage from this marriage).

    Finding this blog will help I think. I hope. I pray. I just want the hurting to stop.

    1. I’ve been right there, sir. In that exact place.

      I’ve written it a bunch of times: “I cried more than a man should. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I broke on the inside. I was afraid of everything.”

      I wish I knew what to say.

      One way or another, things are going to work out as they should. I just wish you didn’t have to deal with all of the stuff between now and then.

      But I hope you can find away to look forward to “then.” Because it gets here. I promise.

  20. The best way to get THEN is to go forward, which is exactly what I;m trying to do. Own up to my failures as a husband and try to rectify the situation as best I can. One day at a time though. And yeah, Ive cried way more than a man should, and I;ve done it so much that she cant stand to even be around me when I;m an emotional ball of mess.

    (Excuse the typos, I have a broken right hand – punched the wall in anger instead of her during our biggest blow-up that turned into domestic violence anyway – long story short I thought she was drunk and trying to take our daughter away so I restrained her from leaving).

  21. I wish. My husband left after 36 years together and 23 years of marriage. We have two kids. He was my only. It ended 3 long years after am affair he had and continued to have as I thought we were reconciling. I have taken personal responsibility and sometimes too much self loathing. It brought up lifelong abandonment issues and feelings of unworthiness so I guess that is the blessing in the end, examining your own shit
    He was relieved as I think he had gone years before and he moved immediately into new relationships. I know it’s all up to me to move on but I have been stuck. First in denial and hope. Then in blame and self blame and finally so much sadness. Yes. Some days are better and the marriage was not good. It is over for everyone but me. I believed in forever and even that makes me feel pathetic. I don’t want to be a victim but still feel like one. I never got angry enough I think to be able to forgive and yet, I am trying. There was financial abuse as well and it is hard to see him thriving and happy. I feel like an awful person and a loser. Help.

  22. Just found your blogs by chance and glad that I have others have most likely said that you have verbalised exactly how I am feeling and what I am thinking at the moment, as I’m in similar situation to yourself.

    You have an amazing ability and talent for writing, I honestly felt like you were writing those blogs directly at and for me!

    Keep writing and perhaps put it into a book format I’m sure you’d be very successful.

    Ps love the power of the Internet as you have reached me all the way in Scotland!

    1. Then you need to find yourself again. God-willing with the help and love and support of your spouse.

      That second part is the real bitch of it, though, right?

      1. This is what my wife keeps telling me, that she doesn’t know who she is anymore. So I have to give her space to figure that out. Not that I want to do so mind you, but I have to.

        On happier news, I have leased a room and I am moving out this weekend.

        And I did get a copy of the book “How to Improve your marriage without talking about it” and it’s an eye-opener.

        1. I’m sorry to hear that, sir. But I am happy to hear you’re finding value in that book. I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed my entire worldview, and in the context of its influence on my writing here, my entire life.

          Wishing you well as you guys navigate this patch.

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Matt Fray

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