This is how it happened.

July 10, 2014 there’s one thing women are most interested in,  it’s how my husband and I got back together some 27 years after our divorce.  It seems inconceivable that we could resurrect a marriage after so much had gone down and after so many years.  I understand the fascination. I’m fascinated, too, and it happened to ME!

There are the details, and then there are the important things. I love the details (they are so satisfying!) but the important things are really more…important.

So, here’s what happened:

Like everyone else, I got married (young) with all the best intentions in the world. Very few of us ever walk down the aisle with the idea that divorce could happen. Some. But few. And certainly not me.  So when M. decided to leave after eight and a half years of marriage, it took me by surprise.

When all of my best efforts to salvage the marriage failed a deep, dark depression hit.  A big part of that was that I hadn’t anticipated the possibility that he’d leave. It never occurred to me.  So when he did, it was a huge shock.

At the time, I was only 29 years old with a lot of life in front of me, but I didn’t see that at the time. To me, the world had ended.
I spent a few months having a pity party, complete with music. The lyrics to the music were repetitive: I’d done NOTHING wrong. He’d LEFT. He was the one responsible for the demise of the  marriage. I had nothing to do with it. Yadda yadda yadda.  1980 and 1981 had some good pity party songs, too, like I Will Survive.

Blaming him was a way that I could avoid looking at myself. I think I knew that if I actually looked at my role in the failure of our marriage I’d have to own part of the responsibility and that was just too unbearable to consider.  Could I have actually been responsible for this?

No, I couldn’t even go there at first.

But I needed to.

I needed help, so I found a good therapist.

I went on with my life. Made some bad decisions, but moved forward anyway.  Over many therapy sessions and many years, I got the courage to really look at what had happened in our marriage. Squinting through eyes that didn’t want to see, not at first, little by little the truth became clear:  I had an equal role in the ending of our marriage.

Once I could look squarely at that fact, stare it down and own it, my real healing began.

This process took eight years, a failed rebound marriage and a move from Florida to California. That’s the thing about it–understanding and healing come on their own timetable. They can’t be forced.

M went on with his life in Florida, of course.  We hadn’t had any contact since our divorce, none at all. But here it was, eight years later and I was ready to say something to him.

I wanted to tell him that I’d been wrong to blame him entirely. That I’d seen clearly my own role in our divorce and the ways I’d hurt him. And I wanted most of all to apologize.

I didn’t want him back. Not only did I think it was impossible, I had no interest in reconciling.  I just wanted my own life back and these were things that I thought needed to be said. For me.

forgive wilingly

Thank you, Louise Hay, for these cards. You should get some.

So, just after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I called him. He sounded surprised to hear from me. We talked for about 20 minutes.  It wasn’t emotional. I didn’t feel any great rush of anything but relief after we hung up. I felt I’d done what I needed to do for my own healing and that I would be able to have a healthy relationship one day.

Yes, there were things I needed to forgive. I needed to forgive him and I needed to forgive myself. That took insight into the relationship and into myself. Myself, most of all. And boy, was that hard. But I worked at it.

Release blame

Louise Hay cards. Love them.

Of course, I had to give up my pity party. It was clear that no one was really to “blame.”  Not even me. We all do the best we can at the time and are better or worse equipped than we wish we were.  It really is true that shit happens. Blame does not have to be assigned. And should not be.

That’s tough, I know. It IS tough. And forgiveness is no cakewalk. It’s often a long time coming for me and this was a big one to forgive. But, my God, we were KIDS. What did we know about making a relationship work?

Nothing. We knew nothing.

We did the best we could.

My memories were no longer sad or bitter. They were just a part of my past and I was busy living my present and preparing for my future. Making new memories.

Someone might look at the outline of my life and think, “I could never do that.”  Because I went down roads I probably shouldn’t have, made very public mistakes, hurt people and was hurt, myself.  But I wouldn’t change one minute of it. It was the path I had to take, the way I had to learn and to tell you the truth? It was WAY FUN.

life+goes+onLife goes on, if you let it.

I let it. And because I did:

door-openthe door was open –just a crack– to remarriage. I didn’t know it was open. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t looking for it.

But once you’ve said everything there is to say to each other, the only thing left to say is I love you.  I learned that from Werner Erhard and it stunk of truth.

When M first approached me about remarrying I thought he was crazy. Or at minimum, a grief-stricken widower.  But I was willing to talk to him, even as I told him I wasn’t interested.  You can only imagine how long it took to debrief each other on the past 40 years. On emotions and situations and… well, all of it. Many hours of telephone conversations. And months before I would see him.Why rush? It had been 27 years since we’d seen one another.

He was back from the start. And slowly, very slowly, I came back.

Once we finally got together? The conclusion was obvious.  We celebrate our fifth anniversary next week. Or our 42nd, depending on how you count.

marriage033112aSo that’s how it happened, the important stuff, anyway.

Life really is all about love and forgiveness. And if you’re willing to do that work? The Universe can reward you in a big way.

Most days at the gym I’m on a cardio machine behind him. I watch him work out and think, “How on earth did this happen?”  Because even though I know the story I told you very well, I get how unusual it is. And also how miraculous.  After that? The only things left to say:

Thank you. I love you.

74 comments on “This is how it happened.
  1. Carol I too have always wondered how you and your husband ended up together again, thanks for sharing the story with us. Being able to see my part in relationships that have not worked out has been so crucial to my own growth and healing. I love that you put the time into knowing yourself and getting to a place where you could apologize to your (at the time) ex husband. That that one act opened the door to rebuilding your relationship is amazing. Thanks again for sharing it!

  2. How inspirational! My cousin married her hubby twice as well. Still together. Hey on a different note- I see you’re going to Blogher14- so am I- perhaps well meet. Thanks for sharing .

  3. Oh, thank you for sharing that story as I’ve been wondering for a while (as I’m sure many other readers have been). All of what you say is true, — it takes a lot of work, time and commitment to allow yourself to acknowledge your own responsibility in the things that happen in your life. Congratulations to both of you, I’m glad you found your way back to where you wanted to be.

    PS. I also took The Forum in my late 20’s, so the Werner quote spoke to me.

  4. PatU says:

    I love a story with a happy ending!

  5. Joan Stommen says:

    Beautiful and honest…..what makes your writing so wonderful, Carol! This is the best true love/happy ending ever! It meant something similiar to me…..but too soon to write about. Thanks fof sharing about your awesome guy!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story…

  7. I have been wondering too. What an amazing love story, the distance, the years and the forgiveness. Awesomeness.
    My daughter remarried her husband after 7 years but they dated the whole time they were divorced.

  8. Wow! That is truly amazing. I am not known for my abilities to forgive (it’s something I am working on). I give you both a standing ovation for realizing the power of accepting your own errors and moving forward. I also love a happy ending 🙂

    • It’s funny–I can’t imagine having taken any other path. I have a relative who is still bitter 30 years after her divorce. It’s poisoned her life. I wanted to have a good life. Little did I know… 😉

  9. Cindy Ackley says:

    Love is an awesome thing! It is so great that the two of you have truly found one another again and are making the love be the center of all that is beautiful and healthy.

  10. Liv says:

    What a great story. Of course, if I ever tell a similar one, get me a big white jacket…

    You’re right though. Just as it takes two to marry, it also takes two to divorce.

  11. What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it – and everything you learned on the way. Love the picture of the open door. That pretty much says it all.

  12. Becky Blades says:

    Wow. Quite a story of openness and time doing its work. Congratulations.

    • I wish it had just been time! it did take a lot of effort, because my pity party was my safe place, where I could avoid taking responsibility for my own actions.

  13. kim tackett says:

    Ok, so THAT’s a story! As another one who married early, I can relate to the “what did we know?” part…and I love your recognition of your own role…and also to let the door open. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Karen says:

    Carol, my husband and I reunited after a (much shorter) period of time–I completely understand where you’re coming from. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

  15. carol Graham says:

    Life is all about love and forgiveness. I loved that line and you are so right. We can all learn from this. Thank you

  16. Tammy says:

    Wow. What a great story. Guess, it truly was meant to be.

  17. Lisha Fink says:

    I am BIG on forgiveness. And I believe that we receive forgiveness in the same manner we give it. So I give it freely, because when I’m in need, that’s how I’d like it dispensed to me. Unique love story!

    • How true is that! But it doesn’t always come back to us that way, sad to say. I once read that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. True true true.

  18. Risa says:

    Fascinating, Carol. And remarkable. Forgiveness is something I stumble over, so you’ve shown me how liberating it can be. There’s always work to be done …and it’s much easier to see the path behind us, isn’t it?
    See you at BlogHer, I hope!

    • I can’t adequately express how much I struggled in my life with forgiveness. Not just in this situation but another one. I thought I’d never get there. But I actively worked it, talked about it, wrote about it, read about it. One day, it arrived. Unannounced. Yeah, it’s work. For sure at BlogHer–just down the road from me!

  19. Ruth Curran says:

    Once again a line you wrote stopped me, mid-breath. “That’s the thing about it–understanding and healing come on their own timetable. They can’t be forced.” No shit and hallelujah. Thank you for the wonderful slice of perspective! And yes, what cool story. Someday, selfishly, I would love to hear the details and fill in all the color :)!

    • OMG there is SO MUCH color! The friends who have been with me all along the way–Patrick, Marilyn, Susan, Michele, so many others–they saw it happen. As one of them says, “your life is my entertainment!” I’m struggling with the memoir, though. Because it IS soo much.

  20. I love how this connection came from connecting with YOURSELF first.

    As always, inspiring, Carol!

  21. Lana says:

    I love how you told this story. Obviously you were meant to be together, but other “stuff” had to get worked out first. You are such a fascinating person, and I’m so glad I found your blog. Love reading every day!

  22. chuck house says:

    Sitting in Adair Lara’s parlor, who’d have guessed at the depth and breadth of your experience, compassion, and perspective? Watching the furor and flurry at Cogswell showed a bit of it. None hint4ed, even hinted, at the bounty you possess. Thanks!

    • Chuck House, when you say things like that they mean so much. Thank you. Hope to see you soon.

      • chuck house says:

        Finished my own memoir re my mom–not exactly a pity party, thank goodness, but educational for me beyond my imagination. Your material is boundless, and a great treat each morning. Can’t imagine how you do it. As for ‘seeing you again’ — love to do so, we’re mostly ‘down at the ranch’ these days, but up your way on occasion. Maybe you and I should plan a breakfast or lunch sometime in August or September?

  23. What a lovely story! Happy Anniversary, I hope you have many more wonderful years together!

  24. Whatever I recall of my past, up or down, with all my heart, I believe I needed for all the rest to follow. I appreciate the way you pulled your events apart to analyze and “own” them, then put them away in the “shit happens” drawer. Your attitude is the best.

  25. Haralee says:

    That is a great love story. Happy Anniversary!

  26. I think sometimes, people that are meant to be together, have to weave in and out around each other a few times. Thank God you both left your paths open. Wonderful.

  27. Lynn Forbes says:

    I’m very glad you found your way home. I still have a lot of questions 🙂

  28. Forgiveness and self awareness are two incredibly difficult but important skills to have – and you have mastered them both! I definitely think the anniversary you are celebrating is your #42! Congratulations Carol!

  29. What a great story. It sounds like it should be a movie. How about Diane Keaton playing you?

    • That’s funny–I am so NOT Diane Keaton! I asked M who should play me and he said “Katherine Hepburn.” When I asked why, he said ” because she plays bright and strong-willed women.” I told him I didn’t see it. I am not very New Englandy. Then he said “Julianna Margulies”. When I asked why he said “Because she plays bright and strongwilled women. Do you get the pattern yet?”

  30. Donna says:

    I am just glad that you left out the part where George Clooney begs you not to go back to M that would’ve made the story unbelievable

  31. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Carol. It’s true when they say that relationships bring out our ‘stuff’….stuff we need to learn, heal, let go of, love, forgive. Your story is another testament to the saying (and my belief) that love also has to do with timing. Both of you had to learn a lot and be the people you needed to be for the marriage to work and this time, truly last. Wonderful story 🙂

  32. I love this story and so glad you shared it! You said so much when you admitted you wouldn’t change the path…we learn and grow so much from hardships. We get stronger and learn about love. This is such a powerful story which I hope is read and shared by many. Thank you for your openness!
    Happy Anniversary!

    • It’s funny…I never looked on any of it as hardship. Hardship is being a quadriplegic. Or a child in the slums of India. My life was never a hardship. But it WAS a lesson, that’s clear. For me, and now, maybe for others.

  33. EB McCready says:

    I love everything about this story. I really appreciate how vulnerable and open you are being with all of your readers. I know it’s something so many people can learn from. Happy anniversary!
    On a practical level, this is my first time visiting your blog, and I simply love how many pictures you use. It’s great to have visuals in there to break up all the words.

  34. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Beautiful!! Love the door analogy….the door was open BUT you were the one who needed to walk in!!! I say do a combo—5+42=47 .Happy 47th anniversary next week!

  35. Kathy says:

    What a great story and I do love happy endings. It is so true that you have to find, know and like yourself before you can share yourself with others. The power of forgiving others is only supeceded by forgiving yourself. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  36. Thank you for sharing! I had a co-worker who married, had a child, divorced, and then 10 years later they remarried and had 2 more kids. I don’t know their story, though. You are very kind to share your journey, which is so beautiful and life affirming!

  37. You should never say never! What a great story. I learned the hard way too that every relationship I was involved in had one thing in common – me. You can’t fix a partner or a marriage. Just yourself. And then wonderful things can happen. So happy for you Carol.

  38. Lynne says:

    Carol, what an amazing and inspirational story of love and forgiveness. What a great read! Happy anniversary!

  39. Valerie Rind says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, Carol. Inspirational!

  40. I absolutely loved reading this! I’m so glad that you wrote about it so others can know that it’s an option, albeit unlikely. Marriage is so hard but sometimes if we can pause long enough to see the person we married in the first place, well sometimes it can work. Thanks again for writing about this.

  41. Mary Buchan says:

    Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing

  42. Wow, this post really lit up the message boards! lol

    Kudos to you and your husband for letting go of the past and staring into the present and a possible future. I have relatives who remarried after many years apart, and now they have been together for something like 20+ years!

    I also applaud your willingness to look inside at any role you might have played. It is very hard to do, consider our own culpability while at the same time not assuming blame. If I might, I’d like to share a post I wrote about this very subject, about looking inside after my husband’s affair…

    Thanks for this poignant piece, Carol, and a very Happy Anniversary celebration next week!!


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