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Separated? Divorced? Surviving Ex-Wedding Anniversaries

By HERWriter
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Emotional Health related image Photo: Getty Images

Weddings are supposed to be days of joy and happiness. The day that you and the one you love--and who is supposed to love you--pledge to spend the rest of your lives together. Perhaps your parents spent a fortune, or perhaps you decided on a simple ceremony with a few guests. Most little girls, though, dream of a big church wedding, or perhaps something on a beach. Very rarely—I would hazard to guess—does a little girl’s dream include a separation or divorce.

In the grand scheme of grieving in the aftermath of a separation or divorce, the ex-wedding anniversary can be a constant reminder of the past relationship and bring back unpleasant memories, particularly within the first few years. As life moves on the emotional impact of those memories may lose their potency, and hopefully with the right relationship they are wiped out completely; but in those early, still-adjusting years even the happy anniversaries of other couples can be the source of jealousy, anger, anxiety, and the reliving of the dreams and life that you thought you’d have or had hoped for.

My Story

In reality, I started dreading anniversaries (Nov. 18) early on in our marriage because I knew our marriage wasn’t like most everybody else’s and I knew it never would be despite my efforts. The depths of my soul knew that the love that everyone else celebrated did not exist for us. I greeted all the best wishes and proddings to do something romantic with detachment in knowing that any attempt at romance would be just that—an act.

As I learned more and more about what a loving relationship between a husband and wife should ideally be, and observed that kind of love expressed between other husbands and wives, their wedding anniversaries became a reminder of what we didn’t have and I found myself envying them their relationship and the true love that was so palpable between them. Their love for each other wasn’t an act. They sacrificed for each other and treated each other with kindness, forgiveness and tenderness.

The ultimate decision to end our marriage happened just before our 14th anniversary. So that anniversary was a particularly troubling one.

Add a Comment7 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

today would have been my 38th wedding anniversary, but have been divorced for 10 years but it is just as raw now as when it first happened. he has moved on and is living with someone, but i am still alone because after celebrating all the "firsts" in life with him, i can't imagine starting all over again with someone else. what makes it worse now is that we have become grandparents and we cannot share our grandchild together, this makes me very sad. i have no interest in meeting anyone new and still wear my rings because i like them and in my heart i will always be his wife.

June 9, 2017 - 11:00am
EmpowHER Guest

My marriage has similarities to yours Darlene. It also lasted 14 years, but I think we both knew much earlier that things weren't to be. Too many issues to go into, but one of the big ones was stubbornness. We were unwilling to admit that our marriage was a mistake and neither of us wanted to be the first in our families to divorce. Despite that I still grieve after 7 years.


April 26, 2011 - 7:01am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

I think there's a part of us that will always grieve no matter how amicable the separation was, no matter our justification for the break up. For me, it's more what people think of me. I know there are many who understand the kind of relationship it was and knew that it wasn't a healthy one, and those who are just sorry I was hurt in it and want me to be happy. Then there are those who I know think I just gave up without a fight, and should have continued fighting regardless of the reason, and probably should have stayed no matter what...when my own soul searching has shown that this separation was necessary. I could explain till I'm blue in the face about why it was necessary, but they still won't understand. I'm very sensitive to how people view me, about my reputation, and it will always bother me that some people will view this as a failure and probably in the back of their minds will always think that about me even though I know I haven't failed.

April 26, 2011 - 11:01am
(reply to Darlene Oakley)

Today would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary. Even though our divorce has been final for over 4 years and I am the one that initiated it, I still struggle on this day. People don't seem to understand it so I've learned to keep it to myself. But what you wrote in your response to Anonymous, pure gold. Could have been written directly for me.

September 26, 2014 - 8:20am
HERWriter (reply to kjespersen)

Thank you for your comment.

I was married for 14 years when we separated, 17 years when our divorce was finalized. When you've invested that much time and energy, and, particularly in my case where my husband and I were actually pretty good friends, you will always have some feelings about that date. For me, I considered it "Freedom Day", but it's 5 years after we separated and all that time I've had to work at creating the emotional freedom. The physical freedom was easy. The emotional freedom -- getting his voice, opinions, negativity and cynicism out of my head -- can take much longer. That's how insidious emotional abuse can be even years after the physical separation happens.

Glad it was helpful for you. Please keep in touch. We're all here to supports each other.

September 29, 2014 - 9:29am

I originally was married on 08/08/98. Our separation occurred closely after the second anniversary. The following year after the separation, I had rescued a puppy who was roughly 6-8 months old when I got her in april. I decided to save myself the concern over the anniversary by replacing it with my new puppy's birthday celebration. I knew I would always remember that day of the first wedding in beautiful Sedona, AZ, but now it was something happy that I could always cherish--my beloved dog, my first "baby." Problem solved!
I hope the journey with the Marital Discovery and Recovery Group is working for you, Darlene. I'm enjoying these articles on the topic. I didn't feel like my post-separation counseling was very helpful, and I bumbled through that time. I'm definitely in a much better frame of mind now, and can look back on it and think, "Yeah, that was messed up, but I survived."
Thanks again for your articles.

March 16, 2011 - 9:49am
HERWriter (reply to Christine Jeffries)

You're welcome, Christine. Thank you for sharing.

March 16, 2011 - 10:29am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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