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'My husband left me. Stop telling me to be grateful for my kids.'

When I was in the depths of my marriage breakdown, there was what felt like a hurricane of emotions and thoughts swirling in my head and heart. As I processed the devastation, shock, and heartbreak of it all, I found myself feeling a lot of conflicting things.

I was angry at my ex for choosing another life over his children and me, but relieved he was finally gone.

I was despondent about what my future looked like but had glimmers of hope for the opportunity starting fresh could bring.

I felt deep shame for staying in a very toxic marriage for so long but was also proud that I gave it every last thing I had.

A funny thing happens sometimes when we're going through tough stuff. People around us want to offer support, which is lovely in its intent, but they have trouble accepting that the negative feelings are just as valid as the more hopeful ones. 

They will say things like, 'Don't waste another minute feeling ashamed for staying, you did the best you could' or 'You are so much better off without him, he's not worth your tears'. 

These comments, while well-meaning, actually really invalidate the complexity of the experience of heartbreak.

The real kicker for me though is this one:

"At least you have two beautiful daughters from that relationship to be grateful for."


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This one was volunteered on the regular by well-meaning people in my life, sometimes on its own as an offer of condolence but often in response to my expression that I wish I'd never met my ex.

"But then you wouldn't have the girls!" they'd cry, as if reminding me of this would snap me right out of it.

Of course, I love my daughters with every inch of my being. Of course, I realise they wouldn't exist if I hadn't met my ex.

But honestly? I also wouldn't know they could have existed. I may have made a different choice and had different children who I would love just as much. I might not have had any children at all, and be living a completely different life that didn't involve a dark chapter of emotional abuse.

I deeply regret the day I met my ex and I deeply regret having children with him.

I also have a very deep and connected love for my daughters and being their mother is one of the greatest gifts life has ever given me.


I think this one is so tricky for people to reconcile because they attach my regret about having children with my ex to my actual children as little humans. I don't sit around wishing they didn't exist! They bring me delight and joy every day. 

But almost a decade of emotional abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, and infidelity, and now a lifetime of being tethered to the person who was responsible for that is not something I would choose again.

The fact is, two things can be true. And we can't cancel a negative out with a positive. Sometimes all feelings just need to co-exist and be present for as long as they need to be processed. While this can be uncomfortable for others, it's frankly not their journey.

The measure of the support network you want to keep close is whether they can sit with their discomfort around your conflicting emotions and hold space for you to process them.

So please, stop telling people who are going through a break-up to be grateful for the children that the relationship produced. Assume they love their kids, but hold space for the notion that they wish they made a different choice. The last thing anyone needs when processing a broken heart is judgment for how they feel.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

Feature Image: Getty.