Happiness: Starting Over


Starting over
Silken Laumann rebuilds her life after divorce

By Silken Laumann
First published in Chatelaine’s September 2003 issue.
© Rogers Publishing Ltd.

I was reading in bed when he told me. Earlier that evening we’d been fighting about who was going to unpack the car from our week’s ski holiday. I became fed up and went to bed, but an hour later in the bedroom, we were at it again. I was giving him my perspective on why I shouldn’t have to clear out the Gatorade bottles and children’s toys when he stopped me abruptly and said, “I don’t think I can be married anymore.” “What?” I said. He repeated his words calmly, with a certainty that confused me. “I just don’t think I can be married anymore.” “Are you serious?” I heard myself asking. He just nodded and began to cry, and that’s when the truth hit me like an electric shock: for months my husband had been emotionally unavailable. Now I knew why. He was already gone, and had just found the courage to tell me. Thinking of our two little children, two and four, I was filled with fear and rage. The prospect of him taking them half the time was unbearable. “Don’t take my children away from me,” I cried.

It didn’t seem possible. I’d loved my husband for 14 years–every time I saw him walk into a room, part of me felt uplifted. Our home in Victoria was always full of friends and family. I had seen my husband through three career transitions while he had been my best friend and supporter through the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics. We had just started to share our passion for sport and the outdoors with our children. We’d often talked about our dreams for the future: trekking with the kids through Africa, spending a summer in Europe learning French. Now those dreams were exploding. My husband was moving out–tomorrow.

In the shock and confusion of those first few days, I turned to my good friend Marilyn. “I promise you life is only going to get better,” she told me. Marilyn had been through a divorce 25 years ago; she had survived cancer, created her own business and become a sea captain at the age of 65. I wanted so much to believe her, but how could I? The man I loved was gone, my kids were hurting and I was alone.

  • Searching for answers
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  • A sense of self
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