My first marriage was falling apart, imploding at every turn. The love, or whatever was left of it, was going to end whether I liked it or not. It was a bitter pill I spent the months leading up to our split trying to swallow.
But regardless of how painful the ending of a marriage can be, a sentiment echoed in my heart and mind every day and it was too loud to be ignored as my first marriage inched closer to its impending fate. I wasn't done with love yet and wanted to be remarried after divorce.
My heart was split in two. Half of it was in a constant ache from the reality of what was to come of my marriage. But the other half was hopeful and almost all-knowing that a greater love was out there waiting for me. In good time, my heart would feel whole again.
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On a cool-for-Miami March morning, the day I dreaded for so long had come: My marriage was over. As my ex-husband left the home for good, I prepared for life as a single mother. My then 2-year-old and I quickly made a warm, loving home out of our brand-new townhouse for two, and without skipping a beat—aside from a bout of flu that hit us both almost instantly—life went on.
That constant ache now replaced by adrenaline, forced me to keep moving forward in whatever way I felt was best for my daughter and me. But I still clung on to the belief that something was coming, something greater than I had ever known, and it was this sense of knowing that brought me peace every night when I lay my head down at night.
That's not to say this time in my life wasn't difficult. It was—single motherhood is not for the faint of heart. "All I know, is that I'm not done with love yet," I'd tell anyone who inquired about my next steps.
Finding Love Again After Divorce
And then, just like that, the love I always knew would come, showed up on a beautiful Saturday evening in May. Love at first sight, complete with an earth-shattering confidence that this was it for both of us, washed over me almost instantly. And within just a few weeks, my heart did feel whole again just as I had hoped.
The next two years would bring all of the firsts and challenges that divorced parents face when creating a new life together. We eagerly and, luckily easily, connected with one another's daughters. We offered advice to each other when the pangs of co-parenting would get too strong to bear. We patiently understood each other's feelings when an ex would suddenly turn our happiness to anger with an unwarranted text or email. We also bought a house and talked openly about our future. He wasn't done with love yet either, having wanted to find his perfect partner to "do life" with.
But days after I got engaged for a second time, a client asked me a question that threw me off-guard: "Why would you do that to yourself again?” I was stumped for a comeback and laughed off his brashness. As I drove home from that meeting—brand new, shiny engagement ring glistening in the late afternoon sun—I thought about the reasons why I was more than ready to get married again.
Michelle Dempsey on her wedding day. PHOTO: Emily Harris Photography
Did I mention that I wasn't done with love yet? I may not have received love in the way I needed it the first time around, and for a long time I thought it was me. I thought I was broken. But one day it all made sense: just because this love wasn't working, doesn't mean there wouldn't be one that would.
I finally learned to love myself and value my self-worth. A traumatic childhood coupled with a serious stack of daddy issues left a giant, gaping hole where my self-confidence should have been. I felt less than in every way—less than pretty, less than special, less than smart, less than deserving of a love full of respect, kindness, and deep connection.
Ironically, this all turned around in the midst of my first marriage. I wasn't getting the love I needed from my partner, and when I had my daughter, I became that love instead. I learned to value my time, my body, my needs, and my heart as an example for my daughter.
Loving myself enough convinced me I didn’t need someone to fill a void, but that I was deserving of a different love. Loving myself enough opened me up to a world of opportunity that could only come once self-respect became my top priority.
I go after what I want like it's the last train of the night. In my teens and twenties, I would watch romantic movies, read love stories, and even read gossip mag fodder about celeb relationships and wonder if that kind of happiness would ever come my way. I remember watching The Notebook, over and over, and hoping that one day, I'd be someone's Allie, and I'd have a Noah to love me and make me feel safe for the rest of my life.
Not having had that kind of love in my first marriage, I knew I owed it to myself to find, create, and/or manifest the life and love I believed so deeply in. I had gone after everything in my life with a relentless fervor, so why should love be any different?
So to all who find themselves at the end of a marriage, or at the start of what feels like an impossible journey, have hope. Don't write off your happily ever after and always know your worth.
Michelle Dempsey-Multack is a mother, writer, speaker, marketing expert, and fierce girl-gang enthusiast. A native New Yorker, Michelle now resides in Miami with her 4-year-old daughter, Bella, her husband Spencer, a beautiful step-daughter, and a very needy cat.