I never thought I'd end up divorced.

Of course, most people don't enter marriage thinking they'll end up divorced. Most people would prefer not to even contemplate the possibility, and even if it's happened to you I'm sure you never thought it would.

But for me, it was so far from my reality, so far off my radar screen, that I never imagined such a thing could happen. I grew up in a solid, stable home environment — my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles were all happily married. Divorce was something that happened to other people, not to me. And even when my marriage started to fall apart after three and a half years, I never, ever thought I would end up divorced. It was just not going to happen. Not so long as I was in control of my own destiny, that is.

I never thought I'd end up divorcedAnd then it did happen, and my world crashed into a million tiny pieces. The world that I'd so carefully built from scratch, weaving together dreams and reality to form something so wonderful it seemed it would last forever… But only G‑d can determine what will last forever, and it was a very painful lesson to learn.

You see, I was the typical straight-A student, a golden girl who never gave her teachers a moment's aggravation. I did extra credit. I studied with my friends when they needed help and willingly lent out my notes whenever asked for them. At home I was a model oldest daughter, lending a hand when my mother needed me and retreating to my bedroom to read or do homework when she didn't. Life was smooth, unpaved with worries, and I thought it would always be that way.

But it wasn't, and when life got more complicated and I had to start juggling housework and real work, and then babies and housework and real work, I still thought I could do it all. After all, hadn't I always been a master at doing things well, doing things right? I knew all the right outlooks, all the right attitudes: G‑d never gives a person something she can't handle. These are my challenges right now. If this is what's been given to me, I can deal with it.

I never knew there were other realities, realities like, If your husband's falling apart it's not your responsibility to put him back together. Realities like, You aren't to blame for your husband's moods and mood swings. Realities like, If you're not managing, get help.

Not managing? Of course I was managing. I'd been on top of things my whole life. What was more, I came from a family of "managers," of successful people who couldn't fathom that life could be more complicated than the platitudes they lived by daily.

And so I was left, trapped in a situation that was more difficult than any scenario my teachers had ever dreamed of, struggling to get through each day with a smile on my face, struggling to show the world that I was coping even while dealing with the biggest challenges I'd ever faced. Get help? I tried. But no one was around. No one seemed to realize how much I was drowning – drowning in the anguish of lost dreams, incredible isolation, and total helplessness in the face of tragedy and indifference.

No one seemed to realize how much I was drowning It took two years for the "beginning of the end" to turn into the end. Two years of agony, of daily pretenses to those nearest and dearest to me. Pretending that I wanted to move halfway across the world for the sake of my marriage. Pretending that I wanted to sell off most of my possessions and leave the country I loved for a "new beginning." Pretending that I wanted to leave my closest friends and my family behind to "start afresh." Not for me to start afresh, you must understand. No, it was for him. For the husband who had turned into a stranger almost overnight.

And that was the worst of it. Covering up for him. Pretending everything was normal. Pretending that he was still the husband I had once known, even though sometimes it seemed that all that remained was the physical shell and the history of a life together. Pretending. Pretending. Always pretending. And to this day I don't know who I was pretending to – myself or the rest of the world.

Of course, people knew that something was amiss. I couldn't pretend it was nothing at all. But I could pretend a lot, and pretend I did. I did it because I was determined to protect him, to protect my kids (who fortunately were too young to understand very much anyway), and to protect my marriage.

And when I finally got to the breaking point and could no longer keep up the pretenses, when I finally told him what I should have said long before, that he needed to take responsibility for his actions and I could no longer cover up for him, I was devastated beyond belief. Because divorce shouldn't happen to someone like me, a good girl who had always done the right thing. Divorce shouldn't happen to someone who'd gone to the right schools and learned all the right marriage tools. Divorce only happened to people who didn't try hard enough, people who didn't know what to do when their husbands fell apart. Not to me.

Today I can look back and see the fallacies in my fiercely upheld belief system. Today I can even smile, albeit sheepishly, at my own naiveté. Today I know that no matter how much you've got figured out, sometimes life turns out very differently from how we've got it planned – and this happens even to marriages sometimes. But back then, it was devastating. It was beyond devastating. It was the end of everything I'd known and held dear. It was the end of the world as I knew it, the world of black and white and of it-all-works-out-if-you-put-in-enough-effort.

But after the end, there is always a beginning. And now I see that period of time, painful though it was, as the beginning – the beginning of my new life. A new life for my children and me, a life that is ultimately healthier and more wholesome than the pretenses I left behind.

But after the end, there is always a beginningFor you see, the life I was living before my marriage fell apart was a life so full of fears and anxieties that it was impossible to maintain my sanity through it all. It was a life of overwhelming unease, of fear of being found out, of fear of the future and of unknowns in the present. It was a life that was so far from normal living that I never felt calm, never felt at peace with myself, never felt I knew what I was doing when.

Having shed my mask, that mask of steadfast loyalty and determination that I wore for so long, I can finally say it like it is: Divorce is hard. Divorce is agonizing. But it's not a pretense. I can rejoice because at last I've found myself. I'm no longer an imposter, a fake, trying to hold onto a marriage that so obviously isn't working. I am me, me, me, and it feels so good just to say that. I'm not a hopeful young wife anymore. But I am me. No more pretending. Just me – with a rainbow of opportunities spread out ahead of me.

My life's not over yet. Divorce or no divorce, I'm ready to begin again.