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Personal Growth
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How I Found The Strength To Leave My Marriage & Start Again

August 23, 2015

For more years than I’m proud to admit, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach during my marriage, which began at the tender age of 21. I later learned that this was my intuition, that telltale sense that your body knows something before your head does.

Over time, the gut feeling grew so acute that I could no longer ignore it. I sensed that life was passing me by. And even though I loved my husband and parts of my life, there were things that I didn’t love, things that I wanted in my life and in myself that I wasn’t able to pursue. I wasn’t becoming the me that I wanted to become.

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I realized that if I continued along that path that I'd be settling out of fear of not making changes. Over time, I found my strength in becoming the person I was put on earth to become. Eventually, I ended my nine-year marriage, then moved to a new city and changed my career.

There's no easy way to box up the life you have in order to start a new one that doesn’t exist yet.

Once you leave, you’ll never forget your former life — and you shouldn’t. My mentor said to me at one point, “Life is a tapestry of threads from your past and your present woven all together. Why should you feel like you have to let your past go?”

I've since realized that changing had to have come from some kind of strength, though it didn’t feel like strength at the time. But there were several realizations that guided me to recognize my strength, cultivate it and trust that I had it within me all along.

Here are seven conscious actions I took that helped me find the courage to change my life. I hope they help you, too!

1. Know that you never walk away from something completely.

Your former life, your former love(s) will always be a part of you and you of them. Don’t dwell, but don’t forget. And learn from every experience and relationship. This will make you better at love, and at life.

2. Surrender to the fact that change (and decision-making) isn’t going to be easy and clear-cut.

Change is hard, and the fruits of change won’t immediately be tasted.

3. Accept that inner strength is a muscle.

It grows, it contracts. Speak up and own your truth. Face your fears — whether it’s of being judged, being alone, or being uncomfortable.

4. Question yourself and allow yourself to experience grief.

These are natural byproducts of change and transition. They don’t mean you’re making the wrong decision. Quiet your mind and pay attention to what your gut tells you.

5. Find support and solace in friends, family, and a therapist if need be.

As I pondered the complex decision of ending my marriage, dealing with emotional aftermath of such a decision, and facing the complexities of all the options ahead of me — moving, changing careers, dating — my friends, family, and therapist were my refuge.

6. Find strength in books, music, and art.

The best creative works are usually created out of places of anxiety, sadness grief, and change. In her book Our Andromeda, Brenda Shaughnessy writes that “strength means honoring your entire range of and heartbreak, even your despair and heartbreak. It means acknowledging each of these feelings, your questions and ideas and faith and terror, and meeting what comes with the full force of your heart.”

7. Identify and honor the inspiring people out there who are making changes, pushing the limits, stepping outside of the box.

These people are sources of inspiration to give you the confidence that it’s OK to change, it’s OK to grow, it’s OK to evolve in order to better your life. If you look closely, these people may be your yoga instructors, your co-workers, your Facebook friends. We’ve all gone through struggles and have become better because of them.

The desire to change your life comes from a multitude of places, but it predominantly comes from listening to the crackling fire within you, from feeling the heat emanating from the depths of your soul. That's your truth, your raison d'être, and the spark that gives you light. But once you’ve mustered this strength, there’s no going back.

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Sarah Woehler
Sarah Woehler
Contributing writer

Sarah Woehler’s utmost passion is helping people transform their relationships, careers & lives — from the inside out. She has over 15 years of corporate experience working for Fortune 500 companies, which she leverages in helping her clients identify in order to pursue their own professional, relationship, wellness and life goals — and their own individual vision of what “success” looks like. She is also the host of Interrelate, a podcast where she has conversations with various experts about different aspects of relationships. Sarah got her certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, has a B.A. in English, and a Master of Arts from the University of Maine. She lives in NYC and sees clients in person and virtually.