My daughter has no idea I was married to someone before her dad

But here’s what I’ll tell her someday.

tara trubela
This is what I want you to know. Photo by: Jaime Colucci Photo by: Jaime Colucci

Yes, I was married before I married your dad.

My first marriage was short and unhappy. I had a miscarriage within the first year, which caused my then-husband to unhinge. What was he like before we lost the baby? Serious, conscientious, a hard worker. What was he like after? Thin, stressed out, distant. It was normal for him to run 16 miles on a Sunday or drive around town alone in the middle of the night.

Then, he started to leave. The first time he left for a week. The second time, he was gone a month. After the third time, he never came back.

He admitted that he didn’t want to have children. But I desperately wanted you. I knew I had to let the marriage end in order to obtain any semblance of the life I wanted—a life that included not only a career in publishing, but also one that was filled with the love and security of having my own family.

So I moved back home with your grandparents, leaving all of my belongings in milk crates on the guest room floor as a reminder of the impermanence of my stay. I started dating a guy who drank way too much. I was rail thin and smoked cigarettes because I had no appetite. I didn’t feel like eating or reading or doing much of anything. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, I was used to getting things right. But now after a failed marriage, I realized my future was no longer—and actually never was—predictable.

On a night I was feeling particularly sad, I drove to the church where I got married, sat in the last pew and cried. How could I fix this? All of my friends were married and on their second babies. What was I going to do?

Life is unpredictable, yet serendipitous because I was sitting in the same church where you and your brother would have your preschool Christmas concerts a few years later. Of course at that moment, I didn’t know you would exist.

After living with your grandparents for a year and breaking up with Mr. Wrong, I bought a condo. I met your dad on moving day. He was carrying a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup and wearing shorts in the dead of winter. He worked and lived at the condo complex and helped me with my parking sticker and sign-in forms. I noticed his kind eyes.

Soon after I moved in, your dad hung a mirror in my apartment because your grandpa didn’t have the right tools. We started dating: walks in the park, movie nights, sushi dinners. We fell in love quickly and were engaged within two months.

Your father and I got married in a courthouse a year later. You were born that same year. When you were 10 months old, we renewed our vows in a destination beach wedding that our friends and family drove 12 hours to attend.

Here are a few things I learned: When something isn’t working, let it go. You can’t force anything that isn’t meant to be. Keep your friends and family close because romantic relationships aren’t guaranteed. You just never know. Hold onto your career because there might be a time when the only thing you have to keep you afloat is the work that you love.

Work gave me purpose and held me accountable for finishing projects and meeting deadlines, and the people I interacted with in the office became my support system. I am forever grateful for the coworkers who listened to the details of my unraveling life. Heck, they even threw me a “divorce party” at a bar once it was official. Even more, my colleagues saved me from sinking in small ways every day—from getting me an unexpected cup of coffee to leaving miniature chocolates on my keyboard.

Lastly, when life gets messy (and it will), I promise things will get better. They always do. And if there comes a time when you feel broken and alone, let someone get to know you. Go for a walk together. Watch a movie. Share a meal. Let someone be your friend. Let someone love you. The right person will see through the holes and tatters and appreciate your imperfect, perfect self.

I wish I could prevent anything bad from happening to you, but that’s not possible. So if there comes a time when life is coming apart at the seams and you need a good cry, I’ll be waiting in the last pew for you.

Tara Bruno Trubela has been happily remarried for six years. She lives in New Jersey with her husband their two children. Her articles have appeared in The Nest, Psychology Today, and Parenting.