The List
Guideposts|August/September 2021
After two divorces, did I really know what I wanted in a relationship? Did I even know who I needed to be?
KATHERINE HUTCHINSON-HAYES
I pulled myself onto the bathroom counter so I could see my face in the mirror close-up. Red-rimmed eyes. Runny nose. Cheeks streaked with mascara. The next time you get to thinking you want a man in your life, I told myself, remember this. Remember how miserable you are.

I held up my bare finger, the one that had once boasted a gorgeous diamond ring. Divorced. For the second time. I was a woman of accomplishment, a school principal. Mother to two beautiful girls. Yet I was a magnet for men who were not what they seemed. Why couldn’t I get marriage right?

That morning, my lawyer had called to tell me my divorce was finalized. I had known it was coming, but the emotions that boiled up surprised me. Anger. Shame. Confusion. I didn’t want the girls to see me like this. I dropped them off at my sitter’s house. Then I retreated to my bathroom and proceeded to have an epic pity party.

“God, do you even love me?” I choked out. “How could you let this happen to me again? Don’t you care about my children? Our happiness?”

I’d grown up in New York City, raised by strict parents of Jamaican and Portuguese descent. They instilled in my four siblings and me the importance of using our God-given abilities to succeed in life. My mother was a nurse, with a side business as a cake baker and designer. My father owned a construction company and used his basement barbershop to minister to young men. We kids were expected to be just as driven. I pushed myself to excel in everything I did—academics, piano, art. Marriage and family were sacred. Divorce was something spoken of only in whispers.

In college, I fell in love with literature and writing. I earned a master’s degree in education and got hired to teach sixth grade for a school district on Long Island, on top of teaching art at an inner-city school.

I often got assigned the kids the other teachers had given up on. The problem students. But I discovered I had a talent for keeping them engaged, motivated. I mentored several students outside the classroom and got involved in citywide programs. That’s how I met Husband No. 1. He worked for the New York City mayor’s office. Smart, motivated, handsome. And he had Caribbean roots like mine. That confirmed he was the one. I didn’t even have to pray on it. We married.

Then I discovered how little we actually had in common. Like the fact that he was a smoker and didn’t exercise, while I loved in-line skating. We were opposites in our approach to handling finances and emotions. He had zero interest in praying or reading the Bible together. Our first year of marriage, I got pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl we named Zaji. Parenthood didn’t bring us any closer. We divorced a year later.

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