Lessons on Divorce from a Female Military Veteran | S2, Ep.35


Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica. 

T.H.: Welcome everybody to the Divorce etc podcast with Lucy Del Gaudio. She is a veteran advocate and a real-life expert like us so we’re all in good company here. I want to tell you a little bit about Lucy from how I met her from a friend of a friend of a friend, who wasn’t really a friend but someone that we knew, and she just kept doing great things. It really started because she was working a lot with one veteran group, because she is a veteran herself, and I was doing large food truck events. And so we made them our charity partner. Then I wanted to hear Lucy’s stories so then I put her on stage to tell her story at a women’s event that I used to produce. So I’ve always kind of kept tabs on Lucy, and now that we have this awesome platform, she’s got a story to tell, and you’re going to want to hear it. Welcome to our show today. 

Lucy: Thank you. 

Jessica: Let’s jump in, Lucy. I mean, a little bit about what we were saying even before we started recording was that your story is going to be able to help so many people and that you’re so brave, and we’re so grateful that you’re willing to share. I’m curious, in order to cover as much as we can in today’s episode,

are you able to briefly tell us how you think that your experience in the military shaped your first marriage?

Lucy: Oh, absolutely. Because when I left the military, I went right into a marriage. I was in a position where I was really not sharing what happened to me in the military. I was really in total denial that I was assaulted. I only shared my assault with one person, and that person was my mother. My mother really drilled it into me to not tell anybody. I lived in a world of shame and tarnishment. I wasn’t healing from my assault so I took all that baggage into my marriage.

Jessica: We read a statistic earlier tonight, T.H. and I, that I think it was veterans are 60% more likely to either separate or divorce than the average American. Does that surprise you at all, and why or why not?

Lucy: It’s probably a bigger number, I would say. It’s a tough deal. A lot of people–if you marry someone that served, and you’re not sure of the intricacies–so if you’re the spouse, I’m the veteran, and I marry someone that’s civilian if you don’t know the intricacies of the military or what potentially the person experiences, it could cause a lot of issues. I know a lot of people that have come to me and are like, Lucy, are there places we can go seek counseling? That type of scenario because it’s a tough deal, especially if your spouse has PTSD or any type of diagnosis that came from the military.

T.H.: So in your marriage, you had a beautiful child, what was it that helped you get out of this marriage? And why did you feel you needed to get out of the marriage instead of working through it and explaining what went on with you in the military?

Lucy: Well, we had three beautiful children.

T.H.: Oh, I didn’t know that!

Lucy: Not just one, three beautiful children.

T.H.: Alright, the other two are beautiful too.

Lucy: Yeah, the other two are beautiful too [laughs]. It was interesting because I grew up in it in a household that regardless of how terrible your marriage is, you stay because of the children. I felt that I couldn’t do that because if I’m miserable, my children are miserable, and my marriage is miserable. Again, our family dynamic is going to be miserable–

Jessica: I just want to pause for a second there, Lucy, because this is a conversation that T.H. and I have had with numerous people with regards to exEXPERTS. Just that mentality that I think a lot of us come from, from the prior generations, which is you make it work, you grit your teeth, muscle through it, and this whole question as to do I stay or do I go? Do I stay for the sake of the kids? I just think it’s amazing that you just articulated it so well, that you recognize that if you’re miserable, that means your kids are miserable, and your whole family dynamic is miserable. It’s puzzling how so many more people don’t recognize and acknowledge that and think they’re doing a better thing by staying.

Lucy: Absolutely. Everybody kind of says oh, let’s stay because of the kids. Let’s stay because of finances. Let’s stay because of all these other intricacies. I was like no, and I was like, I need to create a better space for myself.

I need to create a better space for my children because if I’m happy, ultimately, my children are going to be in a happier place. That was one of the main decisions. I mean–

T.H.: How did you even make that decision? I mean, coming from your family–

Lucy: It was a very quick–

T.H.: What was your aha moment to be like, I can go in a different direction?

Lucy: My aha moment was like, I’ve got to do this. And it took me a while. It took me like, I would say, six months of really trying to figure this out, because I kept on saying, look, I think we should separate, and no, no, no, let’s make it work. But then it was like a big snowball. We had separated midway, and we were married for 10 years, so we had separated at the five-year point. We were apart for almost a year, and it was pretty okay, but then we ultimately got back together. Then it was even more miserable. And then I was like, I can’t do this anymore. I was really not a good person. I just wanted to really be a better person, a better person, again, for my children, a better person to myself. So I ultimately said, you know what, let’s do this. I mean, we had a moment that said, okay, this is it. I can’t do this anymore, so let’s go.

T.H.: And he agreed?

Lucy: And he agreed. He agreed.

T.H.: That’s a big deal. If you’re making this joint decision, if it was only on you, that could be harder. That’s really great for you that you both agreed it was time to move on.

Lucy: And he agreed. It was a very–I have to say I had a very simple divorce because I didn’t ask for anything. I didn’t ask for child support. I didn’t ask for alimony. I just wanted out. And I did that. A lot of people go to me, why did you do that? I just wanted my peace of mind.

I wanted to make sure that my peace was going to be intact. Because again, I feel that when you start the alimony fight, you start the child support fight, you start the custody battle. No, joint custody, no, don’t give me any funds. Don’t worry about it. We’ll split all the expenses for the kids and have just peace of mind. I think, again, that made it work. Again, a lot of people say why did you do that? That was my decision, and it made it easier to deal with. Even to this day, we’ve been apart for 18 years, and till this day, I still stand by that. I wouldn’t change that any other way. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Jessica: Lucy, was your husband also a veteran?

Lucy: No, he wasn’t. He was a civilian. I actually met my ex-husband the day of my going away party to go into the service. I met him there. He was brought to my party by a mutual friend. We sat on a staircase and talked all night. It was funny because I had told them, hey, when I come back, I’m going to marry you. And sure enough, I did. It was totally not a planned marriage. We were really, really young. I was 21, he was 22, and then we automatically went into an instant family. And it was a tough marriage. We kind of grew up together, and we were growing up over our kids. We were like kids giving birth to kids. We were kind of growing up together, and we were really faltering. I say that we were better friends. We were not meant to be a couple. We were meant to be friends. We had a lot of commonalities, but we didn’t have a lot of commonalities. I think that’s what ultimately destroyed us. Again, mine not healing my trauma and again, we were babies. And then just we went into it way too fast and that was really a lot of the catalyst for this. Again, I rather us end it and then hopefully try to find some peace in another way than continually destroy each other.

Jessica: Well, I also feel each of the little pieces that you just mentioned that contributed to the unhappiness in your marriage, and ultimately, the road to divorce are all such relatable things like the idea that you may have been great friends but were totally incompatible to be married, the fact that you had a traumatic assault event when you were in the military that you had not really been able to face and heal from. And so you’re carrying that baggage around, and how could that not seep into an intimate relationship with someone new, who by the way, from what you’re saying, he didn’t even know, so whatever he could have done to have helped with that, he couldn’t even do that, and then just the idea of some commonalities and some not commonalities. It’s such a similar story to so many people that I’m sure are listening.

I’m curious to know, once you realized that you were going to leave and you both acknowledged that you were going to leave, what was you think the most helpful piece for you that helped you actually move on from that?

Lucy: I went through a period of grief, let’s just call it. I call it my grieving period and where I really went into a bubble of just trying to figure things out. I really tapped into other people around me to make sure that I was okay. I really developed this peer network of people just to talk to them. A lot of people didn’t agree with what I did, but I–

Jessica: I love what you did.

Lucy: I basically would go out to lunch and dinner or phone calls with people and say, I just need you to listen to me. Like, just listen to me.

T.H.: Which is so helpful because there’s so many people who have good intentions, and they don’t shut the fuck up. They know everything, but they know nothing.

Lucy: They know nothing.

T.H.: And if you could just coach friends on how to be a friend.

Lucy: Yeah, exactly. I would call people and say look, I just need you to listen. Hear me out. Like, hear me out. Just don’t make an opinion. Don’t judge me. Just listen to me, and then give me some feedback.

But that’s what I did. I just created this peer kind of network and just started figuring out the pieces of the puzzle. Another thing that I did is I didn’t go into this thinking already about my next relationship. I think that a lot of people make that mistake. Okay, I’m divorced, and now I’m going to go into my next relationship. I had no intention of going into another relationship. I wanted to build an infrastructure for me, build an infrastructure for my kids, and that we all felt safe, and we were again, finding the happiness that I deserve, but the happiness my kids deserved. And that’s what I did. I just took it that way. I wasn’t thinking about okay, now let me worry about dating. That wasn’t my concern. It really wasn’t.

T.H.: You were being present.

Lucy: I was being present.

T.H.:  Hey, Jessica, do you understand why I had to have Lucy?

Jessica: Yeah, I–yes, I feel like you are–

T.H.: I mean, the words don’t really do justice for how really amazing you are.

Jessica: Yeah. It resonates so deeply, and I love the way you articulate yourself. I also love, which is what I’m going to ask you next, how you’ve taken your own personal experience and used it to help other veterans today, which I know is now your mission and your passion.

Lucy: Yeah. So once I started–again, I did not disclose my trauma until 2014. I was already in the middle of my second marriage. Again, he was–

Jessica: Wait, so you hadn’t told your second husband before you married him either?

Lucy: No. What happened was he was a huge catalyst in my healing. My husband,  he was the one that at my worst part of me, where I was really experiencing very high–I was really displaying my PTSD in a certain way. If my husband, my current husband, wouldn’t have gone to the hospital with me and told the doctor, my wife, she is experiencing these chest pains.

You’re looking at her as a cardiac patient, but my wife was in the military. Treat her as a veteran. And that’s when everybody came in and they’re like are you a veteran? I said, yes. And they go, did something happen to you in the military? And then that was when I was like, yes.

Jessica: Your second husband, was he a veteran? Or he just knew that?

Lucy: No, he just knew. He just knew to kind of say, you know what, something’s going on with my wife. And he actually, again, a huge piece of me now and the way what I’ve turned into right now is because of my husband, because he honestly changed a lot about me in the sense that he’s become more–as much as I love my husband, and I affectionately call him the spouse, he’s driven a lot out of me that nobody else could drive out of me. He really knows how to push my buttons in a very positive way. And again, I did not seek him. Again, the way we met was very like, oh my god, this is happening? But he really has changed my life and he’s been my partner in fixing me. I call it my post-traumatic growth kind of mechanism, and he has helped me along the way. I couldn’t do a lot of the things that I do without his support.

Jessica: I love that so much because as someone who now is going through my second divorce, and not necessarily thinking about who’s my third husband is going to be, but just the idea of listening to your words, and T.H. knows this, just all the time listening and watching T.H. and her partner, what you’re talking about and describing, everyone should be so lucky to have that kind of a relationship. But I also hope everybody listening really heard what Lucy said, which is that it was her focusing on herself that made such a difference before she was able to bring it into a relationship. But how wonderful that you have a partner who’s so tuned in to who you are and wants to know how you tick so badly that he was able to be such a catalyst for your own healing. I mean, I just think that that’s so wonderful and beautiful.

Lucy: And I mean, when you see us together, people are like, that’s your husband? I’m like, yeah, that’s my husband. Everybody kind of pictures me with what my ex-husband looks like. My current husband and my ex-husband look like Penn and Teller next to each other. My ex-husband who’s really, really tall and large, bearded, glasses, and long hair, and then I have the tiny husband now who’s really tiny, petite. He’s a cyclist. He looks like a jockey, let’s just say.

Jessica: Yeah, okay!

Lucy: Then people are like, who’s the husband, who’s the ex-husband? But one thing about us, we could talk about everything. And that’s something that I couldn’t do with my first husband. I couldn’t talk to my ex-husband. Now we talk as exes. We have become better communicators. And communication is so key. I know people that could sit in a room with their spouse and not say a word to each other. And we go into a room together and we’re like [chattering sound]. I mean, sometimes it’s nonsense that we’re talking about, but we manage to talk. We give each other, I think I talked to you about this, T.H., we give each other time to talk about things. We start our day with a conversation, and we end our day with a conversation. I don’t go to bed without having some sort of conversation with my husband.

Jessica: I love that.

Lucy: And that is so important because again, he knows what’s going on. Another thing is if something’s really bothering me about him, or something’s really bothering him about me, we go right into it. Okay, I’m like, what’s going on? Why did you do this today?

Or why did you say that? Why were you off color? And we really discuss things. And again, I’m very proud of that because I couldn’t do that before. That’s something that I had to learn to do. We didn’t do that right off the cuff. We developed that because 2014 was a very dark year in my marriage. We were not feeling each other, and I almost walked out because I call myself the ultimate runner. I’ll just run out of anything, and you know, regardless. I told him, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to jet. I called his best friends, his two best friends who live in Florida, I’m like, take him to Florida for a weekend. Let him hash things out and bring him back to me. Then I’m going to work on this. That’s what we did. And I mean, ever since that, we really had a reckoning, I call it, that we really have evolved into this marriage. Is my marriage perfect? No, it’s not. I’m not saying it is. I would say right now–

T.H.: I don’t even know what perfect is.

Jessica: Is there even such a thing?

Lucy: But it’s my perfect. It’s my perfect.

Jessica: That’s right.

T.H.: Whatever works for you.

Lucy: Because I accept his flaws, he accepts my flaws. But our flaws are flaws that again, are reality because again, I don’t hide it, and he doesn’t hide it from me.

There are people that just one thing they appear like this perfect couple on social media, and then behind closed doors, they’re a whole thing else. What you’re getting is what you’re getting. Again, on social media, I refer to him as the spouse and we say funny things to each other and we do things. My husband doesn’t like to engage with me too much on social media, especially in the last year with all the advocacy work that I’ve done so he kind of likes to stay out of it. He does his own thing. He has a radio show out of Fairleigh Dickinson and he does that. He promotes his radio and I promote his radio too. But again, when it comes to the back and forth and oh my god, I love him so much, every day and stuff like that, nah, it’s out the door. Fuck this shit, you know what I mean? And again, but I know when I–

Jessica: It’s relatable for everybody. You have your ups, you have your downs, but you’re willing to admit it. So one thing that we generally like to wrap up with sometimes is, with all of your infinite wisdom through the experiences–no, and honestly, the personal experiences that you’ve had, both good and bad,  what’s the one thing you wish you knew before going through your divorce that you’d like to share with others?

Lucy: I wish I knew how actually resilient I am because I never thought I had any type of resiliency.

Again, I grew up in a home where a parent enabled another parent, where there was a lack of affection, and it was just disastrous. I thought that was basically how marriage was going to be. I wish I knew that I didn’t have to stay in it as long and that I was going to be resilient as fuck at the end and that I was going to bounce back. I feel like I’m the ultimate victor. I feel like I’m resilient. That’s something that I think people have to think about that, like, you know what, it’s going to be okay. You might not think it’s okay at the end, but you know what, you are resilient, and you’re going to make it through.

Jessica: I’m literally like, I’m smiling so hard I feel like my face hurts. That is such a good answer. I also love the vulnerability of it that a woman who was in the military of all people was doubting her own resiliency. To me, that in and of itself would be such an example of how strong you are. It’s beautiful, perfect.

T.H.: So you’re a force in the best way, like in the healthiest way.

Lucy: Again, I’m Miss Therapy. I’m always in therapy.

Jessica: You’re a work in progress.

Lucy: I’m a work in progress, you know what I mean? I have band-aids on top of band-aids on top of band-aids. But, you know, I call it my ultimate KT tape at this point. But I know that eventually that I’m working on myself. And again, as much as I’m working on myself, around me, my kids are great, my kids are doing well, my family’s doing well, everybody is healthy, and that’s the ultimate goal that everybody is healthy. Everybody’s in a great frame of mind, and we are working together to make this really great unit. Again, is my marriage perfect? No, I’m not saying here and preaching, oh, my marriage is perfect. It’s not. It’s not. Sometimes I want to smother him, because it’s like, what the hell? But for the most part, he knows that I’m potentially going to say to him, okay, I’ll smother your ass. But, I mean, I’m Puerto Rican. He knows that I could do something ultimately–

T.H.: That should not be practiced at home by the way.

Lucy: Yeah, don’t practice it–

Jessica: We’re not advocating the smothering.

Lucy: No, we’re not advocating that. But I am advocating that yes, you could be vulnerable enough to say to your spouse, hey, I’m feeling a certain way. And again, if you build up that courage to be vulnerable with your spouse, you are going to ultimately have some of the most engaging and most amazing conversations that are going to make your marriage work.

T.H.: And healing.

Lucy: And healing.

T.H.: It’s healing and growing together. It’s so much.

Lucy: Yeah, yes, we’ve been 17 years together. Our 15th wedding anniversary is in January, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Jessica: That’s amazing.

T.H.: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Jessica: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing I want to say a small part of your story, because I know there’s so much more to be had. And we are definitely going to continue this conversation in numerous different ways. Like I was saying before on our Instagram Live through the app, we really have a lot more that we want to talk to you about. Thank you for your service–

Lucy: Anytime. Thank you.

Jessica: For everything you do, and everybody out there. We’ll talk to you soon. 

Lucy: Thank you.

Goodbye: For everyone out there listening, if you know anyone at all who would benefit from what we talked about today please share this episode and everything exEXPERTS.  Be sure and click to subscribe, rate, and review our podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts and please follow us on social media @exEXPERTS Divorce etc… on Instagram and Facebook, YouTube, and our website at  Thanks for listening!

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