How I Found Joy In My Divorce

Leaving my wife meant finally giving myself permission to chase my own dreams instead.
By Jacq Frances, as told to Ziya Jones
A woman walks along a sidewalk wearing a long pink tulle dress and zebra-striped heels (Photo: Ana Maria Hernandez)

In 2021, I quit my marriage. It wasn’t an easy choice: My ex-wife and I had been together for a decade. But marriage is work, and I didn’t want to do that work anymore.

I met my former spouse when I was in my mid-20s. I was a Canadian living in the U.S. and working as a stripper, which I loved. We had a lot of fun together, and our relationship progressed quickly. In 2015, we were about three years into dating when same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States and we decided to tie the knot. We built a life together, sharing a home, friends and a beloved dog.

But, as time went on, I realized I was losing myself. I have a tendency to people-please and I’m often afraid of other people’s anger, fearful that they won’t like what I have to say if I disagree with them. In my relationship, I felt like I was shrinking myself in order to please someone else. I was living someone else’s dream, not my own. And that meant I was giving away my power.

Before deciding to leave, I did a tarot card reading for myself and I pulled the Four of Cups. The deck came with a booklet that explained what each card means, and it told me that pulling the Four of Cups meant I had a decision to make. No matter what I chose, according to the book, I would have a long journey ahead of me. I knew the cards were right: Whatever lay ahead wouldn’t be easy.

I brought up what I was feeling with my partner soon after. Ultimately, we weren’t able to come to a resolution and we agreed to separate.

Newly single, I planned a solo trip to Peru, where I spent most of my time hiking. Walking is my salvation—it gives me time to slow down and think. When my trip started, I was feeling a lot of pain and anger and resentment. But, as I reflected, I realized that if I wanted my life to change, I was going to have to start by addressing my own bad habits and patterns. Shrinking myself to fit others’ wants meant I was being inauthentic. In order to grow, I was going to have to find the confidence to prioritize—and tell others—what I wanted and needed.


The actual process of getting divorced gave me a lot of practice in that department. Dividing assets starts with asking for what you want, after all. Early on, my lawyer told me, “If you don’t know what you want, that doesn’t help me.” Suddenly, I had to shift my thinking. Rather than making decisions based on what I thought others needed, I had to make them based on what was right for me.

As I grieved the end of my relationship and navigated settling my divorce, I was lucky to be surrounded by incredibly supportive family and friends. In 2018, I’d started a gathering called Art Camp, where a group of sex workers were invited to do arts and crafts together. Throughout the divorce, my Art Camp friends really showed up for me. They’d take my FaceTime calls and let me talk for an hour if I needed to. They shared their love and their time and their creativity. They helped me find my sparkle again.

None of the friends closest to me had actually gotten divorced themselves, so while they were amazingly caring, they couldn’t fully relate to what I was going through. Almost half of all marriages end in divorce, though, so there were a lot of other people out there who could. I started talking to my neighbours, to older acquaintances, to strangers I’d run into in my day-to-day life. Often, when I’d mention that I was separated, they’d tell me that they’d been divorced, too. Each person had a pearl of wisdom to share with me. They’d tell me that it would get easier or advise me to be patient and not to rush through the process. I found their advice really comforting.

As I was settling the divorce, I travelled solo again, this time to Mexico. I did the things I felt like doing. I learned to slice open a coconut with a machete. I started painting again—a practice that was once important to me, but that I’d let fall by the wayside. I became a certified scuba diver. When you’re scuba diving, I learned, you’re never supposed to hold your breath. I realized I’d been holding my breath for so long.

During my trip, I started working on a comedy show about my experience called Divorced in Paradise. In 2022, I was able to take it on tour, performing it in 25 cities. I wanted to tell my story again and again, so that I could let it go. I was also thrilled to see that my story resonated with audiences: The crowds gave standing ovations in some cities.


Today, I know that getting divorced was the right thing to do—I’ve made the decision to choose myself and I couldn’t be happier. The process of getting divorced allowed me to grow: It changed the way I value—and spend—my time. I no longer feel pressure to use up energy on things that are not serving me or to stick around in situations where I don’t feel seen or respected.

I really do believe that divorce is paradise, because, lately, I can see paradise everywhere. Paradise is making art with my friends. It’s walking in nature. It’s sunshine and water. It’s no longer living someone else’s dream—it’s giving myself the freedom and permission to dream for myself.

Originally published April 2023; updated January 2024.


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