There are some really great D words – diversity, drinks, dogs, delightful – and then there are some not so great D words – death, diarrhea, disease, Donald Trump. Where does divorce fall?
In the midst of the breakdown of my marriage, I remember having a recurring feeling that I’d never had before. When two specific thoughts came into my mind, I remember the breath being physically taken out of my body. It was a sensation I’d never experienced before and it actually felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I would have to stop and physically steady myself. Every. Time. The. Thoughts. Came.
Those two thoughts were this: “what if I have to endure this marriage, this misery, for the rest of my life?” and; “I could be divorced before I’m 30”.
Looking back now, it is unthinkable that those two things should illicit the same response. Contemplating a lifelong prison sentence in a destructive marriage with an unfaithful husband whose actions were robbing me of my happiness, my confidence and the life I’d dreamed of. And worrying about some goddamn life status title that gets pronounced on you by who? The government?
Society’s views on divorce are slowly changing (at least the societies I’ve lived in) thankfully. As divorce becomes more prevalent, it’s becoming more normalised which can only be a good thing. While I don’t ever wish anyone to take divorce or the preceding marriage lightly, the very fact that divorce is an option for which we know we won’t be socially shunned means there are now far less people living lives of suffering and unhappiness because of their marriages.
Does the rise of divorce also mean some people aren’t trying as hard at their marriages and are instead using it as a handy get out clause, as some people suggest? I wouldn’t know, I spent 3 years trying for my life to save my marriage, which caused me untold damage and potentially sucked more of my life out of me than I should have allowed, so it’s definitely not something I can talk to. (Handy FYI, saying to me “people just get divorced all the time now” will get you a punch in the face.)
For the majority of people, divorce is this big, scary unknown. It’s the the last resort. Like amputation. And the word holds an incredible amount of gravity with people, not least because it is one of the biggest “life experiences” you can go through. You say divorce and people are like “WOAH, shit musta happened there, I could never survive it” and it’s not something everyone can get their head around, it’s so incredibly alien.
Most people have never experienced it personally and it’s always true that what you’ve not experienced for yourself you can’t completely understand, hard as you might try. Looking at things from the outside they always seem more complex, more overwhelming. Watching someone climb Everest you might be thinking “well shit, that ain’t ever gonna be me” but the girl climbing Everest maybe thought that as well, but she put one foot in front of the other and (with a tonne of training) got up there. Or someone leaving a stable job to open their own business, from the outside seems scary as all hell, but hopefully that guy has run all his numbers, done all his planning, he knows there’s potential.
Now granted those two examples both include people choosing to do things, which isn’t always the case with divorce, and then training and planning for them. But my point is that when you’re in the middle of something, when you’re the one doing something, living everyday of something, the actual big end goal/destination isn’t what you’re caught up in.
There were days when I was trying to sort out selling my car, yes because of my divorce but to outsiders, I was just getting divorced. There were days when I would breakdown while running on the treadmill, yes because of my divorce but to outsiders, I was just getting divorced. There were days when I was changing my name at the bank, yes because of divorce but to outsiders, I was just getting divorced. To me it was just, selling a car, crying while running and doing some bank admin. Side note – it was the same when I moved countries, people were overawed by it but for me it was just booking a flight, finding an apartment, applying for jobs.
Now don’t get me wrong, most, if not every part of getting divorced was emotionally traumatising and scarring but I wasn’t sitting around every single day thinking “THIS IS DIVORCE”, I had too much “other stuff” to deal with. Nor was I living in denial. I knew at some stage some piece of paper would arrive that said “divorce certificate”. Which always makes me laugh because a certificate is normally to recognise something you’ve achieved and I’m not sure how much people want to “achieve” death or divorce.
There’s also the other side of what “divorce” conjures up within people and unfortunately it is a connotation, that in some form it’s a failure. There’s even the term “failed marriage”. And yet when you speak to people no one is likely to turn around and say “wow, that’s a shame you failed at marriage”. But I do know a mother who’s said “we just couldn’t deal with a divorce in our family” and a father whose words were “we taught our children to work at their marriages”. As if somehow my family invited divorces in and my parents taught me to not work at my marriage. Side note, my mother fought for her marriage for 19 years. 19 years! She is a trooper.
When people hear the details of my story, it’s incredibly unlikely they would ever think that my part in it was a failure. Did the marriage as a whole not make it to the “til death do us part” bit like we vowed? Sure. But, even for how absolutely horrific parts of my marriage were, I can’t and won’t live with it being called a failure.
Esther Perel talks to my heart when she says: ”It’s important that we, as a society, stop judging an entire marriage (or relationship) by its end… We don’t let people feel that the relationship and the time they spent together had value and merit. It’s unfair to the institution of marriage and to the couples to dismiss the time they did spend together—the children they may have given birth to, family members they buried, jobs they’ve supported one another through, homes they built and lived in, communities they were a part of. Infidelity, divorce, and break-ups are hurtful and lonely—but they don’t equate to failure.”
I came out the other side of my divorce, thankfully, a completely different person with an entirely new outlook on life. I count myself certainly to be one of the luckiest of lucky ones. I truly can sit here today and say that my divorce was the greatest thing to happen to me, but that also has to include the preceding marriage because without it there would have been no divorce.
I’m also not naive, or bitter, enough to try and pretend like every single second of my marriage was a pile of stinking poo. I readily admit that we had some great times, parts of the life we had together were incredible and I did love him. I had to have to put up with all of said stinking poo. And I will never wish my marriage hadn’t happened. A lot of my friends would agree, but mostly because some of them still tell me to this day that our wedding was one of the most fun they’ve been to. And I can still get a kick out of that.
The point being, would I have chosen to be divorced pre-30? No. Can I change the fact that I am? No. So am I happy to be one of the ones to wear divorce as a recognition of the fact that I have been through and, more importantly, survived a life altering head fuck? Absolutely. Will I ever get bored of the look on a guy’s face when on a first date he asks what my last long term relationship was and I unfurl that story? Definitely not.