Divorce sucks. But your marriage most likely didn’t start out unhappy, and maybe that’s the thing to remember.
There were hopes and dreams of partnership and long-lasting love. There were first dates, first kisses, first dinners, first movies, first years, first everything’s. There were long phone calls, texts, emails, and vacations. There were first tears and first fears. There were too many special moments to name, and many promises made. You may even have children; adopted or you brought little beings into the world that shared your DNA. Or puppies and kittens that are your furry family. The family you created together.
There were also first fights and first realizations that you quite possibly were not meant forever or happily every after because you certainly didn’t bring out the best in each other. In fact, you might have realized you made each other miserable. Or worse. You made each other cruel.
So someone started The Talk. “I think we should talk” is usually how it starts and it ends with someone in tears or angry or both. And one person (or both) not happy and lots of things happen in between. I’m oversimplifying and I’m sure if you’re reading this your situation is much more interesting.
But The Talk has three things: someone brings up the reasons a relationship isn’t working, there’s a lot of discussion coupled with feelings, and there’s an ending. And there are always feelings about that.
There were family and friends that needed to be told. You had to manage their feelings along with your own, even if you were still numb. Or mad. You had to talk to the children, your parents, and the pets. You knew they already knew, they can just sense it. Then The Stuff Separation. “The Clash? You never even knew who they were! That’s totally mine!”.
Agreements must be voided. Paperwork filled out. Promises unbound and vows broken. Tears shed and hearts hurt.
So I ask, with all that focus on getting unmarried, unwound, uncorded and untrothed: are we supposed to forget all those wonderful moments that made us say, “This person. I want this person to be my one. My Plus One. My Happily Ever After.” (Note: This is NOT if the relationship has moved into a place of toxicity, over-dramatization, abuse, or dysfunction, in which case I recommend you read any of the work of Thomas Fiffer, one of my colleagues at The Good Men Project.)
I don’t believe there’s ever a winner and a loser in divorce, or “to one person goes the spoils of victory.” There’s no victor. It’s a painful thing to have a marriage end. Anything called a “break-up” sounds hard, like something is breaking or broken, and that’s never fun. All those love songs that were originally about you when you were in love are now suddenly sad break-up songs. And It doesn’t have to be made any harder by one vengeful partner convinced there is some golden trophy handed out as they cross the finish line of Divorce Court Champions. And no, that’s not a real thing.
I am a divorce thriver, or as a few of the writers at GMP call it: a member of the “Happily Divorced Club.” I’m willing to admit I didn’t always see it that way. I honestly thought “when I marry it’ll be forever.” But that was almost 10 years ago.
And in a recent heated dialogue on social media I realized that some still view divorce negatively, through the lens of pain. I have the gift of time to have eased mine. Yet there’s plenty of stigma attached to divorcing, and shame or blame around it. Understandably I took that conversation as an opportunity to look back to my own divorce in an effort to share what had been there.
Granted the shared post that brought up the controversy was on the “Divorce Selfie” and yes, that IS really a thing. People are taking selfies at their divorce hearings or paper signings or closings. And you are entitled to whatever opinion you have about it.
I am now happily divorced, as is my ex. Neither of us hold any hard feelings and we remained friends for a while after we divorced. He got re-married and it made sense for us to part ways. We turned out to be better friends than partners.
But I remember the initial pain and shock. Long story short: when my husband first told me he wanted a divorce I felt shocked. Confused. Surprised didn’t even cover it. “What? We said we’d work through this! We said we’d be 100%/100% in this! We were committed to this!”
We were two Landmark Education trained “possibility” grads and after 3+ years of marital counseling and intimacy issues and one bout of him hooking up with a woman at a bar: I was hurt, mad, shocked, and felt devastated.
“Wait wait, ” he said. “You’re such a great person. You’re right. I can’t throw all that away. You’re amazing. Let’s just separate instead. I’ll move out. We’ll keep working on things.”
Oh, the relief I felt that we weren’t getting divorced was mixed with … something unknown. Fear? Trepidation? Mistrust? For the next few months we lived separately as he ‘worked on issues.’ He was supposed to be going through a healing workbook. “Have you done it yet? Have you worked on it?” I’d ask every day. Then every week. Then every few weeks. The phone calls got further and further apart.
The answer was always the same. “No, not really. Well some of it but not much. No big breakthroughs yet.”
One day I remember feeling tired of feeling this weird mix of hopeful yet alone, not divorced but not married either, crying and waiting on him: waiting for the answers that never came.
I was running my own business, a martial arts and fitness studio. I was afraid for my future and I knew I needed some healing so I signed up for massage school.
While there I found me. My intuitive side came whooshing back out, I learned Reiki, and I healed.
He moved back into a separate bedroom after seven months, but by that time he still never quite ‘did his homework,’ and it was I who finally asked to divorce.
We parted as great friends, sincerely honoring each other’s journey.
I ask these questions of you, if you’ve divorced: is there anything you’ve gained as a result of a divorce for which you can be grateful? And was there any value in having been married in the first place? And from that place, can you honor that person you married?
For more on divorce with dignity please check out these resources: terrific articles on divorce.