As a kid, I thought marriage always lasted forever. As an adult, I didn't really know many people who had been divorced, and I never in a million years thought it would happen to me. So when my marriage fell apart it took me a really long time to admit that divorce was the best choice for me and my kids. The split was a long, challenging process, though, and by the end of it all there were so many things I was afraid to say out loud, or even admit to feeling, when my divorce was finalized, starting with simply saying: "I'm divorced."
It was so weird, you guys. After all, this wasn't how I expected my life to go. It made me feel like a failure, even though leaving my ex-husband was necessary and probably the most badass thing I've ever done. It felt like if I avoided saying the word "divorced" out loud, though, I would be able to pretend like I was still a "good person." I now know that getting a divorce doesn't make you a bad person or a bad mom, but the time I would have rather crawled in a hole and died than admit that I was divorced.
In the days that followed the split, I also had to deal with other people's ideas about divorce and the stress and shame of having to tell everyone — from the bank teller to my boss — that my name and martial status had changed. Their responses were so messed up, too. Most of them said, "I'm sorry." To which I wanted to reply,"Why? I'm not." Others said, "That's too bad," or even, "What about your kids?" It's no wonder I didn't want to say the following things out loud. The shame that surrounds you when your marriage ends is palpable. Unnecessary, unfair, and palpable.
Those words sounded so weird the moment they came out of my mouth. It was as if I was speaking a foreign language I had never heard. I spent so many months still referring to my ex-husband as my "husband" and responding "married" as my marital status on forms. I grieved the loss of marriage and my identity as a married person. In a culture that prizes marriage as being a sign of someone's worth as a human being, I just felt worthless.
"I'm Still A Good Person"
In our culture marriage is seen as success, and consequently, divorce (and also staying single, having kids out of wedlock, and living in a non-traditional household) is seen as a character flaw. In my case, my marriage ending was a blessing, not to mention a choice a long time in the making. But that didn't suddenly change how the people around me felt about marriage, divorce, and the like.
Honestly, getting divorced didn't mean I was a bad person. It meant that I was a smart and resourceful.
"I'm A Single Mom"
It seems like single moms can't win or that society thinks they should apologize for even existing, which is pretty crappy considering how hard they have to work. It's no wonder that it was hard to admit I was a single mom. Now, of course, I know that "single mom" pretty much means "badass."
"I Didn't Fail"
Ending your marriage isn't a sign of failure, but it can be so hard to learn that when everyone tells you to stick with it or try harder. In my case, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't going to change my ex-husband or somehow, magically, improve our marriage singlehandedly. Also, it wasn't healthy for me or my kids for us to stay married. For our family, divorce was the right call and a sign of success, not failure.
"I Can Do This"
It's hard to have confidence when the voice in the back of your head keeps telling you that "it's too hard," and "you can't do this." Once I learned to drown that damn voice out, I found a new mantra. I would whisper, "You can do it" to myself when things got impossibly hard or overwhelming for the tenth time in one day. Single parenting is hard AF, but I could do it.
"My Ex Was Wrong"
My ex-husband spent so many years telling me that I was not worthy and that no one else would ever love me if I left him. He was wrong. It was hard to convince myself that I was good without him, and worthy of love all on my own, but now I can proudly say, "He was wrong" and f*cking mean it.
"Your Dad And I Are No Longer Married"
The hardest thing to say out loud, though, was telling my kids that I was no longer married to their dad. They didn't understand how the parents who they loved could fall out of love with each other.
"That Was Easy"
I sort of kept waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Compared to the year and a half of fighting, mediation, and custody disputes, the day my divorce was finalized was actually pretty easy.
For the most part, I was happy about getting divorced. Like, over-the-moon excited that my unhealthy marriage was finally over. Sure, I was sad at first, but by the time my divorce was final I felt relieved and finally free. When I went out for a beer and told a friend that I wanted to toast my divorce, they looked at me like I had grown horns for wanting to celebrate, rather than mourn my divorce.
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