The 5 Misconceptions I had About Divorce
I always had these preconceived notions about divorce and I was so wrong.
Namely, it had to be a like a movie that was filled with lots of screaming, telling everyone what a psycho asshole your ex is and conducting the dreaded exercise of splitting common friends. I believed it would be like The Wedding Crashers, where we had to fight about airline miles and yell at each other about sleeping with the personal trainer or physical therapist. My personal experience with divorce was limited to a few friends, my parents’ failed attempt and a healthy dose of Hollywood dramatizations, leaving me with little basis for reality. My robust imagination definitely painted a picture for me, but like most things in my life, the worse-case scenarios I devise in my head are just that, in my head. Here are a few things I did learn on my journey to and through divorce, though.
You Choose How You Show Up
When my ex-husband and I agreed to get divorced, we were able to find an unexpected place of compassion and kindness. It didn’t start that way immediately, but we found a path there. Like anyone facing such a life changing decision, it was devastating to hear (or say) the words, “I want a divorce.” When I finally told my ex-husband I wanted a divorce, I was met with a flurry of emotions, as you would imagine. I mean, it’s only natural to react emotionally, when your partner of over a decade decides they are done with your shared journey together. It’s traumatic and earth shaking, but you have a choice for how you want to show up and even if you aren’t both in the same place, you can certainly show up in a kind and compassionate way. The point is that you don’t have to hate each other and treat each other like last week’s garbage in order to get divorced. You can choose to treat each other with compassion and honor the love and connection you once felt for each other. You don’t have to create your own War of the Roses and your divorce doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s to be valid. Don’t get me wrong, I think having a compassionate, kind and conscious is a privilege, but when you choose kindness, you will be amazed what you are capable of accomplishing.
Being divorced is like being hit by a Mack truck. If you live through it, you start looking very carefully to the right and to the left. — Jean Kerr
You Will Be Lonely
What I realized almost immediately after my separation and subsequent divorce, is just how lonely I felt inside of my marriage. They say we marry our parents when we become adults and in many ways, I married a ghost, just like my Father. Not completely absent, but not completely present. The kind of relationship where your partner isn’t fully engaged and doesn’t really seem to be interested in you, but rather the idea of you. That was my experience, but I also discovered that after I left my mental prison, my life opened up in so many rich ways. I was able to reintroduce fun and friendship in ways that had been missing for so many years. After my divorce, many people that had fallen away before, easily and freely floated back into my life, as if they had been keeping their distance until the coast was clear for them to come back.
I used to hope he would bring me flowers. Now I plant my own. — Rachel Wolchin
You life falls apart
After a life of relying on movies and bad novellas for how post divorce life looks, I thought my life would fall apart. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to hang up shelves or curtain rods, remove dead birds from my yard and console myself without a partner to hold me. The truth is, I was always capable of doing these things for myself, but I had forgotten how or maybe I just got lazy. It’s easy to imagine things falling apart after such a huge upheaval, but the reality is that life keeps going on, just as it does when someone dies. You keep getting out of bed, you keep going to work and you keep doing the things that bring you joy. What I learned is that my life opened up to so much more after I got divorced, exactly because of that change. My life didn’t fall apart, but rather seemed to fall into place.
You have to start completely over
Starting over means so many things and in some ways, you do have to completely start over. In relationships, you are back at zero. I remember being one of the “smug marrieds,” in a bar with girlfriends and saying “I’m so glad I’m married, because I would hate to be single in this day and age,” as I glanced around the meat market scene that was clearly so excruciatingly awkward. (Lucky for me, awkward is my silent middle name and I’m quite comfortable with awkward.) What I didn’t say out loud was “I wonder what is worse — staying in a marriage that’s ‘fine’ or seeking something that’s amazing?” I gave my ex-husband most of the ‘“stuff” when we divorced, but that was largely because part of compromising in a marriage means letting your spouse have some say in the household decor, so I considered that a win! I had to repurchase furniture and all the necessities of a home, but now, only stuff that brings me joy is allowed to enter my life (and no more puffy chairs). I had to start from the middle financially, which was no picnic, but I was thankful I didn’t have to start at zero, which so many couples do.
You Will Regret It
One of the most surprising things I discovered after I told my ex-husband I wanted a divorce, was the profound sense of relief. It washed over me like a baptism and it’s not that I wasn’t devastated, but I felt like I finally got me back. Asking for a divorce was the best gift I have given myself, to date. I spent over a decade compromising away my life and to finally feel the freedom and opportunity to claim my own life back was powerful. It was liberating and cleansing, all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong. I was scared about what lay ahead, but I knew that I was tired and exhausted from working so hard to be so miserable. For so long, I felt like I was the only one rowing the boat, while my partner sat in back criticizing how I rowed. It was time to move on and allow myself to create the life I always wanted to live.
I can’t take his genius anymore — Rita Hayworth
I don’t wish divorce on anyone, but I wish everyone the strength and self-love to walk away when it no longer serves you. In the words of Nina Simone, “you’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.” This doesn’t mean to give up at the first sign of trouble, but it does mean to make the hard decisions when all other options have failed. I don’t believe in cancel culture or walking away after the your first fight, but I also don’t believe in sitting down to dinner every night when the only thing on the menu is a shit sandwich. I think relationships are worth fighting for and require commitment. Marriage is hard work and you both have to show up, everyday, and want to be there, or it is doomed. You have to keep choosing each other over and over, every single day.
Even after being divorced, I still believe in love and marriage and a happily ever until-we-decide-we-can-no-longer-show-up-for-each-other. Wishing you all big love, kindness, hope and joy on your journey through “this thing called life.”