I’ll admit that the first few months post my separation I felt… exposed. It felt like I had spent as long as I could remember housed in a small box which, while unhappy and suffocating, had provided my world with edges I could lean against. Becoming officially separated left me feeling raw, vulnerable and deeply uncomfortable with the sudden amount of space around me.
Speaking to people was a challenge, I was fully aware of the invisible ‘divorcee’ tattooed on my forehead. Every interaction was an effort for both myself and talking partner, to not draw attention to it.
Nevertheless, I soldiered on and gradually began to enjoy the abundant air I could breathe again. But this story isn’t about how I got through my divorce. This story is about the differences in married and divorced people and the still existing stigma associated with those baring the brand. I’ve wanted to write this for a while but for various reasons refrained. Until this morning over a cup of coffee when a conversation was recounted to me and the need to say this rose again.
Apparently ‘divorced people’ are known to live and speak their lives ‘outside’ of themselves, while those still married do all their living privately. Married people ‘suck it up’ so to speak. This observation was meant as an insult but I took it as a compliment.
And here’s why:
The entire concept of marriage is outdated and has its roots in economic and political improvement rather than a union of love. Over the centuries individuals began to choose their marriage partner and that decision came to be based on love. It would have been better if that metamorphosis had never taken place as way back then, happiness within the marriage was not expected. A business or family arrangement was, and therefore mentally prepared for.
But happiness within the union is expected now. Oh yes. Somehow, people all over the world have convinced themselves that a magical place called ‘happily ever after’ exists and they bought a ticket to get there.
Now here is what I find profoundly strange. If your car stops working, you either fix it or get a new one. If your business or career is going nowhere you do the same. There is literally nothing in our shared or individual lives where we hang on so tightly to something that has stopped serving us.
The joke is that marriages are expected to fail and so the ground work was planned in advance with the inserted clause: ‘for better or worse, richer or poorer, death till us part’. Some may find that sentiment (rule?) romantic, I find it terrifying.
I also laugh at the level of appreciation we offer towards couples celebrating their 50th or above wedding anniversary. Wow well done we say! Kind of the same praise we give a cancer survivor or someone who swam naked in the Arctic for a week. The impossibility of it mixed with the enormous difficulty is applauded. We intrinsically know that’s it’s an extremely difficult undertaking with few rewards.
Wow you stayed with one person for that long and you both still live? Here, have a party hat and a cake. But I digress.
When you are unhappily married for whatever reason and you have decided to (or are forced to) remain in that marriage, your world, your mind, your dreams, pretty much your everything shrinks down to a size you can cope with. A small enough world that you can convince yourself is enjoyed. Small enough to ‘suck up’.
Confrontation, needs, desires, truth… fuck… everything that you as an individual need and hope for is eventually sacrificed on the altar of ‘making it work’. And when it doesn’t work, instead of the external broken thing (the marriage) changing, the individual must change to accommodate it; losing their truth, passion, love and happiness.
I’ve watched married couples, watched the underlying bitterness, resentment, dislike, sadness – all those unexpressed and squashed emotions – play themselves out within the box the couple created. And I wonder why they keep doing it to themselves.
Yes. Divorced people speak and live outside of our selves. We don’t need to pretend anymore. We don’t need to keep quiet for fear of repercussions. We don’t have to sacrifice to keep the peace. We don’t even need to pretend that we still find our partner attractive.
By now the married people are probably starting to get offended. What about the children you ask! What about commitment and getting through the tough times they shout!
Well… what about that? Being married or divorced doesn’t make you a good parent. That choice is a personal one and how you want to provide emotionally and financially for your children shouldn’t change according to a piece of paper. The reality is even if that legal union remains intact there is no guarantee of good parenting. Raising children in an unhappy home is another topic altogether.
And getting through the tough times? Sure, we all go through it and we all need support. But if those tough times are not from outside sources but rather from the simple fact that you don’t like your partner, have nothing in common and have reached a point where their breathing irritates you – that’s not toughing it out. That’s being stupid.
My point is this: in our current world we have the extreme privilege of choice. If you are happily married I applaud you and wish you well, love should always be revered and celebrated. If you feel that way about your other half I can deduce that the bond you have is not dependent on a piece of paper but rather a genuine liking and loving of each other. Go team!
If however, you are suffering through an unhappy union, afraid of change, afraid of failure, afraid of everything that comes after crossing over to the ‘divorced’ side of life… then I say start living and speaking outside of that box.
I won’t lie to you and promise happily ever after. But I will promise you the opportunity to breathe again. To think, feel and act according to who you truly are and used to be. Don’t you dare put a commitment you made in good faith however many years ago before your own life.
Everything, but I mean everything in life changes – don’t let it be the death of your soul.