I’m getting a divorce.
I’m now a statistic. We all know the data. According to the CDC, nearly 50% of marriages end up in divorce. I was married for 25 years so, by all accounts, I did ok. I stuck it out. My marriage weathered many storms. We endured financial crises, emotional baggage, betrayals, disappointments, isolation, abandonment, family trauma. And we endured. Mostly because I wouldn’t give up.
I am the product of divorce as was my ex-husband (what do we call them now, “wusbands”? ) We both made a pact that we would not let history repeat itself. Yet it did. I remember sitting in therapy and saying that I was so disappointed to have failed at marriage and my therapist said, “why was it a failure?” I pondered that notion for a long time because I assumed that the measurement of success was everlasting love. Perhaps not. Perhaps just showing up and continuing to try was success in itself. And then, maybe, it was simply time for it to end. I’m pretty confident my marriage had reached its expiration date – in fact, it was beyond its expiration date. It was time for us to move apart and rediscover ourselves after nearly 28 years together.
We were practically infants when we met. We were unformed creatures at 24 and 25 years old. Having escaped severe familial abuse, we found each other, fell madly in love and were certain our union would heal our respective wounds. At least that is what we told ourselves. We were too young and too inexperienced to see the red flags. We had stars in our eyes because we believed we found that elusive other half that would complete us. We felt confident that two wrongs would make a right. Our two broken souls would merge, the cells would replicate and we would become a perfectly-formed new entity that would go on to procreate, thereby creating a whole new story for ourselves.
Silly, silly children.
We were so naive.
My wusband seemed to be the love of my life. He filled my gaps, made me feel undeniably loved and beautiful and rounded out my sharp edges. The things that he did not like about my young NYC life didn’t phase me because I was convinced that I would learn to love our life together that those sacrifices would be minuscule in comparison.
I genuinely loved my husband or experienced what I believed to be love. Never actually having had a true loving relationship before him, I didn’t have any strong benchmarks to draw from. I went with my gut. I was impulsively swayed by the deep emotional connection I felt. He was handsome, he was a great lover, he made me feel loved in a way that I had never experienced before. That seemed to be the correct recipe. And, of course, all my friends around me were partnering up so I figured if I had landed a good one, I should probably take the plunge. We communicated our feelings and shared our war stories and professed our love after several short months. We had barely spent a quarter century on the earth and we were convinced we knew the recipe for a forever relationship.
So, on May 15, 1994, after scraping together every penny we could, we hosted an impossibly expensive wedding on Long Island, the first of many choices that reflected what we thought we “should” do versus what would have been smart and responsible. We wanted to blend in and look like our friends. But our friends didn’t come from dysfunctional families where the dads refused to participate in our lives and the moms felt no compulsion to provide support, financial or otherwise. We were on our own and forced to make choices without the guidance of parents or family members that might have guided us to some wiser choices.
Our wedding was beautiful and fun and, as was the case in my life those days, I was far from present. I was worried about how everyone else was experiencing the event. Were my guests happy and glad they made the schlep to Long Island? Were my bridesmaids satisfied with the purple puffy sleeved, bow on the ass, tea length dresses (that I absolutely adored) that I made them wear? Was the food good, did the band play the right songs, was there enough booze, were the guests seated at the best possible tables? Was my mother able to walk through the day as the beaming mother of the bride so she could step into the spotlight, easily eclipsing me? She delivered oh so well and made the day about her but I reminded her more than once that I was the one in the white gown and, no matter how much she tried to steal my thunder, everyone knew to follow the girl in white. Unless she was ready to change outfits, she was going to have to take second fiddle. I heard about that one for years.
So, how do we go from beautiful wedding, fun honeymoon in the Bahamas to the complete and utter demise of our marriage and family? It wasn’t as hard as it might seem. Unbeknownst to us, the cards were stacked against us from that February day that we first met in 1992. While the universe matched us up from across the country, we were both on very different journeys and we would only come to understand how different they were once we began to see our evolutions begin to unfold. Those little differences that cause cute little spats when you are newlyweds often turn into the issues that cause you to hate each other decades later. The cute little habit that you laugh about in your 20s becomes the cause of your vicious fights in your 40s. And then the sex dries up because you really don’t feel turned on by each other as the passion you once felt has now been replaced by disdain for each other. And there are now kids and you have to decide what you are willing to put them through. Then there’s therapy and the proliferation of resentment as you begin to unpack years of baggage, recognizing that you were never ok with it but you were simply too afraid to do something about it. Until you just couldn’t survive one more day.
So, now my divorce is nearly final. I am still embracing the idea of being a divorcee and all that entails. Fortunately for me, I’ve been doing the hard work for years to untangle myself from my marriage and rediscover myself. Like any strong woman, once that bell rings and you realize you are done, there is little to nothing that can get you to turn back. My bell rang for years and I ignored it, hoping there was just some weird buzzing in my ears. But, it finally got so loud that I pressed my hands against my ears, shut my eyes tight and quietly acquiesced, “I’m done.” Once that declaration was made, I began the nearly two year process to build up the courage to tell my husband that our marriage was over, knowing that he would not accept my proclamation simply because he did not agree. I had broached the topic so many times before and he rejected the very premise. He was committed to the notion that we would stick it out no matter what. But, one day I woke up, after falling asleep in tears and knew the time had come. I went to therapy and told my therapist that I was ready to do it and we put a plan together. And, just like that, the decision was made.
When I finally told my husband that I no longer wanted to be married, I had no perceptible plan. I had to figure out how to dissemble the life that had taken me more than half of my life to build. I knew that I would have to figure most of it out myself but I trusted that, with the help of my amazing therapist and friends, I would make it happen. And, slowly but surely, each puzzle piece fell into place. Once I made that sharp left turn when I shared my truth, everything became easier. Of course, divorce is never an easy process but I never questioned my decision and never backed off my commitment to myself. I acknowledged to my niece on a call several months later that choosing to end my marriage was the first decision in my entire life that was all about me. While it felt oddly selfish, it also felt incredibly empowering.
And so began my entrance into Chapter 2 of my life.