Divorce is the final “goodbye” for a once married couple. It should come as no surprise that once the judge’s gavel hits the bench, life as known before between man and wife will cease to exist. Most have felt the split well before the legal aspects of divorce are final…you’re no longer living together or doing any of the things you once did together. What may come as a surprise is all of the other things you will also bid farewell to as a result of the divorce. Some of these losses will be felt little-by-little with the passing of holidays or other milestones. Some will be welcome exits from your life, while others are bittersweet.
These are five things you may no longer have in your life (or that may change significantly) post-divorce:
Holidays and traditions. Part of what makes holidays and special days meaningful is the unique way that each family celebrates them. You will, of course, still celebrate birthdays and other significant dates; but, you may feel an odd void the first few times an anniversary or birthday rolls around because you would normally mark the occasion in some way.
My ex’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that wasn’t especially significant to me before meeting him; but, now I have that date forever engrained in my mind, and when that day comes around I can’t help but take pause for a moment to think about him. I certainly don’t want to be with him anymore, but it’s an odd feeling knowing that it was once an important day on my calendar for reasons other than wearing green.
I’m sure that most of us who have divorced will also take pause on the day of our former wedding anniversary. I have found that I mostly reflect on how far I’ve come since that time, but it is sad to tally up the years and imagine that if only we had found a way to work things out, we would be married a significant number of years. I am beyond sadness over this fact, but it makes me wonder what my life would be like continuing on a different path.
The good thing about holidays and traditions is that life and special times continue, and there’s always the opportunity to carry on old traditions or make new ones. there’s nothing to say that if you really enjoyed a special dish or the way your ex’s family marked a special occasion that you can’t continue to do so. If the memories of significant times from the path are too painful, then creating a new setting and way of doing things might be just what the doctor ordered to turn a new leaf!
Friends and family. Cutting ties with friends and family may be one of the most painful aspects of divorce. You may still need or choose to associate with friends or relatives of your ex, but in many cases, each spouse maintains their own relationships and severs ties with the other side. Although a divorce is a choice two people make to end their union, the situation usually brings about hard feelings. If you are the friend or relative of someone going through a divorce, it’s natural to feel protective of them and to divert feelings of anger for their pain onto who is assumed to be the cause of that pain: the ex.
Even if you haven’t been guilty of infidelity, abuse, or other bad behavior, most people will be loyal to their own. This was a strange sensation for me to feel alienated from people I saw nearly every day, shared every holiday with, and have many memories of.
I discovered quickly who I could count on and who was really my friend. Many people are repulsed by marital drama and will scatter as soon as things get rough, so your line-up of friends and acquaintances may thin itself out pretty quickly on its own. The friends who have stood by me have proved their dedication and steadfastness to me, and these precious ones are invaluable to me!
The old haunts and hangouts. Divorce is an opportunity to create new rituals and investigate new things. From time-to-time, however, you may miss restaurants, theaters, vacation spots, and other things that are from your marriage days. Some may be so soaked in memories (good or bad) that you can’t make yourself return after the divorce. Others may lure you back, but it just feels awkward or is more of “their place” than yours. There’s no harm in returning to one of your old “together” spots to recapture some of what makes that place so special, even if just to make some new memories of your own.
For instance, my husband used to live in Chicago and proposed to his ex by the fountain in Grant Park. He has been longing for a trip back to his old city, which has seemed awkward to me because it is filled with the shadows of their time there together; but, I’m sure we can experience plenty of new things together, and it won’t just be “their city”.
Some of your property. Obviously, as part of the divorce your marital property has to be split. That means that someone gets to keep the cute kitchen table and chairs, the “good” TV, and other special moments from over the years. When it came time to divide my property with my ex, we were able to amicably split any items that were clearly his or mine from before the marriage, and most of our furniture could pretty easily be dispersed in a rational way.
I left behind some items that were either too reminiscent of our marriage that I couldn’t bear or had no interest in keeping. I do still miss some small items from time-to-time or wish that I hadn’t thrown them away or left them behind when I was in a heightened emotional state. Nothing I can’t live without, but I miss some things every once in a while.
Annoying habits and conflict. Yes! This is what makes it all worth it! You may not realize until your split is complete how many little adjustments you can make to your life without your ex in it. I wasn’t allowed to cook with onions for years because my ex couldn’t stand them, so now I use them in everything! I no longer endure his lawnmower-like snoring, charming habit of leaving the door open when using the bathroom, or tuning me out while he watched marathon sessions of ice fishing. No doubt he is probably pleased to be rid of some of my bad habits, as well.
This is one aspect of divorce we can all celebrate, whether the split was wanted by both or not. This may be your opportunity to break free from imposing in-laws, your ex’s bad money management habits, and potentially dozens of other personality traits and habits that have either become irritating over time or have impacted the quality of your life. This may be your one silver lining of getting divorced, so congratulations on any little victory you can claim!