When I divorced I became an ex, but not only in the obvious sense. True, I became an ex wife. But I also became so much more. Or less, depending on one’s perspective.
With its negative connotation, the term “ex” can feel inescapable and limiting. The moment that two-letter word is uttered, images of divorce are immediately conjured—the jilted wife, the narcissistic husband, the distraught woman, or the broken man.
For me, and as I suspect for many, the imagery associated with being an ex still remains primarily negative. And that is an inaccurate depiction of me because becoming an ex has brought a greater good to my life, one I could never have anticipated early on but for which I am extremely grateful to be on the receiving end.
Today, I am not only an ex wife. I am also an ex of many additional and, I must say, far less desirable characteristics that I am unwilling to let slide by unnoticed. So, it is with great pride and joy I share those “other” descriptions I have shed as a consequence of my recent divorce.
1. I am an ex victim. “Woe is me” was my mantra. When I first discovered my husband had cheated and was leaving, all I could think was, “Why is this happening to me?” During those first dark days, I felt helpless. I had been blindsided by my husband’s affair and sudden flight from our marriage and was altogether emotionally unprepared for the long road ahead of me. But within days I began pushing forward anyway, both by arranging an ongoing schedule of therapy for myself and for my children and interviewing divorce lawyers to protect my interests. Within days I retained an attorney, and began dealing with the pain that had suddenly befallen my family. Slowly but surely I reclaimed my power. Today I am far from a victim and continue to gain strength with each passing day.
2. I am an ex pessimist. Though I was unhappy in my marriage, I am fairly certain, barring the occurrence of a significant event such as the discovery of my husband’s infidelity, I would never have looked for the door. I had already resigned myself to the life I led and although my marriage was not the one I originally expected, it was the one I was in and, I erroneously believed, mine for the keeping. I never thought a better existence could one day be possible for me, but now I look forward to a newer and more promising future one day with a man who will hopefully share my same zest and passion for life.
3. I am an ex depressive. Before my divorce, I never realized how depressed I actually was. I sunk every last bit of my energy into caring for my children, my home, and the endless contrived projects I conceived of daily. Everything I did was designed to divert my focus from what was really plaguing me—an empty marriage. My then husband went so far as to accuse me of suffering from clinical depression. In reality, it was not clinical depression from which I suffered, but old-fashioned unhappiness. As it turns out, the only treatment necessary was the opportunity for a new life and a fresh start. And I am taking full advantage of my options.
4. I am an ex cynic. Looking back at the sad state of my marriage, especially as it neared its climactic end, the statement, “Misery loves company,” rings true. When I was not content and feeling upset, I tended to view situations negatively. If someone made an ambiguous comment, I immediately interpreted it as a deliberate insult or a slight. My back arched, and I automatically went on the defensive. Today, when similar situations arise, I make a conscious effort to give others the benefit of the doubt. I take into consideration the possibility they did not mean to be insensitive, and that they might be having a bad day or are distracted with their own personal issues. I no longer believe everyone is vindictive, and because of that I now seek out more positive-minded individuals, not those ready and willing to commiserate.
5. I am an ex critic. When we are not pleased with us or the situation in which we find ourselves, or are struggling to re-gain control of a life that feels as though it is spinning out of control, it can be tempting to criticize others in a misguided effort to make our own existence seem less senseless. Trying to condemn others for embracing the world and living life to its fullest, or by seeking out fellow naysayers is self-defeating. In reality, it was my own behavior and, coincidentally, the only one I could actually alter that needed correcting. Instead of scoffing at those who espouse a healthier outlook than I do, I now seek to emulate them. The inspiration I receive is boundless, and I am thankful for the people I have since welcomed into my life, those who I have rediscovered, and the wherewithal I eventually mustered to cut ties with anyone who failed to see the best in their surroundings and the people around them.
If it took becoming an ex wife to make me an ex of these other sorts, then the pain I endured during my divorce was well worth its weight. And though the process was excruciating, I would not trade the new life I earned for the old one I left behind.
What did you leave behind after your divorce?