I spent more than a year planning my wedding. Sixteen years of marriage (24 together), three children, two apartments (on two separate continents), two houses, two cats, and one dog later, I spent nearly the same amount of time planning my divorce. But no amount of planning could have prepared me for that isolated moment when I officially became single again.
Planning a wedding in my early twenties, to the only man I ever dated, and straight from my mother’s home, my future unfolding before me like some capriciously unscripted romance novel, I felt as though I had the world in the palm of my hand. Promising legal careers for both of us (though mine never happened), the expectation of a happy home filled with laughing children (dream fulfilled, at least for a while), and boundless opportunity for travel, culture, and affluence (check, check, check), my early concept of marriage did not extend far beyond those superficial wedding day plans for music, flowers, and menu selections designed to perfect the celebration that would unsuspectingly send us down our golden path.
As time wore on, and the picture perfect life I had once envisioned gradually faded until it finally became singed with years of disappointment, heartache, and eventually my husband’s unfaithfulness as his chosen career path directed him to live in Asia apart from our children and me, a job prospect about which he and I adamantly disagreed, I ultimately found myself standing on the courthouse steps about to become a 40 year-old divorcée.
I spent more than a year planning for that day, my divorce day, attending countless meetings with lawyers, forensic accountants, financial planners, marriage counselors, and therapists. But, really, nothing could have adequately prepared me for that morning, that single moment, when the first chapters of my life would finally came to a close. As I stood in the courtroom before a judge, answering rote queries from my lawyer, those silly factual inquiries whose answers were already known but were still inexplicably required to extricate me from my marriage (On what date were you married? How many children do you have together?), my husband listening stoically via conference call from his comfortable new home, in his comfortable new life, 8,000 miles away, I felt an overwhelming sense of foreboding. There I was, now middle-aged, about to be thrust alone into the world for, in essence, the first time in my life. With each stabbing question, my uncertain future drew closer until I officially, however begrudgingly, was forced to accept and settle for my new title−divorced.
Unlike my wedding, there was no fanfare following my divorce. No music. No celebration. Only quiet. A friend who divorced a few weeks earlier had only recently recalled to me how her ex-husband called minutes after their proceeding ended which, like mine, was completed over a conference call with a husband who had likewise relocated to Asia without her. As I exited the courthouse, a part of me secretly hoped I would receive such a call. But my cell phone never rang. There was no heartfelt goodbye. No apologies exchanged. No nod to the years we spent together. No closure, only the deafening silence of our broken promises.
I never did receive that call, though today I no longer wait for it.
It has been nearly a year since that moment. The months have been bittersweet. With each passing day, as I picked my children and myself up and began writing the next chapters of my story, both figuratively and literally as a blogger, I realized my title of divorcée is not to be shied away from but, rather, embraced. Where I once thought of my marriage as early chapters of a tragic love story, I now say those pages told the tale of a romance that ran its course. Today, at 41, I am writing the paragraphs not of a new chapter, but of an entirely new book.
A friend recently told me I have never looked better. When she said it, I was incredulous. After all, she first met me when I was in my early 30s, not long after the birth of my third child, and arguably when my marriage was good. Eight years older, there was no way I could possibly look better than I did back then. When I came home and looked in the mirror that evening, I realized she was right. But it was not because of a new hairstyle or the shedding of past baby weight. It was because today I have made peace with myself, settling the unease I once felt with a title I neither asked for nor expected. For the first time in my life, I actually respected the woman I saw looking back at me.
And it was not in spite of her divorce. It was because of it.
How has your attitude changed since your divorce?