Marriage has got some pretty bad statistics associated with it. I read something that said the divorce rate percentages were now closer to 60/40 split instead of 50/50.
I always felt weird, telling people I was divorced. It seemed like I had to offer up a disclaimer of some kind – to let people know I wasn’t a leper of some kind – and maybe it’s because I was trying to tell myself there was nothing wrong with me. I was ‘damaged goods’, a divorced 30-year-old.
I remember having to politely tell someone the reason I didn’t want to date them was because I was trying to find out who I was, after 11 years of being “me and the ex.” It was, at the time, “just me” and I wasn’t quite sure who that girl was – yet.
For me, it meant I was on my own for the first ever – as in 30 years. I was single, two and half hours away from my family, just me and Pepper, the evil beagle. She was the best thing I got out of that marriage. I ate ice cream for dinner, a big deal since the ex had been lactose intolerant.
On my days off, I could actually do absolutely nothing, which was unheard of before. If I wanted to sit and read all day I could, free of any sloth-like comparisons.
A few of my dearest soul-sisters have been divorced. One of them I met as we both were waiting on our divorces to be finalized. I think we were both scared, more scared than either cared to admit. After we made it through, we realized we had somehow survived and come out stronger. I couldn’t have made it through that first year without her, depending on her for laughs and to cheer me up.
When she got engaged a few years later, she called me, and handed the phone to him, saying “You’ve met Mama and Daddy and all my brothers and sisters, but you’ve got one more…” Within minutes of talking to him, I knew my girl was going to be just fine.
Another soul-sister and I were talking about our similar first marriages the other night and it got me thinking.
I had not been allowed to really be myself back then. Especially in social situations with his work, where he feared, I suppose, that I would open my mouth and spew demons into swine. But I had played nice and super polite.
The opposite of me, basically.
In those types of situations, I don’t know why, but knowing I am being expected to be little miss prim and proper makes me want to giggle obnoxiously and ask strangers random odd questions. I never did though. But it was a hard undertaking.
Not that I am loud, because I am really quite introverted, I have just learned how to fake it really well.
As my soul-sister and I compared our notes, we found a lot of similarities, which was not surprising. She is the jelly to my peanut butter.
“You know what, it’s sad that we spent so much time, not being ourselves,” I commented.
My soul-sister wondered if we had shared the same ex.
I wondered how I would be now, had I stayed married to that boy. Would I be stifled and shushed, repressed and oppressed, scared to laugh too loud, or worried I wasn’t good enough for his lofty standards?
I would probably be miserable, my soul dying a little each day. It was not a horrific relationship, mind you, but it was that subtle oppression of being told in a million little ways, I was not good enough.
“You know what? I think we learned something really, really important,” I began. “We learned how we deserved to be treated.”
We did. We learned to not settle, to believe we were special and worthy and to be ourselves. We learned, as I think any woman who survives a divorce or failed relationship, that we were stronger and we would go on – I know I learned every lyric to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” during the year following my divorce.
And most importantly, we learned how we didn’t want to be treated ever again and exactly how we should be.
It has been over 12 years since my divorce was final. Mama still mentions the ex every now and then. I usually tell her that I don’t know what he is doing other than what Granny would snoop and find out but that had been years ago.
“You don’t miss him, do you?” she asked me once.
I thought of how one day after our divorce, I had found a stack of letters from him when we were dating and I sat in the floor of my apartment and cried. Not for him, but for the promise that was supposed to be that died.
“No, I don’t,” I said. I didn’t and I don’t.
But in some odd way, I was thankful for him. As crazy as it sounds, I was thankful because by him telling what I wasn’t and never would be, I had found exactly who I was.