1) “Getting to Know You” Conversations Can Become Awkward
“So, what brought you to Atlanta?”
I hate it when I get that question. Because the true answer is, “My ex-husband’s job.” But I don’t always want to go there, especially in a professional setting. So sometimes this perfectly innocuous question leads to conversational gymnastics to try to avoid the more salacious aspects of my life. And that’s not the only potentially tricky question. Once you’ve been married to somebody, your life stories intertwine and it can be difficult to tell yours without including unwanted information about your former spouse.
2) You Find Yourself Referencing Your “Other Life”
Once the divorce is final and in the rear view mirror, it feels like it happened to somebody else. Like that chapter was a whole other life. Even though your friends and family may see a contiguous you, you know otherwise. There was the person before the divorce and the person after. Thus, the “other life.”
3) Some Things Are Still Under Your Former Married Name
Changing your name is no easy feat. And after the emotional and financial upheaval of divorce? It’s almost an impossibility to gather enough energy to do it completely. I still have my old name on my car insurance (only because their demands mean I would have to visit the courthouse for additional documentation) and most of my classroom supplies are branded with the former moniker (When my students inquire about the name, I simply say, “She is a woman I used to know“). And, of course, I still receive credit card offers and advertisements under my old name. I guess they’re not aware she doesn’t exist anymore.
4) Your Blood Pressure Rises When You Have to Indicate “Marital Status” On Some Form
This is the worst while you’re in the process of divorcing: Technically you’re married, but you certainly don’t feel it. You’re not quite divorced yet, and you silently wonder if checking that box will speed up the legal process. You’re not single, but you’re slowly learning to be on your own. Nor are you widowed, although you may wish your spouse was dead. Here’s the box I would like to have placed on intake forms.
5) Weddings Become Bittersweet Events
The first wedding I attended was my cousin’s, two years after my divorce. I sat in the pew, my then-boyfriend now-husband by my side, and I tried to hold back the tears. I was happy for her. Excited for this new chapter in her life. But I was also sad for me, remembering back to the day when I possessed that certainty and unbridled excitement for the future. And I was scared for her. I wanted her happiness to last, untouched by divorce. Weddings are beginnings. And after divorce, you become acutely aware that sometimes they lead to premature endings.
6) You Learn That Missing Someone and Hating Someone Are Not Mutually Exclusive
I used to have dreams that contained intimate and touching moments with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. In the dreams, I felt loved and safe. Upon waking, I felt disgusted and violated. The truth is that no matter how ugly the end was, there will always be some aspects or memories of your former spouse that you will miss. That doesn’t mean you still wouldn’t punch them if given the chance.
7) You Secretly Worry That You Are Defective
Even as you utter platitudes like, “I was for the best” and “I’m happier and stronger now,” you still have that small voice inside that wonders if you are somehow unable to sustain a loving relationship. You become acutely aware of your own shortcomings and your own fears. You worry that the baggage from the divorce will push any new interests away and that you are doomed to relationship purgatory. Fear speaks loudly. But it also lies. Don’t let one person decide your worth.
8) Your Heart Breaks Whenever You Hear That Someone is Facing Divorce
I can spot them now. There’s a certain resolve painted over a face that reveals too many sleepless nights and a look of panic in the eye. And I just want to embrace them. Hold them tightly. Share some of my strength gained from struggle. Convince them that they will be okay. While inside my heart breaks, because I know that before they’re okay, they will endure some of the hardest moments of their life.
9) You Find Books Like, “Eat Pray Love” and “Wild” Both Inspiring and Anger-Inducing
A friend pressed, “Eat Pray Love” into my hand a couple months after my husband pulled his disappearing act. “I think you’ll like this. It’s inspiring and I think you’ll relate.” And on one hand, she was right. I felt hopeful about my chances for moving on from my teary collapsed self. But I was also angry. Defensive. After all, I reasoned, it must be easy to move on when money doesn’t seem to be a concern and you have the ability to simply leave everything behind and travel the world. But it turns out a yoga class can be as effective as a healing tool as a trip to India. And a lot more practical.
10) You Know That You Can Handle Anything
And here’s the ultimate truth. Those of us who have faced the brutal dismantling of one life and the rebuilding of another know our own strength. There’s a confidence that comes from facing divorce and surviving. Embrace it and rather than being ashamed of your status, be proud of your perseverance.