In the past, I was definitely guilty of proud thinking. Maybe I still am, however on the score of divorce, I have been well and truly humbled.
I used to find it a mystery how two people, once unbelievably close, could dislike each other so much that they get divorced. I used to wonder how people could date when they weren’t yet divorced.
I am fortunate neither myself nor my ex-husband hate one another, and are pretty amicable most of the time (even if you’re madly in love with someone they can really annoy you from time to time, so I figure it’s ok in this scenario too).
But now I get it much more. Once someone doesn’t want to be with you, there’s not a lot else you can do but let go. This year has been a lesson in letting go and stepping forward.
I think it’s fair to say that the decision to divorce was one of the absolute worst experiences of my life. As we had been separated for quite some time, there was an element of relief to a definite decision. But that did not detract from the immense pain.
The relief was a somewhat guilt laden feeling. I didn’t want to be divorced from the man I’d committed to spend my life with, equally I couldn’t continue to live in limbo wondering what would happen next. It was his decision, and with a heavy heart I agreed.
We had been through this decision before, then had attempted, with varied commitment, to resolve everything happily, and the first time we had this conversation at the end of December 2012 was one of the worst days in my life. I have never felt like my heart was breaking more than at that time. There is an actual physical pain that accompanies the words that is crippling. I remember sitting on the living room floor, sobbing my heart out, surrounded by a few incredibly close friends who, regardless of their own New Year plans, were going to be with me to keep me going. If I could put into words the pure agony, an absolute emptiness in your stomach and suffocation of your throat, I would consider myself a talented writer. The best description I can give you is that it feels like the heart is keening, a prolonged, grief-laden wail that comes out of the deepest despair. If my heart could have cried tears it would have done so.
I was dreading this. As it’s been amicable and fairly gracious, I think I am incredibly fortunate. We decided not to use a solicitor as there was nothing to haggle over, in fact, everything that needed to be exchanged already had been.
The initial filling in was like being kicked in the stomach. There’s nothing that can quite prepare you for seeing the end of your marriage being reduced to cold, hard facts, devoid of emotion, to persuade a judge you don’t have to be married anymore. There’s a word allowance and five reasons to chose from: please include dates and specifics. That was probably the part that made me cry the most. There’s no room to describe how you were once entranced, deliriously happy, and to detail all of the brilliant moments before unhappiness arrived.
We kept each other informed, via awkward messages. There’s no good way to phrase or reply to a message sharing that you’ve sent the next stage back to the court. In our case it would’ve been quicker to just send the whole lot through and have us sign the pile at the start, but that’s not how it works.
The process takes an age. At different stages I had different emotions, the first form and the decree nisi (the point where it’s all but rubber stamped) were the hardest hitting for me. By the time the absolute (the end of our marriage) came around, I was steeled for it, and with a few hugs from my colleagues got on with the day – a far cry from how I was at the start. I realise now, it’s not callous to feel that way, it’s inevitable.
The pivotal point during this year for me, came one afternoon around Easter 2014 when my ex-husband had come round to discuss something, or to exchange post – I no longer remember (which is progress!). As I looked at him I realised that I just no longer felt the same. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him still, or care, but it wasn’t that same feeling. It was a mix again of relief and guilt. The same way that the intensity of feeling changes as a relationship develops, after a break up the feelings must diminish.
Chatting life over with one of my closest friends a few months after, she said of this time, “When you said to me he’d come over and you realised you just didn’t feel the same anymore, that was the moment I knew you would be okay.”.
I think that’s probably when I realised it too.
The Moving On
The new job has definitely helped. To have stayed in the same place, doing the same thing would have felt stagnant for me. Being in a new place with new people who only know the single me is a release. I don’t know what’s round the corner, which while mildly terrifying, is also incredibly exciting. There’s actually some men where I work now too.
I made a decision not to date until I was definitely divorced, inspired by a conversation with a friend. I wanted to enjoy being me, find out who I was, and definitely not hurt someone else by moving on too soon. Now, I’m looking forward to one day having that excitement of a new relationship which I never expected to experience again…every cloud…
Rediscovering me has been a lot of fun. I’m as happy on a night in playing cards and chatting with a cuppa as I am putting on my dancing shoes and drinking a cocktail. My former husband didn’t love it when I danced in my chair at restaurants…I try not to go overboard, but I love to dance so now I do, even sat in chairs. I do things spontaneously; I listen to my own music choices, a big deal for me; I’ve revamped the living room entirely to my tastes.
One year on
So one year on, the pain of divorce has mostly faded. It’s definitely been a year of two halves, hurting, then hopeful. I’ve got through Christmas, birthdays, weddings, every single anniversary, event and experience without falling apart. On what would have been our 12 year dating anniversary, I didn’t even realise until the afternoon. One day maybe it will pass by without me noticing. I don’t even remember the last time I cried.
I understand now how it’s possible to fall out of love with your ex-spouse; if you let it happen, it somehow just happens. I understand why people want to date when they’re not divorced; I’d reached the point where I’d moved on long before the papers came through. I hope, humbly, I’m more understanding now. I’m certainly happier, more content, and ready to enjoy life again, and I hope more gracious with it.