Today is a milestone for me. A milestone built of heartache and love, release and pain. Today, after a much too long road, my divorce is final.
I am no longer tied to the man who was the center of years of anguish. I no longer have a legal bond to the man who broke a deep-rooted trust I thought we shared. I am free of this shadow always looming over my shoulder, heavy and dark.
But, with this day I am also no longer united with the man to whom I gave my heart more than 20 years ago. The rings that once symbolized a partnership I held dear sit in a dark corner of a jewelry box. My finger still feels cold where they no longer wrap me in reminders. I used to play with my rings often when I was thinking – of every joy and struggle we endured together. I would trace them with my right hand when I thought of our first trip to Niagara Falls (my first since age 2), the special dinner he took me to, the walks through the park. I would flick them with my left thumb when struggling with a discussion we didn’t have or when I realized I’d pushed my feelings aside again for his sake.
I remember our struggles; from before we were married to our last day sharing a home. Job changes, illness, depression, frustration – I was by his side for all of it. Miscarriages, disappointments, new jobs, despair – he was nearby for each of them. We shared a life full of highs and lows. He was my partner – a partner I believed I would have for the rest of my days.
And now a court has decided it is right to effectively erase all of it. It comes at a price.
There is a sense of freedom to no longer be tethered to a relationship that was dissolved a decade ago when we separated. And, truly, the healthy relationship was lost much before that point. We have lived very separate lives in this time apart, generally staying out of each other’s activities. We are, however, forever linked by our son. Although I hesitate to use the word ‘fortunate’ when talking about a relationship falling apart, that is exactly what I feel in regard to our son. Through this long, emotional process we have both chosen to try to keep our son first in our minds. There were no harsh words spoken about each other in the presence of our son. Though we may parent differently, we have allowed each other to cultivate our own relationship with our son as he’s grown. There have been very few arguments over visitation changes (and always away from our son). If ever there were truly such a thing as an amicable divorce, I think we’ve come fairly close.
This is not to say there hasn’t been anger, frustration and heartache through this process. While we were still married and enduring some big issues, anger was my closest companion for the better part of 2 years. Confusion and disbelief kept me company often. Defeat and sadness fueled my voice to say ‘this must end.’ The 9 months immediately after he left were rich with doubt, regret, hesitation, fear, worry and a sadness that stole the very light from my heart. From childhood my deepest dream was to be a wife and mother. I didn’t ache for a career or adventures. I wanted to care for my family. I finally had a version of that. It looked a little different than I had imagined as a child. It took a bit longer to achieve than I’d hoped. But it was finally mine. I also had a good education and a fulfilling career, but more important to me – I had the family I’d always wanted. And in what seemed to be the blink of an eye, it was gone. I would sit in my living room by moonlight and wonder how I ended up here – as a single mom. I was certain I was not cut out to handle this. When my son was young and struggled through childhood discoveries, there were many days that ended in my own breakdowns. It is not a journey I would wish on anyone, but it’s one we had to take.
We got married as summer was changing to fall, on the upper deck of a boat. A tropical storm had raged through the area the day before causing damage throughout the region. Even the morning of our wedding day the skies were eerie. By the time we were to be united that evening, the clouds rolled away, the sun shone brightly, and a rainbow appeared over the waters behind us. A light breeze kept the sun from getting too hot. It was a beautiful day. Everything felt right. I had no doubts, only happiness and calm. I was marrying my best friend, after all.
I still don’t understand how we got from that place of peace to a cavern of silence and isolation so quickly. I don’t know how we went from walks in the park and dinners out to never leaving home and eating separately. I don’t know how we went from enjoying things together to doing so much apart. I still don’t know how I found the strength to say to him “I’m not happy.” Or how I ever breathed again when he gave no response.
We lived a long time in a house of tension. I wanted change and effort. He wanted peace and quiet. I sought togetherness, he looked for ways to keep to himself. We had grown with each other for 10 years. Now we were growing apart. And when the trust was broken, no matter how much I believed I wanted to work things out, to hold onto my family, I realized that it would never be the same. I had been hurt too deeply to ever feel the same way about him. I looked at him – this man to whom I’d pledged my life, with whom I’d had a child – and I saw a stranger.
Here we are, so many years later, taking this final step in our journey as man and wife (although our journey as parents will continue). I am relieved to have some closure to this chapter, but I am sad for all it means I’ve lost. Though I do not regret our decision to part, my heart truly and deeply aches at this ultimate dissolution of the love I vowed for a lifetime. That lifetime has ended.
This milestone is a good thing for us. But there was too much heartache to get here. It is one I cannot truly celebrate.
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