I'm Not My Marital Status

Home Jan 14, 2017 No Comments


I’m just like you. I really am. But upon learning I am divorced, please don’t mischaracterize me or determine that I am any different than you. Our value systems are not worlds apart– even though one of us might be married and the other divorced. We are of the same species, still.

I have learned over the past few years it is a common misconception that, because one’s marriage ended, the parties involved must lack the ability or willingness to hold a commitment. That they didn’t step it up. The broad generalization of who divorcees are, at times, supersedes the very specific, individualized circumstances which led to the divorce. Yes, I did get divorced. My marriage did not play out as I had hoped or planned and its ending is the exact opposite as I would have wished at the time. The demise of my marriage and subsequent rebuilding of my unforeseen, new life wreaked havoc on me for a while. Every part of the process was traumatic. Just like that, in a minor but cruel reminder of my new status, the box I was to check on forms changed from ‘married’ to ‘divorced’. And so my place in society– in some instances– appeared to have shifted as well.

Divorce is an unpleasant life change, a death that is to be mourned. The concept of divorce, and anyone directly touching it, can be dark and intimidating to those whose own marriage isn’t on solid ground. As I found after my marriage ended, the idea of divorce can hit too close to home to some; labeling those who actually go through with it as having made poor choices or as being somewhat damaged. But, as a divorced woman, I’m still the same person with the same heart, soul, and values that I was when I was still married.

Divorce is not commentary on one’s values or morals. Assumptions should not be made about those unfortunate enough to be involved in it.
Being divorced also doesn’t equate to a lack of appreciation for marriage. I hold marriage in the highest regard and admire couples–such as my parents–who are with their best friend devotedly and lovingly until the very end.

If I could emphasize anything, it is this: My divorce status doesn’t mean I didn’t try – really, really hard–in my marriage. It doesn’t mean I gave up.  It doesn’t mean I’m a lazy partner.  It doesn’t mean I’m not strong. It doesn’t mean I am untrustworthy or lacking in commitment.  It doesn’t mean I don’t respect the institution of marriage and, oftentimes accompanied by it, an intact family with children. It doesn’t mean I have lower standards than those whose marriages have remained in place. Divorce doesn’t distinguish the ethical people from the non-ethical. The person I am and the values I hold close have nothing to do with the fact that my marriage came to an abrupt end. I am a completely separate entity from the act of divorce.

There is no correlation between my marital status changing and me, as a person, changing.

Some might counter with, “But you do change after a divorce, it’s inevitable”. Yes, true. But the changes are not related to the core of who I am–  the changes are in my perspective.  I have gained immense amounts of wisdom. I have learned from mistakes. My self-awareness has increased and I am always open to improvement. I can now recognize with wide open eyes what is important to me in a partner and what is required from both to keep a relationship healthy. I’ve grown. I’ve matured.  But who I am–my DNA, personality, values, interests, strengths, weaknesses–those things remained intact and are not any different post-divorce as they were pre-marriage or during my marriage.
It’s surprising to me–given that almost half of marriages end by the hand of one or both participants before ‘death do us part’ arrives–how much stock society places in a person based on their marital status. The stigma attached to divorce is still alive and well.  And admittedly, for years I was part of the problem. After my divorce, I viewed myself in the unfavorable light of “single, divorced mom”. I drank the Kool-Aid and believed that I was no longer in the “better” category– that of the marrieds.  It took me years–years that I now see I wasted–to recognize that my place in society, my worth, is completely separate from what happened between my husband and me. Well-meaning people often place divorcees into a different category once learning of their no-longer-married state. It’s akin to a smaller-level caste system. The marrieds and the divorced. Yet it isn’t black or white. The marrieds and the divorced are comingled–there isn’t a difference in the participants themselves. There are good and bad in each group. Only their circumstances are different.
I have discovered so much during these post-divorce years. How even a bad marriage, to some, is viewed more favorably than a healthy, necessary divorce.

And I’ve been further educated through my close girlfriends. Their varied situations are as unique as my friends themselves. One friend, divorced five years now, has said on more than one occasion that meeting new people at social events or work is often awkward because “it’s so embarrassing being divorced, having to tell people that. I always notice a discomfort enters the conversation”. Another very close friend appears to society to be doing what she is supposed to:  married, three terrific kids, frequent travel, beautiful home, successful careers, great social life and lots of family activities. However, my heart aches for her as she is absolutely miserable. She and her husband are struggling and just on the edge of going their separate ways. But this is not known to most, so what she has–a legally intact marriage– is societally considered more acceptable than that of a divorced status, even though every day for her is harder than the next.  And yet a third friend, married over twenty years, has a beautiful union with her husband. They have two kids and are genuinely happy. Of course, like all couples, they face bumps and trials, but they have a healthy, mature relationship and enjoy one another immensely. I have good friends in second marriages who are thriving and living happily in wonderful, loving relationships like they never could have predicted years ago. Some of my other friends are in authentic, fulfilling decades-long marriages. And yet others are in disappointing marriages in which they feel they have settled but have decided to stay, despite their indifference or even contempt toward their husband.

The spectrum is a wide one… with no absolutes in any area. The proverbial space behind closed doors– to which no one on the outside is privy–  is meaningful and real. None of us has any idea as to one’s values, choices, morals, or character–married status or not.

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