DIVORCE IS NOT FAILURE

There’s a reason for my recent bout of lows: I am finalising my divorce. I do know that many people would read that and think to themselves oh right well yes divorces are hard things to go through, is it any wonder she has recently crumbled. But the question I am asking myself more and more is why. Why exactly have I reacted the way I have? A divorce is fundamentally little more than a stupidly expensive document declaring that we are no longer married. And a marriage is fundamentally little more, evidently, than a (retractable) document legally binding you to someone else, which is really a load of nonsense in itself. I probably sound bitter and resentful, but I’m genuinely not; I am genuinely asking what the damn point of it all was, and, if there was no point, then why a divorce would cause so much upset.

I’ve been asking myself recently why I got married in the first place and regrettably the truth is not the happiest or best reason there is. My ex proposed to me during a particularly vulnerable time in my life, when I was going through withdrawal from prescription drugs and felt isolated and insecure. I needed someone to want to care for me in that way and honestly I think I may have said yes to almost anyone at the time. This is not to say that I did not love him, because I did. But on reflection, the cracks were already there before he even proposed. I was just choosing to ignore them because what I really needed at the time was the hope of a happy ending. Sometimes I wonder if he proposed to me out of a sense of guilt because he wasn’t, and this is something that he himself openly admits to, the most supportive of partners during that time. The proposal gave us both some hope: the hope of a happy ending for me, the hope of atonement for him. The ironic truth is that it resulted in the total opposite for both of us.

My wedding day was a very small affair. Immediate family and a few close friends at the local registry office followed by a lunch. I wore a pair of old Dr Martens boots, the laces swapped with green ribbons, an ivory knee length tutu with a large black belt, a green silk sleeveless shirt tucked in, and a denim jacket. I looked happy in the photos but on the day I felt like a fraud. I didn’t feel secure in my relationship, I didn’t trust the man that I was marrying, and I think deep down inside I knew even on that day that things were not as they should be but I pushed those thoughts aside. I needed this and I would make it work. I let myself believe that something about being married would fix what was wrong. I can say with absolute honesty that, despite knowing things were not perfect between us at the time, I meant my vows and I fully intended to devote the rest of my life to making this marriage work.

I couldn’t make it work. We had a lack of trust due to lies from the start. We had the insecurity cycle that follows. We had blame. We had resentment from him having to give things up for me when I got unwell, resentment from me at his resentment. We had barriers, miscommunication, interruptions, and within no time we existed on separate sides of a huge wall, him walking away from it, me screaming at the wall in a bid to get through to him on the either side but losing him more the louder I shouted, which only made me shout louder and lose him more. There was no team work. There was no us against the world. There was no unity, no bond, no affection, no intimacy, no connection, no us. It was him vs me on all things. I didn’t have a three year relationship; I had a three year argument about a relationship that never really happened. We are polar opposites. I crave the physical touch of another person. I love intimacy, affection. I’m playful and loving and like to care for and support someone. My heart is on my sleeve and I talk and listen and want the closeness. My ex is emotionally withdrawn, silent, incommunicative, exists behind a barrier of self-defence. He is a solitary creature and will retreat at the first signs of hardship and continue to do so. My needs and his needs were too at odds with each other to ever resolve it. I needed to feel his love, he needed to not show any love at all. Neither one of us could give up that need, and this is how it went until our son was nine months old.

There is so much here that I haven’t mentioned because I cannot bring myself to mention it. I may do, one day, but it is not for this blog entry. Suffice to say that I did not take the decision to walk out of this marriage easily. But among the unmentionables, there are only so many times you can hear someone say that they cannot love you, that they never will love you and don’t want to touch you. There comes a point where you have to look at your life and recognise it for the one life you have and truly ask yourself if this situation is ever going to change and if it is making you happy. If the answer to both of those are no, there comes a point where you have to find the self love and the self respect to walk away, even from marriage vows. And here is the thing: it is no different to any break up before that wasn’t a marriage. This really is what I was intending to talk about.

We separated two years ago. Our divorce is now being finalised and I have collapsed despite being fine until now. Why? The only conclusion I can come to is pressures and expectations about marriage placed on us by society. Marriage is meant to last. We are not meant to get divorced. But this is bollocks. We need only look around us to see that marriages often don’t work and divorces do happen, and this is OK. Actually it renders the whole notion of marriage ridiculous. If divorce is so common then why are we getting married at all? It isn’t divorce that’s the problem, if you ask me; it’s marriage. Sure, get married if you want to. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that somehow this piece of paper will make your emotional bond stronger, because it just won’t. Marriage doesn’t fix something that was broken, marriage doesn’t add something to a relationship that wasn’t there before, and marriage definitely doesn’t guarantee a lasting relationship. So perhaps if we remove all these pressures from marriage and see it for the potentially temporary thing that it is, maybe divorces won’t be quite so traumatic.

All divorce means is that the relationship didn’t work. I had a few relationships before I got married that didn’t work. I don’t dwell on them and think of myself as a failure, and this should be no different. My divorce document isn’t, as someone recently pointed out, a certificate of failure, but a document merely stating that this relationship did not work and it is time to move on. If anything, I should see the divorce document as representative of something to be proud of because, despite my hopes for a happy ending, despite how insecure I was, and despite how much I desperately needed this to work, I have found the self respect and strength to know what is not good for me personally and to walk away. And that is success.

I want to follow this up in a separate blog entry about my view on the redundancy of marriage, because I think there is a lot more to say on that. I think, as a society, we need to drastically shift our views about it for the reasons above and others. But for now I think I can end here saying that I finally fully accept my divorce because, not only has nothing changed this week from the previous years, but it is just that: a divorce. I’m sorry if my demeaning marriage to just a piece of paper upsets anyone, but that really is all it is. And, by the same token, that is all my divorce is, a piece of paper stating some changed information. Nothing to cry about, and definitely not a failure.

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