When Getting Divorced Isn’t Terrible
Ok. So. Divorce.
I had one last year. Which is maybe a strange way to put it, because it’s not like having the flu or having COVID, which I also had last year. It’s a thing that stretches backwards and forwards from the moment it’s official. It can’t be pinned down to a series of days or specific symptoms.
It stretches backwards, in that the fog starts to clear on the pathway that led the two of you to that moment. It goes forwards, in that the path that leads away from that moment is quite different than the one you imagined you were on. There’s a different collection of people on it. A different amount of money. A different living arrangement.
And the moment itself is so… quiet. It’s clicking “yes” to put your e-signature on a document and then texting your former partner a cheers emoji. It’s reading books to your child that evening the way you always do and wrangling them back to bed an hour after bedtime like you always do. It’s watering a plant and wondering if it’s your plant or his plant. “Who bought this plant?” you think. “Should we have been keeping track of who bought this plant?”
It’s not a ceremony. It’s a slow pitter patter through spreadsheets and assets and schedules and then a soft little sigh.
As far as divorces go, ours was easy. It was respectful and straightforward and free of drama. Much like our marriage, in all honesty.
This is difficult to explain to people. These things should be hard. “Well. Other things were hard,” I say. And people nod politely.
Someone asked me once how I felt about having a failed marriage. Did I feel like a failure? It wasn’t a mean question. It was a curious question. But it had never occurred to me that our marriage had failed. It was successful and then it ended.
Can a successful marriage end in divorce? In my case, we released ourselves from our legal contract before we were angry and resentful. We took care of ourselves so that we could take care of our child. Together, but in separate houses. The same combination of care and emotional independence that was present in our marriage is now present in our divorce.
Things aren’t perfect. But they’re very good.
I travel around the bed at night sometimes. I find myself sleeping across it the wide way or in a diagonal or with a limb trapped partially under my cat. When I wake up and realize that I’ve traveled, I feel distantly curious about it. Was I dreaming? Have I always traveled but maybe I held myself in place with the barrier of another human body? Sometimes on my “parent nights” I wake up and my son has crawled into bed with me and lodged his feet into my stomach, where it’s warm and soft. It’s both comforting and annoying.
I ask myself periodically if I’m lonely. Like, “Really, how are you?” And the answer keeps coming back that I’m good. I’m settled. I’m grounded. My child is settled and grounded. I’m still vaguely salty that I had to relinquish my retirement account and the nice car. But that salt will dissolve. What’s left is the feeling that we did the right thing.
I would call that success.
Me and the afore-mentioned cat