The D-Word and the F-Word

I’ve been pretty quiet on here since my divorce in June. It’s certainly not because I haven’t had anything to write about; to the contrary, I could have published a litany of posts about marriage, relationships, and divorce, but I’m glad I didn’t because my thoughts and experiences were so jumbled by depression and stress and uncertainty that my thoughts not only wouldn’t have been coherent but would’ve been fairly cynical too. Now, I’m finally staring to feel better. Not better as in “Everything is fine!” but better as in “I don’t want to kill myself anymore!” I’m kinda like the dog in that GIF:

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Which is way better than I used to be, so I’ll take it!

Here is part one of my post-divorce thoughts, which I’ve entitled “The D-Word and the F-Word.”

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Whenever I tell people I got divorced, their faces contort into sorrow and they moan, “I’m soooo soooorry!” Then I’m immediately placed in the awkward position where I either 1) have to find the energy to smile and happily reassure them that I’m fine, or 2) if I don’t have the energy to do #1, just shrug it off. By this point I’m used to the constant outpouring of sympathy, and I’ve been through enough therapy that I genuinely am feeling good about myself, so I’m a little jaded by the Pity Train that starts chugging my way every time someone notices that my ring finger is conspicuously bare.

I’ve recently been given a new position at work that I’m really excited about. I was introduced to a new colleague I’d be working with last week, and when she asked if I was married and had a family, I responded, “No, I actually got divorced this summer.” I braced myself for the oncoming onslaught of simpering platitudes. But instead, she replied,

“Congratulations!”

I literally hugged her. Finally, an appropriate response to what I had been through! “Well,” she told me, a little flustered, “Either you decided to leave him, and in that case, it was the best decision for you. Or, he left you, which in that case, it’s his loss and now you can be with someone who deserves you! In both scenarios it was for the best.”

YES!!! So much yes!

Don’t get me wrong…getting divorced is hard. It is painful. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through in my life. However, being divorced is great! Not necessarily “wake-up-every-morning-with-a-smile-on-your-face” great, but “wake-up-every-morning-and-even-if-I’ve-been-crying-all-night-I-can-pull-myself-together-and-get-through-the-day-knowing-I-have-made-the-choices-necessary-to-eventually-obtain-happiness” great. Just as my colleague said, whenever anyone makes the decision to part ways, it is never taken lightly and is always a result of serious deliberation over what is in the couple’s best interest.

In my case, Scott and I had developed different life goals and values throughout the course of our marriage. The things we each wanted out of life in 2018 were very different than what we wanted when we got married in 2015. There was no way to reconcile or compromise on the things we differed on, and we would have resented each other had we stayed together. Whatever pain we felt immediately after the split pales in comparison to the unhappiness we would have experienced as an incompatible couple later in life.

So, it kind of annoys me that the D-word–“divorce”–is so stigmatized in today’s society. It is associated with another dirty word, the F-word: “failure.” You got divorced, so your marriage failed. You failed to be a good wife. When I tell people that I’m now single, I am haunted by those stigmas. But the thing is, I honestly don’t believe that’s true! I could’ve done a lot of things differently in my marriage, I regret the way that I handled (or didn’t handle) certain issues, and I sure as hell could’ve been a “better” wife by some definitions, but I DO NOT feel like a failure. In fact, because of what I’ve experienced this summer, I actually feel like I’m a good person for the first time in my life. Flawed, yes, but ultimately good; the kind of nuanced flux of goodness and weakness just like most other people in the world.

My close friends already know this; I genuinely thought I was a bad person all my life because I did not “measure up” in so many ways. It’s interesting that going through something that society labels as “BAD” made me see how absurd that belief was.

Divorce is rough. I’m lucky that we didn’t have kids or pets together, that our shared assets were minimal, and that Scott was cooperative throughout the process. But it was still rough. I’m not trying to minimize the pain any divorced person experiences in any way. However, I do think we as individuals and society at large can start to distance ourselves from conflating divorce with failure.

I used to believe that “Everything happens for a reason.” Now, I’m not so sure. My approach to life these days is more like “Shit happens,” and that’s been incredibly liberating. Instead of constantly searching for a cosmic reason for my suffering, I can just deal with it head on. Marriages aren’t always great. People get divorced. Shit happens. It’s your choice whether to gripe about how people don’t stay married anymore, or you can realize that the reason people stayed married in the past was because women actually had no rights, and try to understand that just because others make different decisions than you doesn’t mean they are wrong or bad. Just a thought.

Yes, I got divorced. Stop feeling sorry for me; I’m not a failure!

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Dealbreakers

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Nope. Just, nope.

A few months in to our relationship, Scott and I were walking to his car in a parking lot. We passed one of those Volkswagen beetles with the eyelashes above the headlights. Scott stopped in his tracks, turned to me, and said gravely, “If I found out that you had a car with eyelashes on it, I would dump you. Seriously. Dealbreaker.”

I laughed about it, but as we continued dating and even into our engagement and our marriage, we learned things about each other that were shocking and made us question the foundation of our relationship. Things like:

  • not loving Lord of the Rings enough
  • thinking Emma Stone is overrated
  • liking LL Cool J more than Jamie Foxx
  • liking Parks & Rec more than 30 Rock
  • thinking that raspberry jam is better than strawberry
  • drinking Diet Coke at 8:30 AM
  • loving Larry Fitzgerald too much
  • hating Larry Fitzgerald because your husband loves him more than you
  • not remembering the names of all Game of Thrones characters
  • knowing “too much” about Game of Thrones
  • never using lotion
  • hogging the covers
  • having too many shoes
  • bugging me about having too many shoes
  • avoiding emptying the dishwasher
  • avoiding emptying the dishwasher

(In case you’re curious, Scott’s atrocities are in pink and mine are in blue, because DISMANTLE THE PATRIARCHY!)

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The best show ever…WAY BETTER THAN PARKS & REC

Despite us screaming, “DEALBREAKER!” as we discovered these troubling beliefs and habits, obviously, none of these things are a big deal. So why do so many people–both in real life and in the media–end relationships over these petty “dealbreakers”? I once had a friend who broke up with a guy because she “couldn’t picture him playing football with their kids.” I just watched an episode of a TV show where a guy broke up with an otherwise completely unobjectionable girl because she used a different type of coding software than he did. WTF? No wonder the divorce rate is 50%.

Before I got married, I just kind of assumed that I would meet someone that I have things in common with, and since we liked the same things we’d like being around each other and then we’d stay together. I dated several people before meeting my husband and eventually one of us would end it for one reason or another, but I never really thought about why. Was it really because he didn’t like Billy Madison? Or because he was too short? Or because he had a dumb tattoo? No…there were deeper issues going on in all those relationships that caused them to end.

Ever since my decision to get married, I started thinking about what my actual dealbreakers would be. Things I could not see past in a partner. Things that Scott did not possess to any degree, which is why I married him:

  • believing that women are not equal to men
  • insecure about masculinity; tendency to be irrationally possessive or jealous
  • not supporting me in my career or education
  • wanting kids right away
  • wanting a ton of kids
  • being anti-religion
  • being over-religious
  • abusive in any way
  • dependence on drugs and/or alcohol
  • infidelity

Honestly, that was all I could think of. Anything else I could probably deal with. And when looking at the reasons I ended some of my past relationships: distance, timing, “I really need to focus on school,” participating in Occupy Wall Street, or possible gingivitis, it’s really because they showed signs of one of these actual dealbreakers above.

I think we expect all too much from our partners. One of these irrational expectations is that they will enjoy all the same things we enjoy or share the same opinions on entertainment, politics, family, you name it. Anyone who expects this from their partner may be very disappointed. I fully expect to spend the rest of my life watching Lord of the Rings while my husband rolls his eyes on the couch next to me, and he will watch Arizona Cardinals games while I loudly object to all the nice things he says about Larry Fitzgerald. But we chose each other not because of our jam preferences or opinions on NBC comedies, we chose each other because we measured up to the list that really matters.

Now this is the part where you say “Aaaaawwwwwwwwww!”

I Miss Being Single…Kind Of.

 

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I couldn’t help myself.

This is my first Valentine’s Day as a married person. However, Scott and I aren’t doing anything because 1) I’m about to get on a plane from Oakland to Houston for a business trip and 2) I normally don’t make a fuss about Valentine’s Day anyway, regardless of if I’m in a relationship or not. I know that I’m loved, and while I appreciate gifts and gestures from the many loved ones in my life, I find this holiday to be contrived and tacky. [Insert grumpy rant here]

However, on this day commemorating unrealistic expectations based on outdated gender roles romantic love, it does have me thinking a lot about the new committed relationship I’ve entered into and how my life has changed because of it. The thing is–and many people who are close to me already know this–I used to love being single. Not in the classic “boy-crazy” way that some people are, but I liked talking about guys, texting them, flirting, going on dates, meeting people at bars and parties, etc. I never had many serious relationships, though, and the few that I did were disasters, which only solidified my position on romance. While some people balk at the idea of being “alone” and crave constant affection and companionship, I was quite the opposite. I enjoyed my freedom and independence and relished my solo status.

Scott was very much the same way, and we met during a perfect storm in both of our lives. We had both reached a point where we started to consider settling down–after I had had my fill of adventure (and a whole lot of other crap–no pun intended) in the Peace Corps and he graduated from law school and got a full-time job as an attorney–and that’s obviously exactly what happened. It happened quickly by almost any standard, and friends will often ask me, “Isn’t it crazy that you’re married now?!” But my honest answer is, “No, not really.” The progression of our relationship, to me, felt totally natural, which I guess is an indication that it’s a good relationship. But there are some moments, like when a friend and I are reminiscing about people we used to date, that I’m like: “Wait…that part of my life is over now.”

Sometimes I contemplate whether or not I “miss” being single. And the answer is about 25% yes and 75% no. Yes, being in a long-term relationship doesn’t always include the butterflies in the pit of your stomach, the “rush” of pursuing someone you like, the exciting possibilities when you enter a crowded room on a Saturday night. There’s a lot of arguments over stupid things, conversations that go like: “Where do you wanna eat tonight?” “I dunno,” and spending time with one another’s farts.

But at the same time, I look back on my years spent reveling in the dating world and remember all the things that TOTALLY SUCKED about dating. I hated not knowing how the guy felt about me. I hated not getting my texts returned, and I hated getting texts from people I didn’t like and brainstorming how to go about turning them down. I hated the process of opening up, being vulnerable, and running the risk of being rejected because he didn’t like what I had to share. Dating, while it can be fun, is also doubly miserable.

When I first started dating Scott, I was shocked by how forward he was. He asked me on pre-planned, specific dates. He texted me every day, and it wasn’t after midnight when he was drunk. He sat by me in public and wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me. In fact, he even seemed to be proud to be dating me. And he had a future with me in mind. It’s pretty sad that this behavior was surprising to me, but that’s the world we live in. It’s remarkable how much shoddy treatment I put up with as a single person. I wish I had had higher standards for myself, but it’s so easy to say that in hindsight.

I like being in a relationship, and I never thought I’d say that. I like having a husband, or as I call him, a “life buddy.” He’s someone that I can go through everything with together. When I was single I was always afraid of losing my freedom, but it doesn’t really feel that way at all. I feel perfectly free when I’m with my husband. I guess you just have to meet the right person to make it all worth it.

But in case you were wondering, single people, Valentine’s Day doesn’t suck any less as a married person.