“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and … they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.” – Louis C.K.
I got married a year ago. I’m not married anymore. It’s excellent.
What wasn’t so excellent was the time leading up to my decision when things just didn’t feel right. I’d been with my ex husband for over five years, even if we weren’t married for very long. I’d tried everything in my power to “make it work,” but every day I felt isolated, miserable, and trapped.
My therapist told me after I’d started to struggle again following years of stability: “there’s something in you I just can’t reach,” because I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the whole story of what was happening in my life. I was ashamed.
My ex-husband and I had a contract on a new house, but the closing date got moved forward. When this happened, I thought about what my life would look like in that house, with that person, day after day, and I finally started to see the bigger picture. I’d wanted to find a new home in another state for years, but up until that moment, I felt resigned to my fate. If I was going to spend my life with this person, I’d have to compromise. What I didn’t realize was happening is that I’d been compromising so much for so many years that I was no longer the main character in my own life story.
I saw all of the pieces of my identity annexed away bit by bit over the course of nearly six years. My early twenties were one big string of apologies for taking up space. I’d try to speak up, but I was always shut down. Every single day, I felt powerless. Every weekday, when he came to pick me up, I felt a heavy sense of dread. Why do I feel this way? Is this just my anxiety? I used to be so happy.
In the aftermath, my friends would tell me of the house I shared with my ex-husband: “There was no sign of you in that house.”
I didn’t know what red flags looked like, so I found myself either ignoring or justifying certain behaviors.
“But he was always so kind to me when other people were around. And he was so nice when we first started dating. Maybe he’s just having a hard time. Maybe this is my fault somehow.”
“It’s weird that he’s admitted to trying to ‘train’ me out of my anxiety without my consent, but it’s possible he’s just trying to help. Maybe if I tell him it’s only making things worse, he’ll listen.”
“He’s only so controlling because he’s afraid to lose me.”
And he did. And things have never been better.
Getting divorced was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I recognize that speaking up for myself and realizing that I deserve to be with someone who treats me with respect isn’t selfish, it’s self-care. And now, I have the confidence to tell anyone who feels otherwise to fuck right off. After spending years giving away all of myself – my space, my aspirations, my time – to someone else’s demands, I’ve earned it.
A year and a divorce later, I don’t even hate the institution of marriage. On a personal level, I don’t think having marriage as a goal is necessary for a loving relationship, but if you want to get and stay married, go for it! Want to move to another country for a while? Hell. Yes. Want to date that person you think is awesome? Do it. If you want to leave that person who makes you feel stifled or unhappy? Also do that. Sometimes, you’ll fuck up (look at me!), but taking risks is more conducive to personal growth than sitting around wondering “what if I did that thing? It sounded cool but also terrifying?” and as a person with anxiety, I’m all too acquainted with those two words and how they often end up hurting worse than trying something and failing.
Making the decision to get divorced and move halfway across the country within the span of a month probably came off as impulsive to many of the people around me. I was leaving my partner of more than five years, my dog Trudy (honestly the hardest part), the comfort of my parents’ hospitality, and a satisfying job that helped me pay off my student loans. But I’d known a major change was in the works for months, even if I wasn’t sure where that change would take me. I’m an expert at hiding what’s going on upstairs when I’m still working things out, sometimes to my detriment. But the people who knew me best knew I’d land on my feet, even if the landing wasn’t pretty and I flailed a little on the way down.
And here I am.