I’ve been divorced for eleven years and have no desire to get over it. Don’t misunderstand — I most certainly have moved on. Getting over a massive loss and moving on from the loss are not one and the same. I’m not in the fetal position on the couch. I have a busy, fulfilling life, am raising two incredible teenage daughters (one living away at college), have found career success after many years as a stay-at-home mom, and am so grateful for my wonderful, priceless friendships. I’m living a good life.
But to me, “getting over the divorce” equates to being okay with it — and to yield to that mindset goes against who I am. The minute I say I’m fine with the fact that our family is no longer a complete entity, I would be disloyal to the person I am, was and meant to be. And that is why I refuse to “be okay” with it.
To ever make such a proclamation — that I am over the fact that my previously intact family became splintered — would make me a fraud.
I married my college sweetheart in 1993 and, like just about everyone else who takes their vows, I had planned on our marriage lasting a lifetime. It ended after ten years. Savoring the highs and sweetness that accompany a family as well as enduring and, together, working through all the inevitable challenges that come with marriage; this is what I had envisioned and had no reason to expect otherwise. The concept of divorce was a foreign one to us; both sets of our parents stayed happily married over forty years (until our respective dads died, one year apart). A united, healthy family unit was our familiarity. The dynamics and institution of divorce were not what either of us had been raised with- divorce was vague and abstract to us both. And I believe it is just that, the concept of divorce being so out of my element, which has contributed to my cemented inability to wrap my head around the fragmentation of my beloved family.
This is not about him. It’s not about the actual divorce itself. It’s about the loss of the family unit which once was whole.
(Out of respect to my former husband as well as our daughters, I’m going to forgo details of the catalyst to our divorce).
When I’ve discussed with friends my decade-long unwillingness to embrace my divorced, single-mom status, the best way I’m able to break it down is this: loyalty. Despite the ridiculousness of that statement — that I am still loyal to a marriage that no longer exists — it’s easier to describe it, rather, as a sense of commitment to the family unit we started together and the lifelong emotional investment accompanying it. Mentally opting out of the role I had once taken on with fervor, even all these years later, would make me feel like a quitter.
Pining away, in denial, not letting go- these are all phrases that, of course, anyone reading this will be tossing my direction. And I definitely can understand why that would be the consensus. But fear not for me, as even though I still lack full acceptance of what took place eleven years ago, my life and happiness have not been stunted by my anti-divorce stance. I am actually very present and relish the many wonderful moments and experiences I have. I’m fortunate to be living a healthy, joyful life and am grateful for all the fantastic people in it with me. Notwithstanding my feelings of loss of my adored family unit, my heart is open and excited to eventually make room for another.
Feelings of mourning for the loss of one’s intact family do not have to be mutually exclusive of an awesome, gratifying future partnership with someone else. When a parent tragically loses a child, the parent can still live a good life, go on to have other children, while still never fully moving far from feelings of loss. Same concept, different level of tragedy.
I know without question that not too far off, once my nest is empty, I will most likely cross paths with a loving man I will spend the rest of my days with and once again, will have a terrific, supportive partner. I feel at peace knowing I actually have that willingness inside me. I am, however, also self-aware enough to know that — even if my former husband remarries someday and/or I remarry, or regardless of how many men I have dated, how many women my former husband has dated — if I am ever seriously “over” my divorce and fractured family, it would make me feel like a counterfeit version of myself. So as unconventional as it is to “not get over” a divorce, that’s just who I am and who I am most comfortable being. And, that, to me, is okay.
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