Recently separated or divorced? There are advantages. Here are six things I didn't know I could do when I was married!
1. Function in society with a bare ring finger
I don’t know if this was just an odd quirk of mine, or if other people do this too. When I was married, I would oftentimes find myself gazing admiringly (smugly) at my ring finger and think how lucky it was that I had made it in the world. That somebody had wanted me as a wife and I was therefore an accepted member of the social heirarchy - a heirarchy that existed mostly in my head, but a heirarchy nonetheless. Phew!
In the early days of being dumped by my husband I would almost obsessively scan the ring fingers of anyone and everyone (women and men) in my immediate vicinity – chiefly the local supermarket - to see if they too were social rejects, or if they were lucky and whole and perfect enough to be part of the wonderful institution of marriage. I would then construct ridiculous stories in my head about how happy and normal the marrieds must be, and how desperate and lonely the unmarrieds surely were.
If a professional could have seen inside of my head during those moments, I am quite certain I would have been diagnosed with a disorder of some sort.
Eventually, I am happy to report, I came to my senses and began to appreciate the wonderful freedom of a bare ring finger. I could be anyone. I could finally wear the funky, unorthodox jewellery that I had secretly admired but resisted during my married years. Now, my wedding and engagement rings are safely stashed away, awaiting the day I pass them on to my daughter, their rightful owner.
2. Go to functions/dinner parties alone
One of my biggest fears after being dumped was of turning into a social leper. Someone who found it safer to decline dinner party/BBQ/ any other type of invitation than to subject herself to the pitying stares of the “happily marrieds”.
Nevertheless, I did force myself out of the house on occasion, partly to appease my concerned girlfriends, and partly due to being desperate for conversation/alcohol/fun with other adult members of the human race.
After about the second dinner I attended alone, a funny thing happened. I realised that people ACTUALLY DON’T CARE about your life status. The men are generally too busy with their “men stuff” and the women are generally too busy with their “women stuff”. Once I let my guard down and allowed myself to relax and be part of the fun, I found that I was able to be part of many different groups and conversations - with both the girls and the boys.
It is nice to be a floater … to join in with the men for a bit as they talk beer and politics and sport (sorry for the generalisations – but you know what I mean!!), and to join in where I feel most comfortable – with my fellow women, as we laugh and drink and listen to each other’s stories and hopes and dreams.
3. Cook for just me
Admittedly, it is not often that I find myself alone at home in the evening – but on the odd night that both kids are with their Dad on the same night, and I'm not expecting any company, I now consider it a PLEASURE to cook for nobody else but me.
This was not always the case - in the early days of my separation I found the idea of cooking/eating alone simply too much to bear, so I just didn't. My ex-husband was the main cook in our family, so when he left I had no choice but to cook for the kids and I – but cooking just for me? Ummmm, no. Most alone nights I found myself going with either two minute noodles, toast, or a bag of lollies.
Now on the other side of heartbreak, cooking has become an unexpected passion. The beauty of cooking for one is not having to pander to other’s requests. My teenage boy insists that he needs meat twenty-five times a week. He won’t touch eggs. Both of my kids won’t touch anything that has reached its best-before date. My standards are not so high.
Cooking for one means I can toss in the eggs, use the slightly wilted mushrooms, ditch the meat, and throw in the expired cream. And there will be leftovers for my lunch the next day. Life does not get much better than that!
4. Create a garden
Don’t underestimate the power of being as one with nature when you’re in the depths of despair.
When I was married, the garden was always my husband’s domain. My biggest involvement in it was dodging and picking up the dog poo. When he left, it all slowly started to unravel, and I would find myself looking out at the yard from the kitchen window, wondering what to do about it.
Then one day, out of sheer necessity I went out to pick a few weeds. This day was a particularly bad one for me and I had been crying for the best part of the morning. When I stepped outside and got my hands deep in the dirt however, a weird thing happened. I felt good.
With the sun beating down on my back, I kicked off my shoes and got into it. I plucked weeds, trimmed trees and rearranged things. I am certain it was a combination of the dirt, flowers, sun and clarity I experienced out there that day that has cemented it as a kind of turning point for me in my journey through grief. Whatever it was, it was something special, and a practice that I have kept up as I continue on my journey.
5. Deal with shit
Maybe this is more a reflection of my own character and insecurities than about being married, or not. But as a wife, I know I deferred to my husband WAY too much. I took the idea of being in a partnership to mean that he should have the final say and opinion on most (if not all) matters relating to the kids/house/money/whatever else.
If something went haywire with one of our children (illness/bad behaviour), and a quick decision was required on the best course of action by me alone, I was rendered incapable. I would find myself wringing my hands and biting my knuckles until my husband could be contacted to verify that what I was proposing to do was acceptable. Not ideal!
As a suddenly single mum however, I had no choice but to step up and be the one in charge. All of my insecurities about being incapable were swiftly tossed out the window as I found myself needing to think on my feet, and fast, when crises arrived (and they did arrive!).
Outlandish teenage requests and meltdowns, competing deadlines, car troubles, organising money … I now find myself dealing with these things on my own, and getting better at it each and every day.
I was happy enough being married … I know that I felt secure with a ring on my finger, and I certainly know that I wouldn't have willingly ended the marriage. But it did end.
And, after some time had passed, something began awakening in me, something I had forgotten I was capable of as I went through the daily motions and crap of life. I began to allow myself to dream.
I dream of so many different things, for myself and for my kids, and one of the great joys of my life now is endeavouring to make those dreams happen, to make them real. I don’t think I would ever have had the opportunity to feel this way had my husband not left.
So, please. See your divorce as an opportunity to flourish. To dream and be who you wanted to be before marriage and life took over. Think back to a time in your life when you truly felt as though the world was yours for the taking, that anything was possible, and tap into that feeling once again. Feel the exhilarating and intoxicating sense of freedom you felt then.
Then think of something that you would have loved to have accomplished whilst married, but somehow never found the time, or perhaps courage to do. And do it. Whatever it is, do it. Remember, this is your life now - make it how you want it to be.
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