A year ago today I stood before a judge, hands trembling and read a script that stated my marriage was irreparable. My husband sat to my left in the chair beside me. The judge eyed us suspiciously, shuffled some papers, asked us some questions, stamped the documents and rather unceremoniously, after so many months of agony and inner turmoil, it was done. We were divorced.
As we stood waiting for the elevator, I cried. My now ex-husband held me in his arms while I sobbed uncontrollably. To cry in public (or even in front of him) like that was something I had never permitted myself during our marriage. To be held was something I had never quite known how to ask for. Yet in this liminal space it happened without effort.
At the time we were divorcing, I thought that I did not love this man, that maybe I never had. Silly me.
I thought at the very least that I didn’t love him enough, but love was never the problem. I loved him, but I wanted out, and I knew that in my heart, even if I didn’t understand it or like that it was true. So when the doors of the elevator opened, we passed through security and walked out into the world to our separate cars and drove off in opposite directions to our separate lives. And he and I left “we”, “ours” and “us” within the walls of the courthouse.
I am an excellent mother, but I suspect I was a terrible wife. When we married, I hadn’t yet constructed my internal narrative of what it meant to be a wife or how I felt about it. I had thought extensively about what it meant to be a good mother and was prepared to take on that role and to make the necessary sacrifices to be successful, but what did it mean to be a wife? I had dispensed with most of the traditional notions of marriage, but never bothered to fill in the gaps with my own ideas. Swiss cheese is tasty, but it’s not a very stable foundation.
In the year since we divorced, I have begun to color in the picture of what it means to me to be a wife, and I have realized that marriage is not necessarily an institution I ever need or want to be a part of again. Even so, there are still some things I miss about it…
I miss the titles, as silly as it seems. I miss being able to say “my husband,” and I miss wearing a ring.
From that brief (very brief) period where I was only a wife and not also a mama, I miss morning sex and also middle of the night sex, both of which entail sleeping in the same bed and waking up together.
I miss debating over who is getting up with the baby and who is more tired and deserves to sleep in. Actually, I don’t miss that. I just miss the part where I got to sleep in.
I miss going out to breakfast as a family.
I miss having someone else to drive, to take out the compost, to change the light bulb, to do the taxes, to carry heavy stuff and get things off high shelves. It’s not that I can’t do these things, but I miss having help.
I miss having someone else to cook for.
I miss having someone to talk with about my bad day and to share my triumphs with.
And I miss being with someone long enough to know how they are feeling by the rhythm of their breath, to know whether they are holding back laughter or anger or sadness by the way the muscles flex along their jaw line.
However, I have not once, in this year on my own, ever said or felt I just need some space! I have not complained that I would just like to have something that is my own. I have not had to rummage through my closet trying to find that one shirt, skirt, dress, pair of pants, etc amidst a sea of clothes that aren’t mine, wondering why anyone would have so many clothes if they never wear them?! And everything is always exactly where I left it…. even if I don’t remember where I put it. And although these things may seem petty and small, I hold on to them, celebrate them every morning when I get dressed and every night when I fall asleep alone, even when alone doesn’t necessarily feel good.
And when my son asked me “Mama, why did you and daddy sell your wedding clothes?” I explained that we didn’t need them anymore. “Why?” he wondered, so I told him “Because we aren’t married anymore.” “Oh…” he replied thoughtfully, “is that why daddy melted his ring?” I swallowed hard and nodded, feeling the wedding band tattooed on my left calf burning with the weight of broken dreams.
Even though I am sure that getting divorced was the best decision I ever made, it doesn’t mean it was an easy one.