I stared at the papers repeatedly, expecting to feel something different each time. They were signed, certified, and official. They were legal documents that indicated I was officially free, so why did I feel… nothing?
My marriage had been over long before it officially ended. The covenant had been broken. The vows had been long forgotten. The promises had not been kept. After being separated for several years, in my heart, I was already divorced. All the papers did were confirm my newly official status. I was now a divorcée… divorced… unmarried… free. The marriage was dissolved. I had moved from one statistical category to another within the split second that it took the judge to sign and stamp the documents.
There was no nostalgia. There was nothing left to reflect upon. Friends and family thought I would break down. The first conversation I had with someone after that day where the subject of marital status came up was an awkward one. The person probably thought I was being dishonest. I had been so accustomed to saying “I’m separated” or “I’m divorcing” that this time when I replied, “I’m divorced,” I sort of stumbled on those two little words. That was about as weird as it got, and then I quickly became accustomed to how it sounded. Not that I wore it like some sort of badge of honor, but it no longer sounded like I had been defeated. It was simply a new phase in my life.
I was no longer in limbo—stuck in the middle between married and single. Oh sure, on paper I had still been considered married, but when you’ve been separated for as long as I had been, it just didn’t feel natural to call myself married. In my mind, married meant that you were still living as a couple, but try explaining that to someone who’s never been married and subsequently separated from a spouse for a long time. It probably sounded like I was dancing around my status, but think about it… this is why there’s that third category called separated. Being separated is sort of like that “middle-of-the-road” place in life. You can go in either direction—either back to living as a married couple or, if it’s not working out, forward through the divorce.
For some people, divorce means the end. For others, it symbolizes the beginning of something new. For me, there was no new moment. There was no “what now” looming in my mind. My “what now” had begun during the first few weeks and months after we separated and realized that the marriage was beyond repair. I’d already begun working on my Plan B. I had no choice but to move on. I still had a career to build, a house to maintain, children to keep in balance, finances to juggle, and a piece of myself to try to hold together.
So what the judge officiated on paper only meant that I could legally and without question move on with my life. Although it’s “just” a piece of paper, it does hold a lot of value. Looking back, I’m grateful that I had made the decision to move on well before my divorce was final. I had spent several years picking up the pieces. By the time the papers were signed, I was already on my way toward a better life. I had gone through the anger, the confusion, the sense of betrayal, and the sense of failure, and I had graduated from the phases of acceptance, forgiveness, and peace.
For many women, the healing and rebuilding process is delayed for such a long time that they end up losing out on valuable time they could be spending more productively. Divorce doesn’t have to rob you of the woman you are. You can come out of it stronger than before, and you can bounce back. I would encourage any woman going through a divorce to make the most of the time leading up to the final stages. It is not a decision to be taken lightly or to be made without serious thought. But once you’re certain that divorce is your best choice, begin your healing process early, make yourself a priority, keep moving forward, and get your personal space in order. By the time the papers are signed, you’ll be on your way toward a new and exciting rest of your life.