This month marks four years since I left my marriage to a wonderful fella named Rob. I have written almost nothing about the whole divorce thing for two reasons:
- It’s equally his story and I’m not looking to compound his hurt
- I haven’t wanted to open myself up to the ham-fisted opinions of others
Like so: A year or two ago, I was traveling for work and ate my dinner at the bar, as I sometimes do when dining solo. After a day of intensive coaching work, I’m often in a place of being open to conversation with strangers but not seeking it. The couple sitting next to me, though, started a conversation in which it was somehow relevant that I was divorced and they had been married some notable number of years.
“Marriage is work,” the husband said while his wife nodded next to him. “People today just aren’t willing to put work into it.”
I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he truly didn’t hear the insult to me embedded in that statement. In fairness, I’ve heard it plenty in the years since I slipped my beautiful and simple white gold wedding bands off my finger and into my jewelry box.
Besides, on the one hand, he’s not wrong. Marriage is, in fact, work, and some people do, undoubtedly, jump ship in the midst of problems that others might readily categorize as normative rather than extinction producing. In fact, I’m 100% sure – thanks to other uncomfortable conversations – that the very reasons I chose to leave my marriage are practically identical to differences that people I know have been living with for many a year and intended to live with forevermore.
Normal is like averages, though – they’re a vague idea of standards without representing anyone specifically. Normal is even more pernicious than an average, though, because it’s laden with judgment.
So, in defiance of the stigma and shame that are often attached to our relationship decisions, I give you a list of things that are perfectly, 100% okay when done with integrity, honesty, and with mutually-consenting adults:
- Getting divorced, even multiple times
- Getting remarried, even many times
- Never getting married, whether because you enjoy being single, haven’t met a person to marry, or prefer commitments or relationship structures other than marriage
- Having or adopting kids regardless of marital status
- Choosing to never birth or adopt kids
- Adhering to traditional gender roles, bucking them altogether, or creating a mix that works for you and your partner(s)
- Speaking of which: Being monogamous or polyamorous
- Having sex at whatever frequency you and your partner(s) prefer
- Exploring your sexual and gender identities
- Having a rebound fling or deciding to stay single and celibate for any given amount of time after a break-up or jumping right into another full-blown relationship
- Naming and defending your own boundaries
- Seeking outside perspectives and support, whether from a personal coach, couples’ counselor, sex therapist, or whoever
- Pretty much anything else that falls under the aforementioned descriptors of being in integrity, honest, and done with mutual consent
I don’t regret a minute of my marriage with Rob. We had a lovely thing for a good many years and he’ll always be someone I love, respect and admire. I also don’t regret leaving the marriage, though I don’t feel great about the pain it caused any of us – Rob, me, or those who love both of us. Pain, though, is a natural and common – even inevitable – part of life and, I’ve got to tell you, I love my life exactly as it is today.
I’m pretty darn excited to see what tomorrow will bring, too.