One year post-divorce

I just realized that two weeks ago I passed the one year anniversary of my divorce. When I realized this, it felt like it had been a lot longer than one measly year, and I felt that perhaps some further reflection was overdue.

After all, my divorce happened just as quickly as my marriage. Yes, I got married young. I was 23 when I tied the knot. And a short 2.5 years later I was divorced. I tend not to think about it that often because to me it wasn’t an earth shattering event. We didn’t have children together, and it wasn’t like we’d been married for 30 years or anything like that. When my divorce came it was the realization of a mistake, not the death of a love. Not to say that I didn’t love my wife or care about her, but at the end it was clear that I wasn’t “in love” with my wife, and that my marriage was the result of youthful naivete and romanticism.

So it was for all of these reasons that I never really mourned anything and never looked back. I’m a pragmatic person by nature. I just dusted myself off and moved on. Hell, I was seeing another woman before my divorce papers were even signed. But something about the one year mark finally made me stop, pause, and look back. And I realized that I hadn’t let the entirety of the experience ever catch up to me. I put on a stoic face and ran out as far ahead of the imminent feelings of loss and grief and inadequacy as I could.

One year out, I handle all of those feelings a lot better than I would have right after it happened. When my wife told me that she wanted a divorce, I felt two things: fear and relief. I felt relief because, like my wife, I had known for a while that it was going to end and that I wasn’t happy. But I didn’t have the life experience to really know what to do with that. And I was fearful because for the first time in almost three years my future was up the air. Was I damaged goods? Would I ever want to get married again? How would a divorce affect my future social life?

But rather than deal with all of that, I just swept it under the rug and tried to find validation in other relationships. I know, that was stupid. And as a result I really made some poor dating choices right after my divorce, which is another post altogether. However, I haven’t been on the dating scene in about 10 months. Nor is there anything on the horizon in the near future. But a year out of the divorce, 10 months removed from my last relationship–it seems like enough distance to fully analyze those ramifications of my divorce that I had sought to avoid.

Am I damaged goods? Well, I guess that’s a pretty subjective question. I’ve definitely gotten some cock-eyed looks from women when I tell them that I’m divorced, but mostly because they can’t believe I was stupid enough to get married so young, not because I’m divorced. However, there are a few times when it has impacted me negatively. Some women hear a man is divorced and think, “Well, I guess that means he can’t make a relationship work…” And a lot of women, quite frankly, want to be a man’s first marriage. They aren’t interested in being second string. And I don’t blame them for feeling that way. But ultimately, I haven’t found that being divorced has overall affected my ability to get a date (although finding the right time to have the, “By the way, I’m divorced,” conversation is always a real treat).

Would I ever get married again? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I’m still young enough to remarry, and it isn’t like I’m so old that getting divorced ruined my chances of starting a family. But I honestly don’t know whether or not I would get married again. After my entire experience, a big part of me feels like marriage is just a piece of paper. It’s not a garauntee of love. Do I really need a piece of paper to legitimize my love for someone? No, of course not. However, if I found a woman who wanted to be married, I would definitely consider it. After all, it’s not just about what I want, nor should I let my past checker every detail of my future. So, to sum up, I guess never say never.

Has being divorced affected my social life? Not at all. I feel truly lucky to have the friends and peers that I do. They were nothing but supportive and encouraging the entire time. If it wasn’t for them the entire process probably would have been a million times harder, and I probably wouldn’t be in nearly as good a place right now as I am.

Now, for the negative. You guys didn’t think their wouldn’t be any negative consequences to this whole thing, did you?! I mentioned that my marriage was a result of youthful naivete and romanticism. Well, I can tell you that those two things are loooong gone out of my life. I wouldn’t exactly call myself cynical, but I would say that I am definitely more aware of how the world and relationships truly work. I can tell you that I have a much harder time trusting women now. And I can tell you that I truly wonder if every relationship has an expiration date on it. I can also tell you that I don’t think that love is blind. Rather, love is egotistical. I feel like the paradigm of the modern relationship is, “What do I get out of this?” which makes relationships feel more like corporate negotiations than a romantic partnership. And it’s because, ultimately, people in relationships are expendable. The idea of needing someone like air, or of not being able to live without someone…it’s all a manufactured fairytale. Real life isn’t like that, and I’d go so far as to say that if you need another human as much as you need air, you’re not in a very healthy or stable place.

But that’s the hardest thing that I’ve had to deal with, this realization that people are replaceable. Do people really, honestly believe that they’re the perfect 100% match for their significant other? Or that there isn’t some other guy or girl out there who meets all of the needs and requirements of your partner? No, of course not. Are there tons of interesting, funny, intelligently, moderately attractive men available? Yes. The only unique thing about me is my lived experience. But all of the things that a woman could potentially find attractive about me could easily be found in a bunch of other guys. So am I naive about relationships, do I still have these teenage, idealistic, overly-romantic ideas about love? No. People are complex and irrational and so are dating and relationships.

And now, to end all of this on a positive note. All of this, the entire lived experience of dating, being married, divorcing, dating again–it’s all made me realize how truly precious it is when you can find someone who you truly, genuinely relate to.  And that you’d better enjoy every moment you have with those people, because you never know if or when it will end.

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6 thoughts on “One year post-divorce

  1. Thanks for sharing that story Ryan. Right now I am sitting on a psychology class called Lust, Love and Attachment. It’s fascinating stuff really. One of the things we discussed is whether there is a biological drive for these 3 things. The literature is split on the issue as to whether Love is a separate drive or rather a tool that we use to get the other two. Ultimately I tend to think the latter is true, but I have also decided that it doesn’t matter. Love is still a wonderful thing and it’s value should never be overlooked.

    The stages you’ve been through, mistakes you have made, etc are fairly commonly made by all of us, and I think a lot of it has to do with the sort of fairy tale we are told exists, but doesn’t really. We aren’t shown proper relationship models in movies or television, and generally all we have is our parents, which isn’t often the best example either. 🙂 But you shouldn’t punish yourself too much for being naive, what’s important about you is your ability to reflect, learn, and grow as an individual. What’s also important about you is that you have the emotional fortitude to deal with love when it dies. And you know that you can survive quite well on your own. So don’t become overly pragmatic, unless that’s what you want. My best friend I think never really recovered from his early engagement to a girl. It’s like he wasn’t able to trust himself anymore. To let go and really fall in love, in fear that he would make a hasty decision once again. Because falling in love does make insane people out of us all, so perhaps there is good reason to worry about our own judgement, but having fallen in love several times, I can tell you that each time it is wonderful, and your experience does stick with you even through extreme giddiness. 🙂 Once I realized that the “I’m so in love I don’t even need to eat food anymore” feeling fades, what you can have can still be pretty awesome. I don’t think evolution every planned for us to be with someone for 50 years, but however long the ride lasts I’m determined to enjoy it. Because you don’t experience the full amount of joy from love unless you put all of yourself into it. And I believe in my ability to pick myself up from heartbreak because I’ve done it before. Even if it is no picnic. 🙂

    1. You raise an interesting question about love, lust, and attachment. I hadn’t really considered which precedes which, but it seems from my limited experience that lust and attachment are always the first stages. And once all of the hormonal giddiness and the rose colored glasses come off, if there’s something that still remains, there’s a good chance that it’s love.

      I guess I do trust myself. I know that doesn’t sound very confident, haha, but I’m reasonably sure that it’s other people that I don’t trust. I mean, I know my experience, and my values…but too often I’ve been fooled by women who SAY they want x, y, or z, but when those things actually happen they cop out or turn the other way and run. As far as I can tell there’s no way to predict that. I can do one of two things: I can just blindly trust that every woman I’ll ever meet actually means what she says and knows what she wants, or just be suspicious of every woman I’ll ever meet. The latter seems like the more prudent option.

      1. I think once the rose colored glasses come off you do have love, but it is more like the love you have that results from deep attachment. Like attachments you share with best friends. The sexual attractiveness will likely be there to a certain degree, but it won’t be as important as the level of attachment you develop to someone you love. I would say that what my wife and I have is a deep friendship, one that sometimes involves sex, but doesn’t have to.

        You’re right though that sometimes it feels like it’s not worth the entire hassle. Getting into relationship is an investment of time and energy and one always wonders if that energy wasn’t better spent elsewhere. I guess I wouldn’t say that I blindly trusted that every woman knows what she wants and means what they say, but I sort of accepted that to be the case. Partly because I accepted that to be the case for me. I would go into each relationship think I knew what I wanted and I am honest so I going to say things that I mean. Part of the problem is that we are all dynamic individuals who are constantly changing so my wants might change as might the wants of a potential partner. It makes it both frustrating and exciting at the same time. I guess I’m just optimistic and look at love as also a way to learn about myself, because the kind of intimacy you develop with a partner forces you to look at parts of yourself that you might rarely get to see.

        All I’m saying is save cynicism for your 60’s…crabby old men are very enjoyable. 🙂

  2. I’ve made my share of mistakes with women, and now that I’m married I haven’t stopped making them. Fortunately my wife hasn’t given up on me (yet), and I haven’t given up on her (never will). Still, I think love is blind. I knew marriage would be hard work, but nonetheless I didn’t realize just how difficult it would be. I thought if two people really loved each other they’d be able to get along and would want to get along… boy was I wrong!

    Right now I just try to enjoy the good times and minimize the bad times. Pragmatism has its benefits.

    Lot of thoughts to ponder on this one. Swarn Gill made some good points as well. We imagine this fairy tale that we want to exist- even if we know it doesn’t. Yes, love is blind. It’s easy to be fooled, and easy to ignore the reality going on around us and deny that anything bad could happen because we’re in control… I think that’s one crucial mistake we make… thinking that we’re in control. Especially in a marriage we can see that’s not the case.

    To be honest though, marriage has really made me see God clearer and has given me a deeper relationship with him.

    1. Thank you for the advice! I will definitely admit to being naïve when I went into my marriage, but I didn’t think that it would be without hiccups or bumps. We tried a lot before we actually got divorced to work things out–I suggested counseling, but she wasn’t really interested in that. That was kind of the final nail in the coffin for me. It was never ever going to work if I was the only one making an effort.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea of enjoying the good times, minimizing the bad times, and realizing that perhaps we aren’t in as much control of things as we think we are. Very prudent advice.

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