Getting divorced was the best thing that ever happened to me!
I remember the proposal like it was yesterday, he was rambling nonsensically in a crisp white shirt, I had just stepped out of the shower, still wearing a cheap plastic shower cap. Suddenly I saw where the speech was going, he was about to propose! I thought, “please don’t say it, please don’t say it”…he did. We were married nine months later in a lavish, tasteful ceremony in the English countryside. Fast forward one more year, we were signing divorce papers in a teeny room in a São Paulo notary and I was the happiest I had been in years. What the hell went on there, you may ask? Well, like every story, there is a beginning.
In true Freudian style, it all began in childhood, my mother, a stoutly religious Irish lady, imposed on me, albeit with the best intentions, her convictions and morals. For her it was all so very black and white, marriage was the gateway to respectable adulthood and any other type of cohabiting was “living in sin and would render me “unmarriable” and guarantee me a first class ticket to hell.”
Nevertheless, live in sin I did, on more than one occasion. With my first boyfriend, I hid it from my family, it was young love, it fizzled out and I still very much felt deep down like I was doing the wrong thing and in “rebellion” and “rejecting God” both favourite catchphrases of my mother. The second time I shacked up I was 25. This boyfriend was everything the first wasn’t, kind, generous, and my family (especially my mother) loved him. My parents even accepted us living together, as long as we were discreet about our “alternative lifestyle” around my parent’s church circle. Once again I felt like I was living a lie and was so desperate for him to “put a ring on it”, so that our life, exactly the way it was, could be validated, in the eye’s of God’s people, and I could stop having to pretend. I felt suspended in adolescence, we had all the components in place, why wouldn’t he make it official?
By the time I was 29 I had had enough of waiting and I jumped out of that relationship with someone I truly loved, to a rebound fling with someone I barely knew, someone who would go on to be my husband. My ex-husband was not a bad person, we were just highly unsuited. I found him boring, uninspiring and more importantly, I didn’t feel like we were team mates. He didn’t get me, or understand me. But this isn’t about what went wrong in our relationship, this is about why I let something that was such a bad fit go so far. Why would I marry someone who I could barely stand to be in the same room with? Maybe because my friends were doing it, maybe because a love of my life hadn’t wanted to marry me, maybe because I felt it was about time, maybe because saying no would have been way too awkward? Maybe all of those to an extent, but most of all, because it had been so ingrained in me that marriage would cleanse my heathen heart and wipe away the sins of my youth.
We argued a lot during our nine month engagement, I questioned what the hell I was doing on a number of occasions and silenced my inner voice with layers of tulle and delicious menu tastings. At the wedding itself, I barely remember being with my husband. I remember having so much fun, it was a huge party and I was surrounded by my friends. I even invited few friends back to our hotel room for an after party! It was most definitely not the romantic night most newly weds dream of!
The breakup was gradual, he was fired from his job a couple of months after we were married and I supported, even encouraged, his going to Europe to spend a couple of months as Airbnb host. I told myself things would be better after a couple of month’s breathing space. It didn’t take long for each of us to realise we were better off without the other and when we finalised the divorce in the September, I felt a joy and a happiness that I had not felt in so long. I felt free, not only free from a loveless marriage, but free from the need to pretend.
For the first time in my life I challenged the religious guilt placed on me by well meaning family and friends. I felt brave enough to say, “I do have values and morals, they are just not the same as yours, and that’s ok.” I stopped allowing myself to be controlled by shame and began to trust my choices and like the person I was allowing myself to become.