What is in a title? Marital title that is. Until I separated and subsequently divorced, I had no adverse emotions surfacing about being classified as having, or not having a marital status. I was married at 21 and had been married for 35 years, way longer than I’ve been single. However once that dynamic changed, I found I resented being pigeonholed into the category of “separated” and “divorced” but couldn’t fathom the logic as to why. They are just words, right? Was it just me? Was it a gender reaction? Was it an age thing? Had I not asked for this divorce? I found the negative emotion and anger disturbing because I had no idea where it came from.
How I first noticed my reaction was by the simple process of having to fill in a form at my new doctors’ surgery, a normal and unassuming process for the past 40 years of my life but not this time. I found myself staring at the first question, the category where I was supposed to pick my marital status and my brain screamed “why the f**k do they need to know”. My physical grip on the pen the receptionist had given me was getting tighter as I glared at the form, to the point it went out of focus and became one mad, seething blur. I had to stop, focus on my breathing, and calm myself down. I’ve never reacted like this before in my life, what was going on with me? I found myself asking why my doctor needs to know if I’m separated or divorced, what has my relationship status got to do with them, it’s not going to be necessary to know that information to treat me for any illness. My blood boiled uncontrollably but I couldn’t rationalise why. I completed the rest of the form then went back to my “marital status” and quickly ticked “single”.
Was me being uncomfortable with the categorisation of “separated” or “divorced” because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed, that I thought myself an individual that shouldn’t be defined by marital status. I wasn’t sure, it had seemed ok when I was married. I realise that being categorised as “separated” or “divorced” did however make me feel that I had failed. I know this is not a logical thought process, that it’s incorrect but who cares about logic when your emotions are whirling around at 100 miles an hour. Failure to make my partner happy, failure to find happiness myself but ultimately failure to hold my family together like the glue I thought I should always be. This feeling would manifest itself in so much pain. Pain to the point that my throat constricted, I had trouble breathing and the tears would just pour from me, pour without stopping until I sobbed uncontrollably and screamed, a scream with no sound, just pain, and more tears. This was the story that played out in my head on and off for nearly two years, but it was one that was going to have to change if I wanted to move on. I had to work out what was making me feel this way because I knew if I didn’t it would continue to consume me from the inside out.
Throughout my children’s lives I have acted as a go-between for them and their dad, from them as little kids asking him could they have something from the fridge and him saying “ask your mum”, to me acting as a buffer between them to stop conflict as they grew older. This created a person that had to know what everyone was doing so they could fix everything. Even now with them being in their 30’s my immediate instinct is to try to be a buffer, to be that glue that holds everyone together. The glue however was rapidly coming unstuck, or more correctly I was coming unstuck.
Wind back about a year from the doctor incident, we were just at the start of a pandemic, our movements were restricted, I couldn’t file for divorce because we hadn’t been separated for 12 months, so I thought my path to contentment and moving on would be to legally change my name. So, that’s what I did. Was I happier once I’d done this? Yes, I was for a while, but although I felt more “me” using my maiden name, that wasn’t my complete journey. I’ve discovered it’s a process, it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and I’d just completed the outer edges of mine.
The next part of the puzzle was the actual divorce, and this threw up all sorts of demons. Conflict, blame, hatred, anguish, and a little bit of love ensued, and although it had been me that had asked for the divorce, forwarding the signed divorce papers after 35 years of marriage was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Throughout my separation and divorce, I wrote a journal, the final part of my puzzle, to help me unravel my feelings and try to make sense of what was going on in my life. It was a means for me to lay everything bare and just write what I was feeling. During this process, I realised that letting go of control was so important for me to have peace and move on. I began to acknowledge that I can’t control what others do or think, that my ideas or expectations of how people in my life should act or even react to a situation can’t be controlled by me either and to think so was unhealthy. I now know that just because my marriage is over that I’ve not failed. I now know that it’s not my responsibility to be the “glue”.
So, what is in a title? Well, for me as a Ms I’ve gained a renewed sense of identity. Why? Well, in my eyes I’m no longer classified as just someone’s wife or an extension of someone else. This probably has more to do with my personal journey over the past two years than how, when married, I was perceived by others, but how you imagine others see you is a huge factor in your self-esteem. My being financially and emotionally independent has been a huge breakthrough and reminded me that I’m a person in my own right. My marital status or any future relationships don’t define who I am. I’m "me" with all its complexities, mum, nanna, lover and more.