Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Being divorced is great

During my protracted spinsterhood (didn't marry til I was 41), I did a lot of online dating. Being single-never-married felt like a benefit, or at least a neutral quality, when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, but that changed. By the end of my 30s, being never-married became a liability, a sign that I wasn't capable of committing to a relationship, a red flag that I was probably really bad as a partner. I remember talking to one potential first date on the phone when I was about 38. After learning that I'd never been married, he asked if I'd lived with anyone or been engaged. The answer to those questions was "no." Clearly that worried him (he said as much) and we ended the conversation without making plans to meet.

That did it. On that day in 2005 I knew I needed to get divorced. Well, obviously my primary goal was marriage, but if I couldn't get and stay successfully married, my second goal was to be divorced so I'd be a better dating prospect. It was the reasoning of someone who expected to be single for most of her life. I needed to lose my never-married virginity.

I achieved the goal of getting married in 2008. After my husband ended things, we achieved the goal of being legally divorced in 2014. At first being divorced felt like a hell of a consolation prize: I liked being married and hadn't expected to call it quits after just five years. But I had to face the fact that our marriage hadn't been what I had wanted for a while, so my husband was right: it was best to part (I'm skipping over all the work I did trying to improve our marriage. I did try). Now I know he did me a favor: my parents' marriage had given me a model of sticking it out no matter how painful and I was falling into that same behavior. It really was time to move on.

So here I am, back online, looking for first dates that might turn into second dates. But here are the differences:
  • In my late 40's, I know much better who I am and what I need.
  • My confidence has increased 100% since the last time I did this, so I'm better able to weather disappointments and rejection.
  • Having been a wife, I have none of my former desperation to get married, gotta get married, please someone marry me.
  • Comfortable with who I am, it's much easier to be myself with strangers.
  • I can now select the "Divorced" option in the self-description! YAY!
Describing myself as divorced makes me look so much more normal. Yes, I'm playing into society's beliefs about normal behavior and what people's lives are supposed to look like. I'm letting the narrow-mindedness of my peers influence my self-image. But regardless of how much I'm playing into expectations of heteronormative rites, the truth is that I feel like I've made it into a very discriminating club. At the age of 48, I have to be divorced in order to look like I'm really in the game. (On the other hand, I occasionally come across profiles of men who are in their late 40s and have never been married - a few exist - but they look fine to me.)

Of course, there's a big logical flaw in thinking that someone's being divorced shows that they're capable of commitment. I suspect what's really going on is a subconscious preference for a person who follows societal expectations. If you get married and have children by around the age of 45, then you're aligned with two of the biggest values that exist: marriage and procreation. That alignment - whether active or just going along with what others expect of you - is part of the core of who you are. People who get married and have kids are more comfortable with others who get married and have kids. That's completely natural, so why wouldn't that also apply to dating?

I wonder how that affects my online dating experience. Even though I fit the expectation of being a middle-aged woman who's divorced, I'm still unusual because I didn't have children and don't want them. Could this be part of why I'm having more trouble finding dates these days than 15 years ago? I probably need a middle-aged man's input on this. It could just be that I'm less physically attractive, or that there are fewer eligible men in my age group, or that men in my age group are pickier than men in their 30s. Who knows? But I've gone as far as I'm going to go. I've achieved my coveted divorced status, but I'm not adopting children just to fit the usual profile.
I love this ring.

Nevertheless, I know I'd probably get no responses at all if I couldn't call myself divorced. Sure, I could have lied when I was in my 30's and said I was divorced, but I hate trying to be dishonest. It feels wonderful to be able to cleanly and truthfully say that I used to be married, but it didn't work out and the divorce was final over a year ago. My divorce has given me gravitas, pain credentials, a point of common ground with other divorced people, wisdom and perspective. And one of the biggest gifts I've gotten from being divorced is that I've completely lost my former belief that I'm worthless without a man. This allows me contentment with my life as it is and patience as I consider finding a new relationship. I'm no longer rampaging around on the man-hunt. That feels so good! I love being divorced.

3 comments:

Leolin Lopez said...

I love this line "And one of the biggest gifts I've gotten from being divorced is that I've completely lost my former belief that I'm worthless without a man" because that is exactly the same gift that I received from my divorce :-)

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

YAY!!!

Gilbert said...

Glad to hear you have such a positive outlook on the whole divorce. Some are just so much better off without a partner. I am someone like that. Was married for 10 years and the two of us just grew apart, was better for the both of us. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Gilbert @ McCormick Divorce & Family Law