After four years and 158 days of separation, my attorney’s office sent this anti-climactic and business-like email:

“We received a certified copy of the Judgment of Divorce

from the Westchester County Clerk today.”

            The news wasn’t a surprise. I had signed the legal separation document a couple of months before in front of a notary. I had spent years, off and on, advocating, negotiating—and yes—crying angry and sad tears while discussing it. I knew it was coming. But, just like receiving news of the death of a very elderly or ill person—when you know their days are coming to an end—the loss is still devastating.

            I announced to my friends and family that the divorce was finalized. They sent me congratulatory texts…

            Onward and upward!

            Welcome to your next chapter!

            …and all that other bullshit people say because they feel uncomfortable when you’re sad, thinking a few words of encouragement is all you need to look at the bright side. Sorry friends… there is nothing uplifting about a judge who doesn’t know me nor my husband, having power with a big rubber DIVORCE stamp officially ending my 30-year marriage. No matter what the reasons for the divorce, endings suck despite the promise of it being followed with a fresh start.

            During these four years and 158 days of separation, I had lived an independent and fulfilling life without him. I renewed my relationship with myself and learned to love me with all of my gifts and flaws. But I still need time to mourn and grieve.

I remembered a journal entry from four years ago after my husband and I agreed to divorce:

            Oh Gwyneth Paltrow, I had thought the term ‘conscious uncoupling’ was pretentious. Why can’t you be like the masses and call it what it is—DIVORCE? But now I apologize. The word DIVORCE is a hard one to say. It hits me in the gut. 

            A month after my official judgement, the word DIVORCE still doesn’t trip easily over my tongue.

            It makes sense that divorce is highest among ages 55-64—at 43%—when couples finally gasp a cleansing breath above the endless waves of child-rearing only to find they don’t recognize each other across the calm waters.

            When our kids set off on their own, I ideally visualized a marriage renewal, of sorts. I planned trips and afterwork wine in our hot tub. I purchased new underwear in anticipation of great sex. I looked forward to finally getting back to our love story with the additional benefits of money, history, and life experience.  I had also thought divorce was a cop-out for couples who stopped trying, became selfish, and stubborn. To me, divorce was not option.

            But he wasn’t interested in hot tubs nor my sexy underwear. For him, divorce was the only option.

            “We just need to put on some metaphorical wellies and foul weather gear,” I said to my therapist. “We can dig ourselves out of this mess.”

            “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce,” she said. “All good—and bad—things must come to an end. Relationships are no exception. And that’s okay.”

            I learned that the divorce stat of 43% doesn’t count the millions of couples that share a house but not a life; that didn’t file for divorce for tax reasons; or the occasions when a spouse took-off without a forwarding address. It turns out that the ending of my marriage was the rule, and not the exception.

            I took comfort in the realization that my marriage didn’t move from the successful column to the unsuccessful side. Divorce, or conscious uncoupling, or whatever you want to call it, is just a part of life. Divorce is normal. And that’s okay.

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