The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Marriage has never been important to me. Having a loving relationship, yes, but marriage, no. To me, it’s a contrivance of society and religion that forces people to stay together when they don’t want to be. Given the number of divorces and sham marriages, it’s foolish to think that marriage is more of an indication of love and commitment than simply living together is, but, furthermore, people drastically change every ten years.

As a teenager, I was extremely talkative and outgoing, then I became a very quiet introvert in my late 20s. In my teens and 20s, I was firmly a city girl, but in my mid-30s, I began to crave the mountains. Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I was heavily into national politics and constantly fired up about issues, while now, I’m largely politically disengaged. Up until my mid-30s, I was constantly going to live concerts, but now I have very little interest in that. I’ve never been into exercise more than I needed to be to stay basically healthy, but I’ve become a full on gym rat in the last year and a half. I’m constantly acquiring and dropping hobbies and interests, and I think it’s very likely that by the time I’m 45 or 50, I’ll be engaged in certain activities that are currently beyond my imagination.

Sometimes your romantic partner changes in similar ways and that pulls you closer together, which is lovely and yes, somewhat enviable. But other times your interests diverge and you wind up with nothing in common and that’s okay because there are millions of other people out there you are compatible with. What’s not okay is feeling pressured by an imaginary man in the sky or by the legal and financial barriers imposed by the government to stay together when you are unhappy. Unfortunately, if you decided to turn to the government to validate your bond and you later want to separate, you’re in for a nightmare of a time. Divorce is the gift that keeps on giving.

I got married in my late 20s because I wanted my Russian boyfriend to be able to live in the United States with me. It wasn’t a green card marriage; we were very much in love. But marriage was not on our radar, even though we had been together for almost four years. Marriage simply wasn’t important to us, but since the government doesn’t give greencards to long term boyfriends (even if you’ve been together longer than many marriages last), we had no choice. When we split five years later, we didn’t have property or children, so our divorce process was fairly simple. But even though I was largely spared from expensive and lengthy legal processes, I’ve found that divorce continued to have an undue impact on my life.

  • During the eight months between when I left my ex-husband and when my divorce was finalized, I was considered “separated.” People are extremely judgmental about you dating when you are separated, often times indicating that there is something unethical about it. This judgment is based 100 percent on legal limbo and a waiting period during which the government states that you aren’t technically single. It has nothing to do with your emotional state, the reasons for your split, or the private conversations you’ve had with your ex about the termination of your relationship. But if you were merely living together and split up, no one would bat an eye if you went on a date two months later.
  • Then came a relationship with someone who was very hung up on the construct of marriage and all its supposed significance, despite his parents having divorced each other twice and his dad happily living with a woman for 17 plus years with no talk of marriage. For the entirety of our relationship, he deeply convinced himself that the reason I didn’t want to marry again was because I didn’t love him as much as I had loved my ex, that somehow I thought he wasn’t good enough. He refused to actually listen to me and accept that I just didn’t want to be married and never had. He harbored a lot of resentment toward me for something that was entirely in his own head, and the issue came up over and over again in our arguments.
  • After that, I dated men who said they would “never get divorced” if they got married. Oh, the self-righteousness! Right, because divorce was in the plans all along when I got married. On a somewhat related note, I also dated someone who declared he would never be monogamous until marriage. Ha! As if a piece of paper from the government would magically make him convert from a lifestyle of philandering? Come on. If you believe that, I have some magic beans to sell you.
  • Then there are the demographic survey questions, the questions that ask if you are Married, Single, or Divorced. I always mark single…because I am. Divorced as a separate category makes no sense. You can be single and divorced. Just like you can be married and divorced.  The category is merely another, antiquated way that society gets to be illogically judgmental. There is no category of “Used To Be in a Long-Term, Committed, Non-Legally-Binding Relationship.” But if there is a divorced category, why shouldn’t there be?

Now the icing on the cake. Seven years and two months ago, I left my ex-husband. Six and a half years ago, our divorce was finalized. Five and a half years ago was the last time I had any contact with him whatsoever. This month, I began the process of qualifying for a mortgage and one of the first pieces of paper I had to submit was a copy of my divorce decree. Are you kidding me? Isn’t divorce supposed to mean that I’m not connected to this person anymore? Do they want a signed, notarized letter from the other men I’ve had committed relationships with in my adulthood to prove that we’re no longer together either? No.

I do understand why they need this paper; I need to prove that I’m not receiving payments from him or paying him anything in order to verify all sources of my income and all financial obligations. But I’m still extremely irritated that because I had to bring the government into my bedroom almost 13 years ago, this person is somehow now back in my life in some small way.

For a while after my divorce, I swore I would never get married again. Then I changed my mind, thinking I had nothing against marriage, even though it still wasn’t important to me. I figured if it was really, really important to the guy I was with, I would do it since apathy is not the same as a rationale objection. But now, nope, I’m all done with that nonsense. I’ve changed my name back. I am myself and beholden to no one. My ability to buy a condo or do anything else should not be affected by my romantic attachment to some guy back when I was another person.

I bet you thought this was going to be a Christmas post, didn’t you?


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