In an introductory context, conversations almost always take a path towards marital status. Small talk leads to medium talk, discussing occupations, hobbies, et cetera. Universally coming to a near complete halt at the utterance of the sentence “nope, divorced actually” when asked “are you married?”

“Oh. Gosh, I’m so sorry,” delivered with a sudden influx of awkward tension. My response to the statement, so far at least, has not helped.

“Don’t be sorry, it was the single greatest thing to ever happen to me. I’m actually thankful for it,” punctuated with a joke or two about how awful a person the ex-wife was. Well, factual statements told in a joking form. I’m not going to mix words here, she really is just a terrible person, but I digress. People don’t really know how to respond to that. Some try, and start an inquiry as to how the marriage ended, the length of the marriage, and so on. If the person I’m conversing with is a man, they’ll usually ask about division of assets and alimony; of which there is none.

Married September 15th 2012, I learned of her infidelity in April of 2013, knew the marriage was unsalvageable by the end of the month, and filed for divorce May 22nd 2013. Finalized November 22nd 2013; a date I affectionately refer to as freedom day.

We had known each other for a decade, having dated early on, but didn’t work out the first time, remained friends, and she spent several years trying to convince me of getting back together. I acquiesced, and we were together five years by the filing date for divorce.

For most people, I’m sure divorce is a devastating, foundation shattering, life altering event, marred in despair and depression. It took me some time to realize it, but it was genuinely the best thing for me to go through.

In the moment, it was absolutely all of the things above. I was heartbroken, feeling as though the rug had been pulled out from under me. Many tears were shed, sleepless nights, extreme emotions were emoted in all parts of the spectrum. I felt out of control, and unable to steer things back in a desirable direction.

Initially, I tried to salvage the marriage. In a move that seems moronic now, I even attempted marriage counseling. It was over, and nothing could save it. Once I regained my pragmatism, and started the analytical process to find a resolution that was best for me, it all became clear. Control of my life was once again mine, and the inevitable outcome was realized: it was over. There was no saving the marriage. I had to sever the limb to save the body.

Luckily, taking control of the situation allowed me to bring it to a close quickly. With it over with, I was left standing on the brim of the crater looking at the wreckage of a relationship doomed from the start.

Now what?

Since I’m a twisted person who enjoys both doing things the wrong way, and failing at something, I took the opportunity to learn a lesson, and do some self reflection. I could pin the entirety of the failure on the new ex-wife. I mean, it’s kinda hard for me to accept fault for her cheating repeatedly. However, I knew there were things I had done wrong. Those things needed to be identified, and fixed.

Just because something fails on the first attempt doesn’t mean you start over entirely. You can find successes in your failures, and use them again. But I needed to find my absolute failures, of which there were many.

I realized towards the end of the marriage that I had been failing as a partner. It was clear for some time that she had been unhappy with life, and I started to act to resolve it. Though now it seems futile, since the issue was entirely her, I should have identified the issues sooner. She was in a state of cognitive dissonance, wanting to both be with me in a relationship and for me to be someone I wasn’t. In an effort to fix this, I tried to change aspects of my personality. Relationships are about compromise, we’re told. My intentions were valid, but the design was flawed. There was no way to deliver on her oxymora. I should have identified this as unresolvable, and marked it as an impasse for the relationship; that was my first failure. The metaphor “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” is apt.

Post divorce, there was a panic. The wife had been the adult, by her own demand, and I now had to sink or swim. This was another of her complaints against me, and to an extent it was valid. I didn’t handle any of the financial responsibilities. I didn’t want to deal with it, and she initially told me that she preferred to handle it, so in my mind it worked out. That was dumb. Very, very dumb. Luckily, it isn’t hard to learn, I mean I already knew basic math. Some bill juggling happened initially, but it was all sorted out and I’ve had a good handle on it since.

In the future, I now see financial management as a joint endeavor requirement for a relationship; primarily for redundancy. If something happens to one person, the other should be able to grab the reigns and not miss a step. Cooperation likely resolves a primary point of contention in relationships (a theory for me anyway, I’ll get back to you on this one at a future date).

My main failure was the biggest of all: straying from the person I wanted to be. I realize now that the man I was back then was nowhere near being close to the man I envisioned myself being. I wasn’t a good human. That is not to say I was a bad one, far from it. I had expectations for myself that I allowed to be derailed in an attempt to please a master that couldn’t be pleased. I wasn’t happy, I was deeply cynical, and the person I wanted to be was on life support and crying out from the depths of my soul. I should have recognized sooner that I was failing myself.

The years since have obviously been full of self reflection. I’ve been selfish to an extent, focussing on myself and the things I’ve identified as failures. I can honestly say these have been the happiest years of my entire life.

Whatever comes next, I’m ready for. I finally feel as though I’m the person I’ve always sought to be, or fairly close anyway.

The divorce enabled me to become the best version of myself, and that’s the single greatest thing to ever happen to me so far.

Divorce: the single greatest thing to happen to me (so far)