Let’s Say No to ‘Divorced’

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Years ago, I remember my late mother was fuming over being called a “divorcee.” I understand that better now. As one that divorced like so many others, I started to question why I need to check the “divorced” box on applications, as if I have some kind of disease or disorder.

Is “divorced” a positive label? I think not. Divorced suggests that we are all failures at the most important relationships in our lives. We are the dead beets, the losers of significant others. At first, such may seem reasonable. We made a lifelong commitment only to turn away from it later and say, “Nah, I think not after heavenly ever after.

People, though are sloppy creatures. In my case, I was only with one woman my whole life. For twenty years, we did the dad bodies on the cul-de-sacs with the mini-van, then the SUV in the house with the two-and-a-half kids. We had a tough high-risk twin pregnancy and almost lost our kids five times in a month. But as time went on, we both realized that we were never “in love”—in true love. We came to love one another as companions, as soldiers of our children’s protection, but we recognized that each was not the person we thought the other really was. We were never in love with one another.

In our case, the separation and divorce were simple. We had no fights. We never cheated on one another. If anything, some of our lawyers wanted big fights for bigger money. After a year of COVID lockdowns, I made the difficult decision to let my kids go to South Korea for education. It was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. We have joint custody. On June 12, I said goodbye to my two kids, never knowing when I’d see them again.

But when you love someone, you try your best to do what is best for them. I knew that my kids being bilingual, acclimated with two world cultures would serve them very well. It would serve them better than dad being there physically. That is my gamble. Maybe I don’t think highly enough of myself, but I really want what is best for them. Love is like that.

Now, I find myself alone with my dog. While I don’t have much hope of being able to fall in love or have true love, I started questioning why I should be “divorced” for the rest of my life. Excuse me, but I am now single. What else do you need to know unless I want to share what I am sharing here?

Many of you single folks have had many more relationships than I have. You may be 17 and have already had more than I have my whole life. Should you be called a “separated individual” for the rest of your life? Presently, I feel like 15 when thinking about dating. I have no idea what I am doing.

I no longer have a dad body. In fact, I am in the best shape of my life. I lost 53 pounds. I cycle, have six-pack abs, and even have braces. I am starting to think that school buses are fountains of youth. We will see if I get more hair on my head. If that happens, I am convinced. But with all these changes, why shouldn’t my relationship status, what labels me, change as well? I am not my past relationship. Neither are you.

That relationship was not a failure. We lived with each other for over two decades. We learned, laughed, loved, and grieved together. We brought two wonderful kids into the world. We built a home. Though few plan to leave a marriage when they get married, fewer know what the future holds, and what kind of challenges they all face. Plenty of people love to play the blame game, and plenty stay married though they are unhappy and miserable. Should the idea of commitment keep both people miserable as well as their families? I am happy I did not make that choice. Though I cannot speak for my ex-wife, I knew too little about relationships and moved too quickly. Nonetheless, I did my very best for 20 years as she did, too. These are successes amid failures.

There is a Buddhist statement that really rings true: In life, you are given a thousand drops of happiness and a thousand drops of sorrow. I would add that you should use them wisely.

Loving someone is very painful, especially if you cannot be with that person. Nothing is more challenging. I only became suicidal once. Love is the culprit but also the savior. I somehow endured. But love is so beautiful when you really find it. I realized that I never found it in that relationship, but that does not mean it was my ex-wife’s fault. She is not to blame. She would often say, “Earl, I feel that you have no passion.” I’d deny it, say that I am of British descent and can’t express it, but I realized that though I loved her, I was not in love with her. That was very difficult for me to accept and to tell her. I don’t ever want to hurt someone like that again. If I am not madly in love with a girl, I will face the pain of being alone for the rest of my life.

But I know now so much better how to do a relationship with a woman. I know how to love her and share vulnerability as an act of courage. I know how to raise kids better than I raised my own. I am mature, some would say “old,” but I am at a point in my life where I know that bliss is in a moment and that love is deep, so deep that what you want for that someone may not be you. In other words, you need to let them go. Loving you may not be a prerogative after all, but the other has to make that choice. Love can be pain and bliss, too.

Yes, I feel I  expired, that I no longer can have the things other couples have. You know, all those dating ads that show young twenty-somethings smiling and loving each other. I realize that I am not in that picture. I am not written about at all or in a positive way.  I have already lived. I am too young but too old all at once. I am expired. But, at the very least, don’t put the “divorced” label on me.

People should be more than used cars. Should I be a preowned man? Barely used male? High mileage but looks new, only with one owner? What about women: Advanced-age cougar, like a virgin, promiscuous but precious female?

The “divorced” label is prejudicial and stigmatizing. I do not wish to call myself that. Why should you call me that? Why should you call yourself that?  I am single. Yes, I had a divorce, as millions have. Yes, I left a relationship, just like so many unmarried and married people do.

One little girl asked me on the school bus if I was married. I said, no. She then asked if I had kids. I said yes. She then said, “Well, how can you be single and have kids.” I said many people do. I am so happy no one told her about the “divorced” label yet. Let’s keep it that way.

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