For what now seems like only a brief moment of time I had a different moniker. LaToya Cotton or, am my GMC cadet peers called me, Mrs. Cotton. For the total of two plus years I was married to my first husband. It’s a period in my life that has taken me almost a decade to get past but I’ve had occasions recently where I’ve found myself giving it a great deal more thought. When is divorce really the right course of action?
If you asked me that before and during my divorce I would have told you never. I would’ve naively said through my pain-filled tears that you never break marriage vows. Even now I believe that that is as it should be. However, I also know that we make the choices that we do in life not only because they’re the right ones, we make them out of the fear of what the other options may bring. Sometimes we feel that a bad decision may somehow work out to be the right one or that there is no sunshine after the torrential downpour. Even though we may have the best of intentions, the one thing you can count on in life is that it never goes the way you plan.
My mom and dad have been married since they were 19 and 21 respectively. Growing up my brother and I were raised only by couples who remained together. In addition to our parents, both sets of our grandparents are either still married or widowed. We were both raised to aspire to that. And we’re both learning about marriages that are sometimes forced to end. When I decided to marry young, I thought that I was merely following in the footsteps of my parents. At least, that’s what I’d hoped for. I didn’t get the fairytale ending but I did get to reclaim my name.
I must admit that there are sometimes blessings that can come during and immediately after a divorce. I consider myself quite fortunate that I’ve really neither seen nor spoken to my ex-husband since our divorce a decade ago. It was a very hard road. There was a lot to overcome. There were years of utter despair, self-loathing and seclusion. There were many moments of bad decisions and occasional recklessness. No matter what the terms of a divorce are, there is always a period of mourning. I mourned for years. The thing is, I’m still on that road. I think that because we didn’t have children or any reason to remain in contact that I was able to live in a solitary compartmentalized haze for several years while I tried to make sense of it all. If it wasn’t for my very close family and a handful of friends, I’m honestly not sure where I’d be. During those times it often very easy to lose sight of one’s purpose and general sense of being.
Everyone heals in their own way and in their own time. For me, despite being very happily remarried…okay, let’s be real, I love my husband but he drives me crazy. I’m only human. I married someone who is in many ways my opposite so I consider him the yin to my yang. As I was saying, I’m remarried and during this time of renewed hope and contentment my mind will sometimes drift back to my first walk down the aisle. I thought that I was Superwoman and that I could overcome it all. I’d forgotten that it takes two people who want the same things and want them from each other in order to have a chance at making it work.
Do we ever really get over our first? I didn’t used to think so. However, letting go and accepting that life is never quite how we envision it has helped. It’s been a very long and arduous journey. I will admit that in some ways I’m not fully over it. Even now the pain is still there. I’ve let go of a lot since it all happened but having lived in that painful space for so long, some things linger. There were so many dreams and wishes that never did and never will come to fruition. But we all live, adapt and ultimately we are forced to move on. I’m no longer bitter about it but I’m still not at peace with the hurt of the experience.
I know that sometimes people think that by telling us about what our exes are up to they’re doing us a favor but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t want to know about my ex-husband. That can be said for all my exes. We’d all like to be stronger than we really are but sometimes we just aren’t. Sure, I wish them well. I want for them to be happy, of course, but I don’t want or need to know about it. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way and I acknowledge that some may even see it as being petty. Regardless, if an ex wins the Nobel Peace Prize or has ensured the continuance of his family line, I don’t want to know.
The thing is, at the end of the day we sometimes don’t want to be reminded of an unhappy painful period of their lives. Yes, life goes on but these are the things that are deeply personal, the things you carry with you your entire life. They are the experiences that shape you, that guide you and that can define you. Sometimes it’s not necessary to remain or be reminded of the space where your past has full control over you or holds your interest to the detriment of the life you’re meant to live. In the face of my first marriage failing I felt helpless, undesirable and unfulfilled. And even though at the time it was a course of action that I did not want to take, there were and are better and brighter days if you allow it. Divorces aren’t always the end, sometimes they are the very beginnings that puts our lives on the path we were ultimately meant to go down.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 8/14/13 issue of The Union-Recorder. The article appeared under the title, When is Divorce the Right Choice?