“I think you are the first person I’ve seen on here who is celebrating divorce,” a man on a dating app wrote to me recently. After reading my profile, which is upfront and upbeat about my updated marital status, he asked, “Is your bar really that low?”
Dude, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who is divorced, happier for it, and honest about that.
P.S.: Fuck you. Or get someone else to. My bar is way too high, and I should know, because I weathered a divorce.
I’m writing this valentine for you, my fellow divorced person.
Divorce is primal-scream-in-the-dining-room bad. It’s crying-all-day bad. It’s a boat without oars. It’s peanut-butter crackers without a drink. It’s a cave without lights — a haunted one.
I moved six times in the 18 months following the day I walked out with a suitcase and a few hundred dollars in the bank — four years ago this week. In that first year and a half, I managed to keep my clients while also finding one bad boyfriend, one terrible landlord, a grueling surgery, and a Chihuahua mix named Ginny for whom I’d probably lay down my life.
I remember the moment I realized post-divorce, at 31, that I was the only single person at Friendsgiving. My stomach shriveled to the size of a raisin just when I was supposed to eat piles of stuffing, Brussels sprouts, guacamole, turkey, samosas, and pie (it was a potluck).
I know what it’s like when you’re still vibrating with the trauma, elation, and grief of surviving your divorce and people keep asking if you’ll ever get married again. I want an award for every time I refrained from shrieking, “Not in a million years!”
“The easy way out”
I grew up in a conservative religious community that frowned on divorce, calling it “the easy way out.” You and I know that staying in an abusive, bad, or just-plain-wrong-for-you marriage because you’re afraid of what people will think if you split up is actually the easier option — if you don’t mind dying on the inside.
After you stood up in front of everyone IRL and on social media and promised to love one person forever, admitting you made the wrong decision and need to overhaul your whole life actually makes jumping off a cliff sound like a breeze.
For many, the commercial hoopla of Valentine’s Day can range from a chronic irritation (for those who have opted out of the marriage-industrial complex) to a letdown (for those whose partners forget or let it slide) to a heaving lake of sadness (for those who long for partners but don’t have one). But for folks who have tried what is supposed to be the ultimate life of love and then had to figure out a new life, the V-day baggage can be extraordinary.
I still remember the last Valentine’s Day bouquet I got: a dozen velvety red roses from my ex. He was trying to tempt me back, though he rarely brought me flowers while we were together. I gave them to my new neighbors.
Do it for you
But that’s not why I’m writing you this valentine. In the years since my own divorce, many of my friends and family have turned to me for support during their own divorces. So I’m writing this to tell you that once you get through this, every day is a valentine — to yourself.
Cooking for two — your own delicious dinner tonight and tomorrow: that’s a valentine to yourself.
Relaxing in bed alone, in a room that’s messy only if you left it that way, books stacked on the nightstand: valentine to yourself.
Taking your own self out to a Friday-night poetry slam without thinking about how anyone else will get there. Keeping your own budget and paying your rent. A Netflix queue with nothing but your own picks determining the watch-next algorithm. Happy hour with your friends and nobody to check in with. Meeting more people at parties because you waltz in solo: all valentines to yourself.
Inviting someone into your bed if you want to share it. Or accepting someone else’s invitation to fresh sheets and low lights. That’s a valentine to yourself. (If those sheets aren’t fresh, move on — that’s another valentine to you.)
I don’t need February 14 to feel special, what with all the valentines I give myself every damn day of the year. And today, I give one to you, my fellow divorced person. I see you. You’re enough. Your possibilities are endless and your bar is high. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.