The last unexpected emotion I experienced during my divorce that I want to discuss is relief. I saved this one for last because it is definitely the most unexpected, and perhaps the hardest for people who have not been divorced to completely understand.
Relief is the removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing. Something is oppressive when it is unreasonably burdensome or severe, or overwhelming or depressing to the spirit.
Relief came during this process at two different points - once I accepted that my marriage was over, and once my marital settlement agreement was submitted.
While I didn’t expect my marriage to end, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t been a bit tumultuous in the months leading up to it. I was finishing law school, studying for and taking the California Bar Exam, healing from a third surgery, and having difficulty finding a job. That led to a lot of physical, emotional, and financial stress on both my ex and myself. There were a lot of arguments, schedule shifts, loneliness, and angst. So when he initiated our separation, it just heightened these things.
The physical, emotional, and financial pressures drastically increased as I tried to navigate these stressors with my ex, who really, was no longer interested or invested in navigating them with me. I was constantly asking him for help with meeting our daughter’s needs, financially supporting myself, and salvaging our relationship. Because he was no longer interested, I was usually met with anger, resistance, confrontation, or frustration. When I finally realized and accepted that our relationship was over and that I would need to handle these stressors on my own, a weight was lifted. I didn’t need to engage in or accept this behavior, nor depend on him. I could function independently of him, and do so with much more peace than I had been experiencing while trying to depend on him. That beautiful realization gave me such relief. I felt empowered and emboldened. I am a woman. I could do this!
Then, even though I had determined to be independent and self-sufficient, I had to navigate the divorce process with my ex. There’s simply no way around that. We had court appearances and decisions to make that could simply not be done without the other. Sometimes these things went incredibly smoothly - we’d be in agreement and amicable. Sometimes these things went incredibly adversarially - we’d be in complete disagreement and miserable. But eventually, we came together, drafted a settlement agreement that included everything involved in our divorce, and filed it with the court. After filing that settlement agreement, there was nothing else to be done but await the court’s response. Having gone to law school and worked in family law, I was confident it would be approved because it was fair. So again, I experienced great relief with that filing because I had reached the end of the meaty part of my divorce. I no longer needed to check in with my ex for big decisions nor get his input. Everything was done.
I said this was an emotion that people who hadn’t been divorced wouldn’t understand because it seems completely contrary to the end of such a tragic event. When people hear that I’m relieved, that feeling is often interpreted as happiness that my marriage is over. I, at no point, was happy that my marriage was over. To this day, it is still very devastating that my marriage and family did not last. But it is not devastating that I no longer have to withstand the stress that came with my marriage and the confrontation that came with my divorce. I am at peace. And that is relief.