Branded by (or Rebranding) Divorce
Full disclosure, I have been married and divorced four times. You probably just judged me one way or another. There’s still a lot of stigma around divorce in this country. Many people in my generation practiced legalized serial monogamy or they just stayed married no matter what. That was the other choice. I could go through each of my four marriage stories and explain to you why I didn’t stay, but why should I have to do that? I’ve had people judge me for breaking up with someone even if we weren’t married. Many of us have. Would I have enjoyed the fairytale happily ever after, with obvious small glitches we found ways to surmount? Probably. Now that I’m older I’m not necessarily looking to settle down with anyone. I would enjoy a nice Tuesday/Thursday lover though.
Let’s explore that expression — “settle down” for a minute. I’ve never wanted to settle. Those four marriages and various other “live in” experiences were all wonderful learning opportunities. You might think I’m talking about learning what I want in a partner. Perhaps to a point, but what I learned much more about were my own smokescreens. The ones I threw up to protect myself, not so much from others but from my own fears. I became intimate with my own baggage. I learned to unpack it. Refold it. Toss some of it out. I needed those up close and very personal experiences to do that. That’s just the way I’m wired. Maybe your work life is your test kitchen. Mine has always been personal relationships.
I learned a lot. I did deep dives. I repeated childhood trauma conditions to force myself to face them. I didn’t do any of this in a premeditated manner. I just let my intuition drive with a relief driver wearing a societal expectations promotional jacket taking the wheel from time to time. I left each of my relationships when I realized that they weren’t a good fit for me. Sometimes it was because I had learned all that I could in the relationship and all that was left were vestiges of that childhood trauma I mentioned. Once we were completely delighted with each other but saddened to discover that our core values were not aligned. That’s a dealbreaker. Whether you want it to be or not. You become resentful when your worldviews are too different, especially if one negates or makes the other difficult to maintain.
Some people get divorced for self-centered reasons — they want a new and improved model, they’re not wired for monogamy, or they just want it all — the comfort and security of a committed relationship and the excitement of variety or the chase. You do need to “settle down” to be in a committed relationship, as in, you need to stop being indiscriminately wild or at least to only be wild with one person, but I don’t think you should ever actually settle. I’m not advocating holding out for perfection. None of us hit that mark. No one’s body or mind or heart is perfect. But I do think you should be selfish. I do think you should do what works for you. So should your partner. It is sheer bliss what that lines up. It can be hell when it doesn’t.
But maybe it is okay to settle if you just want a buddy, a companion to walk beside you through the latter chapters of your story. I don’t want that but maybe you do. Maybe you’re young and you still want that. If you really do, that’s cool. If you’re settling because you think you can’t do better, be careful. That’s a recipe for resentment. You may start to blame the other person for not being the love of your life. But here’s the thing, you’re responsible for loving your life. Make your choices accordingly. What works for you may not work for someone else. Doesn’t matter. It’s your front door, your table, your bed. Walk, talk, and love authentically. You, as they say, do you. And if you screw up remember, “Lefty loosey, righty tighty.”