It’s funny. When you get first married you find the word husband like a funny foreign language. Those first few months after you’ve taken your vows, you catch yourself getting flushed with a mixture of excitement and awkwardness when you introduce the man who was previously only a boyfriend as your husband. The title of boyfriend is seen as something far more nonsensical than the formality and officialness of a husband. It is as though what was previously only a temporary fixture has now magically morphed into something people take far more seriously once you tack on the title of husband.
So for those beginning months of marriage, you roll the word husband around on your tongue like you are sipping a fine wine; tasting it’s new syllables and sounds. As excited as you are, it still feels foreign and strange to say the world husband aloud; how can something that feels so foreign belong to someone you know and love so intimately?
Soon enough though, the word “husband” becomes old hat. Thinking of your significant other in such terms becomes automatic and worn in, like a favorite pair of shoes. You realize you have joined the ranks of millions of other couples with the exact same labels and, in actuality, it is nothing special. If anything, sometimes it’s thrown out as sarcasm or disdain when you are airing your grievances with your girlfriends over happy hour or coworkers at the water cooler.
“My husband is so obsessed with football he almost burned down the house making tater tots”
“My husband thought it would be a grand idea to feed the kids three pounds of chocolate on Halloween”
“My husband thinks romance is instant mac and cheese for an anniversary dinner”
It can become as if you are aren’t actually talking about the person you married but instead this conundrum that is now the universal husband- all of whom are silly and cause you to pull your hair out little by little.
One of the strangest things I have found in divorce, is that the same process holds true when it comes to the word ex-husband. It is a word that, at first, is filled with venom. Hate. Distaste. Complete indifference and emotional coldness that only comes from the side-splitting emotional pain that soon mushroom clouds over you whenever you think of the divorce.
It was a title I used to avoid even uttering; at first using only his name and then, later, special choice phrases I had picked out just for him and his rotting soul as he continued to screw me out of house and home. It made things so very real-too real– to refer to him with such a label as ex-husband. It made my shoulders wilt in sadness and shame that my life had turned out this way and I had been so incredibly stupid in my choices. That word, in that first few months of separation made me feel the reality and gravity of the situation in an “in-your-face” kind of way that I otherwise avoided thinking about. It made me recognize that I would never again sleep in my own bed, see my beloved dog, cuddle up on the couch I had so painstakingly picked out, garden in my precious garden, or even see the man that I thought I knew better than anyone else in this world-and conversely knew me. All of the seven years of memories made together and friendship cultivated was now turned to ashes, placed in an urn and engraved with the words “ex-husband.”
It was utterly exhausting to use that word.
But now, a year later, I can say that word ex-husband rolls off my tongue with ease. It garners almost the same kind of disdain and complaint that I see my married friends use when they speak of their husbands as they vent about the lack of planning, listening or efforts on their spouse’s part. Now that it is old hat, I can throw around ex-husband without a second thought or tinge of emotion. This only makes sense as the man who embodies this title for me has become nothing but a caricature of a person I once knew since I truly did not know the person he became at the end of our divorce and our 2 years of non-personal contact has faded him nearly entirely in my realm of reality. His silly actions to propel my guilt or seek vengeance have long since ceased and thusly their effects have paralleled this nonexistence.
Now, out of the limelight of an active and ongoing divorce, all of his antics, which at the time felt so breathtakingly painful and gut wrenching, now just seem childish and antiquated. Would I still like some of my items of nostalgia or immense value back? For sure. But without them, life has traipsed on and clearly, will continue to do so. And this life that has moved on, with or without my consent, has actually not been half bad. Some times more than half of it has, miraculously, been quite wonderful.
And you know what? I will take that ‘not half bad’ over the ‘three quarters bad’ my life was while still married. And there is nothing my ex-husband can do to change that.
It is time for a new beginning. A beginning where all words taste sweet, even when mixed with the bitter.