The upside of divorce

November 6 is an important day for me. In the hierarchy of days, it’s up there with my birthday and New Year: days on which we mark the passage of time and reflect on how much progress we have (or haven’t) made.

That’s because November 6 is the anniversary of my divorce - three years since the judge stamped his gavel and consigned our marriage to history.

Is it something to celebrate?

Well, yes.

My marriage was an unhappy one and I firmly believe that both my ex-husband and I are better off for having ended it. (It was a mutual decision reached after much angst.) I’ve regretted so many things, but never the divorce – though I’ll admit that I’ve shed many tears over all the wasted years of my marriage, and cast many evil looks at people who say things like “But it’s part of who you are” and “You can’t change the past”.

Compared to a lot of the horror stories I’ve heard, my divorce was a breeze.

From the moment we made the decision at the end of September 2009 to the moment it went to court took all of five weeks. We’d kept our financial affairs simple and apart from one or two occasions where he threatened to sue me for everything I had (including threatening SMSes while I was running a client workshop – that was fun) we didn’t fight over money.

But no matter how easy the divorce itself is, the process is wrenching and terrible and you’re never quite the same afterwards: there will always be a pain that will never heal.

I’ve been told that it takes two years to recover from divorce; I’m still waiting. The split was just one of many piles of manure that happened to hit my personal fan at that time, and the cumulative effect wrecked me. I still feel broken, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be fixed.

So the anniversary of my divorce is an opportunity to assess where I am and whether I’ve managed to make any progress since the days of frenetic post-divorce dating. It makes sense to mark the passing of an event that is in many ways just as significant as marriage, perhaps even more so. Being divorced changes your entire identity, after all. When you fill in forms, you are “divorced”. When strangers at parties enquire after your relationship status, you’re “divorced.” You join dating sites for divorced people because you’re all survivors, marked in some way.

The idea of celebrating the divorce and then marking the anniversary is growing in popularity around the world. Examples include a site called with a comment reading, “My divorce party was cathartic. I finally let go of all the anger, sadness and regret” while on, they offer advice on ways to commemorate. Gift suggestions include coffin-shaped ring boxes, spa treatments and dinners with friends.

One obvious route would be to look at the traditional 3rd wedding anniversary gift and subvert that. Crystal and glass are listed, but the traditional gift is leather – which is brilliant, because it means everything from shoes to horse-riding gear - I really do need to get back into riding - to, erm, the sort of equipment inspired by 50 Shades of Grey.

When I tweeted about this the other night I got a range of options, most of them revolving around getting drunk, getting laid or both. (I told the person who suggested an orgy that it was too much of a schlep to organize - since I’m now permanently retired from dating and relationships, the idea of anything to do with men makes me very, very tired.)

As part of the research for this piece, I googled my ex-husband’s new wife’s blog. Stalking lite, I suppose you could call it.

Finding another, fast

Divorce often leaves a spouse-shaped hole in people’s lives, which might explain why he replaced me almost immediately, joining an Australian dating site, finding the perfect woman – he’s an architect, she’s an interior designer – and getting married within six months of getting divorced.

Their child was born two months before the first anniversary of the split. He and his wife seem very happy in Sydney. They’ve started an architecture and interiors business and by all accounts their life looks perfect. It’s certainly incredibly tasteful in a shabby chic sort of way.

I felt a familiar twist in my gut when I read about their plans to build a house and the fact that they have a British Blue  (the cat breed I wanted when we were married). Here come the vapours, I thought. The familiar anger and regret over having wasted so many years of my life on something that made me so miserable. But it soon passed. I went out for dinner with friends and had a mug of green tea because I’m on a health kick, and I didn’t feel like drinking wine.

If I acknowledge the anniversary, it’s about reminding myself that no matter how difficult these past three years have been, I can hold onto one thing: that I am free.

He has his life. I’m living mine. It’s up to me to make the most of what I have.

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