So…it’s finally properly and completely over.
Although we’ve been separated over 5 years and divorced for almost exactly 1 year, I have only just today received our court stamped financial settlement.
I’m neither happy nor sad about it really. It’s good to know that I will no longer be lining the pockets of lawyers, and that I at last know what the future is likely to look like financially. I’m never going to be rich but I’m not going to be poor either, and that’s fine. I won’t have the sort of life I would have had if I had remained in the marriage, but for every material thing I’ll no longer have, I’ll have a ton of happiness to which I previously would not have had access.
There was no fighting about the settlement – I took what I was offered, and I didn’t ask for more. But I was careful to seek legal advice throughout the process so my decisions – although often against the advice of my lawyers – were well informed. The most important thing for me was to maintain my integrity and find a path through what was equitable and fair, and what was enough. In the end I went for enough, because what I was offered was enough. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling that I was lucky that my ex husband was so successful. I want to spend the rest of my life knowing that I’ve worked hard and that with hard work comes rewards.
It would have been easy in some respects to fight – and certainly that was what my lawyers were hoping for, since it would have lined their pockets. But if you should ever find yourself in a similar position, make sure you consider whether the psychological and emotional toll of the process would be worth the potential financial gains. I was constantly aware of the incongruency of feeling envious about the fact that my ex appears to live in such comparative splendor given that I have spent my entire career working to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. Why should I be entitled to anything better than the actually very nice life I already have?
But envy is an insidious thing. It creeps up on you as you scroll through your social media feeds, watching your friends living the life you expected to have post childrearing – exotic travel, holiday property purchases, renovations, rediscovering romance with your loved one. It mixes up with anger and takes you back to a place you thought you had left. Then I realized that my envy was really just a disguise for the grief I was experiencing for the life I had lost, both present and future, that I thought was going to be mine and ended up being one of the casualties of divorce. And I was reminded, again, that nothing is guaranteed, nothing can be promised, and that you have to make your own luck.
Even without fighting though, I found the process draining and demeaning. In addition to my inner turmoil about the above, the system seems to consider that the material assets built up over the course of a 21 year relationship belong to your husband, who may, out of the goodness of his heart, decide to give you some. Then you are supposed to be grateful and consider yourself lucky.
I refuse to be grateful.
I am grateful for my beautiful children, and I am grateful that I have the means to support myself going forwards – but everything I have taken from my marriage is part of what I helped to build up and as such I have taken my share. I am not lucky that my ex husband is successful – we (he and I) are lucky that over the course of our relationship we jointly built up a life and careers from which we will both continue to benefit.
Now I can start the work of really planning how I will protect my financial interest going forwards – something that I should have been doing all along.
I already know that leaving my husband is the best thing I ever did for myself. I’ve never regretted it, although I’ve found it hard to process. But I will no longer torture myself over what was done, or not done, or could have been done. I will not wish for the life I would have had, or mourn the one I’d left. I will race forwards in life, reaching out for all the opportunities I would have missed, all the adventures I would not have had, all the lovers I would not have kissed.
And should I ever find myself in a similar position again – God forbid – I will simply channel Beyoncé…
“This is your final warning…
You know I give you life
If you try this shit again
Gonna lose your wife”