Marriage is not just about commitment, it is also about investment. It is an investment of our time, our energy, our emotions – in fact, of our lives, if that is not too grand a term to use. And just like any other investment, we expect timely dividends.
And that is precisely why divorce can be such a trauma. Not for everybody of course – some people pick themselves up, dust themselves down and move on with a rueful shrug. But for others, divorce is simply one of the most stressful events in their lives. And those who struggle the most post decree nisi are those who have invested the most in the failed relationship.
So what are you left with as a divorced person? I am not talking about your financial settlement or your childcare arrangements, but your outlook and your sense of yourself. Even if you feel battered and bruised by the most rancorous of splits, you could still be left with something valuable: wisdom. Hard-won experience. That is something to be proud of and it will mean, if you chose to marry again, that you will no longer be the person who tied the knot the first time round. You will be a broader, stronger person, forged in the fires of experience.
At least in theory! Some people never learn and trot on merrily throughout their lives, making the same mistakes over and over again, and they can certainly include inflated expectations at the altar and self-defeating behaviours after the honeymoon. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Earlier today I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post divorce blog by Lisa Arends. In this Arends discusses her dislike for the term ‘remarriage’. For her, this seemingly innocuous word implies unthinking repetition, going through the same old motions. As she puts it:
“To me, the prefix “re” means to do again in the same way. I don’t want a repeat of my first marriage, simply following the well-worn grooves of my initial journey into matrimony. It implies a backwards motion: revert, retrace, revise. I have no desire to move backwards, to redo my first marriage and subsequent divorce.”
She adds: “I am no longer the same woman I was when I said my vows all those years ago. When I approached my first marriage, I was not naïve — as I had experienced hardship — but I did put too much responsibility for happiness on my husband. Now, I take ownership for my well-being and I know how to find happiness in the smallest of corners.”
I think that is very wise. Arends went through a sudden and painful divorce three years ago but has used this experience as a “catalyst for positive change”. She now works as a ‘wellness coach’ (what an American term!), helping other people to make sense of their divorces.
Some people may bristle at such terms as “catalyst for positive change”. They sound like buzzwords, the language of self-help books. But for me, at least, it is not about the language, it is about the attitude, about refusing to be a victim, about creating something positive from an experience that seems so negative. Does anyone else remember that old saying that you cannot always control what happens to you but you can control how you respond to it? I always liked that observation.
Your attitude, even the words you use, can make a huge difference to your life. In a way, what you believe becomes your life. By rejecting the word ‘remarriage’ Arends is sending a clear signal to her subconscious, one that says any new marriage will be genuinely fresh start. And I think she may well be right.