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The 'Wife'.

There’s something deeply offensive about being addressed, repeatedly and with emphasis imposed by a capital letter, as ‘the Wife’ during divorce legal proceedings. The law may not have disentangled you from this role but you have mentally, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. It’s an affront and a very personal one which only serves to underline how excruciating and laborious the withdrawal process really is.

And when all is said and done there’s not a huge amount to look forward to. In the eyes of others (and notably a former significant other) you gain the preposition ‘ex’ and a continual orientating back to what you were like being held down inside a punishing wave. God forbid you may even be reduced to simply being ‘the ex’, possibly the most dismissive noun that exists in the English language. It seems a form of ongoing penance by means of syntax.

Conventional marriage seems to advocate the fusing of two people to the detriment of individual personalities and its lingering labels during divorce and beyond appear to attempt a permanent shackling. Of course there’s a chasm between the way you see yourself and the opinions of wider society and its structural constraints. It’s an act of constant rigour and considerable bravery to disassociate the two and inhabit your true self.

So by what means do you reclaim your identity? As a woman, reverting to your maiden name (if you relinquished it)? Debating the merits of Ms. vs Mrs.? Talking about the father of your children as just that (rather than any relationship they once had to you)? These terms of modified reference are signals and signifiers to the outside world, yes, but if they lack inner meaning they’re no more use than a paper parasol in a tropical rainstorm.

All you can really rely on is to constantly remind yourself of the intention you set when deciding to divorce. That the path you were on wasn’t working anymore and that there is an alternative one ahead, even if for a time you can’t see it as you have your eyes trained to the ground considering only your immediate steps. If there’s anything to etch onto yourself in semi-permanent marker perhaps it’s a series of small mantras: you’re no longer stuck, you got out, you’re progressing, keep going.

When you feel on a more permanent footing (and less like you have one leg shorter than the other and are moving unwittingly in a circle) maybe there will be some bold new tags to adopt. Or better still a complete transcendence of any form of traditional pigeon holing, a return to the child on the verge of adulthood defined only loosely by the tribe into which you were born. A state of transition. A reminder life is yours for the taking and making.


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