I decided to move on. I knew he would never make the first move, so I invited my spouse to my apartment for coffee and told him my intentions to divorce him. To my surprise, he accepted my decision but disagreed with it.  My spouse lived at the house, and I took everything I wanted when I left. I asked him to contact me if he ever decided to sell since that was the only property left we had jointly. We agreed to a fair distribution of our retirement benefits and royalties and since there were no minor children, the divorce terms were simplified. Our lawyers were caught off guard by how cooperative and tidy the process was, not to mention how inexpensive their fees were for my spouse and me.

The hearing date was set. Reality set in. I became anxious, and nauseous and started doubting if I was doing the right thing. I had the support of family and friends and of course, I prayed about it. The hearing date was months away, but I focused on it daily, and couldn’t sleep. I was apprehensive about my decision. My identity as a wife was slipping away and my status would be changed to divorced. Physically we’re apart but I still had a married mentality. As long as I’m separated, I’m not divorced or single, I’m married. Maybe I’m afraid and not ready to be unmarried, unwed, unattached, or single.  My spouse is the only man I’ve been with for decades and I doubt I’m fit or even know how to be in a decent relationship with a stranger.

I got out my self-help books and notes and studied everything for confirmation that I was doing the right thing. I found notes on what I wanted and needed for myself and about the importance of keeping my boundaries in relationships. I looked back at how dysfunctional we lived under one roof. It was like a boxing ring, each living in our corner of the house until we met in the middle and fought. I compared my peaceful living conditions now and there is no comparison. I remember how we failed to reconcile or even be friends post-separation. I came to my senses and accepted that I was doing the right thing, what I needed, and what was best for me.

The divorce hearing was in an old historic courthouse that smelled like mildew. I had the courtroom directions and still got lost. I was nervous and went to the bathroom to collect myself. I prayed and then found the right hallway leading to the courtroom. The hallway was long, and the heels of my flat shoes clacked on the floor and echoed. I felt like I was walking a plank, a dead man walking. I got to the courtroom, it was surreal, my spouse was in one corner, and I was in the other. The hearing was matter-of-fact. All the years of marriage dissolved in 15 sweaty minutes. It was a well-oiled, professional, speedy process administered by a nonchalant judge. I heard the word ‘divorced’, and we attended to a few other administrative details. It was over. My spouse and I hugged, we all left and went our separate ways, and I went back to the bathroom and cried in a stall.

I needed the finality of divorce to fully commit to healing and wholeness, no matter the struggles, aloneness, and loneliness. It was time to embrace my independence and be independent. I wish the marital status of divorced and single could be replaced with ‘independent’ to lessen the impact. I’m divorced and at peace with it. Going forward, severing ties with my spouse makes it possible to be open to friendships and companionship in healthy relationships, as I navigate my new normal.