Shades of Gray

Last week, I signed a formal Separation Agreement. A tree was lost in getting to the final document; in drafts, court filings, and copies of documentation passed back and forth between all parties.

For those unfamiliar with the process, the SA (as it is commonly called) is filed in court after the spouses come to agreement and then sign it. After being reviewed and approved by the judge, it becomes the final divorce settlement.

The tricky thing about the SA is that there has to be AGREEMENT between the divorcing parties on ALL issues–big and small. During the negotiation process, I often thought that if we AGREED we probably wouldn’t be getting divorced!

But now we are agreed. Or at least we have compromised (given in?) enough to sign the SA, thus avoiding a trial in court. This will now turn into a Dissolution of Marriage, commonly called a ‘disillusionment’. Which is somewhat funny on a good day, because I am certainly disillusioned after the last few years! Thankfully, I am not delusional.

Marriages begin on a specific day that is forevermore celebrated as ‘the anniversary,’ but the ending of a marriage is not always so clearly defined. Most unions begin with an exchange of vows in a religious or civil ceremony and some sort of formal promise of “til death do us part.” The promises take only a few minutes to make, but many years to get out of.

When does a marriage officially end? In some ways, never. If there are children born of the union, the ‘ex’ is in your life for good. It isn’t like trading in a car, where you dump off the old car and roll out with a shiny new one, never to set eyes on the old car again. There will always be a relationship; it just changes with a divorce.

If you ask me, when the promises are broken and the parties’ no longer share a life together, there is sort of an informal divorce. When I filed for divorce almost 18 months ago and moved into my own home, I was essentially ‘out’ of the marriage. My decision was made. I did not have a final divorce decree. But I certainly didn’t think of myself has ‘married.’

For me, winding my way through the divorce proceedings was just paperwork. For a girl who had never been in a courtroom until recently, I even good at court dates once I got the hang of them. The attorney’s go into court with the magistrate and haggle it all out. My function was to sit in the hallway looking pretty.

In preparation for my last court appearance, I stopped at the bookstore to pick up a copy of a book I had been wanting to read. After all, I wasn’t at home doing chores, there were no children present, and I wasn’t at work. I considered it a Perfect opportunity to relax and have some quiet time. I’m fairly certain ‘my better half’ wanted to tear his hair out—I might have heard his voice raised in argument somewhere in the vicinity a time or two…As for me, It isn’t often I get ‘free time,’ so I might as well have been reading at the beach. I even brought along a snack.

I have been living as a single woman for almost a year and a half. Longer if you count the time I was a ‘wife’ living with a ‘husband’ who was in such a state of intense confusion that he fell far short of being an attentive husband. Today, I am still a ‘wife’ in the gray area of the legal world. Pending the filing of the SA and a judge’s approval, I will no longer be a wife. There will be a paper that says so.

Maybe I’ll plant a tree to mark the day I get that paper?