My marriage didn’t end abruptly. There was no infidelity or wrong-doing on anyone’s part. It just slowly unravelled, like a ball of wool, metre by metre, until there was nothing left.
When I packed a few bags – under our marriage councillor’s advice – to stay at a friend’s place for some breathing space, the thought ‘divorce’ did cross my mind. It wasn’t that I thought it would never happen to us. I just didn’t realise it would be like this.
Some experts equate the end of a marriage to the death of a loved one. But at the time, almost five years ago, all I could taste was adventure and new beginnings. Marriage at 22 years of age for me had less to do with finding the right person and more to do with leaving the family home and claiming my independence.
I wasn’t allowed to date or have a boyfriend before I married. It was all part of upholding the expectations that come with being female within migrant culture.
Ten years later, after taking out a lease on my first place with my daughter who was three at the time, there was still lingering hope for my marriage. In hindsight it was probably over, but we still clung on, refusing to let go. We were still having regular dinners to keep things consistent for our daughter.
It’s strange, but I feel like we helped each other through the first year, where we weren’t quite sure what was going on. We were still friendly, still attracted to one another – we would have family hugs on each arrival and departure. I was estranged from my immediate family who wanted nothing more than the marriage solidified. I had no real friends to turn to. All I had was him.
I kept myself occupied with my studies in professional writing and editing, mothering, and I made sure I kept seeing my psychologist. The further I slipped away from my husband, the scarier it was. I had never lived alone before the marriage. But deep down, instinctively, I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew the relationship was not working for me – for us – anymore. But I was so afraid to be alone. Any interactions with my family would remind me of this, as they kept telling me I would not find better, that I would end up alone, forever.
I think the turning point for me was when I realised I would rather take the risk of possibly never re-partnering than re-entering a marriage I knew was detrimental to my well-being and personal growth. As I woman, I was never taught to stand on my own two feet. I was only taught that I needed to find a husband to look after me. If I had nothing else from my life, what I wanted more than anything was to shed the fear of being alone.
By this time my art – poetry – was flowing out of me like lava from a volcano. I used this art to challenge my fears and question who I am and how it is I found myself in this position. Nobody gets married thinking they will get divorced. The heartbreak of seeing your child go from one house to another – I felt like I suffered a small death every time my daughter left me.
I slept with a young man to sever the tie with my husband. It killed him. Not long after he re-partnered and that had a devastating impact on me too. The relationship with my husband disintegrated. It wasn’t long before lawyers took us on a joyride of emotional turmoil, scars that will remain with me a lifetime.
I think today, all the money we both lost, the time and stress, only to end up in exactly the same place we began. I still to this day think lawyers are downright evil, but that’s a story for another day.
Five years on, after publishing a popular poetry collection, and making Australia Council funded films about my experience, my life’s mission has become all about communicating with women. For most of my life I felt like I wasn’t normal, because my instincts were telling me one thing and my culture was dictating another. I felt ashamed that I had a deep need to explore my sexual and personal identity.
To those woman at the start of the process: just put one foot in front of the other and don’t be afraid, you’ll get there. I made lots of new friends after I broke up with my husband, friends I have to this day. I’m amazed by the generosity of strangers. I had people from the poetry community I didn’t even know donate a fridge to me, or help me move house, or just sit and listen to me. Connect with like-minded people so you feel less alone.
And I promise you, you will eventually shed that fear, and you’ll feel stronger, and more empowered than ever.
WATCH Koraly's piece, Best Friend...
Koraly Dimitriadis is an acclaimed poet, writer, actor, performer and film maker. She is the author of the controversial Love and F**k Poems and has made several films of her poems. She also performs her work in theatre. www.koralydimitriadis.com