"It’s a dirty word." I broke up with my husband and people are still talking about it.

In the adult world, they call it divorce. A fancy name for breaking up or for legalising it.

It’s a dirty word in suburbia.

It seems this shapeshifter of the couple’s world is frowned upon.

People will talk about it, whisper about it, and marinate over it. It will be the shock heard round the cul de sac and the echo over coffee and cocktails.

Call me naive but I had no idea leaving my husband meant gaining a new relationship role and moniker — ‘the divorced woman.’

Watch: MM Confessions – the moment I knew my relationship was over… Post continues below. 

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I am a cup half full kinda girl. Divorce meant I was free. I was single. I got a do-over. I had the courage to walk out of the proverbial door.

I was completely baffled.

What was all the fuss about?!

It’s a breakup! Remember those?! We’ve been breaking up with people since we were sixteen. It’s never pretty and someone always gets hurt but it happens.

Fortunately, back then we were mature enough to not label these heartaches with a dubious distinction.

We didn’t play roles. We weren’t looking for the perfect relationship. We were just guys and girls growing into ourselves and learning about love.

And sure, there was fallout from breaking someone’s heart.

In those teenage years, you might even call it a pack mentality. There were going to be some guys against the girls and girls against the guys and some social misconduct. Some type of penalty for breaking a friend’s heart.

But it passed as quickly as it began.

No long-standing social stigma for being the girl who decided to walk away.

The irony? My high school love forgave my immature efforts while my husband never recognised my overt efforts to save our marriage.

And try I did. To save my marriage. I often say, ‘I beat the horse, flipped it over, beat it again, and then repeated.’


My friend used to say, “No one tried harder than you to save your marriage.”

But here’s the tricky thing about love. It involves two people. Sometimes both parties aren’t willing to expend the same effort. And that works for some, they are content allowing love to limp along.

But sometimes people choose not to be lonely, unhappy or hurt anymore.

Mamamia’s award-winning podcast The Split discusses navigating separation and what to do when things get nasty. Post continues after audio.

Not in a selfish way.

In a way that evolves after you have exhausted all of your options. And this cup is half full girl stayed until the glass felt completely empty. I stayed six years longer than I should have. I made excuses for bad behaviour.

I confused a man who loved me with one who crowded my cheeks with tears. The saltwater continually eroding bits and pieces of me until the only thing left was the courage to leave.

It took strength to swing open the proverbial door.

A strength I lacked for the six years prior.

That is why the whispering echoes threw me back in. I was not yet strong enough to withstand the obligatory feel of isolation and judgment that accompanies the fall of a marriage. Nor the gender-based alliances which accompany it.

Because remember those 16-year-old breakups? Those guys are still some of my best friends.

Ultimately, I was a person they didn’t want to lose. Not a piece of a couple that when broken lost its value.

Sure, I knew marriage was an adult word but I was unaware of its ugly counterpart. I didn’t need to understand those seven letters. They weren’t going to happen to me. I married the love of my life. My college sweetheart. The handsome and funny guy everyone loved.

I was never breaking up with him.

But I am one person.

I have no control over another.

I never believed my marriage would end nor did I believe it would inadvertently enrol me in a virtual suburban high school. One much harsher than that of my youth.

Where love and people are supposed to be perfect.

And where breakups prove even more devastating by the reaction of those who witness it.

Because in the grown-up world breaking up is a dirty word.

But sometimes people choose not to be lonely, unhappy or hurt anymore.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. For more from Colleen Sheehy Orme, you can find her on Instagram and Facebook

Feature image: Getty