real life

'After 20 years of marriage, I'm getting a divorce. The last thing I need is pity.'

The 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics census data released this week shows 15.9 per cent (1,068,268) of Australia's families have a single parent and that 2.5 million Australians are now divorced; up from 2.2 million in 2016.

While you're here, watch people admit when they knew it was time for a divorce. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Whether or not these figures are pandemic-related, what they don't dive into is how many of those 2.5 million are actually cheering about their situation.

The end of the road

My marriage ended very slowly and then all at once. 

After years of desperately clinging to the cliff's edge of my relationship, I took a deep breath and let go. Something ridiculously trivial (a litre of milk left on the kitchen bench) triggered the final tiff, but it pushed me to the point where I walked out the door for good.

I always thought I would leave my marriage with my eyes full of tears. Instead, my heart expanded. What I felt in that moment (and for most of the moments afterwards) was nothing short of total elation. 

I launched myself into the abyss that day... but I didn't fall. 

I flew. 

Tale as old as time

Our marriage story plays itself out in houses around the country every day. 

During the opening act, the girl meets boy. They present the very best versions of themselves for as long as they can. Red flags and cracks are ignored (because he loves me!) and life follows the standard path to marriage and babies. 

But those babies... they add a lot of pressure. When she goes back to work, the mental load, which was already uneven, shifts further in the wrong direction.

Pleas for help or change are met with excuses, rebuttal, and denial. Instead of saying "How can I make it better?", he says, "You need to..." or "But I already..."

It hurts to be so swiftly put back in her place when she speaks up, so she responds by trying harder and making excuses on his behalf. And the load gets heavier. 

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To add to the mental load is the mental battle. She's constantly asking herself:  

"How can I raise a problem without it turning into a fight?"

"Am I an angry killjoy who just needs to lighten up and relax?"

"Is toxic masculinity to blame... or is he legitimately not capable of meeting my standards?"

The whirling inner dialogue adds to the exhaustion.

In some versions of this story, women push through. In others, men evolve. I reached my finale when I could no longer rationalise his confusing priorities, watch my children being parented in a way I couldn't stand or keep on tidying up after him like he was a teenager.

I know that his version of why things fell apart is very different. In that story, I'm the villain. It's me who wouldn't listen to reason. But that's also why I left. You can't stay married when you're looking at the world through different glasses.

Sorry isn’t the word for me

Of course, not every relationship follows that script. There are plenty of different reasons to get divorced.

It’s a very individual experience. If it hits you out of the blue or if a third party is involved with a marriage breakdown, you obviously won't be cheering when things come to an end.

And of course, there's no denying it's unpleasant to unpick the threads between you and the person you have been stitched to for 20 years. For one thing, I can tell you that the minimum cost of a divorce lawyer is what you would expect the highest cost to be. 

Yes, the reversal of your relationship status is a sh*t sandwich to chomp through, especially if there are kids and property involved. But when people gasp and say, "I'm so sorry" when I tell them about my recent emancipation, I honestly feel confused.

Because now that the tale of my marriage is finally complete, I want celebrations, not sympathy. And I can’t be the only one out of 2.5 million who is happy to be a statistic.

What even IS marriage?

Partnering for life is a life goal. From the earliest age, we're fed the idea that one person can fulfil our needs and that we make the grand commitment of meeting theirs, forever.

I wanted to get married. I entered the relationship with nothing but optimism. But as time passed, I couldn't accept what my husband kept telling me was good enough. I wasn't happy and nothing was changing.

Despite this, a combination of sentiment and society saw me forging onwards for years, well after I knew in my heart there was no fixing our problems.

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You see, when it comes to marriage, to quit in most cultures is to fail. And failing is something someone carefully taught us to avoid.

And then there's that word: 'love'. The fairy stories brainwash us time and time again into believing that this stupid concept must conquer all, even when those four letters become like walls of a prison. In the real world, declarations of love aren't a cure-all. Eventually, they no longer allow you to side-step taking actual responsibility for crappy decisions.

Working on your relationship is gallant, and it makes sense to at least have a go at holding things together. But if you’re on the fence about staying or going, I’m on the other side waving to you. I want to let you know that it’s also pretty darn amazing to admit that the pie shell is empty and find the courage to move on. 

Leaving my marriage feels like graduating from university. I did my time. I learned, grew and even had a lot of fun. Eventually, though, there was nothing else to be gained. Now it's time for what's next. 

"The future's so bright, it burns my eyes,"

Thanks Oprah, for the quote (which I have probably misquoted). 

Here’s another one: 

"You don't get points for staying."

I read that somewhere right before the last Jenga block slid out of my marriage tower. And it's the truth. Nobody 'wins' at life by keeping alive a marriage that makes them feel dead inside.

I haven't lost. I haven't failed. To associate divorce with failure side-steps the reality that sometimes (and probably a lot more than we admit) two people just don't belong together forever.

Listen to The Split where Mandy Nolan talk to women about how they started their new life post-divorce. Post continues after podcast.


People say, "Wow, that must be so hard for you...", but nothing feels easier than solving the biggest problem in my life. Finally, being able to exist on my own terms is a massive relief when I wasn't able to for such a long time.

So, you don't have to say you're sorry when I tell you I'm getting divorced. I don't fit into the 'sad divorced woman' box. It's not the narrative I'm following. Because I'm finally myself again. And I cannot wait for what's coming next.

Feature Image: Getty.

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