What do you call the anniversary date of a marriage that ended long ago? It’s a marker of some kind, but whether a gravestone or a bunch of balloons, it’s hard to say.
I’ve been divorced from the man I married on August 11, 1991 for almost as long as we were married. I have had not a twinge of regret or doubt since the moment we called it quits. Sadness, certainly, but there was no question in my mind, then or since, that divorce was the best decision. So when this date comes around, my primary feeling about its now being an un-anniversary is profound relief. So many of the twelve anniversaries we shared were racked with worry, often crises, that it’s hard to imagine that if we’d stayed married, this would be an unreservedly happy day.
And, of course, I have a wonderful spouse who wouldn’t be in my life if my first marriage had muddled on, and a daughter, the light of our lives, who wouldn’t exist. So, no regrets.
Just the same, a form of sorrow shadows this date each year, an existential wistfulness: that dreams do die, that something as hope-filled as a wedding can lead into a dead end of disappointment, that time and other inexorable forces can render people we once knew (including ourselves) almost unrecognizable, that love is sometimes not all you need.