A conversation with my soon-to-be ex-husband:
Me: Darren, I’m going to be writing a column for ESSENCE about my new life…as a single woman.
Darren: You’re doing what?
Me: I’m writing a column. It’s called Single Black Female.
After 10 years of marriage, my husband Darren and I are divorcing. There are no villains here and our uncoupling may go down in history as The Most Amicable Divorce In The History Of Divorces. We were close friends before we became a couple and I can honestly see us continuing to be close friends well past the official divorce proceedings and beyond. There are no lawyers involved: we’re splitting our assets equally and have worked out custody arrangements for our eight-year-old daughter on our own. (We also have an 18 year old in her first year of college).
But. I’m a writer and have been for over 20 years. I’ve written about the most intimate details of my life, from dating to motherhood to sexual escapades—very little has been off the record. I thought writing about my life as a single woman would fall under that category. I didn’t think about how Darren might feel about it. And in hindsight, I should have.
Darren has always been a very private person. I’ve known this since we were just friends and dating other people back in the ‘90s. Darren never discusses his personal life publicly. Although we’re friends on Facebook (and have over 300 mutual friends) his marital status is not listed and I don’t think he’s ever mentioned my name on any form of social media.
I respect his privacy and in 10 years I’ve probably mentioned him once or twice by name. If I’ve ever discussed marriage and used ours as an example, I’ve simply referred to him as “The Husband.”
So, now that we’re moving on and breaking up, does that mean I have the license to write about it? Even if he isn’t ready to deal with the potential fallout?
I’m a relatively well-known writer and author and I have enough of a following that Darren’s anonymity would be breached even if I never mentioned his name. And so, he made it clear during our discussion, he wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of my column.
I think it’s also fair to mention that I just moved out very recently, no paperwork has been filed yet and this whole situation is still very new, raw emotional for both of us. However, as a writer, I tend to share things like this for that reason: it helps me process what I’m going through and feedback from my readers helps me to understand different perspectives and ways to deal with what I’m experiencing.
But this is a whole new playing field. This is not just my story. It’s Darren’s as well. I respect Darren and I still love him very much. I’m very grateful that this is (so far) The Most Amicable Divorce In The History of Divorces and I want to keep it that way.
So, my name is not Dana. My soon-to-be ex is not named Darren. But it’s the only fake thing you’ll see in this column each week. I will be writing this column in real time, as I’m dealing with all of the things this new phase in my life will bring.
When do we actually file for divorce and what is that process like? Who should file against whom or does that matter? (Darren actually called a divorce lawyer and asked him if we could come in together to file for divorce and the lawyer said: That’s not how this works. One of you has to file against the other. So we’re trying to figure out which one of us should file against the other. Which feels really icky.) How do we make sure our daughters are okay in all of this? At one point do we fully separate our finances? How do we decide when it’s time to sell the house and split the proceeds? When is it okay for either of us to start dating? How do we tell our family and all of our friends? When can I talk about our separation on social media?
There are so many new things I’ll have to navigate. I’m excited about some—frightened by most.
For now, the big question for me is: when do I get to stop writing as “Dana” and write under my real name? How much time is enough time for me to be my own woman and make decisions that may or may not make Darren uncomfortable?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.