I spent 10 years in an intense relationship with a man I thought I was going to marry.

We never married.

The details of how and why I let this happen will be sidelined for another blog post.
Nevertheless, when it ended, I was left broken – a shell of the person I was when we first embarked on our courtship.

It took an extraordinarily long time to heal.
And it was harder than I had ever imagined it could be.

I struggled to accept it as “over”.
I used every fiber of my being to find strength to create a new life for myself – one that was structured around just me… without the crutch of another person in my sphere.

Years later, when I emerged whole… and the self-loathing had dissipated… I realized I had been through a divorce.

I privately named it the “silent divorce”.

My world spun out in every way…
Single meant starting over.
Finding a new home.
Setting new financial goals.
No longer part of a couple, I had to re-invent my weekends and re-engage my social circle.
Securing new places for old friends.
Finding depth and meaning in new friendships.
I felt out of sorts.
Desperate and overwhelmed.
I was scared.
And outrageously lonely.

Through all the pain and heightened emotions, I did not receive the empathy I had expected!
Not the same type of sympathy people accept when they go through an “actual” divorce.

Without the legal history, I wasn’t regarded as a divorcee.
Accordingly, my support network had alternate expectations for this loss.
While they were remarkably helpful, it was clear the loss was to be mourned concisely – without the emotional complications that would come with an official divorce.
How tough could it be to move past a 10-year relationship that didn’t assume children?
I recall the countless remarks about how fortunate it was that we didn’t marry and how thankful I should be for not having to arrange a divorce.

But if it wasn’t a divorce how come I was feeling all the same pain?
And why was I feeling frustrated by the ease in which it ended?
Was it strange that I felt a divorce may have validated and officiated the existence of this relationship?
Even stranger that I preferred a sanctioned divorce to my silent one.

Wasn’t the 10 years longer than some other marriages?
But the lack legal papers kept me from court battles, financial obligations, and the typical nightmares of separation.

But did it?

What do you think? Is the Common Law Divorce worth fighting for recognition?
Let me know if you think I was …
1. Divorced – no different from a legal divorce
2. Not really divorced
3. Not even comparable

Would love to hear your comments, please share below.

Marni Sky
Co-Founder, Divorce Angels

5 Responses to “The Silent Divorce”

  1. Brandy Sommer Wood

    I believe the end of a Common Law relationship is a Real Divorce. I hired a lawyer when my 10 year Common Law relationship ended.
    Common Law Divorce is the same emotional roller coaster as the divorce that happens 10 years after spreading $10,000 plus on a big party to celebrate a union (legal binding agreement called “Marriage”)
    People have a habit of seeing through the filters of their own experiences.
    Divorce of any kind is a journey from breakup to breakthrough… But there can be a breakdown that cracks open an undiscovered parts.
    I hope your Common Law Divorce is more of a blessing than you could ever imagine.
    Brandy Sommer Wood

    • John Donnelly

      My wife talked to a lawyer about a divorce ……and here’s what happened .i was in a bar getting away from home and the bull shit behind four walls .when a man walks up to my bar table and whispers to me Sir you are divorced as of this moment.!and I knew it was true I had said openly to her “I just want to be quietly divorced without the hollering screaming and nervousness of all that entails a messy sloppy divorce”.as of then the short bald headed dwarf of a man walked quietly away and out of my life .called Angela and told her about it and she said “well,isn’t that what you wanted ?”saying yes ,and goodbye ,it was over .hanging up ,and leaving ,I knew that my divorce was legal and over .fini.and never went back again John

  2. Karyn Fine

    Marni, what an amazing article. People in our lives feel that they have the freedom, under the privilege called “friendship”, to judge. Their judgement sometimes makes us hide our feelings and emotions. Thank you for sharing this. Karyn Fine – Empowerment Mentor (under the coach category)

  3. nancie mcleod

    A well written and heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing.

    The legal status of a relationship has no hand …zero, ziltch, nada … on heart ache. When a relationship unravels, the layers of that lost love have to be painfully peeled away; where you live, what you own, who you hang out with and it is an exhaustive exercise. A piece of paper, or lack there of, doesn’t make the experience any easier.

    Having kids does make a difference. Why? Not of out site, not out of mind! Couples must remain in constant contact to schedule, coordinate, pick up, drop off ….. If you are heart broken, angry, or both, this is an unrelenting reminder of what once was.

    Lean on friends and family…. that pay no attention to paper… to get you thru it!

  4. Kerry Fleiser

    What a great post! Honest and vulnerable. I can’t speak for common law separation/divorce but I do think a divorce with children adds a whole new layer of complexity, emotion, and despair (I’ve been through it). It doesn’t mean a common law divorce without children isn’t awful, requires a major life adjustment or isn’t associated with a ton of pain. No one should judge the severity of what someone else is going through


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