Tax time just finished up. The time for the annual review of your status. Time to once again remember that you are not married. There are a lot of boxes to check in life. At your doctor’s office. On your Facebook page. For your financial advisor. After ruling out the “Married” option and while choosing from “Divorced,” “Widowed,” and “Single” you wondered why “All of the above” isn’t a choice.
Your ego has driven much of your desire to keep a tight grip on a status that impressed. When as a young lawyer you met someone for the first time, you shamelessly and mindlessly managed to work the fact that you were a lawyer into the conversation. Because, of course, you really needed the awe and admiration of that Goodwill cashier.
When you initiated your encore career as a coach, many people knew so little about the profession that they thought you coached youth soccer. You were a coach was not as impressive as saying you were an adjunct professor at the law school. You struggled with letting go of titles that helped you to overcome your lingering fear that you were somehow an utter disappointment.
Humans are designed for survival, which means the protection of their status. Hundreds of years ago when we lived in tribes, a person with low status due to age or infirmity might be abandoned in the dark of night as their fellow tribesmen packed up and abandoned them to die. Our brains remain wired to avoid a demotion in status (Any wonder why getting feedback at the office is so hard?) and we strive instead to enhance it at every opportunity.
It is undeniable that there is status in being married. It says to the world that someone once saw enough in you that they were willing to tell the world that they were connected to you. It says that you are worthy of a seat at the dinner party table and it implies that somebody loves you.
After divorce, we can experience a sense a sense of diminished value in our society. We can feel as though our value and our worth are determined by the ring on our finger and the promises once made by our partner in life. When we lose this rank, we can feel less because we have attached so much meaning to that station that meant so much to us.
Today you will hold the status of being loved, and you cling to it fiercely. Loved by your children and a half dozen siblings. Loved by co-workers, your clients, your community. And loved big by a few dear friends.
One can argue whether this is status earned or deserved. It is simply a status bestowed. I don’t mean to brag about it. I don’t need to fear its loss. It may or may not impress people like I’ve too often tried to do with my achievements. But it is your most precious status of all.