A Divorcee's tale of a 'Common- Law Marriage'____ part 1
In North America, according to a handful of states, after being in a relationship and living with your said partner for over 7 years, the state, along with additional qualifications, then recognizes you as being in a 'common-law marriage.'
I've heard of that terminology once or twice before in my pre-adulting days, "common-law". Over the years, I've chatted with a number of people who when the length of their relationships would come up, they've mentioned numbers such as: 7 years together, 9 years, 10 and even 15 years together and still not "married". Not married, but "common-law married". By definition, “a common law marriage is one in which the couple lives together for a period of time and holds themselves out to friends, family and the community as "being married," but without ever going through a formal ceremony or getting a marriage license.”
It's laughable to me now, but in the past, I've thought and said to myself, that would NEVER be me. If my partner wasn't sure about a life with me after 3 or 4 years MAX, then I'd owe it to myself to find someone who couldn't possibly live without committing to a future together. That was always my very rational thought, and a good one at that. Well, it turns out, as I sit here in my 30's writing this article, let me tell you, it's not as easy as it may rationally seem--- from one's outside perspective.
My common-law ex husband and I met 10 years ago, on a broadway musical tour of Green Day's- American Idiot. I know... super exciting right?? I mean c'mon. Green Day? I grew up listening to them and their albums and thinking, “Wow- what a life they have!”- “Touring and just being the biggest rockstars basically on the entire planet.”
Anyway, upon being cast in the international touring production of American Idiot, I met some of the best people I've ever worked with, and among them was my common-law ex husband. I remember the first time I REALLY noticed him. He wasn't in the cast, so I didn't get to see him all the time in the beginning. He was the lead guitar player in the band, and the band obviously rehearsed separately from the actors. So, where was I.-- Righttttt. One day he walked into our rehearsal room wearing all black, which included a black leather jacket, and tight skinny jeans, and he, well, looked like SUCH the rockstar.
After getting to know him a bit, I learned he was 6 years older than me, which meant he was "mature", acted like a "man", knew how to have fun and party, had a butt load of professional and international musical experiences under his belt, had his own band, lived in NY, moved here from another country, intelligent and extremely well read... he was just intimidating as f*ck! and yet, lived a life I had only dreamt about, up until then.
--------Our love story didn't start right away.. We had some curveballs to get through, on his end and mine, but towards the end of our 14 month long tour, and a month or two away from each other afterwards, we knew we wanted to really be together. Give ‘us’ a real shot and commit to a relationship. It wasn't just a "tourmance" anymore ← [that’s what it’s called when you're in your own little tour bubble and hook up with people IN said bubble] It was real…. And boy, when I say real, I mean r e a l.
We were completely and utterly in love and just - best friends - . I totally saw myself marrying him, buying a house together, not sure where’d we eventually choose to settle down, but we’d have kids which he'd be an AMAZING dad with and all the while working together, traveling, touring as this magical Music Duo like Sonny and Cher.
There were many problems within our tight knit relationship, but one of the biggest problems was our long term career goals. He saw himself as a poet, a loner, misunderstood- a Paul McCartney meets Green Day, meets the Beatles meets blah blah blah... and I wanted to be the next big popular artist like Alicia Keys, or P!nk, or Taylor Swift [still do]. If you don't know anything about those types of artists above, the big takeaway here is that our musical styles didn't match up, AT ALL. The lives we dreamt of, were COMPLETELY different paths as those artists are completely in different genres from one another. However, I told myself, this is the guy for me, I'm committing and I'll give up my part of the dream, to HAVE THAT Sonny and Cher dream with him. Because, when I commit to a relationship, I commit 150%. And besides that, how cool would it be to work, travel and live together? ....
Our relationship obviously didn't work out as I or we had hoped. In fact, the whole working together all the time, living together all the time, touring together all the time (we toured in other things post American Idiot for YEARS- actually we’ll be going back out on tour together again in the same band in 2 short months) it was really a recipe for disaster. Now that's not to say all relationships that include both work and play don't or WON'T work. I"m sure they do or could work, with some guidelines, but in our case- we were just deeply different at the core. So deeply different, deep down where deep truths live such as the fact you truly know you are SOUPS different and "we" most likely had an expiration date all along, but you shove that thought and truth deep down even further, for another day. WHICH THENNNN, that day becomes yet another day, which then becomes, a year, 3 years, 5 years, 7 years and then 8 years. BOOM- 'Common- law married'.
Now that you know the backstory of my relationship with my Common-law ex husband, now comes the part where we s e p a r a t e .
8 years into our relationship, Covid-19, the global pandemic that took out our entire world by storm in 2020, altered the course of our lives (like most others) forever. After already being extremely emotionally drained for so long with the whole, "trying and knowing our time together would eventually be short lived" along with the "trying and knowing he and I chose one of the most challenging careers to begin with", Covid happened and paused not only our careers and industry, but made me question my close relationships, and what true happiness is or was. Covid showed us that our lives could change at any instant, and not to take advantage of what we already have or what we long for, what we strive for, what we were *b o r n* for. So the question I had buried way down deep, successfully avoiding it daily because I was afraid of change.... became, "what did I, Ashley Tobias need in order to fulfill that happiness factor in MY life day in and day out? And was true happiness even in the cards for me?
--- Those were two questions my common-law ex husband was thinking to himself as well. Which is what led us to couples therapy, and ultimately snapped us out of the "pretend happy couple picture" we would show others on the outside, leaving out the now normalized neglect we felt for so long on the inside.
Because the answer and the real truth for both of us, was, TO MOVE ON WITHOUT THE OTHER.
It's now been a full 7 months since we separated from each other and I think I can now say, I”ve successfully felt and been through every stage of a typical divorce.
What are those stages you ask?? .... Well, let me enlighten you, shall I??
10 POST- COMMON LAW MARRIAGE BEHAVIORS
1- LOCAL HOOKUPS with far away crushes who are now obtainable.... :: cough cough:: the hottest guy I've EVER SEEN who happens to live extremely close to me, who I've had a very secret crush on for like 2 YEARS! ------- I may have even written a song about the "fantasy of what could be" :) ::Check it out below::
2- FULL PARTY GIRL EVENINGS into early mornings with girl friends... There's no one to judge you anymore, or call or text you asking "where are you" "why are you hanging out with THEM?" "You really need some girl friends to talk about these things with."
3- AVOIDING CONVERSATIONS with friends and family, to not have them ask the question, "where is he again?" "he didn't want to come?" Or--- "what do you mean he left you during Covid and moved to another country to experience a yoga retreat??" And my other personal favorite, "What do you mean you aren't over him yet??....??"
4- OVER-BEARING AMOUNTS OF LOVE cuddles and full on tongue kisses with your animals. Nuff said.
5- ADOPTING ANOTHER ANIMAL because you think your current animal is the lonely one, Hilarry-- oh and the animal you adopted was a kitten, which you've always been highly allergic to but it was your decision to make and yours alone.
6- OBSESSIVE AMAZON ORDERING for all your late night home renovating design ideas... Another, ‘Nuff’ said.
7- REPULSIVELY LOOKING INTO THE MIRROR telling yourself YOU are the reason it didn't work, or your body is the reason and he or they are probably hooking up with someone who weighs WAY less than you or prettier than you.... Even though you are hooking up with said Hott Guy, and you're the only one allowed to hookup with others….DUHHHHH.
8- PRETENDING NOT TO LOOK OR CARE ABOUT HIS SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES but when you do, you try and stalk his "new friends" from the "yoga retreat"... and because women are such GREAT detectives, you already know who he's "with or seeing".
9- FEELING LIKE A FAILURE... There's this overwhelming feeling that you may not be able to put your finger on, but it will haunt you until you are able to make sense of it, which is the feeling of being a total failure. Failing the "relationship", failing the lives you "thought you would have had together", failing the "kids" you could have had together, the apartment you made cozy and live-able for each other, the animals you were so excited to raise together, the career that crumbled before you because of the pandemic. --Failing YOURSELF for not putting YOU, YOUR BODY AND YOUR MIND before his feelings and emotions.... Failure.
...and last but not least--
10 .... the complete and utter unknown and the terrifying positive fear that you are capable and WILL BECOME A MUCH STRONGER PERSON FROM THIS WITHOUT HIM. And if you were ever afraid you lost those strong independent parts of you that existed before the relationship, you slowly start to realize, thanks to your true friends, those parts of you DO still exist. You are still fun. You are still beautiful. You are perfect the way you are, and you need to learn to love yourself again before you can truly even tryyyyyyyyyyy to love someone else.
READERS-- Should you like to know more about my story and the UPS and downs of being a "Divorcee", please continue on to my next blog... PART 2! ....