No, I didn’t find liberty after my divorce. Here’s what I did find.

liberty after divorce
Marin Dahl

By Marin Dahl | Jun 30th, 2020

For my first post-divorce vacation with my son, there was no question about where we’d go – Boston. I’d gone to college there, lived there until my late twenties, and desperately missed my second hometown. Plus, what better place to celebrate my newfound liberty than the cradle of liberty?

We threw fake tea over a replica boat and shouted “Huzzah!” while reenacting the Boston Tea Party. He tried on a tricorn hat and spectacles at the old State House. I read him Make Way for Ducklings and took pictures of him with the duck statues in the Boston Gardens.

It was a fabulous vacation, though I’ll admit that I overbooked him. By the week’s end, he had a mini-meltdown while at breakfast with a college friend and her daughter. It had been a long week of museums, cultural activities, playing at the park, and eating out.

It’s hard not to go a little wild when celebrating your freedom. The heady feeling of being able to do what you want with your time and money is euphoric, even if only temporary. Neither of us wanted to fly back to Minnesota at the end of our vacation.

Often, when you’re in the midst of a divorce, the escape can only be temporary. It’s a weekend away with girlfriends or a trip to see family. But those times to rest and recharge give us the energy to continue the fight. After reenacting the tea party, we collapsed in the tea room with scones and tea, tired out after a long day.

It’s okay to take a time out on the long road to divorce and independence. Give yourself permission to occasionally collapse, to turn off the phone and not respond to emails or texts, or check out for a whole weekend. The world, and your divorce will be there when you get back.

I took another solo trip to Boston a few weeks ago over Memorial Day weekend. Since I didn’t have a kid with me, I skipped the historical stuff and got a haircut and my nails done. Had a boozy brunch at Stephanie’s on Newbury with a friend I’ve known for over 20 years. Hung out with other friends in the Boston Market, newly built since I lived there. I felt free.

It’s okay to take a time out on the long road to divorce and independence.

While the divorce is final, I discovered that I don’t quite have my freedom. Minnesota, like many other states, has restrictive move-out laws which have essentially confined me there until my son is eighteen. It was a shock to discover that they didn’t consider my family ties or strong support network important to my son’s well-being, or my ability to make more money and advance my career important to his future.

Finding out that liberty is denied to many divorced women was a bitter pill to swallow. But women and Americans are nothing if not resourceful.

Like Sybil Ludington, who rode a 40-mile circuit warning towns in Connecticut of a British landing on the coast. Or the women of Pepperell, Massachusetts, who formed their own militia, dressed up in their husband’s clothes, and stopped spies from carrying information up to the British in Canada. Lydia Darragh hid in a closet and eavesdropped on British plans, then sewed messages in button covers and needle books to pass that information onto Revolutionary soldiers.

My family has been on the East Coast since before the Revolutionary War. I’m descended from one of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower. After discovering that the concept of liberty doesn’t apply to divorced women in Minnesota, I channeled my ancestresses strength and grit.

Within the confines of a state that is not, and never will be my home I’ve carved out my own freedom. The freedom to freelance and make my own schedule, which means that I can travel during weeks I don’t have custody. I define the relationship I have with a man I see when I travel, rather than forcing it into a mold that society would recognize.

This July 4th, we celebrate the birth of our nation’s independence. Whether your divorce is ongoing or final you might be struggling to define freedom for yourself. The patriots who threw tea over a boat in Boston harbor didn’t know how it would all end, and you might not, either.

Give it time to take shape. Our nation wasn’t born overnight, and even after the Revolutionary War, we had a lot left to fix. Not everyone gained their freedom in that fight. But fighting for, and defining for yourself, freedom is always worth it.


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