Updated: Apr 18
In case you missed it, April 14th was National Ex-Spouse Day. It falls exactly two months after Valentine's Day and one day before Tax Day (the day that the IRS takes away the rest of the money that your ex-spouse did not get). Fortunately, it is never too late to celebrate this national holiday. Moreover, there are numerous ways to tell your ex-spouse exactly how you really feel about them.
Originally created in 1987 by the Reverend Ronald Coleman, the clergyman hoped that this holiday would become a day of forgiveness and healing. His premise was that couples who were going through or had gone through a difficult divorce needed to let go of all that anger, hurt and bitterness in order to effectively go on with their lives. Of course, Reverend Coleman also believed that a little levity was acceptable and in the holiday’s inaugural year he gave out buttons to people which read “I’m Okay - You’re History.”
Unquestionably, there are many ways to celebrate the day. Some ex-spouses choose to spend the day enjoying themselves by going to the beach or a spa or treating themselves to a fine bottle of champagne or scotch. Others get rid of objects or keepsakes of the marriage, including the wedding dress, the engagement ring (its stones can be used to make a beautiful cocktail ring or earrings) or that piece of wedding cake that you froze and vowed to eat on your anniversary. Another healthy thing to do is to delete those angry emails and text messages to and from your ex-spouse or the “divorce diary” you have been saving.
Some exes have channeled their hurt or disappointment into tremendously positive acts of charity and kindness. Two of the best examples of this are MacKenzie Scott (now the richest woman in the world following her divorce from Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame) and Melinda Gates, who split from billionaire husband Bill Gates. Together, MacKenzie and Melinda initially donated $40 million dollars to various charities supporting gender equality. Since that time Scott has gone on to donate another $6 billion dollars to hundreds of organizations, including entities that are involved in care-giving, tech and career development, education and minority communities.
Of course you can always send your ex-spouse a Hallmark greeting card to commemorate the occasion. A card which conveys your true feelings, such as:
“I Am Not Still Mad At You. I Just Decided My Life Is Better Without You”
“Divorce – End Of An Error”
“Just A Friendly Reminder - Your Alimony Payment Is Past Due”
“I Used To Be Married… But I Am Much Better Now”
“It’s Not Me, It’s You…Actually, It’s Your Mother”
“My Therapist Is Glad I am Moving On From You”
“I Know I Will Never Find Anyone Like You Again. But That’s the Whole Point
“You Can’t Fix Stupid – You Can Only Divorce It”
Of course there are the ex-spouses who choose to celebrate their divorces by constantly suing each other in the years after the divorce. Take the case of Johnny Depp (the actor who starred in Pirates of the Caribbean) and his ex-wife – the actress Amber Heard. The parties were married in 2015 and divorced approximately one year later. During the course of the divorce proceedings Heard secured a temporary restraining order against Depp, claiming a litany of abuse at his hands.
A few months after Heard made the allegations, the parties settled their divorce case, issuing a joint statement that their relationship “was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love.” As it turns out, this “loving”, “intensely passionate” and “volatile” relationship has spawned a multitude of lawsuits which have lasted four times longer than the marriage itself.
In the aftermath of the divorce Heard wrote a 2018 op-ed piece for the Washington Post in which she discussed her experiences as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse. While she did not name names, Heard’s allegations echoed some of the claims she had made against Depp in her 2016 divorce case.
Depp responded by filing a $50 million dollar defamation suit against Heard, a case now being tried by a jury in Fairfax, Virginia. When Heard’s attempt to have the suit dismissed was turned aside she then filed a $100 million dollar defamation counter-suit against Depp, which has yet to be scheduled for trial.
At issue in these cases is whether Depp’s alleged character as a drug/alcohol addled violent abuser is a defamation or an accurate definition (truth is a defense in such proceedings). Along the way since the parties' divorce, each ex-spouse has also turned their attention to other targets. Depp sued the UK paper “The Sun” in 2020 for calling him a “wife-beater” in a defamation case which he lost and Heard sued Doug Stanhope , a close friend and supporter of Depp, in a defamation case which she later withdrew.
At the rate these lawsuits are proliferating Heard and Depp will spend more time together after their divorce then they did during the marriage. As a friend and fellow divorce attorney once observed: “fighting is a relationship – it’s not a healthy one but it is a relationship.” A therapist who gave testimony in the on-going defamation case between Heard and Depp described their relationship as one of “mutual abuse.” They have a long way to go before they embrace the Reverend Coleman’s hope of forgiveness and healing.