I got married when I was 16. I wasn’t ready for the instant upgrade from teenager to adult. It was like saying, “I’m an adult now!” miraculously made me one. I had to grow into the role just like everyone else. I was terrified at the thought that I had assumed the identity of an adult through the simple act of signing a piece of paper.

It took several months to view myself as a wife. I was reminded that I was married throughout the day because my wedding band would make my skin sweat as it pressed against the folds of my fingers, irritating the webs of my hands. I needed to dry and readjust the band several times a day. I would be annoyed, and say, “What the heck is bugging me? Oh yeah, I’m married.” The ring’s symbolic meaning changed over the duration of my marriage. It originally reminded me of happiness, love, and commitment; surprisingly, that ring became a binding reminder of my discontent, and realizations that we didn‘t love each other enough. This is why I will never put another ring on my finger.

A relationship is a choice, not an obligation.

After I left my husband, it took some time to not feel married. It was a weird thing to take the wedding band off my finger knowing that I would never put it back on. I had emotionally severed myself from my husband and was resolved in my decision to no longer honor my marriage. I was done!! But I still found myself wrapping my right hands fingers over my left to adjust a ring that was no longer there. Reminding myself, “Oh, I’m divorced,” it was funny to me that I was using the same method to get comfortable with my new socially contemporary title of divorcée.

Fast forward a few months. Now that I’m remarried, I find myself confronted with a whole new set of titles that my mind needs to catch up to. When someone asks me about my husband, I have this puzzling mental image of my ex. It’s not something I stress over — it’s more of a funny-how-the-mind-works kind of feeling. I just know it’s going to take some time to habituate my life.

The tension-filled disapproval of my marital status has been weird. This marriage is both mine and my new husband’s second marriage. For some reason, all of the people who oppose find comfort in not accepting the fact that we are legally wed.

I had to take a step back and think about the possible reasons people choose not take our marriage seriously. It became clearer to me that people have individual grieving and healing processes. I was done with my marriage the second I turned off the front porch lights of my house locked the door and closed it behind me. It symbolized closing an old, dormant chapter in the book of my life, and helped me move on. Not everyone works the way I do.

For a lot of people we still belong to our exes, and it hurts when the mind reminds them that we aren’t. I am sensitive to the pain we caused but I also know it was deservingly just. Remember:

a relationship is a choice not an obligation.

Another thing I am facing is the flip-flopping status of my “stepparent-ness.” People on “Team Us” are calling me a mother, and everyone else says I’m playing house. I want to make it clear that I do not feel like a parent. When people call me “Mom” I can’t help but feel annoyed. My mind hasn’t caught up yet, and I’m not really sure what role I feel comfortable playing in their lives. I am a stepparent by virtue of my status (regardless of preparation), but just like being told I’m an adult (before I was ready) it doesn’t make me one. I need to grow into the role.