Happy Divorce (Part I)

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
~William Shakespear

Are you in the middle of a divorce? Have you been thru one? Have you been hurt, jaded, lied to, cheated on? Have you realized you need a better life for yourself (and your children)? Are you angry at your spouse (or ex-spouse)? Is he in jail? (Don't laugh, I have a friend who's ex is in jail). Is your spouse retaliative, revengeful, p*ssed off, mean-spirited, angry? If so, how do you handle that?

I don't propose to have all the answers.

I am, however, going to share with you how I helped turn the winds of adversarial catastrophe into cooperative respect.

This is the first in a series of posts titled Happy Divorce.

Part One: The Fight

On April 29th, 2010 (three years ago today), my husband of 11 years walked out of our home. Four days earlier he told me that he was not in love with me anymore, and he was not sure if he ever was in love with me.

I remember the day he moved out. I was confident that he would be back, so that particular day was not as terrible as the days prior nor the days that would ensue. I had seen an attorney earlier that day who gave me hope. When I came home for lunch, Matt was there with his buddies, leaving. When we said our good-byes, I was nonchalant and began to get into my car to head back to work. He came back around the garage and grabbed me and held me tight. I whispered into his ear, “Just don’t take too long. Do what you have to do so we can get back on with our lives.” That was the very last real and intimate moment we shared. He embarked on a journey in which he had to become a bear in order to move on in the direction he did. That was one of the very last times I saw my husband as I knew him.

I have never told the full story (and I'm not doing so in these posts). If you want the gory details and how I found a way to function despite a deep depression, you will have to peruse the entries, hinged between baking recipes and retouched photos of my son Oliver, dated from that day to this. Make no mistake that I was completely blind-sided, distraught, and hurt.

Matt and I had never really fought over Oliver who had just turned two when his father left. For reasons I do not know, Matt agreed to whatever I wanted where our child was concerned. Maybe it was guilt, or maybe he wanted to see what life was like as a single man. At first I had Oliver full time. Soon, I allowed Oliver to go to his father's place a couple nights a week. Eventually we hacked out a schedule. I had Oliver every weekend. He was with his father three nights a week.

In matters of the heart, it was a different story. Matt was a real jerk the first months out, with a few redeeming and hopeful maneuvers in between. Mostly he just wanted his space and for me to give him a long leash, which I did. I had no choice really. We didn't fight much mainly because I had hope that we'd be back together one day. He held the power and I acquiesced. I chose this subjugated demeanor. He hadn't quite made up his mind yet about us, and I was waiting for the answer. I was not going to sit in a chair and do nothing, but I wasn't going to end my marriage either. I lived my life best I could while my heart was shattered and broken. Matt remained elusive, stoic and quick to anger, a complete 180 from how he acted the years we were together. We trudged along like this for two years.

In the fall of 2011, about 18 months after he left, he finally told me that he had made up his mind and wanted a divorce. That was a painfully horrific day for me which lead to two traffic violations (I believe one should not drive while under duress — it’s as harmful as driving drunk). I was able though, after knowing his decision, to begin the process of letting go and moving on.

In the fall of 2012, one year after he told me he didn't want to get back together, we were still not divorced. It was clear to both of us that the marriage was over, but we had business matters to resolve.

That's when I found out about his girlfriend. Oliver had talked about her since spring, but my (soon-to-be) X told me she was his cleaning lady when I had asked about her.

Thanks to a little digging on FB, I found out the truth. This was his girlfriend. They had been dating since April. They were on a vacation in Florida together when I realized this. She announced on FB in her tight t-shirt and short shorts in a photo he took of her that they were in love. She is a fledgling, a woman in her youth who is 20+ years younger than me. Looking back I can see that there were still a bit of feelings for him and still a bit of hurt. Grief takes a long time to disappear, and knowing he was with someone else brought some of that to the surface as well.

I am a bit embarrassed to tell you that I became hurt and jealous, but I hid those emotions behind a thick wall of anger. Because of this, things turned adversarial pretty quickly. I found out she had been spending time with our son (big time jealous now) and in that time she had shown Oliver a gun, a real live gun (rage and anger). During my investigation stalking time on FB (I do not recommend this) I saw how beautiful, thin and sexy she was. Thin. Sexy. Young. Beautiful. And she was posting photos that my X took of her. And she posted lots of other sexy pictures of herself, daily, as if she wanted to squeeze the blood out of my heart and roast it dry over flames. (This is why stalking your x and/or his girlfriends is not a good thing!) I pictured him a kid in a candy store. I would have felt a zillion times better if she were ugly, fat and old.

I put my foot down with regards to Oliver. The gun was a big issue nor did our son need a revolving door of women in his life. I asked my X to wait until the relationship was a little more stable. He stopped bringing her around our son. I had no control over that, I know. But he obliged anyway.

The war began. I was beside myself with hurt, jealously and anger. I threw in self-loathing for good measure. I starting thinking of ways to get the upper hand. Finding a way to get him tossed out of the US became a hobby. (He's a legal alien. I knew this meant taking Oliver's father from him, but I share this with you to show how deep this pain was. I was tired of doing right by my son and dying inside. I wanted, during this time, to get Matt out of my life forever.) His reaction to my threats, anger and rage was to file for divorce finally.

On October 2nd, 2012, two years and 6 months after he walked out, my husband filed for divorce. He told me he was in love with this woman and that she wanted to have children with him. He said that my reaction to this was the last straw and he wanted out. I felt I was being punished for letting this long, pent-up anger and hurt into the open; more so I felt unwanted, unloved, unlovable, old, ugly and worthless.

I started seeking help again for I was consumed with anger, hurt, revenge. It was one thing to lose him, but now he was a stranger to me, not even a thread left of the man I married. He was my enemy, and he pulled out the big guns.

We entered into a dark, vicious war unlike any thing I had experienced before. Each time I upped the ante, he doubled my bet and fought back harder, with more venom and strength than I could possible muster. I hired a tough attorney. She was a fire breathing dragon holding the pitch fork of legal revenge for me. She would tear this guy apart, his girlfriend into shreds and win all sorts of deadly battles for me. He no longer would talk to me. Anything I had to say had to be said through our attorneys.

There I was. Fighting. Or rather, my attorney was fighting, so my friends told me. But it felt like I still had armor on and I was trying to deal with the loss of what little relationship I had left with my son's father. I blinked facing the unbelievable. What the hell happened? My husband, the man I loved, was now a completely different person. The battle consumed my body and mind. The energy I needed to take care of myself, my son, my career, and my life was being spent on war. The offensive stance was a leaking bucket. Each time I filled it up, the bucket emptied. I could not keep up. I spent a lot of my resources, financial and emotional, braving the war.

In court, I was bewildered. The judge had little sympathy for me. My X, it appeared, had brought incomplete papers into court so I could not get an appropriate maintenance or child support amount. My attorney gave me bad advice as well. The fact that the girl had shown my son a gun was brought up. The judge, again, had little sympathy. “At least she told him it was not a toy.” I was about to burst. Why was my attorney not saying anything? In the end, the judge ruled and I received a very, very small amount of child support. I had a mortgage that I was not being paid and jobless. I received nothing for myself, but enough money to buy Oliver’s food for the month. I thought I would get more financial support. I looked like a raging lunatic on my way out. I was trying to hold it in, but I couldn't anymore. I was about to crack.

 *  *  *  *  *

This went on for a month or two. Days went by. I held two personalities. The functioning one you all saw, the school saw, my son and family saw. Alone, inside I harbored a quiet rage. I couldn't go on living like this. I realized the fight was too much, too expensive. I was dying inside. Literally dying. I couldn't breathe. I could not feel joy. My life was an act. I was acting OK when I was really dying inside, fuming with rage, anger, fear, desperation, hurt, love, loss, grief.

The price of marriage was high too. I took a risk, we all do, when I married. I entered into a legal contract, which in reality was only valid in my X's heart. Once his heart left, he was no longer bound to it. The marriage was over in his mind, even if legally we were still married. This gave him freedom to do as he pleased. If a spouse wants to leave, there is very little one can do about it. One can try. One can. There is a lot of GOOD (and unfortunately BAD) advice out there and the good advice actually works! However, if someone's mind is made up, truly made up, and one has truly have tried everything (see Divorce Remedy as marriage-saving device) and he/she's not interested, then there is nothing, not one thing the left-behind spouse can do. It's time to let go and move on. This may take time. But it has to be done, eventually.

I realized I had to give up fighting. By surrendering could I enter my future freely and with hope. It was the only shot I had at living the rest of my life with joy, finding success and happiness in all things I wanted to do. (Picture the scene in the Mission when the Indians slash the ropes that bind the armor Robert DeNiro's character drags behind him.)

“Forgiving is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do, but I think it means looking at some slight you feel, putting yourself in the position of the other person, and wiping away any sort of resentment and antagonism you feel toward them. Then let that other person know that everything is perfectly friendly and normal between you.”
~ Jimmy Carter 

Sorry Jimmy. I'm not sure what planet YOU were on when you wrote that, but f*ck. This was not some slight. This evil cruelty spinning out of control, a soft, legless, flesh-eating maggot slowing carving away at all dreams and anything good I once believed in.

Before I found out about the girl, I was on level ground. But because I still had not completely healed, my life became unreal. I could not believe I had become a victim of my husband's mid-life crisis. How much more could I take from him? Worse, a little tiny child was involved, and his safety had been compromised.

Jimmy, in a situation like mine, forgiving is nearly impossible.


I think it’s a miracle that I found myself on the cusp of a major change of heart.

Stay tuned for part two: How I Gave It Up