I have been asked on a couple of occasions, very recently, how it felt to be divorced. I have had to really think about the context of the question to even be able to answer it. I certainly do not see it as liberating in any way nor do I see it as an opportunity to shirk my responsibilities. In fact, my agreement with my ex-wife gives her the majority of every paycheck I make to cover the house and her expenses to include her car, while I continue to pay virtually all of our debt to include properties and loan accounts, credit cards and college debt incurred by my daughters. Basically, I am still paying for everything; I just have even less to show for it than I did before the divorce. But I agreed to that to give her an opportunity to get back in the workforce, so most of it is only temporary.
The fact of the matter is that I was married for nearly two and a half decades to the same person; the mother of my three daughters and someone who I shared my dreams for the future and many of my most personal thoughts with. For most of the first half of our marriage, we were trying to build a life like most young couples, me in the Army and gone a lot and her left to be mother, father, disciplinarian, coach and consummate shoulder to cry on. We supported each other in whatever we wanted to do and by all outward appearances, we were in love and doing a pretty good job of building our family. We made some poor decisions along that way that have had enduring repercussions but that is a part of life.
All in all, I think most folks saw our relationship as a rosy one. We rarely ever argued about anything and I can count on one hand the number of times that we may have had a really big fight…in fact, I can only remember a couple of times that it ever happened. For years, I thought that meant we were extraordinarily compatible and I think others thought the same. Everyone I worked with would tell me how lucky I was and went on to talk about their own problems they saw throughout their married lives. Many of the things they talked about I never saw in our marriage.
As we entered the second half of our union, the long streak of peace continued, although I was beginning to realize that this was a product of simply not communicating. There were many times I actually gave thought to doing something about it but just did not know what to do. And then it occurred to me that I actually didn’t want to do anything about it, because I was content in my own space and she in hers. She was a very nice person; very attractive and very sweet to anyone she talked to. She was affectionate and badly needed that affection in return. At this point in my life, I was beyond being able to give that to her. I didn’t really know her. I was drinking more and more, which, unfortunately, became another escape for me. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I worked or how much money I made, I just could never seem to get ahead. I turned my attention to my ambitions…my career became my wife and it became increasingly obvious that I could not go back to the way things were. I was clearly not going to be able to give her the affection that she needed because the love I felt for her in the first years of our marriage had never really been strong enough to carry us through the long haul. I knew it and was beginning to accept it, though I was not ready to resort to divorce just yet. She knew it as well but held on to hope that we could get through it. As my career in contracting progressed, I was gone more and more and while I was making a lot of money, there were signs that our lifestyle was beginning to take its toll. As a result, I began to harbor a lot of anger and mistrust which I initially kept to myself. I interpreted it as a lack of appreciation of the sacrifices that were being made as I compromised my freedom and personal safety for years on end to try and provide a better life for my family. I wondered why I was the only one saving anything and why the bills were not getting paid off while I was gone. This became a sharp thorn in our already thorny rose bush. What I saw evolving in our marriage was an inability to truly communicate, a lack of real trust and the potential for our peaceful existence to turn bad, particularly as the kids reached adulthood and her needing more and more of the affection that I obviously could not provide her as it was. In the end, all of our children and even my nephew, who spent time with us as he was growing up all, unanimously said that, though they were hurt to see it happen, they were not at all surprised that our marriage was ending.
Spiritually, my decision to end my marriage was a different sort of struggle, but I did come to terms with it by accepting the sinful nature of divorce for what it was and believing that Gods Grace and my faith would deliver me. I also accepted that “till death do us part” is true in the spiritual sense as well as the physical. I knew that both of us had been dying for a long time. I could not further subject either of us to a life with no hope for real happiness, and though I was the only one prepared to admit it that our marriage was over, she did admit to me that she saw what I saw years earlier as well.
I can honestly say that the last thing either of us would have ever wanted was a divorce. I have heard that people do not fall out of love but I happen to know that they do fall apart. The question is whether or not there was ever enough love to put everything back together. In our case, there was not.
What I hope for her now in the months since our divorce has been final is to be able to move on with her life. I told her I wanted that for her months ago but she still holds on to this glimmer of hope that things will go back to the way they were some day. It is never easy, especially for someone who probably never saw herself having to start over. I truly believe that as painful and life ending as it may seem to her now, one day she will look back and see it differently. The further we go in life beyond our most painful moments, the less that emotion is involved and the more clearly things appear. This is a new beginning for both of us…a gift and both of us are blessed with it. I hope that she can find the true love that she deserves but more importantly I hope that she will allow herself to look for it.
I have chosen to move on but it has not happened quite as I had planned or expected. I have recently become very close with someone who has been going through the same thing after two decades of marriage. Neither of us expected our friendship and respect for one another to blossom into something any more than that. We didn’t expect that while spending hours on email, IM and just talking on the phone at the few opportunities we had, just listening to each other vent our frustrations and share our lives that we would be crossing the line from friends to best friends. We didn’t see it coming at all and in fact, it was the last thing that either of us wanted. And now, it is different. There is a deep mutual respect with someone I can talk with about anything. Intellectually, spiritually and emotionally we are on the same page, both keenly aware that rebound situations rarely work out, but also knowing that we can not deny how far we have come in such a short period of time.
There is, in fact, a new hope that I see that is something I have never really felt. I see the possibility that I might have an opportunity for happiness and so I have to wonder when the question of how it feels to be divorced is asked, if maybe my hope for happiness is at the expense of someone else. One thing I know for certain, my wife and I were never really happy. We played the game and did so energetically and with a genuine fervor. For years we wanted that successful marriage but for too many years we confused the desire for it with the reality of it. I truly did not want to become what I saw in my parents or often saw in hers…two unhappy people with a love-hate relationship destined to occupy the same space for the rest of their lives.
I always saw this as accepting my fate and I was simply not willing to do that.