Category Archives: Divorce

A brave new hurl

“After our last visit I saw a lawyer.”

My stomach lurched and I stopped stirring the olives in my sweating martini.

She looked straight into my eyes. “I did. I decided I needed to figure out whether or not to leave him. What it would look like. What might happen with the kids. You’re handling things so well. It made me feel like maybe I could too.”

My mind reeled as guilt sucker punched me right in the solar plexus. I was afraid to ask, but what kind of friend responds to such a confession with “And how’re your parents? Did they enjoy Cancun?”

“So what happened?”

“It was a great wake-up call. Bill and I had some serious heart-to-heart talks.” She smiled and her blue eyes sparkled. “I think we’re OK. At least for now.”

The conversation continued for a while as my smart, lovely friend talked about what she loved and hated about her marriage, parenting, living in the suburbs and not backpacking through Europe or spending half of Sunday in bed with a good book or a bad man.

I listened and nodded, commiserated and joked, and ordered another drink.

At bedtime, Good Girl showed up right on cue. “I hope you’re proud of yourself. If you had to go and bust up your family you could at least keep your big trap shut about it. What are you, some kind of divorce pusher?┬áIf you have to be divorced, at least have the decency to be miserable about it.”

It’s hardest to summon Ungood Girl at night, when I’m tired and tigers are on the prowl. Gratefully, she showed up.

“Firstly, you are always honest, which means you talk about the good and the bad.”

OK. Fair enough. I do often say “Divorce sucks, especially for the kids. And it’s really hard not seeing them all the time. I’d never recommend it except as a last resort. Try everything else first.” Passes the manipulation/denial test, no?

But what about the “You look so happy!” observations? Isn’t it irresponsible to make divorce look good?

“Oh, my misguided Good Girl. You’re not making divorce look good. You’re showing strength and resilience as you go through some really tough times. Besides, who wants to be around a mopey, martyred mess?

And think about this: If you want confident, clear-sighted, content friends you need to project that yourself. So get off the guilt wagon, sister. People deserve honesty. Give your friends some credit. Are you hanging around with people who are so easily influenced that seeing you smile once in a while is going to convince them to leave their husbands? Absurd!

Now shut the hell up and go to sleep.

Photo credit: Wickenden via Flickr

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An apple in the fridge

I thought about getting divorced for a while. After years of trying, denying, giving up and trying again only to retreat back into denial I was exhausted and drained. Still, considering the idea of actually following through on what had previously been only a fantasy was like leaving my feet dangling over the side of the bed in the pitch black when I was eight. I couldn’t stand it for more than a few seconds.

But the only thing that was going to unstick us was some action. So I forced myself to think about how I could make it easiest on the kids. Not easy, mind you, as divorce sucks for kids in many unavoidable ways. Anyone who’s run back and forth between two homes at 10:30 on a weeknight to retrieve a school project or beloved stuffed animal understands this.

When it became clear that the only way out meant I was going to have to leave, I promised myself I wouldn’t until I could provide a decent place with room for all three kids. I was sure they’d all want to spend lots of time with me. I was their mother.

Looking back, I can see how short-sighted that was. Given a choice, teenage boys opt to spend time AWAY from their moms. But I was grieving for the family I was losing, and contemplating time away from them was unbearably painful. Maybe it wasn’t lack of insight as much as self-preservation to think that they’d all want to spend at least half their time with me.

I bought beds and linens and posters for their bedroom wall. I stocked up on the foods they like and the toiletries they use, and made sure they had phone chargers and video game set ups to minimize inconvenience and maximize familiarity and fun.

And every time I filled the fruit bowl on the newly-acquired-from-Craig’s-List dining table, I took one shiny green apple and put it in the fridge. My oldest son likes tart apples, and he likes them cold. It was important to me that he knew I remembered that.

A few months into our separation, I opened the fridge to see four green apples lined up on the bottom shelf. I sat down in front of the shelves of milk, eggs and cottage cheese and cried.

Divorce changes things in ways you can’t predict. It’s tempting to believe you can keep things largely the same, and just face a few practical challenges such as making sure the kids have two of everything essential, one for each home.

But my son doesn’t think of my apartment as home. And at his age he never will. Home is what I left. And that’s where he wants to return each night.

As unpalatable as it was to have to schedule time to see my teenage son, I had to let go of the way I wanted things to be and respect his need to choose his home base for himself. Fighting and denying it was making me angry and bitter. Accepting it lets me relax into this new relationship we’re developing, one closer to the parent-adult child bond I hope to have with all three of them someday. It’s just a few years sooner than I expected.