Some (hopefully) helpful thoughts on the catastrophe and comfort of divorce.
Last week, I was looking online for my old friend Melissa. I couldn’t find her, so I wondered if maybe she got married and has a new last name. I wondered to myself who else might be friends with her on social media so that I could find her on their page.
Duh. My ex-husband would probably still be in touch with her.
So I found him and looked through his followers for “Melissa”. I wasn’t able to find the Melissa I was looking for, but I did find another. It was a Melissa I’d sorta forgotten about. I mean, I haven’t forgotten her, but she doesn’t matter anymore, so yeah, she doesn’t take any more of my emotional brain space.
I clicked on her profile. There she was. The only person in the world I’ve ever truly hated. Wished dead. Wanted to kill with my own bare hands. I could go on for a while to express how it felt to discover that my ex is still in touch with her, but I’ll spare you.
I found out about her in the spring of 2008. A white headband in my bed. It took months to finally discover the name of the girl it belonged to.
Twelve years into a thirteen year relationship. That’s where I was when I found that horrid hair piece. Four kids, two cars, a mortgage, and a decade old marriage.
I clicked through her photos.
She still wears her eye shadow the same. But then, so do I. So there’s that.
She recently had a new defibrillator put in her heart. I’d forgotten about the heart condition that Brian so often used as an excuse to not end his affair with her. “But I don’t know what it could do to her.”
“Believe me, it will be less messy than if I get to her first,” I would think to myself.
The toddler that my ex used to play daddy to is now 13. “Yeah, that’s about right,” I thought. “My Delaney was barely one the day I found the white headband.” Apparently, they’d been seeing each other since before I was even pregnant with her.
She also got married. To a really cute, seemingly nice guy. They live just down the road from the house I left in foreclosure as my marriage shattered and my impending homelessness loomed near. It sort of bothers me that she probably took her daughter to the same playground that we took our kids all those years. That she probably goes for walks past my old house.
It seems a cruel irony that she ended up happy. I mean, I sorta didn’t want that. Well, I REALLY didn’t want that, but that was so long ago. And somewhere along the way I realized that it was Brian who was unfaithful to me, not her. And I also realized that if we all got what we deserve, I wouldn’t have a happy life either. God knows I’ve made some seriously titanic mistakes and have hurt others just as badly as Melissa hurt me.
I’m glad that this much time has passed. I’m glad that I no longer feel the sense of nausea in my stomach and the clenching in my heart when I see her photos. I’m glad that I can click through them in mere curiosity and no longer in desperate homicidal dreamings.
Divorce is wretched, in case you don’t know. Complete and utter turbulence. Decimation.
I can tell you quite plainly that it does also bring relief, but it’s not quite what you think of when you say that word. It’s more like the relief that comes when you’re being disemboweled and it stops. Eventually, all the blood coagulates and scabs start to form from your many open wounds, but relief – in the way we think of relief – is far from what divorce is.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t miss my ex. I don’t wish I was still with him. I don’t feel sad about him anymore. I think I’ve healed pretty well from my divorce. But it’s taken eleven years of gut-wrenching work to be able to say that. I’ve left no leaf unmoved, no stone unturned. It’s been a lot of work. But yes, I’m over it now. Unfortunately, it broke my health and the manifestations of that like to pop up every now and then, but that’s life. Nothing is fair. I’m getting used to that.
So many of my friends are getting divorced right now. And then there are ones who haven’t made the announcement yet but are really ripe for it.
When I was a new divorcee, I wanted to stop every divorce. I wanted to spare everyone the ghastly torture of being slowly taken to pieces. It’s like an Edgar Allen Poe tale come to life.
You really don’t know how bad it is until you’re in it. Then you’re like, “Well holy shit. I want to die. This is worse than anything I could possibly imagine. I really and sincerely want to die.”
But when you’re past it, and all your nerve endings are burned off and you are stuck in I-think-I’m-a-robot-now-because-I-can’t-feel-anything stage of numbness, you do start to feel better.
Anyway, as the years have passed, I’ve come to realize that trying to talk someone out of divorce is really pretty pointless. Either they decided to do whatever the heck it will take to get to the other side, or they’ve decided that they will bleed to death without the tourniquet that divorce is.
My husband is divorced too. His story is eerily similar to mine. It’s one of the commonalities that sparked our friendship in the first place. So, he too can understand this weird dichotomy-place where you know that divorce is both perversely painful and also sometimes necessary. I know he is about as thankful for his divorce as I am mine. Maybe even more. But we both know that it’s total, total hell.
So, let me be frank.
If you’re thinking of divorcing because you’re bored with your spouse, don’t.
If you’re thinking of divorcing because you found someone new, don’t.
If you’re thinking of divorcing because your finances suck, don’t.
If you’re thinking of divorcing instead of forgiving, don’t.
If you’re thinking of divorcing because marriage is f’ing hard, don’t.
If you’re thinking of divorcing because ………………. ad infinitum…..
If you’re thinking of divorcing because he/she is hitting you, then yes. You’re probably going to find relief. It matters not if those hits are the kind that come from a fist or from words or from other forms of bad behavior. The simple definition of abuse is to use something in a way that it was not intended. If that fits you, you should probably go.
If you’re thinking of divorcing because you’re being cheated on, yes, my friend, yes. Do not allow it. There are rare opportunities for reconciliation and healing, but in all my life, I have only seen ONE couple suffer an affair, work their pants off to make it to the other side, thoroughly forgive one another, rebuild trust, and make it. If you can be that couple, be the heck out of that couple. If not, wrap up in that tourniquet.
If you’re divorcing because someone is drinking their brains out every day or doing drugs or turning your life into a train that wrecks every other week, then yes, I totally get you. And I will hold your hand in court if you let me.
But be sure you NEED a divorce before you do it.
Be sure you went all the way to the ends of the earth to avoid it.
Be sure you had every knock-down/drag-out fight you could have.
Be sure that you will be able to live with it and that you won’t wish you’d taken some months off and thought it through first.
Because, in the end, you WILL recover from your divorce. You WILL reach the other side.
But your kids never will. Even if they say they have. Even if the books say they will. Even if they like their new stepmom or stepdad. Even if they think it’s cool to get Christmas and birthdays twice.
Every single kid that ever lived would put his or her parents back together if they could have their way. Yes, they’d get rid of the alcohol or the abuse or the girlfriend or the boyfriend or whatever it was that ruined their parents’ marriage in the first place. But mostly, what they would want more than anything in the world would be for Their Mom and Their Dad to have found a way.
So if you can’t, just be really darn sure you tried.
Be really darn sure you aren’t leaving when you really could have stayed.
For better and worse. Remember?
As many of you know, I’m on a ridiculous Jon Foreman kick right now. I’m gearing up for his concert in March and learning all his new stuff.
Every time the album reaches the point of this song, my hand automatically reaches up to press the “forward” button. I simply cannot bear it. Even after all these years, his words convey exactly everything. When I listen to the song all the way through, I can feel literal hot, searing pain in the space between my throat and my physical heart.
Even after eleven years of healing.
Even after finding a new and wonderful life.
Even after all the nostalgia has died away.
You were there at the door
You said “I don’t know how to say this
But I want more
I don’t know how you’re gonna take this.”
And my mind went sore
And my body went weightless
I couldn’t find the floor
I couldn’t find the floor
And you walked away
And I saw fireworks imploding
Frame by frame
Like watching a movie in slow motion
From miles away
Up like a rocket ship ascends
Drifting up into space
And I’m running out of oxygen
Can’t go back to the first
Losing stories like leap year
Fake smiles and worse
Just a ghost left to be near
I’m not sure how this works
What do you want me to say, dear?
All I know is it hurts
All I know is it hurts
I’m drifting out of the hemisphere
So far away
All of the memories disappear
And start to fade away
What to say when your friend announces that they are getting divorced…
Are you ok?
Are you safe?
Can I help you?
Can I listen?
Do you need to talk? Cry? Pray? Scream?
Period. End of sentence.
And if you can tell that your friend is headed straight for divorce if they stay on their current path, grow a pair and talk to them. Even if you lose your friendship with them because they are so eternally miffed with you, if your bravery in any way saves their marriage and their family, let me tell you, your noble sacrifice was worth it.
And if you’re someone who is thinking about it but hasn’t really decided yet, please talk to someone. We all know that the very worst time to make a huge decision is when you are emotionally out of sorts. And it stands to reason that pretty close to 100% of divorces are decided upon in such a state.
If you haven’t decided yet that you HAVE to divorce, talk to someone who has been there. Who has healed and found their way out. Who will help you without hating your spouse on your behalf. Who will listen and give solid advice not just help you puke on your partner.
If you don’t have anyone, my door is always open.
And I have coffee. Which is helpful for all of the things.