Divorce is big business. And fk that.
I’m not in the divorce business. I’m not a divorce counselor or coach. I’m kinda anti-divorce if you want to know the truth. But we all go through a divorce or two in our lives. If not you and your partner, than a friend or family member. It’s just how the modern world is.
The other night, when picking my daughter and three of her friends up from a birthday party, I asked, “How many of you girls have divorced parents?” 100%. In our time, divorce is no longer the stigma it was when I was a kid. Today we plan things, we think about the kids first (at least I did) and we try our best not to damage them on the way out of our married life and into our divorced life. The exy and I did okay. I think I took the brunt of the swift kick to the ego, pocket-book, and time with my kids, but hey… I’m not trying to write a bitching post. I’ve done plenty of those.
No this post goes out to all the people involved in the business of divorce. The trolling for divorce attorneys. The coaches who are reposting and retweeting my articles to help their clients.
I’m just sick of the Divorce Business. Sick of it. It’s a necessary evil, I understand this, but does it have to be so sleazy? And sure, cooperative divorce ain’t for everyone, I get that. And I know there are high-conflict (usually coupled with high-wealth) divorces that require special handling. But if we were honest about divorce we’d all have a cooperative divorce. The problem is, things get messy. Divorce is emotional. And emotions can run hot and get you in a lot of trouble.
So we blabber, yell, and hurt to our attorneys, at $250 an hour (therapists are a lot cheaper) so that we can make the best deal. Again, I have a bitter taste in my mouth, and I apologize for my disdain, but my beef is with my ex-wife and not with the woman who advised her. My beef is with the woman who was paid to be our impartial divorce counselor and then told me to get with the program.
If we could truly get our heads around “in the best interest of the children” we might be able to divorce in a friendly manner. But it is often not about the children. How can a family that is democratic and fully shared be divided in a way as lopsided as the custodial/non-custodial parent?
Yes, my then-wife began to go after my parenting skills in the therapist’s office. She was convinced that she needed more time with the kids. She was certain that she could feed, shelter, and nurture them in a more consistent and “mothering” way. There was a fine line between the “interest of the children” and the interest of what she wanted. And according to the law in my state, she was entitled to get.
So even when we paid to be civil we were not. Even when we attempted to do everything in a cooperative manner, we did not. Even when we agreed to a cooperative and fair divorce, she had other things on her mind.
I don’t think she set out to screw me. But she had the jump on me by at least two months when she finally told me she wanted a divorce. She’d met with an attorney, and was no longer interested in our couple’s therapy. Her word was cynical. She no longer believed that any good would come from sticking it out with me. For the kids, or for herself, she saw the light at the end of our marriage as a way to happiness for herself.
She was wrong. Well, of course, I can’t say she was wrong about the marriage. On that front, she did me a favor. But she was wrong about the happiness. And she was only thinking of her happiness and not the happiness of our children, when she got a lawyer to consider her options. She was only thinking of herself at that point. She’d had enough of what I wasn’t giving her. She was done waiting for me to take care of something she could no longer ignore.
Unfortunately for me and the kids, I believe that thing was a sadness inside her that may not have an easy solution. That sadness that we both suffered from occasionally.
Well, I chose to turn into the sadness and confront it. And from time to time, it got the better of me. I’ll admit that. And some of the times WE worked through together were unfathomable. We survived. We never quite made it back to thriving, but we supported and loved each other through some really tough blows on both sides.
But somewhere in the recoil and release of the hard years, she jumped out of the train and began looking for an escape path. For a while she didn’t tell me she wasn’t in the train any more. She was running along side the train, and I thought we were “good.” Or at least I thought we were okay. “Working on it.” Was how I would’ve framed it at the time. But she was way ahead of me on her exit trajectory. And the little lies, like why she no longer wanted to have sex. Or where she had been all afternoon when she wasn’t responding to my texts.
This is my howl into the dark night. Her change of heart derailed the train for all of us. And while we’ve done the best we can, and while I have to admit I am *much* happier in a new relationship, I still have sadness about how the trust between us was crushed with that single admission in couple’s therapy.
“Have you already been to see a lawyer,” I asked.
She was teary-eyed when she looked at the therapist and then me. “Yes.”
The dam burst in my dark heart and ice water began rushing up through my veins and I could hardly think after she spoke the betrayal.
Why hadn’t she brought the issues into therapy? How had she gone to an attorney before unpacking her grievances with me and our helper? Maybe the helper wasn’t helping enough. Maybe her father was passing her his sage advice. The man who married and divorced her mom twice. Maybe she was already in love with someone else.
Or maybe she just gave up on me.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- Your Contempt for Me is Hurting All of Us
- The Humans Of Divorce, Dear AG’s Office Special Cases Officer Mr. McK!
- And Just As We Reach A Calm Moment
- What I Still Fail to Understand About My Ex-wife
- When Kids, Money, and Divorce Collide
- Trusting Your Unreliable Ex
image: loneliness is such a sad affair, creative commons usage
I was pleading for her to get a grip, it was nearly the end, the kids would soon be out of school and I’d be out of the house. “You think I’m going to walk out the door of the house and you’re suddenly going to be happy? Maybe what you are so mad about isn’t just me.”
She’d been mad for over a year. And the “Fuck You” exclamations had begun to seep into our daily lives. I woke up each day with the determination to make things better, to work harder, to be more consistent, to offer help, love, and support at every opportunity. She woke up mad. I failed at my tasks too.
And when the word “cynicism” came out at couples therapy I felt like we’d landed at the crux of the problem. Somewhere deep inside, she had decided this is how it was always going to be, this therapy is nice but it’s not helping, and I’m just fkin pissed to be going to “therapy” yet again.
“It’s not getting better,” she said that afternoon before we got out of the car.
“You really believe that?”
I could tell that she did before she said anything. When she brought out the C-word in therapy I heard the impossibility of my task should I choose to take it on. You can’t argue with cynicism, you can’t rationalize with it, you can’t even really get pissed at it, because the hands are already up in disgust. The joking moment, became cause for a sideways, “Fuck you,” and a quick apology.
She wasn’t getting any less mad, that was clear. And I wasn’t coming any closer to changing her mind. I don’t guess I ever really changed her at all.
In those moments when she’d had a glass of wine some barrier came down and she would be touched for a moment. She would cry and lament and talk about how she might not be right for me. I would cry back at her with reassurance. And some sort of relief came in those moments, because I was sure this time the heart would stay unstuck, the feelings would continue to penetrate the facade. But that was my own folly.
I needed her to stay in that feeling place and comfort the parts of me that were hurting. I needed a warm shoulder. We needed closeness. And sometimes we reached that place.
The Off Parent
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)