Let’s talk a bit about the dumper and dumpee. If you were NOT the one who thought of the divorce first, you are the dumpee. And there’s an amazing thing that happens to dumpees. We are divorced and alone long before we get used to the idea of what’s happening. In my case, I objected with a vengeance, but quickly learning, in counseling and eventually divorce financial consulting, that it takes two people to want to stay married.
So let’s assume that my ex-y had been contemplating the divorce for six months. Taking steps to secure certain parts of her plan. She wanted to make sure she had her ducks in a row, long before I knew I was being lined up for an exit.
And, yes, it’s usually the man who leaves the house. That just makes it easier on the kids. (And if you believe that bullshit line… Well, we don’t have to go into that now.) So now, I’m learning for the first time that my wife had already been to see a lawyer about options, and she was asking me to leave the house. Just walk out in the middle of April. Two months before the kids were to be finishing up 3rd and 5th grades. Um… NO WAY.
I was surprised in our marriage counseling by something that she revealed. Something didn’t sound right. “Have you been to see an attorney?” I asked.
And that’s when the world was thrown up on it’s end. I was being asked to simply pack a bag and tell the kids I was going away on a business trip. What? Why?
I knew we were having problems. That’s why we’d been in therapy on and off for years. But DIVORCE? I was crushed. Angry. Stunned. And most likely in a state of shock.
In the session I flatly refused to leave the house. “If you’re so unhappy, and so ready for a break, if that’s what you’re calling it, why don’t you take a trip?” Both my ex-y and the therapist looked at me with eyes of concern. Perhaps it was pity. I was thrashing against the idea of the divorce, and she was asking me to leave tonight?
As it’s often the woman who gets the house if you have kids, it’s also very common for the woman to reach the breaking point while the good-natured husband just thinks it’s a “rough patch.” And until I learned that afternoon, that she’d already been weighing her options and strategy for leaving me (or getting me to leave, to be more accurate) it was only a rough patch.
“I may not like you right now, “ I had written in an email a few weeks earlier, “But I love you very much. We will get through this period. It’s just a rough spot.”
One rough spot too many I suppose.
When you are the dumpee it’s likely the other person is much further down the road to healing from the split. In fact, they may have reached a place of being ready for it all to be over. And this is before us poor saps even know we’re heading that way.
And the mechanics of divorce can happen very quickly. From the moment she told me, to when I was actually leaving the house for the last time was about two months, but this is only because I fought with her about the idea of splitting before the kid’s school year was done.
It was a hellish two months. But today, I can say, I held the line for THEM. I kept their soon to be uprooted lives sane for two more months so they could have the Summer to fall apart with me. Their mom was already working on “what’s next.” The head start down the divorce path becomes a very strong tactical advantage. I was still willing to bargain and negotiate, because I was certain we would work something out. She was already working out how to pay rent on the house after I moved out.
She was a century ahead of me in all the negotiations. I was still reeling from the loss and onset of depression from my sister’s downstairs bedroom, and she was working on the taxes and the financial split arrangements. (She takes the house. I take the house. We sell the house. I didn’t want to lose my house or my family.)
While I was her ex she was still my beloved, but troubled wife. The mother of our two kids. Oh, the kids. They were the ones who were gonna suffer. It’s all about them. This divorce stuff is for grown ups. In divorce you do everything to shield the kids from the fight and fallout. Which includes letting them stay in their primary home with the primary caregiver. (Again, I call bullshit, but I was so confused and sad at this point that I was not negotiating at all, I was recoiling. I was in duck and cover mode both emotionally and financially.
When her lawyer requested a heafty child support payment AND 100% of the health insurance premiums I was compliant. I didn’t even retain a lawyer except to look over the final decree. (Maybe that was a mistake.)
But we’d decided to do a collaborative divorce.
Yeah, the nice guy needs a lawyer. Take my advice, no matter how civil you think you’re going to be, no matter how cooperative and collaborative she is at the beginning, when the shit hits the fan, the one with the lawyer wins.
No one is going to take care of you in divorce. Your ex will make selfish decisions and continue to make selfish requests couched in “the best interest of the kids.” Bullshit. If it’s about “primary care giver” or “primary nurturing adult” I was both. She was the mom, yes, but she was emotionally unavailable to the kids – sort of still is. I was the emotional heart of the clan. She was the accounting and hard ass board member.
Perhaps it does not have to go this way. Perhaps there are goodwill collaborative divorces. And I’m sure there are. Ours was supposed to work out that way, but things don’t always go as planned.
My first big loss was in being refused 50/50 custody and 50/50 parenting time. This will continue to be an issue that I feel frustrated about the rest of my life. I should’ve had my kids 50% of the time. That’s how we parented. Why was I suddenly a lesser parent (non-custodial) and the only one required to pay the other person. What if I lost my job? Well, we were gonna find out about that one soon enough.
Here’s my belief. If you parented cooperatively and intend to divorce cooperatively, great. Get a lawyer. And if you want 50/50 custody and parenting, ask for it. No, better than that, FIGHT FOR IT. It turns out the courts are more likely these days to give 50/50 requests
In my case I waived the right to an attorney. And when our high-paid counselor said the 50/50 parenting plan I presented was just “not what she would get if you went to court” I lost everything. I lost the house. I lost the money. And most importantly I lost the time with my kids. The time when they were in their tenderist years.
Well fuck that. Go for 50/50 if that’s what you want. You might not win, but you won’t regret it if you lose. I regret it that I gave up in the name of “doing what’s best for the kids.” It wasn’t. It isn’t. And I should’ve fought for it.
The Off Parent
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As things begin to pick up for me again, both emotionally and financially, I still get this twinge of anger from time to time about the woman who lost confidence in me. Often there is one person who does not want the divorce (the dumpee) and the person who initiates the divorce.
And the spark of pain, that I occasionally still have to acknowledge and let go of, is SHE decided long before I did that she was done. When she toyed with “maybe a separation would help me,” she had already talked to a lawyer. I was still solid as a rock that we would get through this. We had been through so many trials of the spirit before, this was a chance to set some of our emotional connections right. That was my delusion.
It was November of last year, that I sent the last, “If I could change anything, or start over with someone…” email. She demurred. She was not interested. But what that letter did for me was release every last option in MY control. And when she passed, I was free to really explore dating.
It didn’t work out that my aggressive get-out-and-fk approach didn’t really work for me. But I did let her go on another level when I saw myself actually having sex with another (a different) woman. Some core sexual thread was released back to me. I was still not sure that I wanted it back. I am still attracted to most of her physical qualities, her smell, the way she dresses, her smile.
But she is not attracted to me any more. She moved on within weeks of the final divorce and began sleeping with a plumber who caught her eye. WOW, now that was bold, or way off, you’d have to ask her. But it was at that time that I was so happy we’d put the “six-month dating before introducing to the kids” rule in our parenting plan.
She didn’t want to try separation. She was trying a way to ease me out of the relationship She was looking to greener pastures. She was giving up on me. That still stings. All the money we now put into TWO homes have made the economics much more stressful.
That final stage of release continues to happen. And I find myself looping back into desire for “what was.” It’s not for her any more, but the idea and memory of the wonderful times we had. And the loss every single time I drop my kids off and won’t see them for 5 days. OUCH! That I never wanted.
Today, I can say my dreams of reconciliation are more about getting my kids back. She’s not available to me. She’s been with her BF for almost a year. He’s met the kids. And even if she asked tomorrow, admitted her mistake, I know that I would say “No.” She was emotionally distant the entire relationship She didn’t know how to connect with deep feelings. It was never safe for her to do so with her mom and dad.
So we move along. We grow. We challenge what we knew about relationship, what we think we know about physical and spiritual attraction. And now we move in different directions. And that too is good.
The Off Parent
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- Easier To Be Quiet
- You Know They’re Watching You, Right?
- The Divorce Whisperer
- Of Course You’re Not Happy With Me, We’re Divorced
- 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)