What to expect when you’re having an “amicable” divorce (part 1?)

I don’t really have any regular readers, but once in a while someone will find my blog by googling “sudden wife abandonment syndrome” or something like that, and it’s nice to think I might sometimes post something that’s of use to someone else.  This started out as a “lighter” post about awkward moments you might experience when uncoupling with the (former) great love of your life, but I couldn’t really flesh it out in a way that was either substantial or anything other than lame.  It evolved into a list of experiences that I’ve had going through divorce.  Now that the active phase is long over, I’m just waiting around for it to be legal, and I’ve managed to detach myself emotionally, I may be in a decent to impart the “wisdom” of the sadder but wiser girl.  Maybe some day someone right at the beginning of the process will stumble upon this and find comfort in knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel comes long before, say, you remarry.

So.  Here are a list of things that you might experience in a friendly divorce:

(1) It’s still going to suck balls.  No matter how mutual it is, no matter how much it’s for the best, it’s still going to be incredibly painful and stressful.  I’m happy to say that I never went through a period in which I questioned literally everything in my life–it wasn’t fucking September 11–but it was still unmitigatingly awful

(2) If it’s not mutual, it will become mutual.  In my case, my husband left me very suddenly.  He blamed me for the breakup, and I accepted the blame.  I struggled to find hope, and my equilibrium, for the next seven months, until someone took mercy on me and told me about his affair.  For a very short time (maybe a couple weeks), things got worse…but then they got much, much better.  I was finally able to move forward without the nearly debilitating regret. And, obviously, I was able to get on board with the divorce because I didn’t want to be with someone who would do that.  I’ve heard this over and over, and with a variety of reasons for divorce–it will eventually become a mutual divorce.

(3) You will still have good days. Even in the weeks after he first left me, I don’t think I ever had more than 2-3 truly awful days in a row.  There was always relief.  There were always happy moments.  I’ll be honest in saying that many others who have been through this would disagree with me on this one, though.  But this was my truth because I needed it to be in order to survive.

(4) You will come to view the breakup as a good thing; that’s either because that’s the objective truth, or simply because you have to….and it really doesn’t matter whether it’s the former or the latter.  You will be able to shut off what you need to shut off and detach what you need to detach–even if it means literally suppressing memories.  At first, you’ll have a vague sense of deluding yourself, but then it becomes your reality.

(5) It’s still going to take FOREVER.  We used a psychologist/parenting coordinator for mediation for guidance on developing a parenting plan. We just basically sat down and figured out everything ourselves with no major (or minor, really) disagreements, and yet we haven’t even filed. We got everything in order, and I submitted it to my (free, through my trust fund) lawyer to draw up the papers…and here we sit.  I think our paperwork sat on a paralegal’s desk all summer, but there has been a tremendous, puzzling, and ironic amount of delay on his end.  I hear it’s 6-8 months once you file.

(6) There will be awkward moments.  In our case, we have moved from a “nesting” arrangement to one in which our daughter sleeps at his place once a week, but the weeknight visits take place at my house.  That’s good for my daughter (and, mostly, for me), but it means I don’t have a lot of privacy.  If I’m going out on a weeknight, he knows it because I tell him to bring work to do (he’s a freelance writer).  He literally wants to know before I go out before I go out, which is kind of impossible.  If I’m going to be out later than that on a Wednesday, I have to basically “clear” it with him or be by 9:30, because sometimes he drives to New England to see his girlfriend after he puts our daughter to bed.

Then there was the time he walked in on me completely naked.  I had just taken a shower, and I was upstairs with our daughter getting ready to go out, and I didn’t hear him come in or up the stairs, and the upstairs is basically my bedroom.  So it was the combined awkwardness of being walked in on naked combined with the knowledge that you’re embarrassed about being walked in on naked by someone you were with for 19 years.

(7) You may or may not have to divide up “custody” of your friends.  I didn’t experience a lot of issues with friends having to take sides.  We used to have mutual friends, but it was no one with whom we were very close, and by the time we split up, our friends were pretty much separate.  My friends don’t dislike him (apart from thinking it’s douchey to slow things down and cockblock).  He even took my daughter to the birthday party of my best friend’s daughter when I was out of town.

(8) You can still have a good relationship with your in-laws if you have a friendly divorce.  I don’t have beef with mine, and they don’t have beef with me.I still get invited to all holiday gatherings. It’s nice for them to still consider me family, because I don’t have any family any closer than 2000 miles away.  Also, my daughter has cousins nearby, and I want her to grow up with them.    I think in time that won’t be the case, but it is certainly helping to ease the transition.

(9) You’re going to have tremendous “mommy” guilt.  I had this anyway, but I know enough from my studies in social work to know that no child comes out completely unscathed.  While I don’t believe that protecting your child from every challenging life experience is the way to go, I also don’t think that throwing up your hands and saying, “they might as well learn that life is tough” is a hallmark of good parenting.  I feel guilty because it has affected her. I feel guilty because I couldn’t protect her from that.

(10) If the father is involved enough, this can be a good opportunity to explore things you never got to before.  I look back at when I was married and think about how much I could have been doing with backup that came home every night at 6:30 and all weekend.  I regretted it terribly.  Now, I have a lot less backup and a lot less free time, but I don’t waste it unless I’m swamped with work or run down.  I mean, most of my free time is eaten up with going to the gym and going out, which isn’t the most exciting or most impressive thing in the world…but they’re things that make me happy, and (most importantly) I’m doing them.

(11) Eventually, the pain of your loss and the shock of having your entire future taken away is replaced by a constant feeling that you’re a complete badass.

First, you got through it.  “It” will be an hour in the beginning, and then a day, and then a week, and then months…and then the worst of it…and then survival mode.  One day, you’ll be out of survival mode, and you’ll be proud of yourself for getting through it.

I pat myself on the back all the time: (1) I didn’t falling apart even a little bit.  Not even temporarily.  But I also didn’t try to overcompensate by doing obviously pathetic things.  (2) The ideal model for kids would be a loving, happy, permanent marriage, but there is still a distant second option: cooperating and even still being good friends.  (3) What can scare me now?

Read #3 again if you stumbled across this.  I hope that this is the worst thing that you will ever go through.  One day, you’ll realized that you are definitely surviving it.  Sometimes, you’ll catch yourself worrying about things (especially once you start dating again….love is scary), but then you’ll know that you’ve been through much, much worse and come out on top.

(12) Dating sucks compared to the security of marriage, but it’s not all bad.  I stayed out of dating until I was “ready”–which is going to be different for every one.  In my case, it was maybe a month after I found out about the affair.  I’m sort of a serial monogamist, so I ended up in a relationship pretty quickly, but after I broke that off, I actually dated.  It’s exciting sometimes, but it’s often a waste of time.  I was on OkC for, like, 2 weeks, but I’m easily overwhelmed, and I got way too many messages to even bother reading.  There were so few guys that were cute, articulate, smart, interesting, and not clearly racist. Of those, I’d say that I was interested in a second date with maybe 25%.  I just stopped with it, figuring I can always go back.

It’s frightening to develop feelings for someone.  Especially now that you know how little you can know even your best friend. But, it is fun sometimes, and, again: you’ve been through worse.  You’ll observe yourself from the outside, relating to love or breakup songs because of someone who isn’t your spouse, and it’ll be interesting.  My therapist said that if she could just have a one-sentence session with every single client, it would be, “YOU. DON’T. FUCKING. KNOW. THE OTHER PERSON.”

(13) “Not to spoil the ending for you, but everything is going to be alright.”  One of my friends texted me a picture of this in a frame, and it has kind of become my mantra.  I was a worrywart long before this started, and I probably always will be, but I found comfort in clinging to something as simple as a cheesy saying.

These are my thoughts for now. If I gather more, I’ll do a part 2.  🙂

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