After we started the divorce process, my ex-husband made the comment, You’re the first one over the wall. At the time, I knew of several women who found their marriages deeply unfulfilling and/or unbearable. Even though they were miserable they were afraid to take the leap and end it. Now I wondered if they were watching to see if I could scale the wall, jump and survive.
Over the past few weeks, several women have sought me out for advice regarding the divorce experience. I’ve leapt and lived (so far) and they want to know how to do it.
Looks like I found an area where I can be helpful. In writing, it’s a good idea to be useful to your audience. I’ve been studying introversion and self-actualization, which fascinate the hell out of me, but people sought me out for guidance regarding the divorce process. Maybe someday I can combine all three areas and be a champ advocate for introverts self-actualizing through divorce.;)
What I am about to impart is how my ex-husband and I handled our divorce. Obviously, every divorce is different (like irregular moles and severe storms) so take our example with a grain of salt and perhaps a mojito or two.
A Little Background Info
My ex-husband, Jeff, and I were married for 15 years. We have three children (two boys and a girl) ages, 12, 10 and 8 (when we divorced in 2012). We met in college our senior year. We dated for three years before we married. I was 26 and he was 25 when we tied the knot. He was raised Jewish. I was raised Christian. He acts like an extrovert but has some introvert traits. I’m an introvert. He’s a leader. I’m a softer leader or an independent. He plays with numbers. I play with words. We worked well on team projects because we had all the bases covered. We complemented each other.
In my opinion, the marriage started to unravel about five years before we actually divorced. It’s tough to speculate why, but the fact that we achieved all of our financial and familial goals may have had something to do with it. We were left to turn inward and see each other and our own selves. We found we were so different that it was easy to feel misunderstood and inadequate around each other.
I used to lie in bed and wonder if I could stay married for another forty years – until one of us died, or even ten years until the kids were out of the house. He used to pull into our garage after work and sit there dreading entering the house.
Rome Wasn’t Destroyed in a Day
It’s monumentally important for me to say that it took Jeff and me years to come to the decision to divorce. We worked on our relationship, ourselves and our parenting by doing everything from counseling to date nights to meditation. Along the way we grew into people who know themselves. Our eyes slowly opened. We learned how to communicate even when it hurt, how to express vulnerability and how to sacrifice external stability for a chance at inner peace.
I get this question a lot. Below are the three factors that pushed me over the edge:
1. Realized Alone = Better. As I wrote in Alone and In Love – To Couple or Not?, I knew it was time to move on when I realized I would rather be alone than stay in the relationship. All the challenges associated with running a household by myself were outweighed by the need to self-actualize. I did not have a fear of loneliness. I had a deep desire for freedom. I wanted to raise children and be my self (I could not do this within the marriage).
2. Discovered Joy and Relaxation with Others. I thought family hubbub and shiny suburban detritus was the holy grail until I stepped away from it. I volunteered in social services and made friends with artists. I felt at home for the first time in a long time. My nerves unkinked and I began to unfold. I created a support system where I breathed easy. I rarely breathed easy with my husband.
3. Staying Together for the Kids Wasn’t Working. The Kids Were Miserable. I found arguments for both sides of the should we stay together for the kids? question. Here’s one and here’s another one. Our kids could sense the tension between my husband and me even though we did not fight or vocalize our discontent (much) in front of them. There was a lot of acting out from the kids and our approaches to discipline clashed. The sub-surface conflict had the whole household in a downward spiral. Everything I’ve read and heard from therapists and experts says that minimal conflict between parents is the best gift children can receive whether the parents are divorced or married.
Should we break it or should we fix it? was a constant subtext in our marital relationship. Like considerate lovers we waited until both of us were spent before we finished up. No one moved out. No one filed for divorce on their own. We came to the conclusion together that our differences were irreconcilable and called a mediator to set up an appointment.
Since this topic is so vast it will be spread out in a series. Next week I will explain the actual divorce process – getting your ducks in a row (the house, credit cards, health insurance, budgeting) while maintaining minimal conflict.
What have you always wondered about divorce? Every marriage has its struggles but how much struggling is too much?
Is divorce a sin? Deepak Chopra answers
Parenting Advice: Staying Together for the Kids?: Huffington Post