Post 299

Will You Leave?
Reflections on Divorce

This blog post is for you.
Yes, you.
You’re thinking about getting a divorce.

You’ve played it out in your mind, mostly.
With respect to the kids, you’re pretty much positive that they’d stay with you, so you’re not worried about that.
With respect to money, you feel quite secure about your ability to earn it, so you’re not worried about that.
With respect to dividing things up, you feel that it should be quite manageable, so you’re not worried about that.
With respect to feeling alone, or being on your own, you have a pretty solid network of friends and people to turn to, so you’re not worried about that.

“Besides, lots of people divorce all the time.
It’s not like you would be the first.
And the kids will be fine.
They’re more bonded to you anyhow.
They’ll hardly notice the difference, especially if you keep the house.
But even if you can’t keep the house, you’ll find somewhere good, somewhere close to the school.
There are probably a lot of cute places nearby, and you always have tons of decorating ideas, so you can make a place look cozy.
It might almost be fun–kind of a new adventure.

The point is that you’re just sick and tired of all of his bullshit.
And you just aren’t going to put up with it anymore.
Why should you?
If he thinks he can just get away with it, then he’s in for a rude awakening.
He’ll realize that he should have treated you better.

But you don’t care what he thinks. It will be too late. It’s already too late.
The lines of the song speak to you:
Who’s gonna walk you through the dark side of the morning?
Who’s gonna rock you when the sun won’t let you sleep?
Who’s waking up to drive you home when you’re drunk and all alone?
It ain’t me.
It ain’t me.

You know that a reckoning is long overdue.
This time, he’s gone too far.
What’s the point of staying together?
There’s no point in sticking around when there’s no future.
It’s not even good for the kids, to see you argue like this.
Besides, you could very well find someone new.
You’re still attractive.
Not too old, yet.
(Why wait?)
There are a lot of men out there.
Decent ones.
Hell, you could easily find someone way better.
Remember that one guy?
You seemed to really hit it off.
Or what about that other one?
He seemed kind of interested.

That’s the kind of guy you need.
The type you deserve.
Why stay in a dead-end marriage?
Life is short.
Why be miserable?”
says Satan.

Be gone!

There.

That’s better.

Now let’s talk.
Let’s talk about this.

Imagination is a powerful thing, no doubt about it.
But you have to keep track of what it offers you.
Don’t let it run the show, because the imagination is, well, not known for its wisdom.

I notice that there is a distinct pattern to your thoughts, and I challenge that.
This is what I see:
When you imagine a future with your husband, you see misery, emptiness and loneliness.
When you imagine a future without him, you see happiness, victory and opportunity.

Who gave you the ability to see the future?

Lend me your imagination for a moment.
Let me paint you a different picture.

I speak not from my own experience, but from what I have seen.
What I have seen is that separated and divorced women are experiencing a lot of pain.
The pain is very deep.

Fast forward two and a half years from today.

Your children are standing by the door in their coats, and the older one already has his boots on.
You’re helping your younger one, who hasn’t yet recovered from the mini-crisis at lunchtime, and the older one says, “They’re here! I see their car!”
You check yourself in the mirror. Unfortunately, you haven’t had time to have a shower yet, and you reach for your lipstick; maybe that will be enough to look presentable.
Your husband (nowadays you call him “my ex” because that’s just easiest) is walking towards the front door. He knocks, and the children are thrilled to greet him, “Daddy, Daddy!”
He says, “Hello princess!” “Hello Superman!” (He always calls him that.) You explain that the younger one was upset because she got ketchup on BunnyBunny, and you haven’t had a chance to clean BunnyBunny, but you need to wash her before she can play with her again. Your ex seems somewhat understanding, and is about to say something, but is interrupted by “Hey Superman!” exclaimed by Kaylee, his wife, who is stepping out of the vehicle. (You can’t help but notice that the vehicle is nicer than any of the ones that your husband bought while you were married.) She gives your son a high-five and a big hug, and she walks towards the front door holding your son’s hand.
She says hello to you, and looks at what you’re wearing. You suddenly feel self-conscious, because she has an obviously new coat and is holding her fancy purse (as if she really couldn’t have left it in the car!) The woman’s got an attitude — of all the people he could have chosen, he had to find this one! But it’s not as if you can exactly say anything. She glances at your living room and says, “Looks like someone’s had a busy morning!” and she laughs, looking at your husband, as if she’s made some very witty type of joke. He laughs too. “Let’s go, Princess,” he says, and he lifts up your daughter and they all go to the car.

The house is suddenly really quiet now. BunnyBunny looks at you.

Six months later:

Your children come home from their weekend visit with Daddy and Kaylee. They are full of news. “Daddy is buying a new house!” This is quite a surprise, but nowadays it seems like all news about everything important comes through the children. Where will this house be? When? Why? You try to stay calm, and you choose your words carefully, because you don’t really know what your own children will report back to others about your reaction. “Oh, really? That’s interesting.”

Nine months later:

You see that Kaylee has posted photos of their new house. There’s a picture of everything: the front yard, the back yard, and there’s a picture of the kitchen. Who needs a kitchen that big? You’re not sure she even does much cooking. She’s posted a picture of the new bathroom with lit candles all over the place (so staged!), and some of her friends have made comments, which you read. “How romantic!” “Love it!” “So jealous, Kaylee!” The whole thing is upsetting beyond belief, not that you would ever admit that to anyone, ever. You decide you’ll post some pictures of your own, of something. The homemade cake photo might be a good choice, but you’ll have to double-check it. On the other hand, maybe that’s not flashy enough.

Three months later:

The new guy that you’ve been seeing appears to be a bit of a loser. Definitely better than the last fellow, but not necessarily someone you can count on. It’s the second time in a row that he has said he needs to “meet up with the guys” when you thought you had plans. Exactly what is the issue, you would like to know. Perhaps Sonia’s free tonight, and you could meet up with her. You’ve already got a babysitter scheduled, after all. Sonia is quite understanding; she’s been divorced for something like 8 years, and has had her share of dating disasters. But she’s not free tonight, because she’s got some sort of bowling thing. Bowling! Who goes bowling these days? And you can’t call any of your married friends on the spur of the moment like this. And besides, even if they were free, you don’t really want them to know everything. Let them think you’re having fun.

The babysitter arrives (you’ve decided to go to the mall), and you find yourself talking to her for forty-five minutes, instead of leaving. She’s quite the sympathetic listener, as it turns out. She plans to go to law school, she says. You’re not sure what you think about that. The lawyer you had certainly charged an arm and a leg, as if you were made out of money. Two hundred and fifty dollars an hour! The whole divorce experience was highly unpleasant, with way too much detail coming out onto public affidavits. Your sister-in-law actually went to the courthouse and printed them all out just to read for herself, as if it was any of her business! Your ex hired a nasty-piece-of-work lawyer, who was always coming up with new angles and making the process entirely more expensive than it needed to be. What a disaster that was. And the judge! The judge, who couldn’t care less about anything that you said, just wound up giving normal visitation rights to your ex even after he read everything. And you thought the legal system would be fair! You thought it would give a damn. But you don’t tell the babysitter about that, because you feel kind of stupid for fighting so hard for so little. You finally head out the door, because, after all, you are paying her to babysit, and you don’t want her telling her parents that all you did was stand in the doorway and talk forever. You don’t want people to think you’re pathetic.

You decide to find a sensible purpose for shopping, and you’ve decided that it will be to find a birthday present for your niece. She will be turning 13, and it will be nice to have the time to find something good.

You look around for a while, going from store to store. It seems futile quite quickly. You’re so used to online shopping that buying something without reading online reviews seems like a terrible gamble. But you persist, looking for something that looks nice enough. After all, the whole family will be there, and you don’t want people to think you cheaped out. Ever since the divorce, you feel like everyone thinks you don’t have enough money, but they don’t say anything, so you can’t actually address what you think they’re thinking. Not with words, anyway.

Six months later:

You’re at the grocery store, and you run into Leanne and her husband in the bakery section. You haven’t seen her since you lived in the old neighbourhood, and you certainly didn’t expect to see her here. She’s on her way to a baby shower, she says, which makes you wonder why her husband is with her. “I injured my neck recently, and I just can’t shoulder check, so Jason has to drive me everywhere! I’ve got my own chauffeur these days!” You laugh because she’s trying to be funny, but you know that if you get sick or injured, there’s nobody there to drive you. Meeting her with her husband after all these years seems to highlight your own changed situation, and the truth is that you just want to say goodbye. But she has news. She knows someone who works with your ex, and it’s becoming rather well-known that he got his vasectomy reversed, and don’t you find that interesting?

You feel sick.

Why on earth?

This, you didn’t see coming.

Mind you, those vasectomy reversals don’t always work, do they? Why on earth would he do that? He doesn’t even like kids that much, does he? He used to complain, and now he wants more? Or is it that Kaylee wants kids? And he’s doing whatever she wants?

You feel dizzy, but you manage some more small talk (who knows what it was), say goodbye, pay for your groceries, and leave the store. This is just disgusting. Your hands are shaking, and you don’t know if you’ll be able to drive home okay.

Two years later:

You’ve decided to start your own business, because it wouldn’t hurt to have a little bit of side income. Your ex was late — twice! — on his support payments, which of course makes no sense when you know perfectly well that he has enough money for everything else. At least, that’s what it sounds like, from what the kids tell you about things. And what about that post about his fancy new barbecue, and what about the “little” trip to Cancun? If he can afford that, then he can afford to make his support payments on time, is what you think. It’s just SO aggravating (and somewhat humiliating) to remind him about it! It was far better when the payments were directly deposited into the account. In any case, a side business would probably be a good idea. Lots of people earn income on the side. It doesn’t mean they’re desperate or anything. Maybe they’re just talented.

A text comes in. Your son wants to know how many seats he should request for the school play. You groan internally, because you know that the school doesn’t have the sense to realize that maybe parents who are divorced won’t want to be seated together. You text back: “Ask dad if he is coming, and how many seats he wants.” You look at your calendar, to double check the start time of the play. A text comes in, “Dad says buy two for him.”

Sigh.

Two weeks later:

You’re early, and you settle yourself in one of your designated seats in the school gymnasium. Your ex walks in, with Kaylee, who is apparently in a talkative mood. She sits between you and your ex, and if the seating arrangement makes her feel uncomfortable, you would never know it. She’s got lots to say, about her new job as a teacher’s assistant, and about how she is really fed up with her housekeeper. You wonder if it’s just you, or whether everything she says is intended to rile you.
At one point during the conversation, you catch the eye of your ex, and you notice that he’s looking at you, not her. You’re taken aback, and for a moment, you find it difficult to concentrate on what she’s just said. (Something about getting a puppy?) The lights go dim and the play begins. Now comes the part where your son is in the spotlight. When he triumphantly finishes his lines, you and your ex openly look at each other, being proud in the same way. It’s a very strange moment, and you don’t have time to process everything you are feeling.

When the play is done, your son finds you in the audience. He’s flushed and very happy with how he did. You take photos of him and you ask your ex to take photos of you with him while he’s still in costume. Another photo: your son, you, your daughter, this one taken by your ex. Then a surprise. Your ex takes a selfie and produces another photo: your son, your daughter, you, your ex.

You take back your phone and you recognize it immediately for what it is: a family portrait.

Was that the moment? Was that the moment that something within you changed direction? Is that all it takes? A photo?

You ask your son to take another photo.

You put your arm behind your ex, and he put his on your shoulder. Does he realize what you’re doing? Does Kaylee?

Here it is. It’s done and you’re both smiling.

You show it to him, and you smile your very best smile.

Am I flirting? you ask yourself.

Oh yeah. This is actually happening. This is actually what you’re doing. You almost feel as if you’re watching someone else, someone who has a very clear idea of what she’s doing.

You say to your ex, “Our Superman sure can act! I wonder where he gets that from?” He looks like he’ll say something, but he doesn’t; maybe it’s because Kaylee is right there. So it becomes one of those rhetorical questions. “Our Superman” — you reflect on your words.

When the night is over, when you get home, you look carefully at the photos. Would getting back together even be possible? How would that even work? Does he still love you? Do you still love him? What would people say?

Obviously, friendship must come first before anything. And besides, you rationalize, it’s good for parents to be friends anyway. Better for the kids. Everyone says you should be friends if you can.

Oh! What a strange romance you contemplate. The children would approve, of course. But what if you argued again? Surely that would happen. Would we have to get divorced again? Would we be like those Hollywood celebrities who remarry someone they’ve already divorced? Wouldn’t that be ridiculous?

You don’t want to be ridiculous, but on the other hand, what have you got to lose?

You’ve done crazier things.

Or maybe not.

But maybe this one is worth doing.

I can’t believe that I’m seriously considering flirting with my own husband, you say to yourself, forgetting to call him your ex.

I was definitely flirting tonight, you say to yourself. Never mind “considering flirting;” I’ve already done it.

You go online and upload the photos, and your daughter studies them. “Why did you really get divorced?” she asks. What a moment for such a question! You reach for the typical words, something that begins with, “Well, honey, sometimes people just . . . ” but now those words sound like avoidance. You say, “I don’t know,” and are surprised that this answer sounds fairly reasonable.

You post three photos. One of your son, one of the four of you, and one of you with your ex. And of course they need captions, because you always write captions. The first caption is easy. The second is trickier. How about “us without Kaylee”? How about “How things used to be”? You decide on “Family.” The third photo should be harder, but you already know what you’re going to write. You post, “Still my favorite guy.”

You click ‘post photo’ before you have a moment to change your mind.

And then you freak out.

“What on earth have I just done?!?!” You are mortified and shocked and horrified at the same time. The dam of lies breaks open, and you are immediately tormented with lies that everyone will think you are a total desperate idiot who has no business wrecking another household years after your own divorce. Everyone will think you have gone mad, and that you can’t cope with your divorce. Everyone will think you are pathetic and a loser and unable to find anyone half-decent to date (some truth in that one). You can NOT believe you believed it was a good idea. Your face feels hot. You wonder if anybody has seen it. Maybe you could just delete it. Should you delete just the last one, or all 3?

You hold up your phone and look.

He saw them.
He saw them!
He saw your posts, and
And he liked them,
All of them!
All three!

He liked them!

“Oh this is SO weird!” you say out loud. And your daughter, in the next room, says, “What’s so weird?” Should you explain?

Three years later:

It’s Saturday. It’s lunch time. It’s battered fish and french fries, all from the frozen section of the supermarket. The morning has been busy. Your son is assembling his social studies project but the kitchen table needs to be cleared before anyone can eat. Your daughter is writing a book report and doesn’t come when you say that lunch is ready. You’re thinking about a million things and then it happens. The bowl with the ketchup in it tips over, and the ketchup splatters all over BunnyBunny. A crisis. Your younger daughter, who has learned to talk quite early, says, “BunnyBunny all dirty all over!” and you bring BunnyBunny to the sink for a wash up. Your husband says to her, “Don’t worry honey. BunnyBunny will be fine. Your Mommy and Daddy know all about making things like new again.”

 

Tell me

Who knows the future?

The grace of God flows through a sacramental marriage.
What appears to be empty can become fruitful.
What appears to be dead can come back to life.
What appears to be the end of the story can be just the beginning.