There. I said it. Are we all happy now? Divorce. Divorce. Divorce. Everyone in my inner circle knows how much I hate that word. It’s harsh, ugly and the antithesis of everything that I’ve tried to achieve in my life. Key word: Try. Really, all we can do is try. I still don’t like the word. I still don’t like what it means for me, my friends and anyone else that has gone through it.
The scary part about divorce isn’t the realization that a life-time partnership is dissolving, but the realization of how normal divorce is in our society today. In Dallas County alone, the divorce rate of married people between the ages of 35-44 is something like 58%. Well, above the nation’s average, but certainly in the range of “normal.” What has happened to us as a society that we can’t sustain a relationship through better or worse? Are we the better for it? Are our children? I honestly don’t know.
Typical questions that go through people’s minds when you tell them about the divorce are “Who cheated?” or “Is this the divorcer or the divorcee?” or “Crap-it’s my wife’s friend, now who will be my fourth in golf?” As “normal” as divorce is, some people want to know answers because they think in a way that it could divorce-proof them. Some people don’t want to know any answers. Some people simply disappear from your life like you have a social disease that could be catching. I promise–it’s not.
When I realized that my marriage was ending, my first thought was the children. I wanted a normal, perfect childhood for them. I wanted one dad, one mom and our sweet intact family. I was terrified by accepting the fact that my marriage was over, I was ruining that for them.
What is worse is that I worried that other people would judge the decision as something I did more for me than the children. I honestly thought, “Oh no! What if they think we fought in front of the children?” I know it’s silly. And of course, married couples argue in front of children, but I had this highly dramatized version of divorce in my mind. My version made it easier to accept that my marriage was OK because we solved disagreements quietly or we just ignored them. The latter is part of what got us.
Also, divorce is scary because people expect you to “do it all over” again. Sitting in my mediation with my attorney and judge, the judge looked at me and said, “You’ll get married again, well before he will. Just make sure you get a pre-nup to protect all of this.”
My jaw dropped and tears filled my eyes. I said, “But I don’t really want to get re-married. I’m not even interested in dating. I have plans. I’m writing a book, I’m training for a marathon, I’m getting my MBA…”
She help up her hand to stop me and said, “Precisely. You’re quite a catch. Just don’t date any pilots or doctors.”
She intended well, but the practicalities of it all shocked me. We were in a room discussing the dissolution of what was in a way “my life’s work,” and she already had me paired off with some imaginary man that was NOT a pilot or a doctor. Oh and as my friend, Liz, says, “Lawyers need not apply either.”
I guess, people see someone alone after a divorce, and instead of offering their companionship and support, they are in rush to couple the person off. “Oh look we have a floater! We can’t have a plus one at dinner parties. Quick–who knows someone from church, from work, from the neighborhood.” They tell you that you’re a catch, and you have so much going for you. What people don’t understand is that you were already caught and kept, and you thought your life did have a lot going for it already.
I recently told a friend, “It’s hard because I hate to feel like I’m losing someone who was a huge part of my life.” Her response was, “Oh, you aren’t losing him. You have kids together. And trust me-you will get past that feeling. Some days, I wish I could lose mine.”
As the car filled with our laughter, I realized that it’s ok to think divorce is scary because coming out the other end, I know it is something that I never want to experience again. Life is too short to waste on regrets or guilt over what might have been. All we can do is look forward to what is to come.