Divorce has been a defining fact in my life, although, thankfully, not the only defining one.
My parents separated when I was eight years old, and their divorce was finalized when I was about 10.
The first time I married, I was still a teenager, and, yes, the marriage was precipitated by the impending birth of our daughter. My first husband grew up in a staunchly Catholic family, and the reaction of his parents was not supportive. For one, I was not catholic, and had no intention of becoming catholic. For another, as my future mother-in-law said, much to my chagrin, “Janaki is the product of a divorced family…what can she know about holding a marriage together?”
That belief, or rather that lack of belief in me, spurred me to a determination to not fail in this marriage.
But, we were so young! And, after a couple of years, we discovered that we were incompatible in so many ways. Our values were almost opposite, and our goals were also divergent. And, yet, through pure stubbornness, and the hope to prove my MIL’s prediction wrong, I resisted the ultimate dissolution for several years.
So, what were the stages of divorce, for me?
- Shock – certainly, I recall feeling shock when the words “I think we should divorce.” were uttered by my husband. My initial reaction was to try and think of every and any way to avert what I saw as failure, and the fulfillment of my MIL’s prediction.
- Despair – this might have come at a single moment, when my husband and I attended a seminar which was part of an inspirational build-your-business-potential series that he was attending at the time. The speaker was talking about Love, and the language that he used suddenly made it so clear to me that my understanding of the world was completely different from that of my husband. We had somehow grown into two individuals who had almost nothing in common as far as our vision of reality and our role and obligation in the world. And, I wondered how I could possibly move forward.
- Numbness – This stage, for me is out of order – numbness was what I realized the previous 6 years had been, as my sense of identity was obliterated by living in a relationship where my values were negated on a daily basis, without my even realizing it until several years later, when I found myself emerging from the numbness and regaining my sense of self.
- Fury – certainly, as the numbness wore off, fury took it’s place. Fury at eight wasted years, fury at the my lost sense of identity and self-worth, fury about a few other details that are better left unwritten.
- Vengeance – never really seemed to be an option, in my case. As I read this book, however fictional it might be, I came to realize that I probably made the wrong decision almost every step of the way.
- I left our home, feeling that I needed to prove my independence and self-reliance, but by doing so, I gave up on a major stake in our joint assets
- I have a bit of a phobia about money and finances, and I have always resisted understanding the details of my financial life. For me, husbands have served a useful purpose by shielding me from having to get down into the nitty-gritty of how the money comes in and goes out. I’m happy to contribute my share, I just get anxious thinking about the details. But, of course, that meant that I had no real idea of how much money was at stake in dividing our assets.
- I refused to accept alimony – I saw that as demonstrating my lack of ability to take care of myself. And so I was willing to accept child support, but nothing else. And, I made my subsequent life a little more difficult for myself.
- Relief – it took some time to arrive at a sense of relief. But, it definitely came. With the recovery of my sense of self, I came to realize that the divorce was the best thing for me, for my former husband, and especially for our daughter (although, she probably didn’t think so at the time – as I hadn’t thought so when my own parents divorced). It took me a long time to come to peace with the idea that reconciling a failed marriage wasn’t necessarily the best outcome, and that the good that came out of admitting failure was acceptable.
- Bliss – I guess we all hope for bliss, Nirvana, paradise. Maybe in our darkest hours, we hope for Bliss even more than when we’re in happier moments in life. So, I don’t know that I’ve ever arrived at Bliss, but I am living in a relative contentment, which is reassuring in that I feel that I am living, at least most of the time, in the present – and not living a life of Numbness and Self-Abnegation.
My second marriage has now lasted more than twenty years. No, it’s not 24/7 Bliss, but it’s real, and we make a good team. We know each other’s strengths, and each other’s weaknesses, and we support one another through the hard stuff. There is always more to learn, about ourselves and about each other. There are always new challenges.
I don’t believe in one True Love – the notion of one’s Beshert is lovely, but I think, like the Prince Charming fairy tales, it’s misleading, and a set-up for disappointment.
I think we have to be willing to commit to another person, and accept them with all their faults and warts. None of us is perfect, so how could we ever be perfect for another person?? How could we ever fulfill every wish and expectation of our true love? We can’t, but we can be willing to stick together. We can commit to being there, and surviving the inevitable disagreements and differences, and change those things that we know drives our beloved crazy, and accept those things in our beloved that don’t drive us crazy.
This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client in this novel told mostly through letters and legal missives.
Join From Left to Write on March 18 we discuss The Divorce Papers.
As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.