Tag Archives: Divorce

Public Service Announcement

*To my friends and family: Please remember that if I am upset with you I will talk to you about it in person….not in a blog post. This isn’t about you. (o:

Check this out…

I have a friend who is also in the midst of divorce and when her husband was moving out, all their neighbors came out to see what was up with the U-haul in the driveway. Fine, normal, we’re all curious creatures. But one set of neighbors crossed all lines of polite behavior. When they asked what was going on, my friend’s husband quickly and directly said, “I’m moving out; we’re getting a divorce.” He hoped they’d go away, but they did not. Instead, they went on and on about what hard work marriage is and how, for the sake of the children, they should keep trying—otherwise they would ruin their children’s lives. And they said all of this right in front of the two children! These neighbors are not friends of the divorcing couple, have no real knowledge of the situation and… it’s none of their damn business! What is wrong with people??

One part of divorce I did not expect was how free people would be to judge, advise and question me. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked whether my ex and I went to counseling, I could probably afford the retainer fee of a decent attorney. It didn’t bother me at first but after the 73rd time, I started to twitch. The answer is yes (2+ years, 3 different counselors), and it didn’t help one single bit. I’m not saying counseling isn’t helpful in general; in my experience counseling is very helpful when the people on the couch speak the truth and invest themselves in the work. Otherwise, it’s just really expensive. In hindsight I think the money would have been better spent on hookers and housekeepers.

If I had a dime for every time someone has said to me, “You really need to…,” “You should…,” or “You have to…,” I could easily cover the attorney’s bill for the entire divorce. Divorce is an uncomfortable topic and it’s hard to know what to say when someone gives you sad news. While I can’t tell you the absolute best thing to say, I can give you a short list of what to avoid.

1. Don’t give advice unless you hear these words: “Do you have any advice for me?”
90% of the advice given to me is unsolicited and from people who don’t know me or my marriage very well. It’s getting pretty old. I have been a frequent giver of unsolicited advice myself, so clearly my karma was due, and I’m pretty sure this experience has cured me. If you are talking with someone and they say “Can you believe that?” or even “What do you think?” these are usually invitations for validation, not advice. Validation is comforting and sounds something like, “That must be really hard and I’m so sorry you are going through it.” If you are the generous and nurturing type you could even throw in, “Is there anything I can do to support you during this time?”

2. Don’t tell a woman (including yourself) to lower her standards or expectations in an effort to  find, manage, or fix a relationship.
Every woman on the ding-dang planet who has ever said this to another woman needs to check themselves. I would like to make a loud and public plea that we stop feeding each other this giant bag of B.S.. Seriously? Enough is enough. Yes, I’m sure that some women have insanely high standards and need a reality check from the people who care about them—but these women are in a very small minority (probably just Minnie Driver and one other chick I don’t know). Women’s relationship standards being too high is not one of the cultural crises facing the people of America. Trust me on this one.

I had no idea that Billy Ray Cyrus was Minnie's baby daddy!

3. Do not ask them how the spouse they are divorcing is doing. They don’t speak for them anymore. That’s kind of the point.

4. Don’t judge. None of us really know what happens in someone else’s marriage. The worst parts of a relationship are usually kept well-hidden from public view. Be careful what you say to or about someone going through a divorce. Your judgements will likely travel through conversations, across towns and eventually be added to the big pile of poo already sitting in the divorcee’s lap. Nobody needs that.

So what can you say?

“I’m sorry” is always good. No matter what happened, no matter who left who, even if it’s a mutual choice; divorce sucks for everyone involved. Curiosity about the details is natural, but tread carefully. A woman I know, when hearing my news, asked how long I was married and how many of those years had I wanted to be married. I thought this was a great way to put the question. If someone says “we were married for 10 years and I never wanted it to end,” you know more about how they are hurting, and it’s kinder than the “who left who” question. If they say “we were married for 10 years, but I wanted out after 6,” well then they probably feel a combination of grief and relief… and it’s probably safe to mention any hot single friends you’d like to set them up with in the future.

And now, I’d like to revisit point #2 (lower your expectations B.S.). I heard and followed this advice many times throughout my marriage and it always made things worse, not better. Always. I paid attention to the patterns; I cannot belabor this point enough. The less I expected and asked for, the less I got. I’m pretty sure it’s just physics… or something… sciencey. (I wish I’d known about this guy and listened to him instead.)

I am a very outspoken person (obviously) but when it comes to romantic relationships I have trouble being assertive about what I want and need. In my marriage I spent way too much time accommodating when I should have drawn lines in the sand. It was only when I spoke loudly and stood my ground like a prison guard that we made any progress. In the end, I think my marriage could have survived if I’d have done more of that.

So there we have it: my divorce is my own fault because I refused to behave like a prison guard, day in and day out. I have two kids; I do enough whip-cracking as it is. I waved the white flag and cried “Uncle!” Yes, relationships are hard work. Call me lazy, but I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life in a dead-end job.

Next time, I'm going for the haircut.

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Zen Garden Head

My day began with a long, hot, uninterrupted shower. I listened to Weekend Edition on the radio and heard every word. I put on make-up and earrings and a cute outfit. I rode my bike, alone, downtown, to meet a friend for breakfast. We sat in the sunshine and ate breakfast for 2 hours. Then I rode my bike back home, alone. I didn’t stop to fix someone’s helmet or shriek “stay on the right side!” 93 times, or pull a 60 lbs of kid and trailer behind me. I just rode and listened to the wind and watched the world.

One night, when we were still in Smallville and I’d had a particularly rough day, I tucked Goofus into bed and apologized for my cranky mood. I said that I seemed to have lost all my happy mama energy. He asked me where the last place was I remembered having it? It was a good question and the answer came to me quickly. “The bike path in Eugene” I said.

Riding to school

I was thinking of a visit we (the ex and I) made to Eugene the summer before, when we took the kids for a bike ride along the river. It was late summer and the berries along the path were just ripe. This was Goofus’ first big ride on his own bike so we stopped to pick berries when he wanted. Doodlebug loved riding up high in the kid seat on the back of my bike, where it felt “fast.” It was a perfect afternoon: I loved sharing one of my favorite home town things with my boys, everyone had fun, and we were all together. It was what “family” looked like in my fantasy.

I realized it was also the last time I remembered us all having fun together and feeling like a real family—and it was long time ago. All the hard work I’d done to keep my marriage afloat had, in some ways, distracted me from how bad things really were. I still cared if my marriage survived, but I realized that saving it wasn’t all my responsibility. I had tried every way I knew to fix my marriage; nothing helped and things got worse.

This occurred to me as I kissed my boys goodnight. I decided that completing the move to Eugene was our last hope. I knew I wouldn’t make it another year in Smallville—we’d (the ex and I) talked about that. I had daydreams of putting the kids and a big suitcase in the car and fleeing down I-5 to my dad’s house. I didn’t want that; I wanted all of us together. I wanted my family. So I went to work on selling the house and finishing the move. The work paid off and the house sold.

It takes a Village People.

We made it to Eugene and everyone has done well here. The kids have nice friends and great schools; I’m working, writing, and socializing–all good things; and the ex has a great job and new friends (and that is as much speaking for him as you will ever get out of me). We made it, but the marriage did not. I’m still in the thick of the split, so no nostalgic feelings for him yet, but I am definitely grieving the loss of the family I hoped for. I still want that.

In the meantime….

I found that I had left a lot of my happy mama energy on the bike path. I find a little more of it each time I ride (about twice as much when I ride alone). I’m happy to be home, among my people . And, as it turns out, divorce has one or two perks. In some cases, a hot sexy ass, is the consolation prize for marital losers. Time alone is nice too. After 6+ years as a stay-at-home mom, I’m really okay with my boys spending weekends at their dad’s house. The silence they leave behind is very pleasant. So are restaurants without children. Me and my hot ass are finding plenty to do.

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