There is no timeout in divorce

I have been trying to keep moving forward with a positive outlook.

This whole divorce thing can be a positive, right? A new beginning, a new home that will be completely mine, new possibilities for the future. And let’s not forget, possibly a new love relationship (as if that is a train I am anxious to jump on after this!)

But to get to that place, you need to maneuver around a mine field of emotions, experiences and surprises. Yes, surprises, because there is always something that you weren’t really expecting to happen, or to be said. Something that comes at you like a brick at your head, or a punch in the stomach.

Something that will take the wind right out of you, leaving you dazed and hurt.

I’ve had my fair share of that scenario over the last six months. Just when I think I can do this with a good attitude, I can be amicable and patient, I can rise above the pain and disappointment…it happens again.

And when it happened too often, in too little time, I began to unravel. I truly thought I was going to lose my mind, or collapse under all of the pressure. And it’s not just from going through a divorce, no it’s not that simple. The rest of your life has to continue, the other people in your life that count on you (your kids, your family, your friends) still need you to function and perform. They still need you to not only show up, but make the reservations and take care of the details like you’ve always done.

That part of life doesn’t stop, doesn’t pause, doesn’t just wait until you can handle it all again. You don’t get to take a timeout. You must handle it all. Now.

Some days, I could feel my brain expanding and pushing against the sides of my head, a feeling that I would burst at any moment. My skin would tingle and the air was too thin to breathe. I felt cornered. Trapped. And with no escape route in sight.

Sometimes, I just wanted to run and keep on running until I couldn’t think about any of it anymore. I wanted to run to a safe place, a place that I could stop thinking. A place that I could stop being me, the me that was there for everyone and anyone.

I wanted to disappear.

But I can’t disappear, and I can’t make it all stop or even pause sometimes. Life keeps happening. Even when you think you’ve got enough on your plate, Life hands you another heaping helping to choke down.

No wonder I’ve gained weight.


What have I learned?

I was in my weekly therapy appointment last week, going over my latest updates and struggles, but feeling pretty positive about my current life. I’m in a holding pattern right now, waiting for the next step and the next meeting, but trying not to obsess over it. I’m calm, happy, and feeling accomplished most days.

Such a huge change from the rollercoaster feelings I was a dealing with only a couple of months ago.

As always, my therapist is really supportive and validating – something I was incredibly uncomfortable with in the beginning, believe it or not. I try to take responsibility when I can, and sometimes when I really shouldn’t have to honestly, but she usually steers me to a place where it is okay to say “I did my best, and maybe it wasn’t enough for the other person, but that’s okay.”

Then she asked me a question I didn’t expect.

“What have you learned?”

I sat there, eyes blinking while I stared at her. I think I even held my breath for a moment, while I mulled over the question searching for an answer.

What have I learned? I didn’t think I was supposed to be asking myself this yet. Isn’t that the question you ask once the divorce is final, and you can look back at it in the rearview mirror? Maybe even five years down the road?

I didn’t know that there would be a test already!

But surprisingly, to myself, I had an answer. It came to me while watching reality TV the last month or so, odd but true, and I had no idea that it was even a question at the time.

I started watching “Married at First Sight” this season, and now I am completely committed to watching it until the end. It’s a social experiment, where experts match up couples who agree to marry without ever meeting. Married at first sight. Legal and binding. They agree to stay married for at least six weeks, then they have to make a decision to stay together or get divorced.

It’s honestly taught me a lot about relationships and why we struggle to make them work. It comes down to communication. That’s where it all begins and ends. Whether you’ve just met, or been together for twenty years, if you aren’t truly communicating your wants and needs you will struggle, and possibly fail.

The idea is so simple, and yet, most of us are not very good at it. Some of us are afraid to even try, fearing the imagined fallout or breakup because it may not be well received.

So, I have learned that I need to communicate better to have fulfilling relationships. And not only for my love life, but for my everyday with everyone life. I need to communicate my wants and needs, my boundaries and my expectations. Sometimes it will not go well, and that’s okay, I will survive and possibly make better relationship decisions in the end.

Who knew that I would grow from such a dark place in my life? I guess there are always opportunities to learn in every situation, good or bad, you just have to look for it.




Happy for you, really.

There it is again, another photo of a happy, longtime married couple popping up on my Facebook newsfeed. Another celebration of an anniversary of over 20 years showing photos from their wedding day alongside a current one, their faces a bit older and their middles a bit thicker, but their smiles are still the same.

Another photo of their son or daughter going off to college, leaving behind the happy “empty nesters” who now have time to themselves, and to be with each other completely. What will we eat? Where will we go? they ask their friends online almost like giddy teenagers. The answer is eat anything and go anywhere you want to, together. They post pictures of their new adventures, with big grins, arms around each other.

Just the two of you. Forever.

And they’re happy about it. Truly happy!

I want to be happy for these couples, and actually I am. It takes a lot of work, determination and mental strength to stay together that long, and still want to hold hands and vacation together…alone.

I am happy for them, for this accomplishment. Proving to the world that yes, it can be done and it can be successful and feel right. You can stay married to the same person for half of your life, and still want to remain married to them for the other half.

But I am also sad, disappointed, angry. I feel gypped, shutout, let down, lied to about the whole “happily ever after”.

And yes, I am jealous. Sometimes angry tears kind of jealous, other times just melancholy.

I didn’t start out believing it was true or that it happened that often. Happily ever after is a fairytale. People eventually hurt you, and leave you. You never stay happy, do you?

I grew up not trusting love, not believing in forever. There weren’t many solid examples of true love around me. Those were stories and movie plot lines. I love a good rom-com where they discover their true love, but let’s be serious, that stuff never happens in real life!

I honestly questioned it in the beginning, I had the “what ifs” zipping around in my mind at a deafening speed. I was told that it does happen if you want it to and you’re with the right person. I believed him when he said he loved me, and would always love me.

I believed him, I trusted that he was dedicated to us and to our future together. 
With every handwritten message in every birthday/anniversary card I believed that I was his other half, the part that completes him, the life partner that he’d always hoped for and couldn’t imagine living without.

So we bought the house and built a life together, over many years, many hurdles and some very big challenges. Children, moving, job changes, etc. That’s what makes your marriage stronger, isn’t it? That’s what bonds you to each other, those challenges, those hurdles, the surprises that test your relationship.

We were strong together. We built this thing brick by brick, together. Every day.

Until, one day, the challenge got to be too great. The sacrifices too much, the love too little. Until one day, he wasn’t the same person that promised me forever.


Since we filed for divorce, and I began telling the people around me and that I come into contact with, I’ve noticed a trend. A startling trend, honestly. It’s happening everywhere.

It’s an odd topic in the first place, not one that you automatically bring up during a first meeting, or standing in line at the grocery store. But once it’s out there, it begins to take on a life of it’s own, and other people begin to own part of your story and connect it to others that they’ve heard. It makes it more familiar I suppose, easier to digest. Especially if it’s happening to someone else and not you.

But the stories get connected nonetheless. More often than not, I would hear “yeah, the same thing happened to my (fill in the blank; sister in law, friend, neighbor, cousin, etc) The stories are incredibly similar, too. Usually men in their late forties or early fifties, married for over 15 years, and she was a stay at home mom for most of their marriage.

Sometimes the story includes marriage counseling for months, or even years, but it still ends the same. He’s driving a new Mercedes and dressing like a 20 year old and she’s left fighting for her family and the life that they had, while being a full-time single parent.

The divorce usually starts off amicable (who’s fantasy was that anyway, “amicable”?) but within no time, turns ugly and spiteful. Usually once the actual numbers are on paper and the reality of losing not only half of his assets, but close to half of his salary, becomes a real thing. He is willing to leave her and their family with almost nothing, if he can get away with it. Sometimes he has even taken early measures to protect himself for this very situation.

This isn’t just one or two common stories that I’ve come across, it’s a dozen or more within the last six months. And I’m sure that there are many more that I just don’t know about.

Is this an epidemic?

The sad part of all of this, at least to me, is that all of the women I have talked to or heard about, and heard their stories, have a common thread. They all quit working once they had kids, and stayed home to raise them. They did the what most mothers of recent generations have done, they gave their all to their family – caregiver, housekeeper, manager, volunteer, taxi driver, etc.

They didn’t necessarily “give up” their jobs for their husbands, but as a couple they made the decision to have her stay at home, and mother full time for the benefit of the family. The studies constantly quoted in my early adulthood, regarding the benefits of a full-time stay at home parent (and let’s not forget breast feeding), being drilled into our heads, and possibly filling us with guilt if we chose to be working moms instead.

In most cases, they not only mother and care for their children, but their husbands too. Taking care of the details of their lives, like an executive secretary would for her company. Many of these women have been stay at home moms for close to 15 years, some even longer.

They have been out of the workforce for so long that they are now obsolete in their field. But now, this isn’t working for him, so it’s time to cut and run.

These women are trapped.

They are cornered. They are desperate for answers. They are angry and hurt.

What are we doing as a society to raise men like this? What are we telling them, as they grow up, that makes them believe it is acceptable to walk away from their family when they get tired of being in it?  To toss out a family because it no longer serves their purpose?

Because, believe me, they not only leave their wives. They leave their children, too.

When I read or hear about the statistics on divorce, half of all marriages end in divorce, I have to wonder if there is a common thread. It can’t just be a coincidence, there must be something lacking, something ignored, something we are overlooking. Is it a lack of communication? A misguided idea of what marriage really is?

Are we going into “forever” with a real idea of what that means? Or are we now living too long for that to even be a reality?

It’s become an epidemic and it has to stop. The cycle will continue with our children, and their children to come, if we don’t figure this out.

That’s a sad, dysfunctional world to live in.


The good girl

It’s been building for awhile. The tightening in my chest, the room feeling too small, the air too heavy to breathe. Some days, I feel like I just want to peel off my own skin and leave it behind, feeling as if I am trapped and constricted by it, just to be able to think or breathe. It all feels so tight, so restrictive and suffocating.

It makes me want to scream.

I’ve been able to hold it at bay the last few months, pushing it out of my mind to focus on what is important, and good, directly in front of me. I’ve struggled to get through some of these days, wanting to jump out of the car and run. Just run until I can’t any longer.

To where? I have no idea.

I’ve been doing my best to keep it all together, at least in public and around my boys. Pushing the ugliness of my reality to the back of my mind, only willing to look at the good things and put my energy into positive areas. I’m trying to be strong, like I promise everyone I am. Strong, like they all believe that I am.

I’m trying to put on a good face for my kids, not bad mouth their father, not be the lunatic that I know I can be. Nothing but love and “yes” as often as I can. Gone is the ranting mom, yelling about dirty laundry and messy rooms. It’s not nearly as important, or worthy of my energy, now. I know that this is just as difficult for them as it is for me. So many unanswered questions and so many things that will be changing, but when? The timeline keeps moving further and further away. False starts and false hopes.

The light at the end of the tunnel is only getting smaller.

I’m trying to be a good friend, a good mom/daughter/sister/soon to be exwife. I want to be the better person and to feel good about it, to know that I am doing my best. It’s a personality flaw, that I’ve been honing since I was a kid, sadly. I don’t want to be too much trouble, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, I don’t want to ask for more than I should want or need. I want you to like me, to love me. I’m a good girl.

But at what cost? Not just the monetary cost, but the personal cost, the mental cost. The toll that it takes on my emotional stability, on my kids mental health and self-esteem. Am I sacrificing all of us to be the “good girl”? Playing nice so I don’t make waves or draw too much negative attention. And in the end, will that even matter? That I played nice, that I wasn’t “difficult”, when we have to make do with less and possibly struggle for the years to come. Will it make a better life for us, the kids and I, to know that I was “cooperative” or just make it easier, cheaper and quicker for him?

I have come to the realization that it only benefits one person, and he doesn’t even live in our house anymore. He is living the life he has always wanted, and without apology, only demands of me to make it easier for him. He doesn’t want to accept the guilt, or the responsibility for tearing our lives apart and creating this chaos, because it “isn’t fair of productive”. Convenient, isn’t it?

Going along with the program, so as not to make anyone angry or disappointed, is exhausting and draining. I am tired of being last on the list, taken for granted, given unrealistic expectations. I am tired of apologizing for wanting to take care of myself and my children when it is inconvenient for others. I am just plain tired, a lot.

I am tired of being the “good girl”.





Wait. What??

There are so many thing that I need to learn about this new road. So many moving parts and surprises that I never had to think about before. The latest is health insurance and life insurance, along with all of the other budget items that are necessary and important.

Health insurance is something that many of us take for granted while we are married, especially if we are not the employed spouse and need to rely on the employed spouse for coverage in the partnership. Something you really don’t think about until you really have to, oddly enough. You tend to take it for granted, and expect it to always be there.

I was referred to a health insurance counselor – how many more people do we need to get involved in this debacle before we are done?! –  and she pointed out some very astounding numbers and ideas with regards to my health insurance. There are so many scenarios!

He can decide to keep me on until the new year, or until the “open enrollment period” of November-January, or he can totally cut me loose at any given time. Of course, it all depends upon his company and what they allow, but in the end, he is holding the reins on this horse isn’t he? He has control over my health future.

Then there is the issue of life insurance. I’ve already mentioned the last conversation, where I sat in the room while everyone around me quibbled over whether or not I actually NEEDED life insurance, and at what cost. Now that I’ve had that conversation with a professional, I feel that I should have a policy, but there is a new wrinkle in that plan. It was suggested that I choose a beneficiary – who could that be, if not my ex-spouse?? My parents are obviously much older than I am (no kidding!), making the possibility of them out-living me a slim chance, so who do I choose? Someone fiscally responsible, who will protect the future of our kids in mind.

I was told, I should think of someone that will keep their best interest in mind when they inherit thousands of dollars, someone who will invest it in their best interest and help them pay for college or other life changing/deciding moments. I asked if I could choose our oldest son who is already 18. The answer is “yes” but I need to feel that he is mature enough and will handle the responsibility of thousands of dollars for his brothers and himself well. Will he blow it all at the riverboat casinos? Or trick out his classic car?

I truly think he was born “mature” but you never can tell when money is involved.

Then the reality hit, I was told I should write a letter to each son explaining my intentions for their inheritance. The consultant put it as “last letters” to the people of importance to you after your death. This will help them make better, more responsible decisions with the money you leave them.

Wow. Really? How do you write a letter to your child with the idea that you are no longer there? And how do you direct them to spend it wisely from the grave? What do you write? Will it be with a Darth Vader type of voice or Mother Nature?

Her suggestion? Write it alone, have a box of Kleenex and give yourself time.

Like I don’t have enough reasons to have a good cry already. I think I’ll hold off on the life insurance for a bit and just focus on keeping the health insurance for now, less tears.

Cry until I can’t anymore

They told me there’d be days like these, but I thought I was tougher than that, stronger than this.

I’m not.

I have been fighting it, holding it in, pushing it down for the most part for the last six months. But I am tired, I am beaten up and feeling depleted and exhausted. I am giving up trying to hold it together. I need a time out. From life.

This summer has been the summer of overwhelming mental paralysis, tempered with moments of happiness and celebration. Some days I can barely form full sentences, the words elude me and I can’t remember my point. I have no drive to do anything productive or take care of anything or anyone above the bare minimum. Other days, I am happy and optimistic, chatty and smiling, crossing off my “to do” list of tasks, looking forward to a new chapter in my life that I can write my own story without a live-in editor or critic. Looking forward to a happy future.

Does that make me manic-depressive? Or just crazy?

I know that “this too shall pass” but seriously, that idea isn’t cutting it for my day to day life. I am snarky, mean, hurtful and demanding one minute and then I feel horrible for being that way and I cry. Honestly, I am crying everyday for one reason or another. And sometimes more than once. I don’t cry long, just often.

My kids probably want to run away from me by this point, and really to be honest, I wouldn’t mind it if they did. I could use some down time without having to think of what everyone else needs, or how they feel, for a little while. I would welcome my phone not ringing, my email going blank and my calendar sitting empty for just a little while.

I feel as if the walls are closing in on me and I can’t escape, I can’t breathe. I need it all to stop for just a little while so I can remember what it’s like to have a somewhat normal life with normal distractions. Not filled with lawyers, therapists, realtors, doctors, brokers, and any other professional that I have had to contact or work with the last six months.

I know that divorce is never easy, but I had no idea what it would do to my mental wellness. I am overwhelmed with so many different feelings that somedays I find it difficult to express just what I’m feeling. Or what I’m thinking – there is so much going on in my mind, day and night. But I think the biggest feeling is resentment. I resent the idea that he is still doing pretty much whatever he wants to do, or feels like doing, without any accountability while I am still taking care of the details of our lives and our family.

He chose his job over his family, it’s as simple as that, but somehow the message I keep hearing is that I should be more cooperative and collaborative, more understanding. I have to consider his feelings and how this is affecting him. It’s so stressful that he can’t see his sons very often, that he lives so far away, and the travel on weekends is really exhausting…really?

All the while, I have to prove my financial needs for a family of four, at a table full of people with pens in hand to scratch off or adjust my numbers, while he offers that he already knows what he can afford so there is no need to put it on paper or be held accountable. He wants to get on with his life, so he tells me in heated discussions, and yet, not enough to work out a reasonable settlement. He is a spoiled child that wants it all his way, at any cost.

I need “these days” to be over. I need my kids to go back to school so I can be alone with my disappointment and resentment, and to just cry until I can’t anymore.


Guilt. It’s the new black

I’ve been trying my best to be my best self. I wanted to be the good person, the strong one, level-headed and sane. I wanted to be amicable, reasonable, helpful, courteous, kind (must be my Boy Scout training) and not lose my mind. I wanted to be supportive, happy for others, available and open. I want to come through this all without any damage.

Somehow, I don’t think it’s possible to balance it all. At least not everyday. Maybe not even all day for one day. And I can only try damage control, giving up on the idea that I can do this without losing part of myself along the way.

This summer has been a struggle, to say the least. I was so looking forward to having a good, relaxing summer with my kids. Giving up the daily scheduling that comes with school, sports, jobs and activities. Taking the time to go to the beach, to take impromptu road trips, to sit on the patio by the pool and cookout for our dinners. I wanted that luxurious, slow, sunshine filled summer to just take in all that I am thankful for and love, and to savor one last summer of having all of my boys home together. Our oldest graduated this year and will be moving on with his life all too soon, I am sure.

But, that slow moving summer was not meant to be thanks to this ugly chapter in our lives. We barely cooked at home, much less barbecued. We didn’t take the usual road trip, or go to the beach (I haven’t been once, oddly enough, and I love the beach) We didn’t just hang out by the pool together. Actually, many days I was too busy, my day chopped up with appointments. Yes, busy with appointments. In the summer.

Not just the meetings with the lawyers, but the house search with the realtor, the meetings with a mediator, doctor’s appointments and the therapy that I now need to purge my deepest fears and worries to keep myself sane and functional.

I’ve had days that I didn’t even want to leave my house, let alone actually “do something”. I feel guilty, a lot. And I’ve become consumed with guilt for so many reasons. Guilt about our marriage failing, guilt about allowing this crippled relationship to continue for so long, guilt that we have ruined our children’s childhood, guilt that I didn’t better prepare myself for the “what-ifs” of a possible life on my own (When did I give up my independence? When did I hand over the wheel and become a passenger? When did I stop believing in myself?)

Then there’s the guilt I feel when I leave my youngest to entertain himself for hours, on many days this summer, while I look for a house, or meet with a “team” to help us get divorced, or attend one of the many appointments that I have to make and keep.

And let’s not forget the guilt that plagues me, almost daily, that I am also not the same family member or friend that I was before this all began. I don’t have the energy, or the concentration, to put forth the effort that I used to worrying about the details and making sure that everyone feels loved, heard and important. I have so much on my mind, pulling me in so many directions, that a missed birthday party or broken plans or promises are almost meaningless right now. It’s all background noise, and seen through a blurry lens.

I am broken and unable to put the pieces back together.

Just guilt everywhere. Spread like a thick layer of peanut butter, that sticks to everything I touch. In every facet of my life, no matter what I am doing or who I am doing it with or for. I cannot live up to my usual expectations, or commit my time and energy to the same areas.

Guilt. It’s the new black.



Right kind of happy

I can’t help but replay so many things over and over again in my mind; memories, conversations, sweet moments from the last twenty plus years of our life together. Some days they barely cross my mind, I keep busy with the day before me and the demands of my regular life, but most days they invade my space like a dark shadow creeping in behind me. We were happy once, weren’t we?

It’s hard not to look back and wonder. Question. When did it begin to crumble? Was it always this way and we chose not to see it? Were we clinging to an ideal that we thought we could create, when in reality it was never meant to be? Were we ever, ever truly happy?

I have to believe that we were happy in the beginning, and at many points along the way, but was it the right kind of happy? I’d have to say no, it wasn’t.

It was happy to fit with someone else, happy to belong to the crowd of pairs surrounding us, happy to find someone out there that wanted the same things out of life and had similar dreams for the future that we could work towards together. 

The happiness we had was more like finding that great job. The position is one you dreamed of, the pay is good with hope for a better future. You get along with the boss and the people in the office, so each day gives you something to look forward to. But you don’t “love” the job, it’s a good fit and it gets you what you want out of life. It’s not always ideal, but it also doesn’t suck. You’re happy, for the most part. It will have its rough days, but it will pay off in the end.

But we were missing something. We weren’t completely, perfectly matched. We negotiated, made sacrifices and plotted our course together the best we could. But it became more difficult with each change and each move. It was no longer the great job we had expected, it was becoming “just a job”, with no real return on our investment of time and resources. We were trudging along, waiting for that “big promotion” that would bring us back to that excitement of our first days. Hoping that it would get better in a new location or with new experiences. Starting over again and again, only to realize that we had basically made a lateral move with a few new perks.