It's complicated

So how’s your divorce going?

Slowly. My divorce is going slowly, thanks for asking.

Everything is fine. We’re still being friendly and still sharing time with the kids. I’m not a big fan of shared parenting, but it’s much better than having one parent erased from the kids’ lives, and it’s infinitely better than what we were forcing to make work long after it didn’t work.

We’re nice enough that we both go to all the soccer games. We’re annoyed enough by each other that conversations go best via text. It’s not a “between a rock and a hard place” kind of situation. It’s a “rock and everything that’s not the rock seems pretty soft” kind of situation.

rock sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, from my first of two visits

rock sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, from my first of two visits

The legal stuff has barely begun, but we’re hoping it will be easy. We haven’t disagreed on any details yet, and we’ve covered a lot of territory. It never occurred to me, when we decided to end years of misery with a responsible divorce, where both of us strive toward being respectful and kind, that we’d have to put in writing who gets to decide when the kids learn to drive (both have to agree) or who has to agree to moving to a different pediatrician, dentist, or school (again, we want both of us to agree). This isn’t hard. It’s a lot of thinking ahead, though. Thinking about being linked for decades. Gah.

I’m not enjoying the added burden of finding and paying professionals to help us make sure our kids are fairly treated until they’re adults, since we both agree they should be fairly treated.

But I’m trying to be smart about this. Some day he might remarry. Some day I might remarry (hahahahaha that’s a good one). And we have to make sure that what makes sense now is written and witnessed and legal and binding. Because it would really suck to go forward on goodwill, and have someone derail that spirit of cooperation with legal shenanigans.

I don’t enjoy the limitations of single parenting, but my happiness at being done with a very challenging time in my life trumps inconvenience.

gutter, rainwater, pollen, leaves. un-still life.

gutter, rainwater, pollen, leaves. un-still life.

I read exactly one article on divorce before deciding I’m not reading any more. In a highly recommended listicle, divorced women said retail therapy is exactly the wrong choice during a separation.

And so, for a while, every purchase I made seemed like a statement on my mental health, on my divorce, and on my potential for happiness. New shampoo was a cry for help. A new coffee mug was clearly demonstration of intense loneliness. And a new mattress was a therapy cornucopia: in attempting to erase the marital bed I was hiding from reality.

What ridiculous nonsense like that ignores, is that people moving through a change in marital status are just carrying on with life the way a regular person would. If you’re engaged and buying a new bed, that’s symbolic. But my buying a new mattress wasn’t a statement on my mental health. That purchase coincided with an uptick in work that meant I finally had enough money to fix a chronic back issue that had me waking, in pain, on a 15-year-old mattress.

I’m not sure why it was so easy to jump to a place where I associated my choices with my change in marital status. Since high school, I’ve refused to use the word Mrs. because I think it’s ridiculous to categorize women into only two groups: married and unmarried. So why do it to myself?

I thought I’d be upset about my divorce. I thought I’d second-guess myself, feel uncomfortable, or feel ashamed of my choices. But I don’t feel differently. I’m not embarrassed to kiss my kids goodbye after the soccer game because they’re spending the rest of the weekend with their dad. I’m not shamed that the teacher asks gingerly if she can have a conference with me and the boys’ dad together. I think it’s a good question. I tell her we’re happy to have just one conference. And I would feel just as comfortable telling her that we needed to be apart if that were true.

To my Catholic grandmothers, divorce was a big deal. As the adult child of an 1970s divorce (none of which seemed to exist on the same nasty-to-amicable spectrum we’ve set up for ourselves this generation…they were all relatively uncivil and acrimonious, right?), I thought divorce was a big deal.

But it hasn’t turned out that way.

Maybe because I’m not done yet. Maybe because I’m at the center of it, and I enjoy being the center of an issue. Maybe because divorce doesn’t seem intense when it’s such a relief. Or maybe because trying our best to be kind, to talk nicely about each other, to support the kids with whatever they need in the transition to a two-household family, we’ve actually taken some of the biggest hurts out of divorce.

I don’t know. But I do know that, other than the logistics, my divorce is going quite well. Thanks for asking.

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17 thoughts on “So how’s your divorce going?

  1. Thats sad part of life when a person who loves and shares yours feelings and body with all passionate highs to bear your fruits in the shape of the sweet little ones and the same person gets on the verge of leaving permanently. It pinches and hurts but the best way is to avoid all legal hiccups and finish the bond with smiles. Who knows when you feel for each other again.

      • Yes one has to Divorce is not a permanent solution as the life for an individual becomes deserted and who knows the second attempt for partnering a stranger would bring back the life to normal. The only sufferer in this bitter condition are rhe children

  2. Wow! Thanks for writing this. Other than the fact that only I “decided to end years of misery”, I am going through a situation very similar to yours. I wish I had the courage to write as openly about it here. I love how you said that “everything that’s not the rock seems pretty soft”. What true words. Whenever I think about how this is not the kind of family life that I had intended for my children, I remember that those fourteen years were far from what anyone should be subjected to. In spite of all the heartache and inconvenience that comes with single and shared parenthood, I don’t think I have ever been happier in my life.

    • All the people who told me to stay together for the kids don’t realize that we did that, because we love our kids and really want the best life for them, and while we struggled to force something that was absolutely not working, our family dynamics were much worse than two happy households could be. He’s happier. I’m happier. And this wasn’t a quick “boy, things are hard, so let’s take the easy way out” split. For the record, people who think divorce is the easy way out, divorce with kids is not easy. Not in the short term and not in the long term.
      This is not what I wanted for myself, this is not what I wanted for my husband, and this is not what I wanted for my kids. But this is the best thing for everybody.

    • Wow, that’s quite a motto. I doubt I’ll ever be that happy with the process or results, but I have gratitude and joy even with the sadness, loss, and frustrations, so I think I’m closer to Defining Incontrovertible Veins of Respect, Clarity, and Engagement.

  3. Ooooh, we should talk. I’m working on a passion project (website/podcast to start) called Honestly Ever After, which spun off of an article I wrote under the same name. Let me know if you’re interested in chatting, and maybe contributing.

  4. although never married I have three children with the one man. moving forward is difficult. the first two years there was blood and skin ripped from each other by each other. things are starting to calm now thank god. lovely read and keep up the good work

  5. I’ve never been married and my first child is only two months but reading this is ver inspiring because currently I am struggling with my child’s father. I thought after we had our daughter she would bring us together but every other week I just question whether or not this is meant to me. He’s more i this than I am. He thinks love trumps everything but the way I feel is that we may just not be compatible as I once thought we were. But he won’t let go. No matter what happens. We have good moments and I just worry that if I continue the relationship based on good moments it may lead to harder mor extreme heartbreaks later for all three of us. Hopefully this isn’t the case. Thank you for posting something so personal. It definitely helped me and made me look at my own situation a little more closely

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