Let me describe the situation.
In only two months’ time, Husband #1 found a job in a different state, we sold our house, packed everything up and closed on a new place. Just slightly after the last box cleared the ramp of the moving van, Husband #1 moved out, leaving me and the kids alone in a house surrounded by cardboard-encased belongings.
I was without a job, without a husband, without friends, and without support. Conventional advice was to act as if all was ok and be his friend in the hopes of luring my cheating husband back home. Lucky for me, I had someone else whispering in my ear.
Back in those days, when I was without employment and sleep was elusive, I would turn on my computer late at night and visit DivorceBusting. The message boards were alive with others who were struggling with the same issues I currently faced: wayward husbands, walk-away wives, crumbling finances, and everything divorce related. Without the boards, I most likely would have been crushed by the feelings of failure.
I read everything.
I posted often.
I followed the mantras spelled out by Michele Weiner-Davis:
- Do a 180
- Act as-if
- Work on yourself
- Never let them see you struggling
Tucked in between all of those items meant to help one save their marriage was a piece of advice so profound, I share it with anyone I can:
- Strike while the iron is hot
Oddly enough, when someone wants out bad enough, they will agree to pretty much anything to get free. Like chewing off your own arm to escape a bear trap…never realizing that a little patience and thought might lead to opening said trap with a nearby stick. The urge is just too great to invoke logical thought.
For me, my hot iron issue was child support and alimony.
Husband #1 was so wrapped up in his own affair that he didn’t flinch when I told him what I wanted and for how long I wanted it. In a time when alimony is nearly mythical, I got it. And I got it for 5 glorious years.
But more important to me was the child support. You see, this is where I picked up my most valuable piece of advice.
Another woman on the boards was about 12 months further along in the process than I was. She had supported her husband while he attended medical school, put her career on the back burner to support his moves for employment, and worked for him non-gratis while he established his practice.
And then he ousted her.
This woman was well versed in the costs of higher education and student loans. She had funded her husband when they were starting out. She knew the power of having someone in your camp who would help to pay for school. She’d been the SallieMae to his educational endeavors.
Which is why she told me to negotiate for child support that continues through the college years.
You see, most of us think child support has to end when the kid turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever comes last). In actuality, that’s the worst time to stop getting child support. College starts in the fall and financial aid looks at the prior year’s income. The FAFSA people don’t care if your income is dropping this year, they only know that you claimed $X on last year’s income tax return.
At the time, I wasn’t sure if I should follow through with my plans to ask for alimony and child support. I was afraid that doing so would push me into Bitch Territory. It really didn’t matter, I was already there in Husband #1’s eyes…that’s why he was having an affair!
To my credit, I pushed for alimony for myself and child support for every kid as they attended college. I also pushed for him to carry 100% of their health care coverage. As Son #1 enters his second year of college, I’m glad I listened to the voice of experience.
Thank you, kind stranger, for letting me learn from your experience.