The first time I saw my court documents they took my breath away! I saw myself as being recorded on paper and reduced to being, “The Respondent”. It wasn’t a title that said anything but “victim” to me. It wasn’t a strong title, like “The Terminator”. He seemed to hold that one now. The clinical definition of “A Respondent” is, “the party against whom a petition is filed.
”I went from being a person, a woman, a wife and mother to being a “Respondent”. With the swoosh of a pen, I was overnight dehumanized. Or so it felt.
Relationships are like Algebra. Have you ever looked at your X and wondered Y?
I am a believer that everything happens for a reason. Well… a good reason anyway. When I think of the mounds of paper, court dates, legal terms, and insane legal fees paid out on our divorce it boggles my mind. I am twenty years out of those days, and I look back and think we were two of the stupidest people I have ever known.
There was of course hurt, and anger involved. He did, after all, cheat on me. A lot.
We were married almost 14 years and had two kids, but we were together for 20 years. In a way, we grew up together. We could buy cars together, houses together, have children together…but we couldn’t get divorced together. Why did it have to be boiled down from a man and a woman….two old friends… to overnight we were our worst enemies?
I was now indeed, the respondent to his petitioner.
We never fought when we were married. In fact, the only things I can recall really arguing over was how many pairs of shoes I felt the need to have or the fact that I lost my keys on a constant daily basis. There was no need for our divorce to be handled with the cruelty that played out. Especially since the only crime I seemed to have committed was having too many shoes and losing my keys.
I used to be married, but I’m much better now.
Now, of course, I understand there were some real issues boiling underneath our surface. Duh! But the way I was trained in this marriage was don’t excavate the issues. Don’t even think about talking about your feelings. Any time I did, he would refute me and tell me I didn’t feel that way and then proceed to tell me what I really felt. Nothing. And he was wrong every time. But by his minimizing my feelings, and thus minimizing me…I just stopped feeling altogether.
I certainly stopped transmitting them to him anyway. What was the point? I guess in his mind, talking about anything too deep would take energy and we just didn’t want to exert that much on anything that appeared to be too serious. Right?
Hence, why I feel we were two of the stupidest people I have ever known. If we could have sat and really talked to each other, we may indeed have come out with the same ending….but it could have been much easier. And the pain certainly didn’t need to continue to be inflicted on each other. All that really resulted in was pain for our children.
Truth be told, I wasn’t that happy in the early years of our marriage and I truly questioned what I had done. I’m pretty sure he did too. But we seemingly got caught up in the appearances and thus, continued to just carry on. We dated for 5 years so it seemed like the natural progression to move on to marriage. We never talked about and examined our decision to marry. I suppressed those days by stuffing the feelings. By turning my back on my own intuition.
I looked for any diversion I could find not to feel that pang of, “Oh my God, have I made the biggest mistake of my life”? If we could have learned to communicate, we could have possibly saved ourselves from a really crappy divorce experience. Or we could have had a more conscious marital experience. I’ll never know. But I think that if the decision to divorce was made back then, we would have spared ourselves a lot and saved a ton of money.
Yes of course it would have felt bad to be divorced at a young age, but we were just that…young, and we would have rebounded and rallied to new lives and perhaps infidelity would not have had such a profound seat at the table of our married life. Well, I wasn’t aware of the guest seated at my table. But he was. And he didn’t need to take me on that ride with him for 14 years.
Congratulations on your boyfriend’s divorce from his wife.
I saw this saying one day after my divorce and I thought it was the perfect message I could have sent to my ex-husband’s girlfriend. They have now married, and to this day I have never set eyes on this woman. I have only spoken to her once. I called her shortly after I discovered the relationship.
How did I know how to reach someone that just days earlier I didn’t even know existed? As a monthly practice, my ex-husband was the one who physically cut the checks and paid the bills. Knowing that he had the cell phone bill in his car, I broke into it and found her phone number. I could see how many times he called her. One of the days he called her was the day my daughter was born. I literally felt sick to stomach when I saw that.
But I guess he had to share the good news with her! Because isn’t that what all new fathers do? They call their girlfriends to tell them about the blessed event their wives and he just had? To this day, I still ask myself…”Who makes these people?”
Upon calling her I introduced myself and told her that I and my children were not a figment of her imagination. We were real people with real hearts and were a real family. She spewed back that she was a good person. I told her I didn’t know that good woman break up families. But I didn’t know a lot of things apparently.
I went on to concede that she could have him and I would even throw in his mother as a bonus. And then I hung up. That was the last and only time I ever spoke to her. I never wanted to meet her. I never wanted to acknowledge her. She would never rise to the level of someone I would have in my life, so to me, she was irrelevant.
As I sat back in my chair after speaking to her, I realized I was now a newly born “Respondent” as a result of her insertion into my life. I felt like a victim of a violent crime. And I was ready to get this divorce done with!
And so rock bottom became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
For years I lived like I was always the respondent to this person who was once my husband. I think because my children were an infant and a toddler when it all went down, I just always felt so frightened and alone. Responding to the constant shocking hits that just kept coming at me like Babe Ruth up to bat, it seemed to have cemented me in the only role that I saw myself in; and with no way out too.
I was left to raise the family, provide the home, facilitate the childcare and every other conceivable thing and… still keep a job. I was exhausted for so many years that fatigue too became my staple of choice.
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
But, one day in 2006, I woke up. I was tired of feeling like the anchor that was getting dragged along the ocean floor. I was tired of being tired. My father always told me that the day I don’t care anymore, is the day I just don’t care anymore. He was right, and that day had come. I decided to turn it all around.
I read voraciously, anything I could put my hands on that would fill me up and make me feel less separated from the rest of the world. After all the divorce rate in California was 50% so there were plenty of other women who have experienced what I had. I mean, you don’t die from divorce, right?
But I was starting to feel like parts of me were! Then I realized that this was a good thing! Yes, parts of me had died, and good riddance! The parts that affiliated me with being “his” wife, a partner to this man who just didn’t want me as his wife anymore. All I could think was, rest in peace and let’s get going on your new life!
I decided on that day in 2006 that I was going to be reborn as Karen.2! I had already been divorced 5 years by then and guess what? I was still standing! I had bought a house and thus provided a home for us. I was doing everything I thought I could never do alone! I had been so stuck in my state of “respondent” status, that I was not even conscious of my solo achievements!
“Above all, be the heroine of your life; not the victim.”
I come full circle back to what I stated in the opening paragraph of this article. I saw that word, “respondent” to translate to me as being a “victim”. It took many years to actually see the power of that word. That word gave me my life back really. I didn’t know it then, and I assure you I felt every bit of being a victim. But that word has grown up in me now and it has actually translated to “empowerment”.
Because I had to respond to so much, it forced me to find my strength. It forced me to find my voice. It allowed me to find myself. The road definitely didn’t need to be as dirty as it was for me, my little girl, and my little boy. But over the years, it propelled all of us to find our strength. We are three people who live our lives with purpose and strength and with a deep and abiding love for each other. We are a team and we always have been. We are not victims to or for anyone. We are empowered to live our best lives. And I am grateful.
So embrace your inner respondent! You may just be surprised to find that it’s the best thing that ever happened to you!