Ending a marriage is awful. What I’ve discovered, (asking friends and complete strangers how they felt when they were divorcing) is there’s different levels of divorce-awful, including the “We were young and made a stupid mistake” to the hellish child custody issues, houses, 401’ks to wrangle over and dispute in expensive court proceedings type.
Then there’s my kind, one that occurs after a long marriage with grown children, lots of ups and downs, sacrifices, upward mobility, then downward as in rock bottom; betrayal, total deception, and emotional abuse, and a stubbornness that keeps you going way past what’s reasonable. (My ex recently said we grew apart; I contend that what grew was his affection for his girlfriend’s vagina and his escalating lying to hide it.)
My divorce was a long time coming and should have happened much sooner. I spent years fighting with myself when I thought I was fighting for us. After I finally had enough, instead of relief, I experienced gut-wrenching sadness. It was a death multiplied by 1000. The churning in my mind trying to understand mostly why I’d let this terrible situation continue for so many years and why I had ever thought he was worth six minutes, much less 26 years, kept me awake, full of tears, rarely eating, and literally losing my hair in handfuls. At the time of the final reckoning, or as one therapist phrased it, when I finally took my power back, my denial ran out of excuses and was quickly replaced by the taunting that is reality’s companion. “See? It was always there for you to see.”
A year later, I feel better more of the time than not. Maybe it was the volumes of reading I’ve done, seeking answers for the pain I’ve felt. Maybe it was all the talk therapy, several kinds from hypnosis to three different psychologists, and one psychiatrist.
Just to be clear, I had terrible luck with the therapists I found or were recommended to me. The first therapist obviously had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember my name from one appointment to the next, the next kept trying to hug me, yuk, and the third literally disappeared with my checks and never reappeared. (Just what I needed, more rejection.)
Then there was all the other kind of talk, lots of supportive friend talk (“He was never good enough for you.” “Karma will be paying him and her a visit, returning all the misery they’ve created for others.”), and straight talk from family members (“You would never listen to reason when it came to this guy”). Even some comforting talk from complete strangers (since invariably my introduction for a year was: “Hi, I’m divorcing my lying, cheating no-good husband of 26 years who screwed-up his life, as well as our family’s, because he was/is screwing a horrid, clownish looking moron, as well as it has turned out, many other women during our entire marriage, making a sham of our life. Nice to meet you”). What all the talk had in common, no matter who delivered the message and how it was crafted, was that I would survive this horribleness and that I would not only be okay, but better.
I am grateful I’m free of living in the netherworld, that place that makes no good sense to a smart person. A life filled with turmoil, created by loving someone who’s cultivated an ability to manipulate to assure their own survival at the cost of everyone else. I am released from being stupid about this person who was never smarter than me except in one way, finding his way into my heart, then eating it one selfish bite after another, until it was all but in pieces. (Even at the bitter end, he had to humiliate me by taking the divorce papers to his girlfriend for her approval. Ambushing him one day as he was flying out to see his cheating-partner, I begged him to sign them and did what he had never seen me do in the last year, I cried. F$#@ you is all I said under my breath, as I walked away from him completely dry-eyed. He signed the papers the next day. )
When I became unencumbered by him, it became about me, someone I had lost many years ago in survival mode to keep a hundred balls in the air. With my arms suddenly inactive from juggling, I found myself searching for myself in lots of new activities or returning to old ones: dancing (sweaty but fun), career searching (it’s incredibly hard), horseback riding (something that I’m more than good at after a 20 year absence), dating (enough to remind myself that there are some great guys out there), and even trying to convince myself to sky dive (might as well since jumping out of a plane was nothing compared than jumping out of a marriage without anything resembling a parachute).
Seeing the final papers come across my email, officially divorced the day after what would have been our 27th anniversary, was sad, so very sad. I have my sons so I can’t be sorry I ever knew him. I am very sorry I ever let him know me, because he didn’t deserve any part of me for all those years.
I know this, my ex’s heart and head were wired to the same socket and it’s a couple of inches below his belt on the best of days. It’s so complex cheating and lying to a spouse and to a lover; a guy can’t just cheat and lie to one, without cheating and lying to them both. Add lying to himself, and the manifestation grows into a creeping, invisible mold, that with time, becomes putrid.
My bad marriage already had a liar in residence besides my cheating ex. I had to lie to myself every day to stay in a game I did not sign up to play. Telling myself that my life was worth the monotonous stretches of boredom, the stagnation of intellectual interest, and the periodic nanosecond sex began to erode those hardened areas that protect intelligence, common sense, and self-esteem. I felt my brain was turning into liquid, thus the multitude of tears I cried when no one else was around. The stench emitted every time my husband opened his mouth crowded the limited space meant for just the two of us and in the process, my respect for both of us vanished.
When a woman’s heart closes to someone, it shuts tight. I look forward to that day. Until then, I’m just thankful there are more good days and that I’m finally f&@#ing divorced.