Stage 1: Please pass the Xanax
Calmly, my husband and I will sit down on a park bench or over coffee. We’ll talk in low, respectful tones. We’ll exchange bittersweet smiles. Every so often one of us will reach over and squeeze the other’s hand for reassurance as together we outline a child custody and alimony agreement in a logical and organized way.
Later, after we’ve agreed to everything and realized we do not need a family law attorney, we will take the kids somewhere fun for the afternoon. We will buy them ice cream and sit together in a pretty place, next to a lake or a river. And, while taking turns talking so that the kids will see the message is unified, and, while sticking to an agreed upon, psychologically sound script, we will explain how much we still love each other, how much we love them. We will explain that even though mommy and daddy will live in separate houses, the family is still a family. No matter where we reside.
Stage 2: Doctor, there’s still no response
The divorce mediator will help us reach an agreement. My husband and I will be able to work something out once we are sitting in a room with a neutral party. The $1500 will be worth it.
The tenets of Child Support Agreements, Child Custody Agreements and Alimony Agreements are fairly standard. Because this process, that many others before us have undergone, is so sensible—following logic and what is right—we should be able to reach agreement in no time.
At the upcoming appointment with the child psychologist, who specializes in divorce, we will be able to get good advice. Because she is an expert, we both will listen and take notes. Later we will say only appropriate things. This means the kids will be fine.
I will set up my Match.com profile. After a few dates, I will feel that my new life has begun.
Stage 3: Just make the pain go away
This new attorney is supposed to be the toughest in the state. They call her “The Bulldog.” The $5000 retainer is well worth it.
It gives me peace of mind knowing that this money is buying topnotch advice and this person is being paid to be my agent, which means they are legally bound to act as me, which means they put a great deal of thought and effort into my case. My attorney is paid to advocate for me and get me the best deal possible. I feel a sense of security now.
Even though my husband stormed out of the meeting with the child psychologist and we could not go back, I think the kids are okay. Kids are resilient.
Maybe online dating just takes a little time. I need to give this a chance. I should probably be more open. More flexible. With this attitude, I will be more likely to find the perfect person for me.
Stage 4: We’ve lost her again
Maybe we don’t need an agreement. Even though their dad is setting his own terms and paying me only what he wants to, I think we can get by. It is unwise to throw good money after bad and hire another attorney. Plus, I need to put my energy into being a working mother.
I have tried to talk to each child myself about the divorce and how they feel. Even though my kids treat these attempts like an unwanted sex talk, I am sure they appreciate my efforts and this is all I need to do for now. After all, I shouldn’t keep bringing it up if they seem uncomfortable.
Now that there is no more “agreement talk,” my ex and I will get along better, and he will stop bad-mouthing me to the kids and manipulating their points of view.
He, like me, has their interest at heart. No matter how he feels about me, he will be able to set that aside when it comes to the children.
Stage 5: When you’re comatose, you might as well dream
This new attorney can sign the agreements I typed up by myself. He has agreed to let me pay him by the hour, which is really nice. Once we send the agreement, it is only a matter of getting my ex’s signature. If he wants to change a few things, we fully expect that. Now, I can put this behind me.
This new dating website is supposed to be much better than Match. So far, the men already seem much more normal. Surely no one on this site will file all their nails to a sharp point (I mean, what IS that???). Surely, over time, it will be a numbers game and a few good men will emerge from the pack. Plus, as my friend says, it only takes one.
Stage 6: Hold on! I think I feel a pulse
I am ready to try the court system again. I deserve to get back the alimony he stopped paying just because he felt like it.
At least now, I have discovered that there are some good men out there. And, overall, the kids seem better.
Stage 7: On her own two feet again
I now see how unrealistic I have been almost every step of the way. However, in this bumpy process, I have been able to recognize myself take shape in the mirror of what I expected in others. This “other,” who I expected to behave with some semblance of reason and fairness—on the whole—is a projection of me. I expected him to do what I would do, over and over again.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but my false expectations have not helped me negotiate a better deal for myself or my kids. However, make no mistake, by this stage of the game I am crystal clear about no longer projecting onto others. Crystal. But this doesn’t mean I expect the worst.
It means I see more clearly who I am. The more clearly I understand myself, the more I see where I end and others begin. I see where others are accountable for themselves. This distinction may not make my divorce any easier, but it has given me something in return for my troubles. Now that I have this viewpoint, it seems invaluable. I have moved on.
All is well.