A somewhat long, personal post about divorce, life, love, angst and real-life drama below the cut. You have been warned.
In August of 2007, I met someone on Absolute Write who would forever change my life. We talked about life, writing, and anything else that came to mind. We exchanged advice on each others then current relationships. Over the months, she and I became good friends — connecting on a deeply personal level. We flirted innocently at times, but neither of us held hope or delusions of more than friendship. I was married to Dena and she was in a long relationship, not to mention living in different countries.
I did a lot of soul searching between the months of August and November. I came to several stark realizations. I’m a “the glass is half full” kind of guy, always trying to look at the positive side of any situation but the truth was that I was unhappy and had been so for many years. I had several bouts of depression and for a while relied on Zoloft to get me through the worst period. I told myself that it happens to everyone. I was lying to myself and I couldn’t keep doing so. Meeting Andrea online had added to my inner turmoil but in a good way. It gave me a healthy dose of much needed perspective. I came to a realization: I would rather be alone than living with someone I wasn’t happy being with.
Dena and I had several difficult conversations. Neither of us were happy. A few things became clear throughout these discussions. We were both depressed by our situation. We laughed and cried together as we remembered the happier moments of our marriage against the backdrop of reality. It wasn’t easy, for either of us. I couldn’t promise that we would be able to fix things, and that made it more difficult for Dena. It took away her hope that things could be fixed, but I had to be honest with her and myself about what I was feeling.
My parents divorced when I was eighteen, staying together mostly for the benefit of my brother and I. They stayed married for far too long and the scars of it show on everyone involved. I did not want to repeat their mistake and stay married for the sake of being married. Call it selfish, but if you aren’t happy with yourself how can you be happy with someone else? You might look content on the outside but you feel dead on the inside.
Marriage is about two adults coming together as individuals, but does not mean abandoning who you are. Some people went as far as saying I should have lied and pretended I was happy. That wouldn’t have been fair to either of us.
There are doors we’re afraid to open because they might reveal something we don’t want to know or aren’t ready to accept. When faced with such a barrier, you can either turn back or move forward and face whatever harsh reality lurks on the other side. I spent too much of my life taking the easier path. I didn’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings so I swallowed my pride, accepted the blame, or pretended everything was okay. The door opened on the 11th of November, 2007.
Home from a business trip, Dena and I had the talk. I wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy. I couldn’t tell her that everything would be alright. I told her I didn’t know if we could work it out. It wasn’t easy on either of us and in the end she packed some of her essentials and left. With her she took family that I had come to love for nearly a decade and would never see again. Parents, grand parents, aunts and uncles, sister, niece and nephew. It’s one of the more difficult aspects of getting divorced. You don’t lose the person you married to, but also their family that has been your family as well.
There were two distinct reactions when my friends and family heard that we were getting divorced. There was the “I’m so sorry, if there’s anything I can do please let me know” camp and the fellowship of “I see…” followed by weeks or months of silence. Most were supportive and knew me well enough to know that I’m not prone to making life-altering decisions on a whim and for that I am eternally grateful. There were bad days where I was moody, quick to anger and for that and to those I may have offended, I’m sorry.
For the first time, I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. Andrea and I continued talking. Her relationship was in as good a condition as mine was and we commiserated over our circumstances. I was growing stronger mentally. For the first time that I could remember, my fingernails grew long. The compulsive urge to clip and chew was gone. I cleaned house. I cooked meals. I wrote. I was happy and content.
None of this is to say anything negative about Dena. We spent many happy years together and enjoyed the life we had. In the end, we changed as people and grew apart. You don’t just stop loving someone, but love, as cliche as the saying goes, isn’t always enough. I wish her well and hope she is successful in her life.
In early January 2008, Andrea came to visit. The original plan was for her to stay a week or two and then I would drive her back to Canada. We eventually ran out of excuses about the weather when the ice was melted, the sun was shining and she was still here. The friendship we had online grew and developed into a strong bond of love. We’re happy and looking forward to our future together.
Accusations and assumptions of cheating and infidelity on my part were thrown around. I understand why people have thought that and accept that by some mores I am guilty. Those people will continue to believe that and I see no reason to try to change someone else’s mind. I live my own life and I can still look myself in the mirror every morning and know that, while I’ve made mistakes, I’ve done the best I could.
Tomorrow, the 3rd of November 2008, I will officially be divorced. Dena and I will walk our separate ways one final time. It’s been nearly a year in the making and the road getting here hasn’t been easy. There have been hurt feelings on both sides. For my part in her pain, I’m deeply sorry. I hope tomorrow’s decree will help ease that burden.
A few people have thanked me for being so candid and blunt about such a deeply personal experience. I’ve done so because the process of writing is cathartic. If the words speak to you or help you through your own difficult transition, all the better. The divorce process can be long, painful, ugly and expensive. It’s easy to hold grudges and bear ill will towards the other party. Instead, remember what you do have: a future of your own crafting. Anything is possible, you only have to dream it.
[Crossposted from stonetable.org. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]