After 22 years of marriage my husband left me more than two and a half years ago. And while I’ve progressed from the early days spent largely in the fetal position on my bedroom floor, eyes so puffy I could hardly open them and spontaneously bursting into big ugly tears several times a day, it’s still hard — excruciatingly hard. I wish more than anything that it wasn’t. I’m angry at myself for still struggling. And I long for a time when I don’t think about my old life every damn day. Multiple times a day, even. Isn’t it about time I accepted this new life in front of me and moved on?
I have two dear friends who are going through the divorce process and we get together frequently to talk about our court dates, court orders and beyond-belief legal fees. We compare notes, prop each other up, and support one another through a life stage none of us expected to find ourselves in. For the three of us, our divorces are all consuming. We get up each day, take care of our children, go to work and tell those who ask that we are okay. But we’re not okay, not even close. We’re scared, angry, sad, anxious, frustrated and, most of all, absolutely and completely overwhelmed.
What absolutely floors me, though, is that from all outside appearances, our ex- (or soon to be) husbands seem to be doing just fine. One has a new girlfriend, one is already — shockingly — remarried and one may or may not be dating, but seems to be going through life like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Why is that? Why is it so easy for men to walk away relatively unscathed from decades long marriages? And why is it so fucking hard for women to do the same?
I feel like a broken record on this but, seriously, how did I get here? I spent twenty five years with my husband. We worked together in the early years, we bought and remodeled two houses together, we had three children, we endured the founding of three startups, we traveled, we enjoyed each others company….for crying out loud, we spent half our lives together!
The other day I went into a wine bar to pick up a few bottles of wine. It was early in the day and there was nobody in the bar. In walked my husband. We looked at each other, he mumbled something about “how funny” it was that we were both there, then we proceeded to act like perfect strangers. I never in a million years would have imagined the person I was closest to in the whole world would become a complete stranger to me. It breaks my heart in a way that it’s never been broken before.
I’ve spent the past 20 years taking care of children, and the last 12 working in education so that I could be available when my kids were home — especially because my husband traveled regularly for work. My youngest child is now a senior in high school. I expected to be using this time to be plan for an empty nest with my husband. This was to be that magical time we’d been looking forward to during all those years our evenings and weekends were devoted to soccer practice, gymnastics meets and marching band rehearsals. I pictured us spending more time tougher, traveling, going away for weekends, having wine and cheese for dinner. Instead, I’ve taken a full time job as an admin at an architecture firm so that I have health benefits when my divorce becomes final.
It’s so easy to feel sorry for myself these days and I really need to stop it. It’s time to look at the other side of things. I have 3 children I adore who have grown into amazing adults I truly enjoy spending time with, I have friends who have been by my side for the good and the bad — one even hired me to work as her admin, trusting that I could do it, even though I had no applicable experience. I have family who have dropped everything to help me out when I’ve needed it the most. And although my financial situation has changed drastically, I still have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food to eat and a pretty damned good life, all things considered. I can’t wait for the day when all of those things are what I think about when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night, instead of mourning what I’ve lost. It will happen, I know it will. I’m not the first woman to go through a painful divorce and I’m certainly not the last. And this won’t break me, I am too strong to let that happen.