Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | September 22, 2010

Drinking and Divorcing

Played poker the other night.

Some things you should know about me if you don’t already:

  • I don’t drink alcohol. There’s no particular reason, but rather a series of them: I never liked the taste (although I’m happy to cook with alcohol, and often do), the experience never sounded enticing, my occasional encounters with various pain relievers that are said to simulate the alcohol buzz merely leave me nauseated and dizzy. And so on. I have nothing against drinking or people who drink. I just don’t partake, myself. (I also don’t smoke, take illicit drugs, etc.. That said, if you light up a joint in front of me and don’t offer me a toke, that’s just bad manners.)
  • Yes, I know this makes me hopelessly square.
  • I don’t drink coffee or tea. Hate them both just as much as I hate the taste of alcohol. So my only source of caffeine is soda. Alas, soda is an unhealthy drink. So when I’m trying to be healthy, I cut out the soda… but that means going caffeine free.
  • …but when I play poker, I drink caffeinated soda. It’s a habit. But when I’m on a no-soda kick, it also means I’m a bit sharper during a poker game than when I’m not on a no-soda kick. The sudden boost of caffeine after going for a while without is… stimulating.
  • My wife and I are very slowwwly negotiating our divorce. (But you already knew that if you’ve even read just one other post, right?)
  • Neighbors of ours who have children the same age as ours are also getting a divorce. (I’ve mentioned them previously.)
  • Other neighbors of ours who also have children the same age as ours host a monthly poker game. And I like to play when I can.

So. Played poker the other night.

I played fairly well (being on a kinda-no-soda kick at present meant that my several cans of Coca-Cola had me sharp and awake. This may be important later in our story.) but I busted out just before getting to the final table of the tournament. So while I lasted well into the evening, I nonetheless began the walk home at around 11pm or 11:30.

Our neighbors who are divorcing live in a house halfway between the poker-game-hosting neighbors and our house.

Lately, these neighbors — I should give them a name, since they have a starring role in this post, so let’s call them the Dunns — have been taking turns with regard to who has the house and the kids during a given week. But for a few days, while prepping the house to go onto the market, both were there painting and cleaning and so on. As I walked by in the misty evening, their windows were open and loud music was coming through. The windows were open to let out the paint fumes. The music was rap and rock about divorce. And both of them were there, still up, winding down from the day’s hard work. I called out my hellos, and they invited me in.

They were both drinking as they were performing the various cleaning-up tasks that come with a long day of painting. “Drinking helps divorce,” they told me. While trying to decide what to drink next, one of them invented a concoction of raspberry lemonade shaken with vodka and then strained.

“We need to name this drink,” said one. “I think we should call it… ‘Grounds for divorce.'”

“I’ll drink to that,” said the other.

Clink. I clinked my Coke bottle (20 oz., half full at that point) with their martini glasses.

They offered me a drink. I told them I don’t drink. This led to a long conversation (that lasted on and off for the rest of the night) about the finer points of drinking and getting drunk and vodka and cognac and brandy and beer and so on. As my Coke ran down, they offered me lemonade, and later, poured me a shot of the ‘Grounds for Divorce.’

It tasted like raspberry lemonade mixed with paint fumes.

“No, no, you take a deep breath away from the glass, then you take a gulp, you swallow, and then you exhale.”

Now, the experience of having friends coax me into trying a drink is nothing new to me. I’m 42 years old — I can handle my inexperience with alcohol rather well. And as I said, I have no real qualms about drinking… I just… don’t. So, I tried what was offered. Carefully. I took some of the advice offered. But I also gently deflected the invitation to drink more than I would prefer, more quickly than I’d prefer. They’d baked some onion rings; I had a few. I finished off my Coke. And so on. In short, I had some of that mixed drink. I had some of the Hennessy (sp?) on ice. But only a little, and I was paying close attention to how I was doing.

And how they were doing.

Drinking, they kept saying, helps divorce.

I am reminded at this point about a custom I’d been exposed to at University. When our marching band would travel on away games (yes, I was a band geek — again with me being a square, thankyouverymuch), we had a quiet bus (for those who would do their homework on the bus), a noisy bus (for those who would not), and the [moniker withheld] Bus, where drinking and singing and carrying on was expected. Even though I didn’t drink, I always travelled on this bus. Yes, I’m a square, but I enjoyed the company of my friends who enjoyed enjoying themselves and who were, uh, not square.

And besides, it’s fun to sing raunchy songs.

There were only two rules (that I recall) for riding on the [moniker withheld] Bus:

1) the affects of alcohol are felt faster when in motion. Thus, drink with this in mind… and stay parked near the back of the bus (where the toilet was) if you thought you might boot.

2) what goes on on the [moniker withheld] Bus stays on the [moniker withheld] Bus.

I bring this up because it seems to me that it would be unfair to relate the details of everything that transpired while these two friends and neighbors of mine took me into their home and their confidence. I understand that when you’re under the influence, you might not always say and do things that you’d want to read about in the next day’s paper. Nothing particularly scandalous occurred, but for me to quote them much further than I have already might not be entirely fair.

But once I got home, preparing to go to bed and eating a little bit of water-based food (I was not inebrietated, but having had all that caffeinated soda followed by alcohol, why take a chance with dehydration?), there were a few things that are weighing heavy on my mind:

While they knew I knew about their divorce (the Dunns plastered it all over Facebook), aparently the soon-to-be-former-husband was unaware that Penny and I are also separating. Since Mrs. Dunn mentioned it a couple of times in front of Mr. Dunn, I figured she’d already told him. (I’d told her a couple weeks ago while our kids had a play date.) She hadn’t, it turns out — and he was surprised by the news.

He was at least as surprised as we had been when Penny and I learned of their impending divorce. I find that interesting.

I learned that they are both very unhappy right now. This, of course, isn’t a news flash. But it was very sobering (sorry for the pun) to see it up close and in person. They are both good people, and it’s hard to see them so unhappy. They were congenial enough toward each other, but there was also great anger there, simmering underneath. And sadness.

I learned that what I drank that night makes me a little burpy. And the burps smell like paint thinner. Blech.

And we talked about how long separating is taking. The Dunns first talked about divorce in June, and they are already vacating the marital home. Their divorce will be final in October. Penny and I came to our decision, what… around New Year’s Eve, wasn’t it? And we’re still peeling up that band-aid very slowly. Yes, we have a lot of complicating factors involved (the house, the business, etc.). But still…

I need to start the filing process now.

When the topic of parting amicably came up, the soon-to-be-ex-husband said, “Yeah, you say the word ‘amicable’ to lawyers, and they just giggle to themselves.”

That may well be. And they have friends who have been working on a “collaborative divorce,” which is apparently tearing those other friends apart. Okay. Fine. Note to self: be prepared for the possibility that this all goes south in a hurry.

But then again… I’m not convinced it has to be that way. I am not convinced that amicable is impossible. I know others who have managed to pull it off. The Dunns are painfully aware of multiple friends of theirs whose divorces were nasty. It’s easy to forget that I know many people who have succeeded in divorcing, well, less nasty.

I learned that I’m still as square as ever. But that friends like the Dunns need friends like me. I suppose the converse is true, too.

And seeing how sad and betrayed and angry they both seemed to feel (beneath the alcohol haze), I recognized the same emotions in myself (without that haze). But I also realize that I’m doing much better now than I was. Time eventually heals, I suppose. And I’ve been grieving my marriage for years now. My friends the Dunns might still have a little way to go just yet, but I believe the worst is behind me.

The Dunns were not in great shape when I left them that night. When I stopped by the next day, just to check in on them, they were better… but dragging.

I hope they find their peace before too long.



  1. My divorce was very amicable. We’d been separated for 2 years at that point. As a matter of fact, when we both went to see my lawyer, she thought my soon-to-be-ex was a friend since we were joking around. She was speechless when I told her that he was my ex!

    Also yes, some states require a waiting period after you file for the divorce to be final.

    It sounds like you learned quite a bit that night. Still sending good divorce vibes your way, if it means anything.

  2. Quite the eye-opening evening it appears…and for the record, I’m not a fan of vodka either, but I do love my wine, as you know (and seriously, not even COFFEE? you are a saint. I would die, I am convinced, without it!). I hope you are hanging in there friend, because I know you have it in you, and soon enough, you’ll be back on top of the world. I promise!

  3. drinking helps divorce. lord, does that hit home. i drank like a fish while i was in law school; south louisiana is a culture that’s just soaked in alcohol, and i partook wildly. there were a few nights with the ex where the booze made things just a hundred times worse.

    honestly, you’re probably better off not drinking during all of this, in my opinion. i’m impressed as hell with the restraint you have.

    and trust me – filing makes everything feel, well, not better, but more in control. if that makes sense. you’ll instantly notice the difference.

  4. My ex (an attorney) and I divorced very amicably. He let me handle it all, thus saving us both tons of money (we paid a paralegal to prepare and file paperwork and never used a lawyer). Our entire divorce cost $500.
    I was fair in my settlement suggestions, and so he readily agreed to all of them.
    We also drank and had fun together during the process (sometimes that included “sex-with-the-ex”). In short, our divorce was easier and a lot more fun than our marriage. Oh…and in our case, nobody was surprised we were divorcing!

  5. Just when you think your situation is bad, there is someone in the same or a worse situation then you are. Your post is a great example of this.

  6. Sounds like the couple down the street has more bottled up than they care to admit.

  7. You’re a smart man about not drinking. I just posted a blog today about hangovers and children…ugly!!

    I don’t know if drinking helps divorce but its usually a hobby thats taken up after a divorce is finished.

  8. My ex and I had what I guess you would say an “amicable” divorce. Meaning – it was quick (he asked for it in March, it was finalized in September) – and there wasn’t any fighting – maybe a few mean remarks – but that was it. We simply hired a lawyer to mediate and prepare the paperwork, cost $1500 total.

    I think in some ways the process is what you make of it. My ex had an affair for 2 years starting right when I gave birth to our first child. I think everyone was (and currently still is?) shocked at how things have gone since (meaning they have been amicable). I chose to forgive, not forget. I chose to create the best atmosphere possible for my daughter. I’ve definitely had the emotions of anger, hurt, sadness, grief – but for me the greatest release has been thru forgiveness and moving forward with my life.

    Maybe I’m just a little weird, but I think a positive outlook on things goes a long way!

    Oh – and it did feel great to have the paperwork submitted and finalized – definitely makes things feel a bit lighter!

  9. May you find your peace, too. Peace and patience. You’ve already found good friends to share with. *ahem* Miss you!

  10. I prefer to use the word “civil” than amicable. Amicable means friends and my ex and are not friends.

    Our divorce was civil – for the most part we agreed but there were a few sticking points which I think are to be expected. If you and Penny each use attorneys, then those attorneys will be looking out for you and what is in your best interest. That means it’s almost inevitable that they will question some element of the agreement that you and Penny have worked out and that will cause one of you, to question, at least for a while, if what you’ve agreed to is smart.

    What’s important to remember is that you are building the foundation for your future relationship and since you have children that relationship will last until you die …. it doesn’t end when your children go college because your children will go on to get married and then have children etc. That is why it’s important to keep the negotiations civil.

    And on the timing thing … don’t pay any attention to how quick other couples get divorced. Doing it at your own pace increases the likelihood of staying civil and being able to work together in the future.

  11. You are wise not to indulge in alcohol. It causes too many problems to be considered a cure for anything, even divorce. Especially divorce! But about all caffeinated cola drinks are good for is removing rust from lug nuts!

    You are noble to want to help friends, Sir Galahad, but you really aren’t in a position to do so. You aren’t through your own divorce, so about all you can do for them is to offer a knowing ear to hear and a shoulder should it be necessary. Advice for them you have little. You aren’t as experienced as they already are. And can you afford the distraction? You didn’t cause their divorce, you can’t cure their divorce, and you can’t control their divorce any more than you can do so for your own. Where will you be when their divorce is final? In the midst of your own, and I doubt they will return your kindnesses.

    Mandy offers a great bit of advice regarding the relatively rapid progress the Dunns are making. Divorce isn’t supposed to be a speed contest. You would be a lot further along if Penny were more sure of herself and if you were able to focus on it exclusively, but one does still have to eat, doesn’t one? Ergo, focus on your own experience and save the comparison discussion with the Dunns for a future time.

    By the way – you may discover that one of the Dunns is becoming distant as their situation develops (my cash is on the Mr). Divorcing couples tend to divide the friends along with everything else, and the basis for such a division isn’t always clear. Just be prepared should this happen, for if I’m right, you might be the object of a rebound attempt. How you handle this will determine whether and if you remain friends with her – assuming that you want to be friends. My advice is to treat her like booze and abstain.

  12. […] difficult to push things forward and keep things civil (thank you, Mandy, for making the distinction) when any time you advise your wife, she takes it as a personal […]

  13. Hey Seattle! My divorce was collaborative and it saved a TON of money and worked for us! Just sayin’.

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