Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | April 22, 2011

Riding the Divorce Mood Teeter-Totter

There is more to my life right now than divorce. You know, there’s the mundane stuff… getting the taxes filed on time, continuing to move what’s left of my books and such out of the marital home while the bank prepares to foreclose on it, hosting a birthday party for The Six-Year-Olds From Planet Bonkers, ear infections (both mine), a sinus infection, and so on. Oh, and trying to continue to do a good enough job at my temporary-but-well-paying job in the hopes of keeping it a little while longer.

When I started this blog, it was primarily to help me get my thoughts straight about my collapsing marriage. Because there was no single, definitive event that screamed, “This Must Not Continue,” it had proven difficult for me to recognize that our marriage was irretrievably broken until long after we had passed that point. The blog helped me to sort that out, and by joining the larger blogging community, I have received some excellent advice and insight in navigating the treacherous waters of divorce — especially divorce-with-kids.

I have also made quite a few excellent friends. You all rock.

Lately, I’ve been so overwhelmed by all that I must do, that I haven’t been posting as often, but I realize that this blog is now more than just a vehicle to help me think. It is also keeps me grounded with my bloggy friends, provides me with an opportunity to occasionally vent some steam (better here than at the mediation sessions, no?), and also, perhaps, to provide some insight to those who are just a little bit further behind me on this path — much as I’ve been helped by reading the blogs of those who are a bit further ahead of me on this path.

My previous post touched upon one aspect of how our divorce mediation is going. I plan to write a post soon about divorce mediation in general (in short: it’s a huge, steaming pile of poo), but as with so many aspects of divorce, it’s difficult sometimes to separate out one thread from another when they are so intertwined. Another thread in this divorce cloth (or, perhaps, this divorce… rope?) is mood.

The previous post took me several sit-downs before I could finally finish it, because my mood was so bleak. I’m not prone to anger. I don’t like it. It’s not an emotion that I spend much time with. I’ve commented before about being good in a crisis, and to the extent that I am, it’s in large part thanks to whatever hard-wiring I have that doesn’t let me dwell in the land of anger.

The anger I was feeling passed quickly enough. One of the commenters pointed out that I was in danger of entering “victim” territory, and while I don’t agree, I’m so very glad that she said it. It was exactly the reminder I needed at that particular moment; a reminder of who I am and who I want to be. And who I am not, and who I do not want to be.

Penny and I are in the home stretch of negotiating our divorce settlement. I continue to believe that we can still resolve this all without having to resort to a contentious legal battle. Of course, there are some nights (like earlier tonight) when there are also signs that we have not been navigating this minefield as carefully as we might have. Penny’s fear is getting the better of her, and I haven’t yet figured out how to assuage that fear. Some of my friends have suggested that her fear is no longer my responsibility, but the fact is that as long as she negotiates from a place of fear, negotiations are going to spin further out of control.

She is talking about postponing the next mediation session again, which also has me troubled. Stalling for time, when you are doing nothing with the time you have, is a losing proposition. Ask me how I know.

It’s the story of our marriage. Now, it’s the story of our divorce.

Hmph. Somehow, I’ve managed to get off-topic here.

What was the topic again? Ah, yes. A word regarding moods to those who are a little bit further back on the path to divorce/break-up:

I am (and you will be) experiencing not quite mood swings, exactly, but more like… the whole mood playground. There’s the mood merry-go-round, which will keep you spinning until you’re ready to puke. The mood jungle gym gives you a better view when you’re up, but not so much when you’re down — and it’s a lot of effort to experience those ups, by the way. Then there’s the mood teeter-totter. Here, your mood is always tied to the mood of the other person. This is my least favorite part of the mood playground.

It seems to me that if you find yourself on the divorce mood teeter-totter, the best thing to do is to ease off… and gently let go.

Easier said than done. But it’s what I have to do.

Ease off… and gently let go.



  1. I really like that you are now in a place to try to help those further behind you on their divorce path (just as you looked for advice when you were at that point)…time to pay it forward a bit, hmm? And as for the divorce mood teeter-totter, that’s so true, isn’t it? Ease up on yourself too, okay? You are doing great.

  2. I (and my ex-boyfriend) used to say that “the monkey is driving the tilt-a-whirl”. All I could do was hang on, and know that next week, or tomorrow, or in five minutes, I would feel differently. The only certainty was change. Please remember, inris, that no matter how right this is for you – and for Penny – it is still a loss, and you are still grieving. Grief involves a myriad of emotions that the angst and anger and fear and etc of divorce simply tangle all the more. Be easy on yourself and know you are doing the best you can with what you have at the time. Always.

  3. You’re sweet for recognizing how much others have inadvertently helped you and trying to do the same for others in the same boat. It still amazes me how much the blog community can help others. Alrighty then…party time in one week should cheer you up! 🙂

  4. You know, I almost didn’t post that “victim” comment because I thought it sounded a little judgmental, and truly it was not my desire to make you feel judged or invalidated. I see you took it in the right spirit though, and I’m relieved to know it assisted you while you move down this difficult path. Yea for you–and for all of us—who are striving to become the best possible versions of ourselves. 🙂

  5. the mood playground is probably the best metaphor for the emotional cocktail that all of this has been, and will continue to be. i didn’t actually get off the teeter-totter phase until fairly recently. the ex lashed out at me one last time, as he is still angry, and he hit pay dirt. as i laid in the man’s arms and cried, i lamented how the ex accused me of being “happy” with the way my life is.

    the man said, “so what if you are?”

    smack. the proverbial slap in the face. i’ve been able to stay off the teeter-totter ever since. in fact, the ex called me yesterday because he was freaked out about something, and i was able to calmly and pleasantly take him through it without his fear, anger and panic getting to me.

    so it gets better, eventually.

  6. I found that most of the time that I was feeling upset, fearful or angry was when I was not in the present moment. I was either dwelling on regrets of what I *thought* we had or sad that our future would never happen. Luckily (perhaps?) for me, my ex didn’t really show much emotion. I used to tease him during our marriage that he didn’t have feelings… because he never showed them. It helped me during our divorce to focus on mine. Over time, I have seen more emotion from him and, honestly, it makes me angry when he shows it now. Why now? Why not during all the times I wanted to see how he really felt?!

    Ok, sorry. I totally made this all about me, didn’t I?

    The point is… yes, you cannot go through something as life-altering as this without feeling all sorts of emotions. Feel them as they come. It is perfectly normal and you are not crazy.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us who’ve been there and those who are going through it now.

    Much love.

  7. It’s too bad that this process is dragging on more than it needs too, but I’m glad you’re doing your best to keep a level head about it all…. and don’t worry about venting here, that’s what it’s for! 🙂

  8. I think you might have ruined playgrounds for me.

    Anyways, how can you not worry about Penny’s fear? You’re still entangled and will be until the ink is dry on the divorce papers.

  9. “Penny’s fear is getting the better of her, and I haven’t yet figured out how to assuage that fear.”

    You can’t. You aren’t causing that fear even if she is blaming you. Her fear is really based on realizing that the world isn’t all cookies and cream. Despite her rejection of you as a lover and a partner, you did provide security and stability for her. If she knew then what she knows now, it just might have changed her behavior. But as a German emigre I once worked with told me, people are too soon old and too late smart. Penny has too late come to awareness about the consequences of her action in driving you away and divorcing you, and that is what is frightening her. She isn’t about to accept responsibility for this, so she will blame you. She will use any excuse she can, including the X versus Y ignoring Z example you wrote about in the previous post.

    I don’t know if what I’m about to suggest is possible, not knowing you and Penny as real people. But if you can draw her into talking about what her real fears are maybe you can help her to see what she has to do. I suspect she’s very close to that point now, or else she wouldn’t be pushing the mediator sessions into some nebulous future date. She must think that the mediator is about to call up on her BS, whether or not that is true. She may also be concerned that you are about to do something similar. But call her on it someone must do.

    Your teeter-totter metaphor doesn’t begin to express what is about to break into the open if Penny doesn’t get with the program, but it’s a good place to start. You’ll find that if she does not, the ride will turn into that nightmare roller-coaster we all dream about at some point in our lives. Only you won’t be asleep.

    Thanks for your gratitude about all of our efforts on your behalf. I hope that some small sliver’s worth of the same will come from Penny someday. She owes you that much.

  10. I think you hit the nail on the head here…”the best thing to do is to ease off…” exactly. You are almost there my friend.

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