Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | May 31, 2011

Divorce: Thoughts on D-Day, Part II

On the day that a commissioner of the King County Superior Court pronounced my marriage over, I sent out a text message to a few friends and family members as I stood outside next to my car downtown on that sunny, warm, fresh Seattle afternoon:

“It’s official… I am no longer married.”

I received a flood of messages of both condolences and congratulations. My father summed it up this way:

“Is this the good news or the bad news? I’m sorry it did not work out. Time to look ahead. Call when you can.”

And that really says it all, doesn’t it? I received several notes long these lines, and I have to say, they made me feel good. An acknowledgement that something happened, for good or ill, but it’s time to make things better going forward.

Before I could reply to my wonderful friends (some of whom read this blog: sorry! I’ll call soon!), one of my friends — the best man at my wedding, in fact — called me up for a long overdue chat. He posed a question I’ve been asked many times since: how do I feel?

I realize that the road through divorce is different for everyone, but for me, going through the legal mechanism of having the divorce declared “final” was just another milestone along the journey. It is not a destination, and I still have miles to go.

We all know intuitively that unlike in the movies, love is not an event; it’s a process. The movies treat it like an event. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back, and they live happily ever after. Cinderella marries the prince, and that’s that. Mission Accomplished. But in reality, love is a process. Cinderella and the prince have to negotiate the requirements of their daily lives, the chores and the errands and the worries and the planning, take care of what needs to be taken care of, and somehow still find the time and the passion to help, love, and support each other. They have to figure out when to encourage and when to hold back, when to agree and when to call bullshit. Some days, they just don’t feel like forcing a smile on their face or jumping each others’ bones. Some days, they want nothing but the attention of their paramour, and they can’t get it. Love is the process of negotiating the minefields and the pitfalls and still making it through knowing that this is the person they want to travel through life with together.

We all know this.

What is less obvious is that divorce, likewise, is a process, not an event. In the movies, the story either begins or ends with a judge’s gavel falling, and the protagonist left to start a new chapter in his or her life just like that. The past is truly over with, and the future is wide open in all its scariness and/or opportunity. And maybe that’s how it works for some people.

But for many, including me, divorce is an acknowledgement of change, but it is not the change itself.

Penny and I physically moved into different houses in the beginning of January. We formally separated our finances in February. All throughout this time, we’ve been working out a system of taking care of our children, transitioning our business, and trading back and forth various mutual assets. There have been birthday parties for two of our kids, which meant co-hosting parties at one of our houses, and all of the coordination and shared resources involved in that. Each new pattern we have formed and each new schedule change or habit change has of course been based upon some previous schedule or habit or pattern, just as those were necessarily based upon other prior arrangements.

Because of this gradual shift, there’s been no sudden, definitive clean break. Or at least, it hasn’t felt that way to me. A commissioner said “you’re done,” but then I went home, and after enjoying a couple of hours to myself (having taken the afternoon off of work), I picked up the kids and resumed the patterns of watching after the children and doing chores around my new house into shape that I’ve been following for a while.

I realize that for many, the court appearance is a definitive moment. For me, it felt just another mile marker.

I never felt like I needed a judge’s permission to start seeing other people — although, I suppose there is value in being able to say truthfully that from the moment I first kissed Penny long before we married to the moment the court system said our marriage was over, I have never, ever so much as kissed another woman. (That said, I also haven’t kissed a woman since the court said it was okay… at least, so far. Any takers out there? <ahem>)

Does the divorce give me closure? No, I don’t think so. Penny and I are still co-parenting very young children, and will continue to co-parent for as long as the children need us to do so. So to that extent, we continue to be very much in each other’s lives… and we’re still not having sex with each other, so that hasn’t changed, either.

But even if moving out, snapping the line on our finances, and having the divorce declared official are simply milestones along the road out of this past chapter of my life and toward a new chapter of my life, they are milestones that do have some meaning. I didn’t feel it as I passed them, but after a little bit of time, I have noticed some changes.

Readers who have gone through earlier posts on this blog will note that I’ve been distraught for a very long time. I’ve written before about how some of my friends had commented, “You used to be a happy guy, INRIS. Where’d that guy go?”

I’m starting to see evidence that that part of me is starting to come back to life. For instance, there’s Gladys Pumpernickel and the Crunchy Lava Cake Debacle (continued in my next post)….

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Responses

  1. Happiness returning is huge. You will find closure. I think I had a sense of closure more when my house short sale closed, than the actual divorce itself. I was just glad to get that damn process over and done with and be able to move forward more officially. I am trying to remember my absolute point of closure and I guess my answer to that would be, there isn’t just one point. At least not for me. There were several points along the way until I looked back and realized, wow, I’m so over it. When did that happen?! 🙂 Congrats again, you’ve come a long way!!

  2. Thank you for pointing it out to me. It’s obvious, but I kind of forgot it… divorce is a process, a step in a jounrey… it makes it a little bit easier to realise it.

  3. i read a book once, “how i learned to snap,” in which the mom asks her son, who’s just told her he’s in love, “are the greens greener?” what a sentence. and weirdly, once i got my closure and started moving forward again, i looked around one day and noticed that the greens were, indeed, greener.

    some days are sad. some days are amazing. most days are just good. and now that the papers are signed, it’s a lot easier to be that way. here’s to more of you coming back.

    and a wacky adventure? ooh. do tell. 🙂

  4. I really need to read your blog from the beginning. It sounds like you’ve come so far. Maybe your huge turning point will be when you start dating. Get an online profile set up immediately! 😉 I love living vicariously through others.

  5. I agree that love is a process… well, marriage in particular. And divorce, or rather, co-parenting relationships are just as much of a process. You are building a life for your children together still. You are still connected. You will be for… life, really.

    But finding your own way, nurturing you, seeking happiness for YOU in the midst of all of that process is integral and a blessing. I’m excited to see the chains of this loosen a bit and look forward to reading about your journey ahead.

  6. Life does go on. Skype when you’re ready. Big hugs!

  7. I know you think that this is just another step in a process (and I suppose it is) but I’m still really excited for you to have finally seen D-day. I think it symbolizes so much of what you’ve been working towards. Kudos, friend, you’ve done well.

  8. Hi INRIS, my heartfelt congratulations are only tempered with my sadness that your marriage and all the years of life and energy you sacrificed to it have come to this.

    Although we only know each other through our respective blogs I feel as if I understand you and although I feel unable to follow in your footsteps as yet, I celebrate the courage and integrity you show as you reclaim your life.

    I want to ask a question if I may. Do you worry about Penny’s ability to provide for your children? I mean this in a financial sense – you have said that she is a very capable mother – but is a whole different ball-game when the money is coming into the home via the husband and when mum needs to earn and be mum.

    One of the things I find quite worrying is how Susan would support the children without me. Sure I could pay alimony, but that means I’m paying for her home and mine – and what does that leave for me to start a new life?


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