Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | July 25, 2011

After Divorce: It Gets Better

…or, at least, it can get better after divorce. And so far, for me, ever so slowly, it has been getting better.

I have commented previously about how, for me at least, divorce is a process. So, too, it seems to me, is recovery.

As readers of earlier posts to this blog already know (and, likewise, anyone who has been through this him-or-herself already knows), there’s a lot of fear when considering whether to get divorced: what if I should fall on financial hard times? What if I never find another suitable romantic partner? What if I suck as a solo-parent? What if my Ex turns into a raging asshole and ties up my assets and my time in court for years to come? What if I never recover my sense of fun or my sense of humor? What if I slip in the bathtub and crack my skull and die, naked and alone, with no one to discover my bloated, pruney body until weeks later, when the landlord — oh, wait, I have auto-pay, so even my landlord won’t realize there’s a problem until the money runs out — well, until *somebody*, anybody wonders enough about my long absence that they actually call the police to have them check on why I’m not answering my phone or the door even though my car is in the driveway and…

Wait. Where was I? Oh, right. Fear.

Talking with friends of mine who have gone through, are going through, or are contemplating divorce or break-up, they all seem(ed) to face the same, biggest fear that I had to confront when considering the Big Split: what if I’m alone for the rest of my life?

As with most people, I’ve found that the best way to deal with the Big Questions like this is to rationalize. In my case, the rationalization went (and goes) like this: if I stayed in the marriage, it was a near certainty that I would remain bitter, isolated, and celibate. By getting out of the marriage, I allowed for the possibility of recovery, reconnection, and (dare I say it?) sex again in this lifetime.

When I broached the subject of divorce with Penny, I didn’t suddenly feel this huge weight lifted from my shoulder. When we moved into separate households, I wasn’t magically transformed back into my previous, fun-filled self (if I ever even was that person). When we snapped the line on our financial ties, the fears didn’t suddenly fly away. Neither did I breathe some huge contented sigh of relief when a judge said, legally, the marriage is kaput. Nor when I started spending time with single (women) friends of mine. Nor when I started making plans to meet-up with fellow bloggers.

And yet. And yet. Have I mentioned this already? Because it bears mentioning more than once, it seems: I look back and realize that ever so slowly, ever so gradually, it’s been getting better. I am getting better.

Let me give you one small, recent example.

I went to the airport to drop off one of my sons, who was set to embark upon a commercial flight to visit his grandparents (my parents). Since he was travelling as an “unaccompanied minor”, I was asked (required) to stay at the gate until the plane departed. On this particular flight, there were several unaccompanied minors. Which meant, there were several parents of unaccompanied minors waiting for this plane to leave. Oh, and the plane apparently was having “mechanical difficulties”, because it just sat there… for, oh, an hour past when it was supposed to pull away.

A woman sitting nearby made some comment to me about something she’d heard me say to my kid or to the gate agent, and we struck up a conversation. She was probably a few years younger than I, but old enough, it turns out, to have a teenager, so she wasn’t *too* much younger than I. She was attractive, well-dressed, and well-spoken. And while I say she was well-dressed, she was dressed like “one of my kind” — ie, like a friend of mine or a co-worker would likely dress; she wasn’t over-dressed or fashion-model-dressed. Her daughter was flying overseas for the first time, so that also put us in the same class mentally — with horizons that expanded beyond staying close to home or “playing it safe.”

Keep in mind that what I’m describing here didn’t necessarily occur to me consciously at the time, but it was obvious on some level that we had a lot in common. We were both parents. We were both educated. We both worked for a living, but got paid a reasonable wage. And as we talked, other common ground emerged: we both liked to travel, we both were parenting solo, we both valued family, and so on. She may or may not have been one of my own — an idea I’ve talked about in previous posts — but she was pleasant, smart, and (dare I say it?) easy on the eyes. Oh, and one other thing: she seemed to genuinely enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

So, when the plane took off and it was finally our chance to leave, I faced a choice: do I try to extend the conversation beyond this chance meeting? Or do I let us go our separate ways, and that would be that?

During a writing workshop I took a few years ago, one of my mentors made a distinction that I’ve taken to heart. Someone had asked about having to re-write a story, and my mentor said that you shouldn’t let re-writes be daunting. Of course you’ll have to occasionally do something over. A concert violinist plays the same song over and over again, and you never hear most of those performances; you only hear the ones that have been honed to the point of being presentable. So, too, with writing: don’t be daunted by failure or by having to try, try again. Instead, recognize it for what it is: practice.

I’ve used that distinction to get over a lot of things that might otherwise daunt me. Like, for example… broaching the subject of giving my phone number to someone I just met.

So I asked her point-blank, as we were walking toward the escalators that would take us away from the terminal: “Are you married?”

“No,” she said, “but I have a partner.” Then she laughed. “A male partner. But… yeah.”

I smiled. I was a little disappointed, but this wasn’t really surprising. She was, as I mentioned, a smart, attractive, woman with a career and a certain resilience. “Well,” I said, “it’s at least comforting to know that there’s life after divorce.”

She laughed again. “That there is.”

And that was that. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I do not tend to be interested in people who are not available (yes, with the apparent exception of my former wife, cough cough), so I did not offer my card, but for that matter, she didn’t run away screaming or beat me over the head with her purse and call me rude names. I didn’t die of embarrassment, nor of fright.

For those of you who think this all sounds a bit young and silly, I’ll remind you that I haven’t been “available” myself since… oh, crap. My five-year college reunion. My mid-to-late-ish-twenties.

So, given that I’m now an early-to-mid-fourties guy who wouldn’t mind some female companionship after years in a broken marriage, this was a milestone. I had a pleasant conversation with a pleasant woman who was previously unknown to me, and it was just fine. It was pleasant enough that, if she weren’t otherwise unavailable, I’d have offered her my card, and whether or not she would have ever called me, I felt great just knowing that I could, well, even get that far. I’m not in a rush to start a new romantic relationship. But it’s good to know I’m not a leper, even so.

One of my blogging friends has named her blog “This Broken Heart Has Hope,” and I think that’s a good title. It sums up my own situation rather well. I don’t feel broken-hearted any more, which itself may also be a sign of improvement, but I’m also starting to feel hope again. I had a nice conversation in person with someone who had previously been a stranger; someone I wouldn’t have minded getting to know better. I’ve been enjoying some awesome conversations with friends I’ve made through this blog. I like making friends. It’s nice to get out there again.

And heaven help me, I just used the word ‘nice’ more than once in this essay. Either my mood really is lightening-up, or I’m up way past my bedtime.

I cannot recommend divorce. Divorce sucks. But if you use it as a tool to move your life forward, and if you continue to try your best to make things better (divorce, like the rest of your life, being a process and not an event), well, there’s hope that it can get better. That it will get better.

Because, hey, there’s hope for me.

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Responses

  1. This is great!! You get through a divorce by inches…not leaps. I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well though. Divorce does suck…big time. But I’m not missing my life before divorce either. Thinking of you!

  2. Look at you go! That is awesome!. Too bad she had a partner already but sticking your foot out there in the water is a good way to start. You’ll get there my friend. You are too amazing.

  3. I hope so, inris. I’m not feeling it at all these days. But I’m glad you are.

  4. Thank you for this. I was feeling especially melancholy this morning after dreams of my ex. This struggling thing has to get better; indeed it has, but it’s sure doing so slowly. Thank you for reminding me that there is indeed progress even if it’s slow.

  5. So proud of you!! That’s awesome ‘practice’ and honestly a huge step. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but you are and you are reaching that inflection point. I can see it 🙂

  6. Well hey, at least you took a chance!

    I’m glad things are getting better, even if it’s slowly. They’re going to get a lot better soon, when you see ME in Vegas! I can’t wait to see everyone together.

  7. YES. it absolutely does get better. every day, you heal a little more. so glad you took your chance, even if it didn’t go anywhere.

    thinking of you these days. baby steps, every single day.

  8. Practice makes perfect. 🙂

    I’m proud of you for stepping forward. You’ll be in many situations in future days where you’ll have that choice again. You just never know…

    I like that advice. Rewrites shouldn’t be daunting.

  9. You handled this one well. You didn’t extend yourself too far and look foolish, yet you still tried to establish a bond. Even though this one didn’t work out for you, one will.

  10. Your blog is very refreshing, and for the first time, I don’t feel like an outcast in society. I feel so less alone right now, I hope I keep this feeling with me always. Especially in meeting new shiny happy couples who have recently gotten married (and my skeptical mind thinks, “just you wait!”). Thank you for reminding me that this is a process, not the end. Thank you.

  11. I love the line that divorce is a tool to move your life forward. This is exactly what I’m going through. As a late thirties female, it gives me hope. Hope that one day I can make it back to Seattle, the city I lived in and loved before I met “him” and moved to NYC. Hope that I will be okay financially on my own, just as I was before him. Hope that I will one day trust enough to date again. Thank you for a prolific post.


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