Divorce is Ugly Even Though You Try to Make it Civil

I’m no martyr and there were times when I wasn’t proud at how I lashed out at my husband in anger and hurt. I believe, though, that throughout my ordeal I behaved with as much dignity, class, strength, and courage as I could muster, given the situation. My husband left our marriage, it seemed, not because I had done anything wrong, but because he was looking for something "more."

If you met me, you would think me far from being a boring person. Neither was he. We traveled extensively. We had hobbies (he biked on weekends, I wrote and painted.) We had a large coterie of friends and threw frequent parties. We were demonstrably affectionate and loving to each other-laughing, talking about anything and everything, holding hands in private and public, and arguing with passion. We considered each other our best friend.

Interestingly, our friends admired our marriage, wishing they could be as close and open with each other as we were. But they’re still married. Go figure.

When Bob decided to leave I fought to keep him. I fought hard and bared my soul in therapy, but nothing I did or said or promised worked. It takes two to tango, but it takes only one to leave the dance floor and break the team up.

One lawyer I consulted told me from his vast experience that spouses left the relationship in two ways:

  1. They did something to blow things up and create chaos, like cheat on their spouse and make sure they’re found out. These break-ups are usually acrimonious and full of anger, vitriol, and hate. This happened to another friend of mine: He walked in on his wife and her lover.

  2. They leave gently, as in my case, promising to try to fix the marriage by seeing a therapist or by coming back after they've had "their space.". In my situation, my lawyer cautioned, I had a short window of time to capitalize on my husband's guilt. I should get as many promises in writing, as much monetary support, and the maximum amount of assets that I could before his guilt wore off.

I left the lawyer’s office feeling less hopeful than before. Bob had promised me a fair shake, but as time passed and as he began to listen to his girlfriend, his stance hardened. I realized I was no longer dealing with my husband alone. There was another person in the equation, but I only suspected it. Interestingly, left to our own devices we would have been civil, even loving. As soon as SHE entered the picture things changed. He became hard and even mean at times. In defense, I lashed out at him.

My lawyer was right: Strike while the iron is hot. Get promises in writing. Rely on your instincts. (I knew something was off, even though I didn’t have proof.) And take the high road. Your spouse may not notice your nobility, but your friends and family will. In the end their support, friendship and compliments propped me up and helped me to move on and begin my life anew.


On Dating

A friend of mine left her husband, Chris, about five years before my own marriage broke up. His reaction, understandably, was one of anger and pain, and he turned to his best friend for solace, a man he would go rock climbing with. They would also go biking or play racquetball, the typical manly stuff. Two weeks after his wife left him, Chris was having an affair with his friend’s wife.

The relationship had begun innocently. Listening to his tale of woe, she had tried to console him, and one thing led to another. The friend found out and all hell broke loose. In the end, Chris lost his marriage and best friend. The friend in turn divorced his cheating wife. There was so much acrimony that the kids from both households were deeply affected, having to listen to one set of parents bash the other set. We all stood on the sidelines helplessly watching this train wreck, asking Chris, "Why, why?" His reply, unbelievably, was that he couldn't help himself.

Chris’s situation leads me to rule number one in the dating game: Don’t date a friend, or the ex-spouse or significant other of a friend, no matter how lonely or hurt you are, or how much you are tempted. The repercussions are usually not worth it.

I have experienced this situation first hand. I began dating a man I’d known for a long while. He and his girlfriend had been very supportive over the years. They never lived together and after 6 years of seeing each other, it was clear that the relationship was in limbo. I asked my friend if he was every going to marry Lisa. He hemmed and hawed and mumbled something about her kids and his kids and complications in scheduling, blah, blah, blah. I had also noticed a distinct tension between them the last time I saw them together, which was three years ago. When I realized that I was attracted to my male friend, I disappeared rather than complicate matters. This was easy, as I lived in a different city.

Last year he drove through town on his way back from the beach. We caught up on recent events, and he mentioned everything and everyone except Lisa. We explored a romantic relationship for about 6 weeks after his visit, mostly be email and phone, and a few overnight visits. I assumed, because he is a decent and honorable man and because I wanted their relationship to be over, that he and Lisa were no longer a steady item. My girlfriends, when I voiced my doubts, were very supportive of me, telling me that all was fair in love and war. I wanted a relationship so badly that I went against my own instincts and fell head over heels in puppy love.

It took another few months for our romance to completely peter out. After our affair was over, I surmised from a few verbal slips (using we instead of me) that he had taken Lisa to some big events, such as a wedding and college reunion.

This short relationship affected the quality of my friendship with him. Where before it had been laced with humor, natural ease, and tons of affection, we are now quite polite with each other. And my friendship with Lisa is completely over. I had not seen her for quite a few years, but we had kept in touch through an occasional email and yearly Christmas cards. I cannot (and would not) be so hypocritical as to pretend that nothing had happened. Feeling an enormous amount of guilt, I stopped communicating with her altogether. This is the first time in over a decade that I have not received a Christmas card from her.

In the end, I wound up altering my special close relationship with one friend and losing another because of a short- term and ultimately meaningless dalliance. Was it worth it? In my estimation, no. Had I listened to my inner voice and maintained some control over my emotions, I would have realized how foolish my actions were.

We lose so many friends after a divorce. This is natural, as some people will gravitate to your spouse, or others will feel so uncomfortable with the situation that they drop completely out of sight. So before you begin to date someone who travels within your social circle, ask yourself, "What repercussions can I expect if we break up?" "Would other friendships be affected as well?" "Can I live with the consequences?" If you don't like the answers to any of these questions, then don't even think about dating that person.


Humor will get you everywhere

My dear friend Leslie died from breast cancer in June. During my divorce, she called every day. There were times when I was so lonely and exhausted from crying that I didn't know what to do. I would begin pacing, and then suddenly the phone would ring. It was always Leslie telling me she was thinking about me.

She would listen to my tale of woe for the day, then she would say something that would make me laugh. Both of us had a ridiculous sense of humor that, during this period, bordered on the macabre. After her phone call, I always felt better. With one simple act she had told me that I mattered and she had made me smile.

Shortly after I got a dog from the pound (which Bob had forbidden me to do. Hah!), Leslie sent me a refrigerator magnet that said this:

"I got a dog for my husband. It was an even trade."

I had a good laugh, but felt sad at the same time. I wanted both the dog AND my husband. This world lost a gem when Leslie lost her battle with the dreaded big C. God, how I miss her! The point of this post is that even during the darkest times you can find something to smile about. The people who seem to move through a difficult period with their sanity and humor intact are those who can stand back from their misery and see a larger world and their place in it. Life's too short to waste a large amount of your energy on something (or someone) you can't change.

What you CAN change is yourself and your attitude towards the situation. Thank God I had Leslie to keep me on an even keel. Here are a few more funnies Leslie would have enjoyed batting back and forth with me:

"I've never been married, but I tell people that I'm divorced so they won't think something's wrong with me." -- Elayne Boosler

Half of all marriages end in divorce.
That's not as bad as it sounds. The other half ended in death."

Former Education Secretary William Bennett attended a modern wedding where the bride and groom pledged in their wedding vows to remain together "as long as love shall last."
Bennett said, "I sent paper plates as my wedding gift."

Attitude and healing

This modest blog is intended to help someone who is experiencing the excrutiating first steps of divorce. It had not occured to me that a person who has been divorced for a while would also be interested in reading these pages, but that seems to be the case. I'm humbled and thrilled to know this.

The hardest adjustment you'll need to make as a divorced person (or someone who is going through divorce) is in your attitude towards the divorce, your mate, and yourself. I am a child of divorce and I was determined to create a successful marriage. My determination was so great that toward the end of my marriage I had twisted myself into a pretzel trying to achieve my husband's vision of what a good wife should be and do. Notice I said my husband's vision, not my own. Toward the end, nothing I did pleased him. After agreeing to some crucial life-changing compromises (not having a child, for example, or pursuing my own career) he left any way.

It took all my strength of will not to start playing the blame game, or to beat myself up for having made some of these choices. I was a willing accomplice in our joint decisions, and the one factor that helped me to move on, the one decision I made that helped me to heal, was to make an adjustment in attitude. My attitude went from "Why is he doing this to me?" to "It wasn't all his fault. It takes two to tango, and I missed some steps along the way."

As soon as I recognized my role in our failed dance of intimacy, I had something I could work on and learn from. My attitude adjustment not only freed me from blaming him, it freed me from regretting my past choices. We grow strong by learning from our mistakes. But, if your attitude is that it's all someone else's fault, then you've missed out on the opportunity to learn something about yourself.

In analyzing why some of my friends seem to cope with life's harsh realities better than others, I've come up with a few(unscientific) observations about their characteristics. People who are able to rebound quickly and move on are generally

* people with a positive outlook.
* people who are able to reach out to others.
* people who actively pursue interests that nurture their souls.
* people who set goals and pursue them, making new ones if the old ones don't work.
* people who don't let past mistakes bog them down.
* people who possess inner strength.
* people who are able to laugh at their own foibles and mistakes.
* people of faith, who find solace in their belief and in their church community.
*people who view life as a journey, where every experience, good or bad, builds strength and character.

This attitude adjustment did not come easily. And I still find myself saying once in a while, "What if..." or "I should have ..."

But the situation is what it is. Why keep beating yourself up or your ex, for that matter? Life has dealt us a certain set of cards, and it's the way we play the game that counts.


Surviving the Holidays

There's no way to get around it: Cheer and glad tidings surround you during the holidays, but chances are you don't feel very festive. In fact, you probably feel more alone than ever, especially if you find yourself at a party surrounded by couples. How can you possibly get through this period with your sanity intact and without getting even more depressed? I'm no expert, but these steps worked for me:

Do something totally different your first holiday alone. If you've never traveled at Christmas before, travel. Whatever you do, don't try to revive your old holiday traditions. You'll just be setting yourself up for heartache.

Do something for others. I immersed myself in charity work, filling stockings for salvation army children, knitting caps for chemo patients, and even looking into working at a soup kitchen. The extra benefit in doing such work is that you meet new people. You are also empowering yourself to get up and do something, and not passively waiting for things to happen to you.

If you get along with your family, spend the holidays with them. If you don't get along with your family, spend the holidays with a good friend. You need to be surrounded by people who care for you, won't pressure you or rag on you, and who are willing to listen when you need to talk.

Don't spend New Year's Eve in a large crowd with strangers or with a group of couples who have invited you as a tag along. There is no sadder feeling than to be alone among strangers when you are feeling so raw, or to be reminded in a group of couples that you are the lone single person. That first year find a cozier, more intimate situation. Or arrange to do something that you truly love to do, like skiing or hiking or watching old movies.

Control your weight and maintain an exercise regimen. Easier said than done, I know, but there's no headier feeling than feeling strong and fit. If you begin to eat all those Christmas sweets and goodies that people give you, you'll soon start to feel sluggish and even more depressed. This is the one area in your life where you can maintain some control. Just don't overdo it. Exercise moderation in all things, including alcohol.

Seek out an old friend at the start of the new year and begin an email relationship. I emailed a man I had met in New Zealand and wished him Happy New Year. We reestablished a connection (he was a friend of a friend), and we began to email each other daily. It was so nice to see his greeting in my inbox every morning. Our relationship went nowhere, but his male attentions stroked my ego during a fragile time in my life, and this boost acted like a tonic. This relationship had repercussions down the road, though. So be careful how you maintain your friendships with the opposite sex. (More on this subject later.)

If you are depressed to the point of inertia, click on this link. There are some excellent points of advice you can follow. Click here.


To Date or Not to Date, That is the Question

Separation before divorce takes a long time, especially if the couple is trying to work things out. Six months after Bob moved out, I began to realize that he was more distant from me than ever. If it hadn't been for therapy, he would have completely disappeared from my life.

He was very cagey about his complete absence, telling me he was busy. I learned much later that he was going to our lake property and dating our realtor, and visiting his brother and sister, looking for women to date among their friends. In fact he found his new wife through his sister that summer.

I only sensed something was different, but couldn't put my fingers on it. Besides, I had my own issues. It had been months since I'd had sex, and I was a healthy and good looking woman. And as I lost weight, I began to look better and better. I was also taking great pains to look good, especially with my hair and makeup.

So the irony was that while I felt so lousy inside and cried for hours at a time, men were beginning to notice me again. And so I contemplated the idea of dating. I was still shopping for lawyers (we'll pursue this subject later) and I brought the subject up to one. She immediately became alarmed and told me not to date anyone until the divorce papers were signed.

"Why?" I asked, puzzled. "My husband abandoned me and the marriage. It's not like I chose to be in this situation."

"Because," she explained patiently, "you would be legally regarded as having been unfaithful and in an adulterous relationship. If he found out, it would affect the amount of the settlement."

"What if I just went out with a man and not had sex? What if my husband was already dating?"

She shook her head no and cautioned me against taking this step and putting myself in a precarious legal position. So, if you're thinking about dating, but you are having problems coming to a financial agreement, and if things are becoming heated and complicated, hold off.

My male pen pal from New Zealand sent my dog a get well card after he'd been hit by a car. My doggie and Bob shared the same initials. The card was inadvertently delivered to my husband's apartment. That mistake cost tens of thousands of dollars. So the advice that lawyer had given me was correct: dating or even the perception of adultery can cost you a bundle before your divorce becomes final. If you can wait, do it. If you can't, understand there might be repercussions.


You are in control

I've discovered an enormous life lesson. There are so many things you can't control. The weather. The behavior of others. Fate. Your genetic makeup. Random intersections. Etc.

But you can control your attitude. You can choose to be empowered. You can also choose to be a victim, but why?

If you need sympathy and stroking, then give yourself permission to sit on your pitty pot for 10 minutes. Ten minutes. That's all. But then you've got to get off and face the day squarely.

Nothing turns friends off more than someone who continues to whine and cry, and is always full of self-pity. You might receive initial support from friends and relatives using those tactics, but after a short while the stable ones will drift away, tired of the ongoing chaos and drama.

Anchor yourself during this difficult time and find an area in your life that you can control. Do something that will give you an emotional rest, if even for a few minutes. Cooking elaborate rice dishes. Tending your garden. Pursuing your career or a degree. Knitting. Painting. Writing your thesis. Training your dog. Raising your beautiful children.

During the worst times of your divorce, you still have control over your attitude. You can choose to face the situation with dignity and courage, and, yes, even humor. And don't ignore your inner voice. If you listen to your instincts and remain true to yourself, you'll experience a smoother ride during this emotional storm and emerge a stronger person.

Laughter and healing

I discovered an amazing thing during my separation from Bob: You can't cry and laugh at the same time. Oh, sure, you can laugh so hard that tears roll down your cheeks. But, if you smile or laugh as your are crying, the tears will dry up.

I would scurry from one workplace to the next as I tended my three jobs. When alone in the car, I would usually cry. A song would set me off. Or a memory. Or just the horribleness of the situation. I wore dark glasses to hide my pathetic swollen eyes. At the frame shop job, I would claim allergies for my condition. Of course, no one believed me.

Laughter and my absurd sense of humor saved me on many a dark day. My friends will tell you I can be funny. Even my ex enjoyed my humor (and I suspect he misses it, as his new wife is rather serious.) At parties, Vic could always be counted on to be jovial and cheery. And lest you think I'm a class clown, my nature is cheery. I just simply like to have fun.

By sheer accident I discovered how healing humor can be. Even during my darkest hours I could crack a joke. My humor put my friends at ease. It made me smile. It made them smile. It brought healing.

So when you find yourself crying buckets of tears, think of something wonderful and smile. Rent funny movies and laugh your heart out. Play with a puppy. Tickle a baby. Read a funny book. Nurture yourself with laughter. You'll feel better. Really.

Joint bank accounts

Bob closed our joint bank account one month after our separation. Since I depended on his income to pay the mortgage and most of my bills, this step felt threatening. It increased my anxiety about my financial future. His assurances that he would take care of me fell on deaf ears. Hadn't he promised lifelong fidelity and love? Wasn't he breaking those promises?

I was also unaware that one spouse could close a joint account without the other spouse's knowledge or signature. Second, I had very little independent income at my disposal - less than $2,000 plus the tiny salary I earned from my three part time positions.

My advice to anyone whose spouse has left them is to make sure that you open a new bank account with as much money as you can free up. My dependence on Bob during this delicate time placed me in a powerless position, and my feeling of helplessness and dependency affected our counseling sessions. I never quite felt like his equal during those times.

On being so tired you can't see straight

Eventually I found three jobs.

I worked 8 hours at a nonprofit writing thank you notes. Then I worked at a frame shop for up to 20 hours per week. The pay was lousy. I made $8 an hour at the nonprofit and $6.75 at the Frame Shop. It didn't matter. These jobs got me out of the house.

Eventually I found a 3-month position at a local univerity, evaluating the effectiveness of a grant project. I could work up to 39 hours in this position. Between these three jobs, and driving from one to the next, and my twice weekly counseling sessions, I had very little free time and would tumble into bed exhausted.

I also had a new dog, one I had found at the SPCA. My wee little companion required lots of walks. Some weeks I worked almost 70 hours, which left me with very little free time. This turned out to be therapeutic. Eventually I cut out the nonprofit job, and reduced the frame shop hours to 12 per week.

I made very little money. And I worried about my financial future. But I just kept plugging away, taking each day as it came, hoping that counseling would help save my marriage.

Knife-edged pain

Our separation lasted eleven months before our divorce. At times the pain hit me so hard that I thought I wouldn't survive. Once I recall stumbling down the hall to the bedroom, gripping the walls, unable to stand the knive-edged pain in my body. I had no place to go. My grief was all encompassing.

Great gulping sobs heaved from my throat. I wailed. I moaned. I keened from pain so elemental that I curled into a fetal position wishing myself away from the horror of losing my husband, my best friend, and the man who had filled my thoughts for 32 years.

My new SPCA doggie didn't know what to do during those moments. Dealing with his own loss (he'd been abandoned at eight) he would circle around me, tail between his legs. I was inconsolable. And so alone. And the person I needed the most - my husband, my friend - was not available.

During the worst times I would call a man (an old college friend) who had just been divorced. He would reassure me in a calm voice, telling me I wasn't crazy and that he'd felt the same way. He would let me talk until my tears were spent and I had no more words left. After ten, fifteen minutes I would feel sane again. Then I would ask him how he was doing. He had just found a girlfriend and was recovering slowly from his own loss. He had small children, so he had to deal with his ex on a daily basis. Two years after she'd left him he was still grappling with his own raw-edged feelings. This man, my lifelong friend, was my salvation during these dark hours. Another couple, with whom I remained close, would have me over frequently for dinner or ask me to spend the weekend with them.

If I can give you any advice at all, I suggest that you choose your listeners wisely. Choose the ones who can help you during the most trying times and who have no need to stir up more drama. And remember to be kind to yourself. This is no time to beat yourself up about mistakes and what-could-have-beens.

If you're going through this horrendous period right now, take these words to heart: The white hot pain will subside. Allow yourself to grieve and (now I am sounding like an old cliche) just give it time.


Learning to be single again

Last night I ate dinner alone at a restaurant. I was surrounded by couples and families and friends. The noise felt good. But I sorely missed the companionship of a mate.

I've learned to eat alone in public. Weekdays are better than weekends. But I still feel self-conscious.

A silver-haired man my age sat at the bar eating and drinking. Everytime his eyes roamed in my direction they passed over me. They always landed on the 30-something women. I look good for my age and looked halfway decent last night, especially my hair. But to most men I've become another invisible middle-aged woman who resembles their ex-wife or their mother.

My invisibility has reached a point where I just want to walk over to a man like that and shout: GROW UP! Give women your age a chance. LOOK AT US! But of course that won't happen.

Silly men. None of you know what you're missing. I'm fabulous, self-supporting, know a few tricks in bed, and can be uproariously fun and funny. But you've passed up another opportunity to find that out. I've stopped trying to be "available." If I'm interested in a man, I'll let him know by a look or a gesture. But I'm 57 years old, and my dry spell has lasted for over a year.

These days I'm concentrating on being with family and friends. I'm also learning to be my own best friend. What a revolutionary thought.

Survival Steps: Choose your friends wisely

Baby steps are so important when one is fighting for one's happiness. During the first few weeks after my husband and I separated, the world as I had known it had disappeared. In my new emotional state I felt I had no future - at least, it wasn't the one that I had planned or wanted.

So I took each day as it came, sticking to a strict regimen, forcing myself to maintain a schedule, exercising, eating what I could, talking to a few select friends whose judgment I respected, and seeking a job with benefits.

If I looked too far ahead all my anxieties would crowd out any good thoughts I managed to retain. I fought fear at every step. It took all my energy to survive the emotional pain I was going through. If the pain became unbearable, I would call a friend whose judgment I trusted. Two close friends made themselves available when I needed to babble. They simply listened, rarely making a judgment, and had the good sense to know that all I wanted was to connect with another human being. Nothing they said would have helped me in my raw state anyway. And they had the wisdom to understand this.

My advice to those who are seeking some guidance from this blog is to choose your friends wisely during this vulnerable time. You'll need someone else to think sensibly for you, someone who only has your best interests in mind, so don't choose a drama queen to lean on. And don't choose someone who just wants to one-up your situation, the kind that says "I know someone who had it way worse than you, or I know a woman who lost her house, and job, and children." Such talk doesn't help. In fact, it trivializes the pain you're going through and will make you feel worse.

If you allow yourself to feel the pain as you are experiencing it, to cry, and to lean on others (without too much self pity) your healing will begin so much sooner. During your darkest times, trust this hard won piece of knowledge I learned: You will survive and emerge a stronger, better person. Just give it time.

Reward yourself every day

(As a reminder: I was a full time wife who worked part time in a home office at the time my husband left me. I had no children or pets to care for.)

No matter how awful you feel, don't be tempted to lie around in bed or slouch around the house in your slippers. That morning when Bob left for work after dropping the bomb, I took a shower, put on some nice clothes and makeup, and went to work in my home office looking like a million dollars.

I found a part time job by calling a friend, who asked me to start an 8-hour position writing thank you letters to people who had made donations to her nonprofit. A job was a job, and I took it. Anything to take me out of the house!

I stuck to a daily routine and schedule to prevent myself from sinking into depression.

I also joined an exercise club that was offering a two week free membership. Just leaving the house daily, looking good, and being among people helped.

Within one week I rewarded myself by purchasing a brand new outfit for work. It was just after Christmas, and the sales were in full swing. So, while I was bleeding on the inside, I looked great on the outside.

You wouldn't think it would work, but it helped.



Depression can take so many forms after your mate leaves. In my case I slept and stopped eating.

Let me explain. I've been an insomniac all my life. The first night after Bob told me he was leaving, I slept like a baby. I went to bed at 10:00 p.m. and did not wake up until 8:00 a.m. the following morning. I'd slept a solid 10 hours! And this occured every night.

However, food tasted metallic. I could not eat. And within six months I'd lost 25 lbs. and about 4 dress sizes. Everyone told me how great I looked, but I felt like shit. I felt rejected and lost and rudderless. I had no guidelines and didn't have a clue on how to behave. Just be aware that depression takes on many shapes. The blanket of deep sleep is one of them.

Not eating is another. (Whereas some will seek solace in food.) Just keep on nurturing yourself the best way you know how. Don't play the blame game. You'll hear enough blame from the spouse who is leaving, so be your own best friend. I know. Easier said than done.


Separation: On Learning He was Leaving

I remember feeling utterly calm that Monday morning in January when my husband, Bob, told me he was moving out of the house and into an apartment the following Saturday. At hearing his words, my suspicions clicked into place.

I had surmised that something was terribly wrong with our relationship. He had, after all, practically stopped speaking to me and moved into another bedroom. Now the worst that I feared had happened - he was leaving. I felt myself grow cold all over but managed to remain calm. There was no shouting and very little crying. Months later I realized that I had gone into emotional shock.

Bob held me after he announced the news, more tender than he had been in months. I clung to him and said without begging, "Please don't leave, we can fix this."But he remained resolute, telling me he would not change his mind. He promised he would work on fixing our marriage and that he would see a counselor with me, but that he needed the time to be alone. "I need my space."

In those first few surreal minutes, I clung to the belief that Bob was serious about saving our marriage. What else could I do? We had been married for 26 of the 32 years I had known him. I was 50 years old and staring a birthday in the face. We were childless, and I had concentrated all my efforts on his career, not mine. Consequently I did not have a fulltime career, but dabbled at working parttime and volunteering.

We did not shout or fight. I cried silently but not copiously, since my hope for resolving this situation quickly gave me a false sense of calm.

Bob left for the university, where he taught accounting, and I was alone in my silent house. Christmas decorations filled every room, mocking me. Presents were still strewn around the tree and in the livingroom, as we had opened our packages after returning from a trip to his family home to bury his mother. It was 2000, the beginning of the new millenium. My New Year's resolution had been to urge him to go to counseling with me to discuss the state of our marriage and his deep depression.

Before he left for work, Bob had warned me not to call a lawyer. That if I did, he would not seek counseling with me. Still calm, I got dressed for the day and walked to my basement office to make a few calls. First I informed my parents about the situation. Then I called two friends, one who had once been a practicing attorney, and asked them for the names of some divorce attorneys.

I made up my mind in those supremely lonely hours that no matter what happened, no matter how scary things got, I would make all my own decisions. I took Bob's warning for what it was: a self-serving threat that had nothing to do with my welfare.

The intricate dance of separation had begun.