2/25/12

Divorced after 44 years

I talked with my mother this morning. (I am so blessed to still have her and treasure each of our conversations.) She told me about a couple from high school. "Did I remember them?" she asked.

"Yes, but not clearly," I said.

"He's left her for a 57-year-old woman he met during scuba diving lessons. They were both taking the same class."

"How long were they married?"

"Forty-four years."

That's all I needed to know. My heart goes out to this woman who married her high school sweetheart, raised children with him, and saw his business grow to the point where they owned four houses - their main residence and three vacation homes.

I met them once shortly after my own divorce - they were a good looking couple who had lived the American dream and were enjoying all the good things they had worked so hard to acquire. When he decided to take scuba diving lessons I doubt that she had reason to worry. She wasn't into it (neither am I - even snorkeling gives me an awful sense of the ocean closing in on me). She had always encouraged her husband's need for adventure, and the scuba lessons were just another phase. When you love your spouse, you encourage them to pursue their interests. I believe this whole heartedly. Interestingly, my brother's reaction was that if the wife had taken those lessons with her husband, then this bad thing wouldn't have happened to her.

The cheating husband fell in love with his paramour, liking her sense of adventure, and left his wife and grown children in favor of a new life and woman. He left despite knowing that his children loathed him for leaving their mother and won't have anything to do with him as long as he is with HER.

My mom didn't have to tell me anything about the abandoned wife's emotional state. I know. We all know, don't we? She's experiencing horrific emotional pain. She's in the depths of despair and mourning. Almost everything in her life has changed. She's feeling betrayed and as if she's walking on quicksand. Nothing feels solid. Her self-confidence is gone, she's probably depressed, and all the joy has been sucked out of her.

Mom told me she was an old-fashioned woman, meaning that she has never had to work. Mom's first worry was: "How will she find a job?"

I reminded her that with four houses on the market she would probably be financially well off (better off than most of us). I am sure her grown children are there to support her, and will help her find a lawyer and secure her finances. But at the end of the day she will be alone in bed, consumed with fear for the future, feeling abandoned, and wondering "Was it my fault?" "What could I have done?"

Nothing really. While it takes two to make a marriage, and while no one in a divorce is completely blameless, there is absolutely nothing one can do, short of blackmail or other desperate measures, to prevent a spouse from deserting the marriage once their mind is definitely made up.

I hope she isn't kicking herself and blaming herself for not taking those scuba lessons with him. This is no time for recrimination. More than anything, she needs to be kind to herself, as if she is her own best friend. Regrets, "what ifs", and "shoulds" must be set aside - subjecting yourself to such circular thoughts prevents clear thinking and slows down the process of healing. (My mom, bless her, allowed me to get on my pitty pot for 15 minutes per day, then she would bluntly tell me to get off. This gave me an opportunity to vent my feelings - which ranged from anger, to fear, to grieving - without dwelling too long on the negative. Negative emotions, my wise mother believes, are poisonous and prevent healthy healing from taking hold.)

During the first month of our separation I was hopeful, thinking initially that marriage counseling would help my situation. All it did was convince my ex that his decision to abandon me was the right one. One lawyer advised me: "Once a spouse leaves with furniture (my ex had taken the guest room furniture, all his clothes, and the contents of his office) the chances of his returning are close to zero." This very astute individual gave me this advice when, in desperation, I was seeking a legal way to slow down the divorce. I simply wasn't ready to deal with all these rapid changes.

"Too bad," he said. Instead of holding my hand and sympathizing with me, he coolly told me to assess my situation and salvage what I could financially. Looking back, his advice was sound. But at the time, during the height my grieving phase, I thought him callous and cold.

My advice to my old high school chum, if she were to ask, would be to choose your friends wisely. You'll need a positive, clear-thinking support system to help you get through the worst months. Choose your lawyer coolly. Make sure this individual has the expertise and know-how to advocate for you in the manner that reflects your philosophy.

I did not choose the first lawyer who crossed my path. The first one, a casual friend, advised me to withdraw all the money from our joint account and stash it away. I knew this would be a declaration of war and I did not seek her advice again. (Interestingly, my ex closed our joint account a month later, leaving me with nothing but $2,000. He paid the mortgage and utility bills, but I worked 3 part-time jobs at $7 - $8 an hour so I could eat, buy work clothes, purchase gas, and the like.)

The second lawyer gave me excellent advice, but I could not afford him.

A third lawyer handed me wads of tissues as I cried, and a folder with a stash of papers 1/2" thick. I was to ferret out all the financials so that I could take my ex to the cleaners. All I wanted was what I was due, which was a 50-50 split. So I left.

We (my ex and I) then both opted for a mediator who helped to divide our assets. Another lawyer friend told me: "The time to draw up the documents is when you are both slightly unhappy with your agreement. There will NEVER be a time when both of you will feel content. Some divorces are drawn out (and become prohibitively costly) over emotional issues that will never be resolved by the things you own. Don't put your equity at risk because you are angry or hurt, and want to win at all cost." That was such good advice. Letting go is the hardest but the most mature thing to do. When I reached a point were I was slightly unhappy, I stopped negotiating.

I then turned to a lawyer to draw up the legal documents and make sure that everything we agreed upon was included. He said to me: "You've got a good deal. Most women would never get this much." I took umbrage and said, "I am getting 50% after 26 years. How is that a good deal? It is a FAIR deal."

As I was fighting for my financial security and trying to think logically, I cried. I cried in the car. Cried in the lawyer's office. Cried quietly at my desk at work. Cried in the movie theater and while grocery shopping. Cried in the bathrooms of my friends' houses, so they wouldn't see me sad.

I began wearing dark sunglasses so people would not notice my puffy eyes. I cried so much at home that my poor rescue dog's emotional stability was seriously affected. He was going through his own issues of abandonment, and here he had the bad luck to get a mistress who was miserable most of the time. It took him two years to feel comfortable in my home, poor doggie, but in the end we loved each other so much that all was forgiven.

I imagine that my former high school acquaintance is going through a similar miserable phase just now. I will tell her, if she ever asks me, that this phase is temporary. Oh, it will feel like it will never end, but (unbelievable as it may seem) it will.

I would tell her to find something to be passionate about, something that will take her outside of herself and that will fill her life with meaning. For me it was writing this blog and opening my house to two Lost Boys from the Sudan. For another friend it was buying an old farm house and raising chickens, I kid you not. For my divorced sister-in-law it was cultivating her love for books and becoming a librarian.

My last piece of advice to her would be this: Keep yourself open to all the possibilities. Don't put road blocks in place and don't hide behind a wall of fear. Don't let anger rule you. Follow your passions. Use your talent. Find a way to move on, and trust that something new will emerge. Life will go on. It will just be different.


39 comments:

www.mydivorcestory.net said...

Love your blog. Just found it and I've already read many of your wonderful posts. My divorce became final last month. I would have been married for 25 years this year...and we were together 5 years before marrying...my entire adult life. I just turned 51 and also started a blog. I hope you'll take a look. I love the sharing. Susan (www.mydivorcestory.net)

Anonymous said...

I hate the anonymous comments on my own blog but it's easier isn't is? Anyway I just happened upon yours and read through the first post, had flashbacks regarding my own divorce. Didn't make me feel better. I was the one, the cheating husband, who blindsided a sweet and devoted, talented wife. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I think I lost my friggin' mind during that entire time- my early 40s, naturally. Your description of a woman's feelings of abandonment are spot on and make me sad for us all, that we could treat another human being, specifically one who loves us, this badly. I hope I've somehow repaid the karma I've earned.

Jianna Gonzalez said...

Keep blogging.

mike said...

This is a good blog and more people should do the same! I was in a similar position after 30 years of marriage. I sought some separation advice and it really helped see my world in a different light.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a crazy story. Thanks, this helps a lot with my own divorce. Also, for anyone looking for additional advice, I found this website really helpful: http://www.sharewik.com/videos/2124138

Anonymous said...

Women file for divorce 70% of the time and men suffer horribly because of it.

I wish it were socially acceptable for men to tell their stories, stories that are never heard because of the scorn and denial people use to keep them untold.

Vic said...

I agree with you, anonymous. Men's voices are not often heard. It is hard for me to write from a male perspective, although I try to stay away from male bashing in general.

I think that women tend to share their stories and men tend to hold them in. You have given me an idea, however, which is to relate the truly horrific tale that a male friend told me. He emerged from his divorce a broken man, in both spirit and pocket book, and it took him a long time to recover.

I hope you don't get the sense about this blog that it blames all men. I can only hope that more men will start their own blogs to communicate how they recovered after divorce.

memory said...

Interesting sub-heading on your blog. My mother always said - as I listened to rock music espousing "I love you too much to ever be your friend..." Nonsense - If you ever truly want to be in love and stay with someone you'd better be darn good friends, first! I like your blog and wish I'd found it during the hardest part of my divorce. Mine btw said "we were just like friends living together" - and that's why she left, lol. I will continue to follow this as I like your whole setup and premise. If you get a chance visit the meanderings on http://www.cheersfearsandtears.com

Anonymous said...

I am a man that is initiating the divorce after 33 years of marriage.

In spite of how hard I tried to romance my wife, she never returned my affection. We almost always slept in separate rooms (her choice) and sex was something I could vaguely recall although I very much wanted it. I had flowers delivered for numerous occasions (anniversary of the day we met for example), told her how much I loved her, etc. No return. I lost all self confidence because of her lack of attention or affection to me. We lived like brother and sister and I kept reminding her of that through the years. She would dismiss it as silly.

Will it come as a surprise to anyone that when another woman paid attention to me, I fell in love with her. So, I am the one now initiating. And my wife was completely surprised. She says we had a perfect marriage and tells everyone that I have just left her for another woman.

I don't see very often in print that men need affection and love as well. A marriage takes work and attention by both parties constantly.

I'm not at all implying this was your situation, just giving another perspective on what can happen and that men have stories as well. I feel like a jerk sometimes for leaving my wife of so many years, but at the same time, I realize I deserve to be happy and to be loved and to feel loved.

family trusts camberley said...

Divorcing someone is not easy especially if you have old good memories already. Facing the anxiety is hard, but we must move on and thank God for another chapter of life.

Post divorce advice said...

The blog is really good. The title for this post really keeps one, interested into what it really explains.
Yes its really hard to separate from a person with whom we have already spent half of our life.The feelings are well expressed which a woman goes through after the divorce or when she is going through the process.
But sometimes, some things are bound to happen which really change our views towards life making it hard to digest.
The very last paragraph in the post acts as a catalyst to accept the sudden changes though it takes sometime.
Post divorce advice helps you accepts these changes and gives you tips to lead a better life.Love your blog.

Roxy | No Fault Divorce Pennsylvania said...

There are unexpected problems that occur in a marriage and when that time comes, you will surely find it valuable to have the right support group to be by your side.

san mateo windshield replacement said...

A lot more tougher than the usual. Separation after long years is stressful.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad to hear of any break ups after several years together. God created marriage, two become one and it is never the same when you hook up with another partner. I don't want to make excuses for men or women, but there are so many factors that come into play. It can be financial, women going through menopause, men and their changes and the biggest, lack of God. Even though, many got married in the church, vowed before God and witnesses, but just gave up. So you take your hurts and habits to the next relationship, that fails. So what is the solution? Faith! Hope! In your self, your spouse, God to restore. I am sorry and it saddens me to see such sadness. Please forgive me if this offends anyone when they read this.

Heather said...

Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! I have a question about your blog. HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com

Darcy Nimmons said...

Aww. This is so heartbreaking. You guys probably have been so much together. I’m sorry you have to go through that. I feel you my friend. It’s okay to be sad though. Cry it all out today, but promise everyone, especially your mother that you are going to be okay. Do not weep for too long. Continue living your life to the fullest! There is so much in life worth living and smiling for. Focus on the things you love to do. Move on and let everything go as much as possible. You have your friends and your family who are still there, to love and rescue you from all of these. I’m sure you have learned so much from your experiences and I thing that’s enough. I really hope you'll be okay soon. SMILE!

Darcy Nimmons

Lucille Graboff said...

i have also just gotten divorced after 30 years of marriage. Just starting to see the light. Your description of emotions is dead on.Also started a blog last week on the day my divorce became final http://stillhavetoeat.blogspot.com/. It is helping me to heal. You have given me hope that things can and will get better.

Mark Keenan said...

Well done on an excellent and inspiring post. We are seeing many more people getting divorced 50 plus as the kids leave home and the couple find they have nothing in common. Sad but why should people stay in unhappy marriages.

Margareth said...

You described the pain you feel when you see your whole life falling apart so well. Thank you for this post.

Mike said...

I know how hard it is to lose a wife and a best friend. Her part in your life is done and now, you just have to wait for the next set of persons to come into your have to open yourself to a whole new adventure. She’s gone on her own journey, and maybe it’s time for you to go on a journey of your own, a better one. It’s going to be hard, but give it time.

Mike Clark

David Jacks said...

I appreciate your blog about divorce. If any of your clients require a Las Vegas family lawyer, I would be happy to assist. My Las Vegas law firm handles divorce , child custody in Las Vegas, and modification of alimony after divorce or child support modification after divorce in Las Vegas .

sham said...

Great article...thank you.
I also came across another site which had another article which I believe can complement this article.it is found here at http://www.successismyname.com/2012/06/30/divorce-the-impact-on-children-and-you/. Put both these articles together and the reader have a better perspective and understanding of the divorce and its impacts.

Good luck all

Anonymous said...

I give. How do you leave "your wife and . . . grown children?" Because of the slavery issue (aka alimony), many men hate their marriages but won't leave them because of the financial cost. When they meet someone who makes them feel alive and valued, the cost becomes secondary. Marriage is, primarily, a financial contract with unlimited consequences. Contrary to the anti-gay crowd, I would rather no one was able to marry than people who don't understand the depth of what they're getting into. And almost no young person does or can.

However, the "grown children" are old enough to figure out where they stand; on their father's side or on the mother's. They are not, or should not, be dependent on their father and have no financial say in their parents' future lives. If they are boomerang kids, it's time to move out of Dad's basement boys.

BadspellersUntie said...

Thank you for writing this blog. And this article. I need to hear you and your struggle and it is relating to mine, and I thank you for encouraging us, because I definitely need that.

Rose ~ from Oz said...

Have just stumbled across your blog, and I see you haven't posted since February. I sincerely hope that you are alright and I will check in every once in a while to see if you have posted again. Your Blog is inspirational and informative, not to mention heart-achingly honest.
Please keep blogging.

timeshare exit said...

Copy all of your documents and gather all of the financial information you have.
You’ll need to get a handle on your finances like never before. Whether you are a financial professional, yourself, or whether you have not worked outside the home in 20 years, man or woman, you will need to know everything possible on your finances. And You’ll need to preserve it for your review and use in your upcoming divorce before the actual divorce starts.

Catherine said...

Thank you. I am going through a divorce after 30 years. It is stressful, confusing and very scary. Thank you for posting. Blessings, Catherine xo

Brian said...

This is a heart wrenching story that is, unfortunately becoming more and more common. Doesn't make it any easier for you though. Hopefully with the support of your children and family, you can get through this difficult time.

Randy Clap said...

While I think it's nice to talk to friends and family about different divorces they have been through, consulting with a family law lawyer is an important step to planning for your new future. Minneapolis is filled with people dying to be rid of their spouse for a finally at any cost. It's good to check out your options before you just give up on the long battle.

Divorce help needed said...

@anonymous - I love your new blog - please keep it up, reading about you ladies and your experiences always brings me comfort -- even in the most difficult times.

Thank you so much and god bless!

Cathie said...

Your description is making my divorce all to real again, but surprised too I have recovered so well too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this blog. It has helped me enormously. Please could you post even a short post so we know you are okay. Best wishes, Sinead

Mike said...

Divorce is probably one of the toughest events to go through in life. It is something no one wishes to happen and tries to avoid. However, if the situation really calls for it, you have to do it, especially when it is something both persons cannot settle anymore. During these times, it is best to seek the help and advice of a good lawyer to negotiate matters and come to an agreement.

Mike Clark

Susan said...

44 years down the drain. What a shame. I was in the same situation a while ago. The man I lived with for six years fell in love with my neighbour. Fortunately enough, we weren't married. They did, after I moved elsewhere. Just one year later, the two of them broke up and he tried to get back with me, but I already started a new relationship with one of his best friends. You should've seen his face...

Divorce Lawyer said...

Very interesting, Everyone wants to be in his/her life living happy. So that..

Anonymous said...

Women file because the men are lazy and cheap.Rather than facing the truth or making efforts to improve the relationship men hang around for the comfort and familiarity but shut down, and shut out their life partner. While often hiding assets and affairs men remain "married" only to belittle and abuse their wives!! SO Women file when left with no choice!!!!! You can only take so much.

Howard Iken said...

Hello,

My name is Howard Iken and I am the Managing Attorney at Ayo and Iken PLC and an expert on divorce law. I am very impressed by the amount of helpful divorce information you have on your blog and I was hoping I could contribute some information myself in the form of an article. If this is something you would be interested in, please email me at - howardiken@gmail.com and we can discuss the details further!

Regards,
Howard

Anonymous said...

Please give us an update. I too am divorced at 50. I just found your blog.

Sinead said...

Very much enjoyed and benefited from your blog.

Hope you're okay.

If possible please post an update.

Best wishes,

Sinead