Is there such thing as a peaceful divorce? Anyone involved with the process of divorce looks at that and thinks no way, not possible. There is nothing truly peaceful about taking your life (whether it's your choice or not) and halving it. But Ashley Davis Bush offers six great steps on how to achieve just that in her article, 6 Steps to a Peaceful Divorce. The first step she writes about, "Own Your Part," makes sense as a first step towards peace and is one I have been contemplating since my first blog entry about my divorce, and the comments I receive there. Many asked about my guilty conscience, and one in particular told me to apologize to my ex. Since then, the notion of an apology and of owning my own part has occupied my thinking. So in hopes of achieving the peace promised by Davis Bush, I offer this accounting of my part.
Ignoring fundamental parts of myself: When I found myself in an exciting new relationship with my ex, our differences dazzled me. I liked then and still like now learning new things and being a part of new experiences. He showed me things I didn't know before. But in the process of joining these new things, I lost sight of some of the fundamentals that made up my core -- my touchstones if you will. A biggie in this category is my belief in God as a force in our lives, a belief that defines part of who I am -- my worldview. This wasn't a fundamental belief we shared, which is okay -- people do not need to believe the same things. But I downplayed my belief and set it aside in an attempt to fit in, to join this new unit we were creating. In losing this part of myself, denying it in small ways, I wasn't able to authentically be and connect to my ex fully.
Mistaking Passionate Arguing for Passion of Heart: When we were first together, our arguments gained notoriety among our friends. A girlfriend would ask me how I could "pop my top" about so much so often, and I just would just shrug it off. We always made up just fine. I mistakenly thought arguing meant we must have real passion, that we must have really cared for each other. It could have meant we just liked fighting and then making up.
Not Asking for Help: Here my Type-A personality, coupled with a strong conservative gender role upbringing, backfired completely. Unable to both ask for help and adhering to traditional gender roles while navigating life as a wife, mother, and wage earner presented a recipe for frustration and resentment. I let this resentment build up until it had no place to go but explode. And I suspect by not "needing" my ex, I didn't help us to build any bonds over shared communal strife either. I wish I had Dr. Fran Cohen Praver's advice then.
Misreading Cues: Arguments happen in any relationship, and people are naturally defensive of their position. No one wants to be the bad guy, so charges are often followed by counter-charges. In these cases, I spent a lot of time listening to the charges against me and then trying very, very hard to make sure that the charge could never be leveled against me again. If it was presented that I didn't take his needs into account when I made dinner, I made damn sure I did so in the future. This striving to achieve unrealistic expectations spoken in heated moments certainly added to my frustrations and the tension in the house. Instead of reacting to the charges and trying to fix everything, I should have just listened to the emotion behind the charge and addressed things on a heart level, not a physical level. Which leads to the biggest cue I missed...
Biggest Cue: Throughout my life, I have always had male friends. I am much more comfortable talking about football or politics or making off-color jokes than I am talking about nail polish or dieting or the prequel to Sex in the City. Throughout my marriage, I maintained a close relationship with my best guy friend, a friend my ex and I shared. The three of us did everything together -- holidays, vacations, hobbies. While my ex would complain once and awhile about feeling left out when my friend and I did something without him, I failed to appreciate the gravity of his feelings, only fully appreciating them after separating. I misread the cues and failed to connect a variety of arguments and issues to this one source of discontent, which we never addressed head on in a meaningful way when it could have still made a difference. I should have realized this friendship could cause a wedge in our marriage. I didn't pay enough attention. And for that, I am sorry.
Some like Lisa Belkin question whether or not bloggers share too much about their divorces online. Belkin asks: "How much is more than you want to know? Is the blogosphere at its best when it serves as a group therapy session? Or at its worst?" But in writing this and putting it out into the world, I am hoping that it makes it easier for other people to take the same exploration, to see their own role in the undoing of their marriages, and perhaps find that peace that Davis Bush spoke of.