When I finally decided that I was really going to do it, to take the step I'd been
debating for years and leave my marriage, I was an utterly terrified wreck. I must
have sobbed every day for at least a year. I was a thirty-seven year old mother of
four, and chief among my fears, in no particular order, were:
- My kids will be traumatized for life.
- No one will ever love me again.
- No one else is divorced; I'll be surrounded by loving couples everywhere.
- My husband is right: I'm a horrible person and won't be any happier alone or
with anyone else.
- People will pity me -- the word "divorcee" drips with a pathetic sort of shame
Four years later, none of these things turn out to be true.
- Psychotherapists and lawyers all assured me that if kids feel loved by both
parents and don't witness much hideous behavior, they'll be fine, and that
appears to be the case.
- Men are a'plenty if you're willing to work at it.
- People get divorced every day; I'm definitely not alone.
- I'm not a horrible person, I was just in a horrible situation. We're both
- People may have pitied me for a bit, but now I think some probably envy
me, and ironically, in a twist of perspective, I've come to love the "divorcee"
moniker; I think it has a glamorous ring to it.
And I've discovered bona-fide perks, which I'll share with you now, to give you
hope in the event you're where I once was:
- 1. The Divorce Diet: I'm a person who eats under any circumstances. I didn't lose weight while I
watched my mother die of cancer. I'm more likely to eat when I'm depressed or
stressed out than anything else, but for some reason everyone who is getting a
divorce gets really skinny. My husband and I each lost 15 pounds in a matter of
months. It was fabulous. Of course the weight eventually came back, but it was
fun while it lasted.
- Having your Kids Half the Time
This seems like it's going to be the worst thing imaginable, and at first, it is. For
the first year of my separation, I would dread Wednesday nights and alternate
weekends, never sure how to fill my time. Sometimes I'd go sit at the bar of my
favorite restaurant and drink wine and read the New Yorker, pretending to enjoy
my solitude but really just petrified by the emptiness. I'd mope around my house
crying, wondering if the kids were having more fun at Daddy's, wondering if
they were sad, or if they missed me. But then, over time, we all started getting
used to the routine, and it sunk in that my kids have a great father and they
need to see him as much as they do me, so I started to relax when I was alone,
and slowly discovered the pleasures of my time off. No one to cook for, or clean
up after! The quiet! Hours spent on the couch reading a novel! Spontaneous
weekend trips! Lazy Sunday mornings in bed with my lover! It's heaven. The
best babysitting you could ever get, and you know your kids are loved and where
they need to be.
- Having the Bed to Yourself
And all the other ancillary follow-ups to that -- not needing to consult with
someone about every little decision, not having to compromise all the time.
Being able to just make the call about where to go on vacation, what to serve
for dinner, which gift to send to Grandma, what color to paint the hallway, how
much to spend on what. Just like having your kids half the time, at first all this
freedom is terrifying, and that's a normal part of the process, but I promise you,
it soon becomes addictive.
- Not Living With Someone who Makes You Hate Yourself
This should probably be at the top of the list. For all the dark, dark days and
nights I spent agonizing over whether I should leave my husband, the two years
of tears shed, the pain inflicted on our kids, families, and friends, this has been
worth it. Even when I think I'll be alone forever, when I miss being married,
when I fear for my future, I have to remind myself that I no longer spend my
days feeling angry, frustrated, ignored, and unloved. What a gift! My future is
now my own to navigate, and I'm free from the tyranny of a bad marriage.
- Sex with New People!
Ok, this is obvious, and it has a flip side, but it's mostly good. The world of dating
post-divorce needs it's own column, but suffice it to say: it's fascinating being
middle-aged and knowing what we know, with all the mistakes we've made and
baggage we have, and getting out there and meeting new people, trying to find
someone to love. It's not easy, but it's a hell of a lot better than being in a bad
marriage, and it reminds you that the world is full of endless possibility. And