I was on the way to the gym when my older sister called me from New York to discuss my upcoming thirtieth birthday. It was six months away, but with such a big milestone she wanted to start planning way in advance. Did I want a huge party? Or a small dinner? Casual dress or cocktail attire or costume? Mermaid theme? Vampire theme? Mermaid and vampire theme? Who would I invite? Did I want to go somewhere? Vegas? Miami? Or did I want to stay in LA?
As I pondered these options, one definitive thought struck me: regardless of what city I was in, what I was wearing or what I planned, I didn't want my husband on the guest list. I didn't want him to be anywhere near me on my thirtieth birthday. He hated parties anyway. He hated small talk and putting on nice shoes and mermaid themes. All the rationalizations fell away and it became clear that he hated everything I loved and I hated everything he loved, so over the past 2 years of marriage we had just cancelled each other out and become one disgruntled passionless blob. I didn't want to be a blob on the precipice of a new decade. I wanted my thirties to be full of hope and promise and optimism. And I wanted my thirtieth birthday to be free of status quo mediocrity.
The thought that I didn't want my husband at my birthday party was both overwhelming and freeing, and struck me with such force that I burst into tears. And I am not a crier. Embarrassed and too shocked to express my newly uncovered feelings to my sister, I quickly got off the phone citing bad reception. I pulled into my gym parking lot and sobbed. And as I cried for the first time about the state of my marriage, this was the moment I knew I would get a divorce.
When staring at a Magic Eye image, once you let your eyes relax and can see the picture inside the picture, you can never go back and just see the initial surface image. That's how I felt once I had my "I should get a divorce" moment. All the red flags I had missed, or ignored, or tucked away came to the surface and it was no longer possible for me to be blind to them.
My ex and I only got engaged in the first place because I nagged him and gave him a "we've been dating for 3 years" ultimatum. When he did propose by rolling over in bed one night and saying, "So, how do you want to do this?" I jumped on the marriage train without questioning his lack of enthusiasm. I went to a jewelry store without him and bought my own engagement ring. I was pathetically desperate to have a ring on my finger but at the same time made a mockery of the symbol. While trying diamonds on, I had the distinct notion I should get something non-traditional so I could wear it on my right hand if we ever did get divorced. At our wedding the best man toasted, "to the best 5 years of your life!" Everyone laughed. He overshot it by 3 years. We never combined anything. We kept all books, CDs, bank accounts and cell phone plans separate. He joked he didn't want my Bon Jovi anywhere near his Ween but somewhere in the depths of our subconscious lingered the real reason we kept things divided. We knew it would be an easier divorce if we never mingled any of our belongings.
It wasn't until a couple months later that I got up the courage to express my feelings. I was at a party and ran into a guy I had dated. He asked how my marriage was going and without a beat I said, "Oh, I'm getting a divorce."
I had said the words out loud and now it was time to say them to my husband. When he finally got home I was lying on the bed. He walked into the bedroom and I sat up and said, "I need to talk to you."
There was a chair in the bedroom. A sturdy antique wooden chair upholstered in orange and red. Although it was comfortable, no one ever sat in it, not even my cat. It just sort of stayed in the corner adding color to the room. My husband, seeing the grave look on my face, sat down in that chair. I remember thinking it was strange that for such a momentous conversation he was sitting in a chair we so rarely used. It was as if we had placed it there two years earlier knowing one day this conversation would come.
"I'm unhappy. I think we should get a divorce."
He looked at me, not shocked, sort of numb, probably stoned, and said, "OK." It seemed he had also had a sobbing in the car moment and I was just the one to say the words first.