I was married for 19 years to a Dave who is a wonderful man, but I fell out of love with him years ago and have been very unhappy for some time. Our daughter, an only child, left for college last fall and I told him I wanted a divorce. I moved out and it has all been very amicable, although he tells me often he wants me back and would like to go to counseling together to see if we can save the marriage.
We went to counseling in the past but I realized long ago that the issue was quite simple: I just didn’t love him anymore. I love him as one loves a brother or a friend, but not a partner. I am still fairly young and from time to time I have met men through my work who seem to express an interest in me. I too have felt strong attraction for other men, which shouldn’t be too surprising since my love life at home died a quiet death many years ago.
I am writing you because the agreements have all been made and I received the final paperwork to sign last week. My husband and I have been talking and spending time together and when he isn’t around, I am feeling much loneliness and depression.
Have I made a mistake? Should I give this marriage another try?
Dear Toots (sorry, I can’t call you “Torn Up” because my mind is in the gutter and it makes me giggle):
Let me lead with my advice, give you some explanation of what I think you might be experiencing, and close with a personal anecdote. I am not usually so regimented in my writing but I’m running late and have yet to start yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn.
Should you delay signing the paperwork? I’d say yes. And with that, my work here is done…I’m off for a coffee and a massage.
Ah, but you know me well enough to know I can’t stop there.
We had a lengthy conversation, you and I, and from that talk I think I understand exactly what you are going through. While it is my opinion that you will eventually divorce your husband, I think taking a breather now will allow you to examine where you have been, where you are now and where you would like to be in the future.
Sidebar: I have to express my pleasure at how quickly you and your husband were able to come to an agreement about your property and finances. Of course, I wasn’t surprised when you told me you hired a mediator rather than divorce attorneys.
Unfortunately, that approach is only possible when two people see eye to eye on not destroying the family and pissing away all the money on lawyers who encourage fighting to increase their billable hours.
See this photo? This was a photo used for advertising around the world by a certain breed of divorce lawyers, including my own personal favorite (the Stahancyk firm here in Portland). This is the mentality that turns divorce into all-out war and renders both parties bankrupt while enriching the attorneys.
(Readers, you may have noticed I missed writing the Sunday Rant last week, so please see the previous three paragraphs and accept them in lieu of my usual weekly diatribe.)
OK: Where you have been is in a marriage for almost 20 years that was happy for a time but then decidedly unfulfilling for the last 5 or 6 years. You realized when your only child left the home that you couldn’t face a future alone with your husband because you found yourself wanting to smash his face with a hammer when he snored.
And also when he walked in the front door.
Where you are: you are living in a furnished condo that doesn’t feel like home. Your friends are acting weird about your divorce and seem intent on choosing sides between you and your husband, despite the friendly relationship between you both. Some of your oldest girlfriends don’t seem to want to spend time with you, hence your loneliness.
Get used to that. I know from personal experience that even in the best of circumstances, some people will dump you when you get divorced and usually the spouse who gets dumped by the friends is the one who is saddled with people’s perception of “blame” in the breakup, despite the fact none of us know what is happening inside a marriage unless it is our own.
Those people aren’t your friends and they never really were if they feel OK about shunning you for the crime of divorce. So fuck ’em.
Now let’s talk about where you want to be. You want to be in a loving partnership that has some passion and common goals. You are not yet 50 and still quite the horny little gal, and you seem dead sure that you will NEVER be able to reignite the spark between you and your husband. In fact, it was never really there, was it?
You have a good job and financial independence but you’d like to slow down at work and possibly retire early and travel the world, something you could not do before because you had a tough career and a child at home.
Finally, the idea of retiring and traveling the world with your husband makes you want to kill yourself. Your words during our talk, not mine.
You said your loneliness and depression increases after you spend time with your husband, but of course it does…he’s like your favorite old cardigan sweater that still hangs in the closet, year after year, that you can never quite bring yourself to donate to charity, even though you’d never be caught dead wearing it out of the house.
Also, your apartment doesn’t allow pets, and you miss your dog. Get a new apartment.
I don’t know you personally so it’s hard for me to answer whether I think your marriage can be saved, but I’m going to say “no” based on the simple evidence I see all around me. Once couples get to the point where you are – no passion, no affection, no common interests – I think it is nearly impossible to “save” the marriage.
I have never seen it done before, though I welcome you to try if it will give you some peace of mind.
But of course, that’s different from staying married, isn’t it? And you can certainly do that. You can be one of those couples and stay married until one of you dies from boredom. Or that hammer I mentioned earlier.
I’m going to close with my personal anecdote, because YAY ME! For years, I prided myself on the fact that I did not need glasses. Everyone in my family wears glasses, and it became a point of taunting during the holiday season, along with bragging about my tiny nose.
But then about three years ago, I began having trouble seeing the road while driving at night, and that difficulty soon progressed into blurry vision of the far-away kind. I can never get all that crap straight, but basically I needed glasses to drive if I wanted to see much of anything: the scenery, the road signs and the piglets on the side of the highway just waiting to bust me for speeding.
Mr. Patience and Understanding finally talked me into seeing an eye doctor after an unfortunately incident involving a bus stop and his BMW undercarriage. I’d describe it further but I’m too lazy to look up the statue of limitations on hit and run and the destruction of public property.
So I did, and the doctor confirmed I needed glasses to drive safely. When they finally arrived, I was blown away by how clear everything looked. I honestly had no idea what I had been missing. I could see the leaves on the trees, not just fuzzy green blobs. I could read the signs and not miss the turn to the mall anymore, which means SHOES!
But guess what? I didn’t wear my glasses regularly for a long time, almost 6 months. Why? Because every time I put them on, I got a terrible headache and a feeling like my eyes were lifting weights. My eye doctor told me this was normal and that I had to wear them consistently to get over the pain that sometimes comes with new glasses.
Finally I just bit the bullet and made myself wear them every time I drove, and now I don’t get the headaches or eye strain anymore…and I can see!
Do you get where I am going with this?
Even that change which is good for you can be painful and difficult, but you must endure the change in order to get past the pain, embrace the change and see your new world more clearly. Hanging out with your ex-husband, whose very act of taking a noisy breath while sleeping sends you running for the toolbox, is not going to help you decide whether or not you should go through with the divorce.
There is no rush to sign the papers so put that aside for now. Put on your single girl glasses and live in them for a while. Learn to be alone. Learn to make new friends. See your future as it could be, and craft a map to make it so. We can handle how to do that in another blog, because I am WAY over my word count limit.