For most people, ending their marriage is hard. Traumatic. For the person who initiates it, deciding to divorce can be a lengthy process. While Nancy B seized the opportunity of her daughter being away to tell her husband their marriage was over, it wasn’t a hasty decision. Nancy B had been going to a divorce support group for months. Here’s Nancy B:
I joined a divorce support group and it took me eighteen months to get up the courage to tell him. There were a lot of people who came and went from the group during that time.
I’d been thinking about it divorce, I don’t even know for how long, a long time. When my daughter was eighteen months old, I almost left him. I really wanted to. I was just too afraid and I think in his own way, he worked to isolate me, from options.
Just when I’d think, “I can’t take this anymore,” we’d have a good day. It was a very Pavlovian thing. Something would happen, I’d get a good feeling, I’d feel rewarded, I’d feel good about myself, but that wasn’t every day. Not even every week, but it was enough to keep me going. I think on some level, I thought that’s what I deserved. I’d gotten myself into it, so I’d just better stick with it.
Also, my parents didn’t have a great marriage until all of us were out of the house. I think the last fifteen to twenty years, they were very happy together, but I had that model, too, of my dad really not being that great to my mom, but she just hung in there because that’s what you do.
I think the divorce support group helped me see that other people were just as screwed up in a lot of ways, as my marriage. It was really funny because we’d go around the room and have a check-in. If I would be last, by the time they’d get to me I’d be thinking, “Oh my God, I’d never stand for what he just did!” or “I’d never put up with that!” and then look at my own situation, everyone was horrified at the way I lived.
It’s so funny how you rationalize it. You think, “Well, I would never do that. I’m a feminist!” Well, I had a really 1950’s, traditional marriage. He went out, earned the money, and I stayed home and did everything else, he didn’t do anything around the house, ever, and it was like, “God, how did I manifest that? That’s kind of stupid and depressing!”
I actually started packing stuff and he didn’t even notice. I’d go to the divorce support group and they’d say, “Still packing?” and I’d say, “Uh-huh.” I went out and bought everything from a new vacuum, a toaster, a toaster oven. I had a friend who was also divorced, and I just asked if I could rent her closet. She had this big closet in one of her rooms and I filled that closet up with stuff that I found on sale or somebody would give me a gift card for Christmas and I would go out and buy pots and pans with it. My mother had given me a lot of dishes and crystal and I just thought, “Well, I’ll pack it now so I don’t have to pack it later.”
It was my way of staying sane. The woman who ran the divorce support group said, “I’ve never run into anyone quite like you.” She thought I was hysterical because of all the things I was doing, but it was my way of exerting some control, I think.
Then it just happened that my daughter was going to be gone, and I told him. It’s really, really hard when someone is begging, begging you, offering you anything to stay, but I knew it wasn’t really me he wanted, it was just he was so afraid to be alone. That was always it in the relationship. It wasn’t really that he wanted me too much; it was just that he didn’t want to be alone.
I knew it was going to be horrible, and that’s why I put it off for so long, but honestly, if I would have known how hard it was really going to be, I probably would not have done it, I’d probably still be there, so I’m glad.
The Divorce Coach Says
Those eighteen months were about Nancy B envisioning her future and we all go about it in different ways. My process was a very methodical look at our financial situation because I was afraid of not having enough money to be comfortable. People who initiate the divorce may have an advantage over their partner, especially if their partner is surprised by the decision, yet, creating a vision of life after divorce is beneficial for everyone.
The time when you’re thinking of divorce can be very isolating. I started to cocoon myself off from friends and family because I didn’t want to talk about what was really going on. Finding forums where you can talk and interact with people who are at differing stages in the process can be enormously helpful. Hearing what others have gone through may help you figure out if ending your marriage is something you can or want to do. If you’re concerned about your privacy, the internet is your friend – just be sure to use a pseudonym and you may want to erase your browsing history too after each session.
I had to smile about Nancy B’s packing. I have a lovely visual of a closet jammed-pack with shopping bags and boxes … kind of an updated version of a ‘hope chest.’ I think she’s spot on with her comment that it was about gaining control and that’s control, not in a bad way. The future is very uncertain with divorce and I think it can be very calming to remove any of the uncertainty. Whether it’s gathering up all your financial information or starting to think through your daily routine and what it would be like after divorce, it’s all related to seeing that your life will indeed continue and that you have a huge part in how in determining how it will look.
What did you do while preparing or going through divorce? Was there something that helped to calm you?
Photo credit: whatmegsaid