Marriages can end in an explosive burst, they can end in a quiet fizzle, they can end quite suddenly and definitively, and they can end slowly, edging towards the point of no return. While I don’t think there’s anyway to predict the type of ending, I do suspect that the slow fizzle is more prevalent with long term marriages.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Lois Tarter, author of The Divorce Ritual. Lois and her husband had been married for about 25 years and Lois was over fifty when they divorced. As Lois will tell you, the end of her marriage was a slow fizzle. Here’s Lois:
I think it was a gradual a thing. I don’t think there was anything really fast about the whole process. As time passed, it just became apparent that this wasn’t exactly what I wanted for the rest of my life.
But I think there’s that factor that says, “Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person,” and often you find that you’ve reached your “sell by” date and you don’t. You realize that the rest of your life is going to be set with this person, that you may not have the same kind of interests that you did when you first got married and that you’ve grown apart, but because you have kids at home, you can just stay together. I think that you often don’t even focus on that fact. I think that’s kind of what happened to me.
My husband had taken on a client in another city, so he was traveling a lot and it was apparent that at some point it was going to be necessary to move away. I just don’t think I was prepared to do it. I thought about it and I just realized that that’s not what I wanted to do for a variety of reasons.
It’s like everything. It has a life and it goes a course. And sometimes it works. I have a lot of friends who have been married forever and are still really happy together and they’ve gone through ups and downs and good and bad, but they seem to weather it. Then there are others that it just doesn’t make it.
You get married and you have this expectation that you’ll be together forever. At least I did. Not that I thought about it, but that’s just what was going to happen. My parents were happily married. My ex-husband’s parents were happily married and frankly were together until one of the spouses died. The odds of them getting divorced were about one in eight million, trillion. It just wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t occur to me that I would get divorced ever.
It’s not what you expect for your life and when it becomes apparent that you need to make a major change in what you’re doing, it’s incredibly difficult. I was also hit by a quadruple whammy. I was an only child, my dad had died when I was much younger and right around the time I was realizing my marriage was over my mom died too. So, my last rock had disappeared, my kids were both away at college and I was a little bit of a basket case. I wasn’t tethered real tight. One of my friends said, “We were kind of worried about you. You were floating off into space somewhere.” Just too many changes at once were very difficult.
Most of the friends were people that we socialized with as couples and talking to them about our marriage did change the friendship. But also remember, my husband was away. He was out of town, so the couple thing that was going on, it was just me. I think if we would’ve continued, during that period, to socialize, it probably would’ve been awkward, but because we weren’t, it wasn’t as awkward as it could’ve been. And you have girlfriends that are really your girlfriends even though you’re friends as couples. They’re on your side no matter what. Everybody needs those kinds of friends too.
Therapists are good. I recommend that highly. There were periods where I thought I needed a resident, somebody to live in, but I got really lucky. I moved back to L.A. after my mom passed away and I found somebody there who was amazing. She was starting out in her career and I would call her sometimes way more than I should have and she was kind enough to call me back and listen. That really helped me, because there were periods when I was just really off-the-wall. She really talked me down.
The legal process took a couple of years, and not because there are was dissension. It’s just that he was back east and I was here. I wasn’t getting remarried. He wasn’t getting remarried. It wasn’t like it had to be done by tomorrow and we weren’t together. It wasn’t a difficult situation. It wasn’t acrimonious. We weren’t fighting all of the time. It was organic. It just took it’s time.
Occasionally it did make me feel in limbo, but the other part of it was that it gave me more time to think things through. Had anything happened during that period of time that made me change my mind, I still had the option to do that or he did also. But that didn’t happen.
I often tell people not to rush through divorce, to understand a deadline and what’s driving it but not to let the legal process or other pressures force you into making a decision for which you’re not ready. There are, of course, times when stalling or rushing could be a red flag that your STBX is trying to hide something and that’s why it’s important to understand where the pressure is coming from. If you’re not ready to make a decision, don’t be afraid to ask for more time.
Taking the pressure of deadlines away gives you the chance to make the best decisions for you and to really think through the consequences of alternatives. I also believe that in many cases time can help to calm the emotions and that helps to make the divorce settlement negotiations more of a financial transaction, which is what they should be. That time also helps to make the negotiations over parenting more about what is in the best interest of your child and less about the emotions between you and your STBX.
What was the end of your marriage like? What impact did it have on your divorce negotiations?
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