I have some staple questions I like to ask my guests such as, “What do you regard as your most significant accomplishment since your divorce? Why is it so significant?” In this final post in Jen’s story, Jen responds to another staple, “How has your view about divorce changed?” Here’s Jen:
I’ll be honest, I would say I was probably pretty judgmental about other people who had gone through divorce because I just believed that,
“Hey, there’s always something you can do, two people can work it out, you’re just being too stubborn.”
Then all of a sudden, I was divorced, a single mom and it really changed the way that I thought. I truly think that I did everything I could think of to fix our marriage, to make it better, to make it work, to be forgiving and understanding, and it wasn’t enough.
I think sometimes people do give up and throw in the towel really easily but I also know that one person can’t fix anything. If both people aren’t willing to work on it, then there’s no point. There’s really no point, and maybe everyone’s better off.
At first, I didn’t tell people why we were getting divorced. There were some people who knew something. Some of our close neighbors that I had confided a little bit in, knew something was up and that something was going on. For a really long time, I just said “things just aren’t working out.” I took a lot of heat for the cancer thing.
Everyone thought “is she divorcing him because he has cancer?” and I wouldn’t even really defend myself then, only because I didn’t care at that point. There were moments when I did care, when I think he said something to a good friend of mine or whatever, and I just thought “well that’s not right.”
We lived in a really tight-knit community and I didn’t want stuff getting back to my kids, because my kids didn’t know that he had been gambling and lying about work and things. So I just kept it quiet, and honestly, I was more concerned about my kids than about anything else.
It was also kind of embarrassing for me that I had hung in there for four years through all of it. I kind of felt like an idiot. If people knew I’d hung around this long with all this stuff going on, boy what do I look like? But before you’ve been in a situation like this you just don’t know what you’d do.
I have a friend who’s wife cheated on him and he was like “I always thought I would be like ‘hell no, get out’ and I took her back.” They’re divorced now because she did it again, but you just never know until you’re there.
So there is an element of embarrassment. I don’t want people to know why I’m getting a divorce, because it makes me look stupid, too.
The Divorce Coach Says
Having a different perspective about divorce after having lived it is not unusual. I had no experience with divorce before my own – I was the first in my immediate family to get divorced and I hadn’t had any close friends who had divorced. And yes, going through it certainly change my perspective. Before, it wasn’t even a topic I really discussed – I wasn’t going there, it wasn’t going to happen to me!
Divorce is often perplexing to outsiders exactly because they are outsiders. I keep saying it, there are only two people who know what goes on within a marriage and Jen is right, it takes both people to keep it working. When one person no longer wants to work on it, it’s over. You can’t fix it on your own.
When my husband and I broke up, we did agree a standard spiel that we would tell people and I think that really helped. First off, in those early days I wasn’t very comfortable talking about it and having that standard spiel made it much easier. If I was really pushed and didn’t want to talk about it, I just said that, “I don’t want to talk about it” and that was enough. Also, like Jen says, we didn’t want the children hearing stories from friends who’d heard it from friends etc. So, if you and your soon-to-be-ex can agree on wording I do think it is really beneficial.
Jen’s feeling of embarrassment is also natural. I see that as an indicator of where she is in her healing process – the further along she goes, the more she’ll come to accept the decisions she made and the less embarrassment she’ll feel. And as she feels less embarrassed, the more comfortable she will be talking about her divorce.
Even then though, I would still exercise caution in choosing who to confide in and how much to tell. Privacy is one reason. Another reason is to preserve the relationship you have with your ex. Any feelings of anger or animosity will inevitably escalate with ‘he said, she said’ stories.
Another result of my divorce (and writing this blog) was that I became comfortable talking about divorce. I had the right language. I was more familiar with the process, with the complications. That in turns means when someone now tells they’re getting divorced, I ask more questions. So now I’m curious … when you got divorced, who asked you more questions? Friends and family who had experienced divorce or people? People who hadn’t experienced it? Or did it depend on how well people knew you?
Do you think married people ask questions because they want to reassure themselves that divorce couldn’t happen to them?
This is the last post in Jen’s story and I would like to thank Jen for sharing her journey. She was fascinating to interview and I admire her for how she has worked through this. She still has a long journey ahead to complete her teaching certificate but she definitely has the determination to do it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that her Facebook relationship works out.
Photo credit: yourdon – //www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/5520816881/