A common misunderstanding about divorce is around timing. People often assume that because they’ve concluded their marriage is over, starting the legal process is the next step. It’s not. The next step is about being ready and able to leave. Sometimes that can take a few weeks, sometimes a few months and for some, it can take years.
Today I’d like to introduce you to my next guest, Candi who was married for thirty-five years. At the time of her divorce, her three children were in the their late-twenties/early-thirties and married. Candi knew for the last ten years her marriage was over and her husband knew for the last three years. That takes an emotional toll. Here’s how Candi coped with that long period of preparation.
Up until probably the last two years we were still sharing the same bedroom and then he moved into the guest bedroom. The last year there was no sex at all whatsoever. I think I was able to keep going because I looked at it as light at the end of the tunnel. It was my goal that I was working towards.
Some of it had to do with being a mother and thinking that you have to cut off your own happiness for the welfare of your kids for awhile. I think a lot of women do that. I did what I had to do for them and when I was done with that, then it was time for me. That’s the way I looked at it.
By the time I said anything to my husband I was way through that process. I did try to tell him through those years and he just refused to accept it and refused to listen to me. That was one of the issues we always had in our relationship. He never took anything I said seriously and my feelings were just not something serious. He was one of those men that if I was upset about something and if it was something legitimate to be upset about and I would say something to him, his response would be, “Are you getting your period this week?” He was that type of man. He always just disregarded that I had a legitimate reason to feel the way I felt. It was hormones or something.
In one ear, out the other and it just never made a difference.
I was so involved in whatever I was doing with my kids and grandkids, because both my older daughter and my son were not in the position to have children when they did, so I helped them out with childcare and I helped them out financially. After work, I didn’t have a lot of free time. I was usually taking care of one grandchild or two at a time to help them out, because they were trying to work or to just give them a break and that really kept me busy, very busy.
I know what it’s like to be a young parent and to struggle and not have any help, so I tried to provide that for them.
Even though I was still really involved with helping my kids get through everything we’d gone through and taking care of the grandkids, I was working on me. My focus was not on him anymore, it wasn’t on my marriage anymore, it was on making me a better person and learning how to stand on my own two feet without needing any help for him for anything.
My ex and I went to New York just recently to visit our daughter and we drove up there together. Both of my daughters called every couple of hours just checking to see if dad was still alive. I said, “Yes, I haven’t ditched him on the side of the road. He’s still here.”
For me that it’s been over for so long for me. I mourned my marriage years ago. I’m done with that. He’s right in the throws of it and I’m sorry for him and it was probably kind of difficult for him to make the trip with me, but for me, it’s over. I’m trying to find a way that we can be friends and still parent together without him thinking that there’s going to be a future. That’s what I’m trying to do now and that’s difficult.
What helps is just me being very firm. Keeping in mind that there’s no way that I would ever go back to that, ever. I hope that after more time goes by that it will be easier for him.
I’ve talked with clients who feel enormous pressure to make up their minds about leaving but get stuck in their decision-making process because the timing isn’t right, or they don’t make enough money or there’s too much debt. This is where it’s helpful to do exactly what Candi did. Separate the decision to end your marriage from the question of when.
Doing this means you can start to identify the circumstances under which you would be able to leave and to develop a plan to get there, such as learning new skills or following a key milestone event. It took another of my guests, Pippi five years to leave – she used that time to go from a stay-at-home mom, to working part-time to a full-time position that meant she could support herself financially.
Having a plan is the light at the end of tunnel and that’s what will help you get through this period. It’s also the time to start going through the practical preparations I discuss in my ebook Untangling From Your Spouse and in my coaching program My Divorce Pal.
At what point you choose to tell your spouse depends on your assessment of your personal safety and likely ongoing treatment and their willingness to listen. This isn’t about being deceptive or dishonest with your spouse. It is about taking care of your own needs first and it can be a tricky balancing act.
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