It occurs to me that divorce usually gets thought of as the time between one deciding to get divorced and a marital settlement agreement. But I think the most challenging part is after the divorce, the years spent with child custody and trying to find another mate and all that. We do not have support for that stage because there is no money in it. No need for a divorce attorney or mediator, and no reason to waste money on therapy because the raw truth is there is no more to do about it than about the pain one gets after breaking a limb. You have to tough it out as it were. That sucks.
My ex-wife and I were sitting at a nice restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe with my two boys. We were having breakfast because I thought it was necessary for the boys, four and five at the time, to have time with both parents, even if their parents were divorced. It would only be a few hours on a Sunday, and I figured she could tolerate me for that long. Apparently not.
We were all sitting outside, it was a sunny morning, and the temperature was just right. I love Huevos Rancheros and that day they were particularly delicious. I was proud of my little family of four. Divorced or not we had beautiful young boys, and I felt on top of the world. Then suddenly my ex-wife needed to go to the bathroom. It sure seemed to take a long time. My heart began to pound and thoughts crept into my mind as they can. Finally, I left my two young boys to investigate. There stood my ex, on a pay phone, talking to her soon to be next husband. Geez! Couldn’t she wait through breakfast? Was her love so intense she needed to call him right then?
I ran back to the table and tried to finish my meal but no chance. The tears had started, and my boys were concerned. I told them everything was ok. Once my wife returned I said I had to leave and handed her the car keys. I ran four miles home sobbing all the way. That was a tough day. I had a lot of them for about a year, then things got better, and then in a bit over two years I felt normal again. But most of those two years were harder for me than the actual divorce.
It took me three years to let go of living with my two boys, so I lived together with my wife and her new husband. Call me a sissy if you like, but the pain of jealousy was more tolerable than the pain of not living with my boys. It all worked out.
My ex-wife and I did not have financial disagreements, but there was a period of a few years where she would not let me come into the house, so I had to pick the boys up from her curb, and of course either drop them in the same manner or wait for someone she would send to pick them up. That seemed wrong to me, but there was nothing I could do about it. This is where I benefited from meditation practices that released emotional charge, without it I would not have been as good a parent or a terrific catch for the next, hopefully, Mrs. Resnick.
Eventually, my ex and I did run into a snag. It was about six years after our divorce. This is what I mean about after the divorce, people do not tell you about this part. My ex-wife wanted to move to Northern California, and we had agreed that neither of us would relocate more than ten miles from the other. This was critical for me because I could not live without seeing my children and my work was in Southern California. My boys ended up living with me full time, and my wife never made it to Northern California. She did not see them for about a year but then began to see them again as often as she liked.
You might think I sound like an angel, or not, but I am not and was not. My ex-wife had legitimate reasons to move to Northern California, and I would not budge, but I did not budge with integrity, and she did not budge with integrity, and we just had a shitty predicament on our hands. Because we both know how to handle emotions responsibly, the mess did not turn too horrible or ugly, which allowed us to renew our friendship and before long we were spending holidays and weekends together. My ex, her husband, my new wife, and the kids.
If there is any lesson in this post, it is that divorce is not black and white, easy or fun. There will be many issues you never expected. Often it will look like someone is more right than the other, but that is never true, and even if it is, it is meaningless. The important thing is to make sure you have tools in your toolbox to deal with whatever comes up, so you don’t kick your dog, or worse. The other important thing to remember is that everyone is having a hard time, even the kids, and you will exit the mess best if you make it easier for everyone. Not just yourself.