I’ve seriously tried to write this post a handful of times over the past couple weeks. Every time I start, I get stuck. The words won’t come but the tears do, so I have to set it aside for a while. Hopefully this will be the time that I will finally say what I need to so I can move on. And hopefully I can say it eloquently, so it doesn’t sound like I’m whining or judging.
My frustration is not for nothing. The topic here is one that no one particularly likes to talk about. It usually involves hushed tones, guilt, shame. It’s taboo. It feels like the unforgivable sin. It’s the “d word”.
Here’s what I wish everyone knew about divorce. Very simply, please stop referring to it as “the easy way out”. Please. I implore you.
I assure you there is absolutely nothing easy about divorce. There is nothing easy about coming to the decision of ending your marriage. There is nothing easy about going through with it. There is nothing easy about spending thousands of dollars on someone to help you split your assets, and more importantly the time with your children. There is nothing easy about coming home to an empty house when you used to be a full time family. There is nothing easy about being both mother and father in a household. There is nothing “easy” about any of it. And until you’ve been through it, which I don’t wish on anyone, you really have no idea what this road of uncertainty looks like, or how to navigate it.
I’ve heard it said that the stress caused by divorce is equivalent to losing a loved one. I think every situation is different, but I’ve lost enough people I love to know that major life changes are hard. Death is a natural part of life and there is a grieving process involved. Typically during that process, people reach out in love, offering to help relieve the pain, even if just for a little while. Death is extremely painful to deal with, and there usually isn’t a choice involved.
I guess that with divorce, because there is a choice, at least usually by one of the parties involved, people don’t feel as much of a need to reach out in that same empathetic, caring way. It’s viewed as, you’re choosing this, you’re…giving up. You failed.
In a divorce, no one wins. If the marriage was the first or the fifth, if it lasted a year or a decade or more, if it produced children or not, if you filed or you were served, I can tell you that regardless of all of those things, it sucks. It sucks for everyone involved. I’ve only been through it once, but I know without a doubt that I don’t want to go through it again. I don’t want my kids to have to go through it again.
I know that anyone who told me to “try harder” or “be loyal” probably wasn’t aware that I’d had those same conversations over and over with myself in my own head for years before I ever finally voiced the “d word” out loud as a possibility. I mean, for crying out loud, I completed a 15 hour race. I am not a quitter by any means. I am someone who knows how to push through and persevere. But sometimes, we have to look at the options and see that while we don’t particularly like either of the outcomes, we have to choose the one that makes the most sense for us. By “us” I mean each of us, as individuals.
The more I tried to retreat to a place of safety to process what my needs were, the more I was bombarded with the pleas to stay. Pleas that came from every direction. Everyone wanted to be the one to fix it, to fix me. When what I really needed was space, quiet, and sometimes someone to just hold my hand and let me grieve that the life I had planned for myself had gone way off track.
But the pleas were so loud it was hard to hear the muffled sound of myself trying to find my own voice. A voice that had been buried for so long that the only way to find it again was to go down a road that some people, not everyone, deem “the easy route”. Somehow I found my voice and it said, “This. This is what’s best for me. Go this direction.”
We are human. We are not perfect. But we are also not meant to do life alone. Last week in church, Pastor Greg went back to the familiar story in Genesis. He talked about how God created Adam and it was not good for him to be alone. So from Adam’s very own rib, He created Eve. And He presented her to Adam as a gift. God gave them the gift of each other. And it is for that reason that a man should leave his father and mother to be one with his wife. Our creator wants us to be united to another.
But what happens when that unity doesn’t last forever? Well, then you run out into the rainy parking lot after the service is over to retrieve the kids’ backpacks so you can pass them off to the other parent who will have them for the next couple days. And then you wonder, as you are standing there in the lobby of Kids Crossing holding all the gear, if it is as painfully obvious to everyone else that you are in the midst of “the swap”.
But what else really happens after the papers are signed? You continue to do the best you can with the situation you’re in. You keep seeking to find an identity that doesn’t include a marital status. You go on about your life knowing that the daily struggles are many, which is true regardless of whether you are married or not. Sure it would be easier if we could all claim a loving, caring, supportive spouse, but even of those marriages in existence that isn’t always the case.
I have so many friends that have come to me in the past few months with questions about where they want their marriage to go. Somehow going through the “d word” has made me an expert on a topic that I never wanted to know about. I wish some of these friends would stay together, I think others are better off apart, but I hope they all do due diligence to make sure they’ve done everything they can. I know none of them just woke up one day and decided “That’s it. Peace out.” It takes time to get to the point of brokenness that results in the d word. But the fact remains, I am not in any of their marriages, so I really don’t know what it looks like to the two of them. I need to keep my own baggage in check and not drag it out into their story.
I’ve dealt with my baggage. And I’m continuing to deal with it. But the truth is, it’s still hard. Even after almost 3 years, I still have daily challenges because of it. Some are obvious, some less so. And for a large portion of that time I’ve been in a relationship with a pretty fantastic fella. I’d like to think I don’t project any of my junk onto him, but chances are, sometimes it gets in the way, whether I’m aware of it or not.
I think I’ve been pretty successful at the single mom thing. I have a job. I’ve kept a roof over our heads. I get the kids to their activities on time (mostly). I feed them (sometimes with fast food). I’m proud of the people they are becoming. I’m proud of the person I am becoming.
But I still get lonely. I still miss my kids. I still get sad when they go on vacations without me. I still don’t like being the one to pay the bills each month and have to deal with the financial stuff. I still wish I had a spouse I could pass some of the responsibility off to every once in a while, especially when something breaks. I still sometimes think about being a traditional family unit, and I miss it.
I don’t regret the choice I made, but this certainly isn’t where I thought I would end up when my dad walked me down the aisle almost 15 years ago. Every time we are presented with a choice, we are at a fork in the road, but the options are not labeled “hard” and “easy”. Either direction we choose will present its own set of challenges. And unless you’re on a specific path, you really have no idea what those challenges will be. So, here I am, on this path, I’m sure its easier than some. And I’m figuring it out as I go. Just like everybody else. Some days are smooth, some days aren’t. I’ll take the obstacles as they come. And I’ll just keep going.
What’s the saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? I guess if you want to come take a spin in my shoes to see how easy it is, you’re more than welcome to. I mean, I work at a running store. I do have a few extra pairs.
*One additional note, tomorrow would be my parents 43rd wedding anniversary. I know that in the almost 30 years that they had together, they had their share of challenges. But I am thankful for their example of what a healthy marriage looks like. I don’t know if I will ever have a marriage like theirs, but I know that if I do, it will transcend time and space and even death. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your example of love.