Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Got Here (Part Five): No One Gets Married, Planning to get Divorced, except maybe Larry King.

I work in the medical field and I know that we speak a different language than normal people.  I know the hospital lingo and as a oncology social worker, often find myself in the position of interpreting "medical speak" to the patients I work with.  Patients who have been diagnosed with a cancer often describe it as walking into a foriegn country, not knowing the language, the landmarks, etc.

When I first sat down with my divorce attorney, my immediate thought was, "This is how my patients must feel the first time they meet with the doctor."  I was immediately thrust into a world that I did not know or understand.  Motions, filings, subpoenas, hearings, continuances, hourly billing rates...OH MY!  It was overwhelming, especially in my fragile emotional state.  I was "lucky" in a few ways.  I did not have any second thoughts about what I needed to do.  The extremity of my husband's actions made the decision clear.  NOt easy, but clear.  I also found an excellent, well-known (read expensive) attorney who specialized in complicated divorce cases.

My state is a no-fault divorce state.  This means than no matter what he did, he was entitled to half of everything we had.  Period.  However, if we could come to an agreement and a judge approved it, it did not HAVE to be that way.  I put my cards on the table:  I wanted to keep our 2 bedroom middle class house.  I wanted full custody of our son.  I would only allow supervised visitation of our son, for obvious reasons.  I did not want to pay my husband any money or "buy him out" in any way.  HE did this and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that I could get out of this in a financially secure manner that would allow me to care for my son in the best way possible.

He fought me...every step of the way...for over a year.  His attorney kept sending us letters with demands.  We kept saying no and requesting a deposition.  I was not afraid of testifying in front of a judge.  I had nothing to hide.  This was key.  He had everything to lose by his secret life becoming public.  The one thing he did not fight for was the right to see his son.  In fact he dropped all requests for visitation because he said supervised visitation was unacceptable to him.  This broke my heart in many ways, but it was also a relief, because I did not feel that my son was safe with him at this point in time.

The legal posturing went back and forth for a year until he finally lowered his demands to an acceptable level.  There were still two things I did not want to accept.  First, he demanded more than half of our son's college savings.  Second, he refused to keep our son as a beneficiary on his life insurance policy.  As a mom, I hated making these concessions.  I remember crying in my attorney's office and saying that I could accept him wanting to hurt me, but how could he take these things from our child.  But my attorney advised me to look at the larger picture and the fact that I was getting all of the things I had classified as most important.  He was right, but it still made me steaming mad.  In the end, my husband did not even show up at the final hearing.  He had filed with the court many months earlier that it was too emotionally difficult to see me at the courthouse.  Whatever.  So there in the magistrate's office, across a big wooden desk, she made the end of our marriage legal.  Then she looked at me and genuinely wished me the best.  And it was over.  I only saw him two more times after that, when he came to pick up his things that I had packed and placed in our garage.

Those are the facts...but the emotions are such a bigger part of the story.  The week I filed for divorce and he was served with papers was traumatic for me.  I cried non-stop.  I don't think I went to work.  Friends and family stayed with me around the clock and helped care for me and my son.  I was a wreck.  Slowly, I began to function again but the whole year was filled with roller coaster emotions.  I would start to develop panic attacks every time I saw a grey envelope from my attorney in the mail.  It was a bad year, but it got better.  I got better.

Counseling helped immensely.  One thing my counselor said over and over were that there were three things I needed to remember, "It's not fair.  It will never make sense.  There will never be justice."  I kept searching for understanding, kept trying to make sense of all of it, but it was impossible.  My counselor also told me to try to look at it in this way, that I crossed paths with insanity but I got out with my sanity intact, for the most part!

I moved from crisis mode to survival mode, which lasted several years.  Just this year I feel that I have started to live again.  I still have my moments.  I still cry at night sometimes wondering what in the world happened.  But I have learned how to take care of myself.  I still make some unhealthy choices - like emotional eating - but I am working on it.  It's a process.  It's about choices.  It's life.  I may not have ended up where I thought I would be, but I ended up somewhere pretty good.


  1. Wow. Divorce sounds so messy. It's amazing how selfish people can be.

  2. The circumstances may have been different, but I can relate to so much of this. It's why it makes me crazy when people say that divorce is too easy. There's nothing easy about having to say goodbye to this life that you thought was going to be yours for the rest of your life. I left and went back so much that it was hard for me to talk to people about my grieving process because they were afraid they thought I was reconsidering. I wasn't; I just needed to mourn.
    It will get easier to live; to thrive instead of merely survive. There will never be a moment where it all makes sense, but it will become part of your past that will enable even more growth into an even more amazing person than you already are!

  3. You sound so strong and on your way to a really good life. Keep tredging ahead.

  4. Wow my heart truly goes out to you! Wonderfully written