I Knew My Marriage Was Over
By the time I retained my lawyer I was emotionally spent. I naively believed I was initiating a resolution to my marital issues. I had no idea this was simply the mechanics of divorce, the infrastructure.
There was something far more dangerous lurking in the distance.
But no one told me.
I wouldn’t make that same mistake. I would tell others.
And I did recently, while on the phone with several of my newly separated friends.
“If you end up divorcing, you need to multiply your spouse’s personality times ten,” I say. “If they are controlling multiply it. If they are unreasonable multiply it. If they are angry multiply it. If they are consumed by money multiply it.”
Whatever made that individual difficult in marriage will follow you into divorce.
Those same relationship arguments will materialize.
They will be intensified by the issues which were never resolved. The anger will still be present with either one or both parties. The only difference? It will now be narrated and moderated by lawyers.
I often say I was more controlled in divorce than in my marriage.
My ex-husband was passive-aggressive. Therefore, he didn’t appear controlling. He gave off an easygoing and laid-back vibe. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I used to say he doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do. He doesn’t play well with others. He always gets his way.
But while we were married as long as I didn’t get in his way, he didn’t care what I did.
He was still controlling. He made sure if he didn’t agree with me I didn’t get my way. But because I was a pleaser and fixer, I was less aware of how controlled I was. I was busy keeping the peace.
I should have minimized the areas of control before I ever began the divorce process.
I was now attempting to free myself from a man who was not used to losing. A man who was furious I chose to leave him.
One spouse was looking for an unfortunate and unwanted end to a troubled relationship. The other spouse was looking for retribution and punishment. The pleaser and the fixer was no match for the controller. The dynamic had been firmly cemented in our twenties.
My divorce was a five-year emotionally and financially abusive nightmare.
For no other reason, but the personality I was divorcing.
And of course, compounded by an ineffective and archaic family law process. No divorce should last that long. It’s not healthy for anyone especially the children who didn’t choose to be put in this position. However, individuals get away with bad and illegal behavior in the divorce process. Shocking, but it still happens.
We play roles in our relationships.
Roles which begin in our childhood. In my family, I was the pleaser and the fixer. I married a golden boy. The oldest, the only boy, who could do no wrong, come and go as he pleased, and get his way.
We gravitated towards one another for a reason.
That same gravitational pull existed throughout our divorce process.
I would beg my husband to divorce me and he would continue to do as he pleased. He was accustomed to being in control and getting his way. He didn’t want to pay child support so he resisted divorce for five years until our youngest graduated high school.
This isn’t controlling, it is uber controlling.
Silly me, I still didn’t get it.
I couldn't figure out why he wouldn’t divorce me.
Until my youngest was in his senior year of high school. He came home one day and said, “Dad wasn’t going to divorce you until I finished high school,”
Of course, my ex-husband puts a different spin on it. Albeit completely irrational.
He now tells people he wanted to keep our son in his home. This might have been believable had he not withheld food money, college money, health insurance, and so many other things from his own children. Not to mention, we could have divorced and amicably figured out a resolution to the housing until our youngest was done with school.
My friends who are experiencing separation do not believe me.
Because again, we continue to play our relationship roles even in divorce. The more difficult personalities often align themselves with individuals who see the best in them. Who do not believe a person they love would be capable of anything but fairness in the end.
But believe it.
There’s a reason the conflict in the marriage was never resolved.
I urge my friends to protect themselves.
I ask them to ensure they are prepared if the worst happens and divorce follows a separation. I tell them to take the sadness and emotion out of the equation. I tell them to educate themselves, take control of their finances, minimize areas of vulnerability in order to decrease control.
What does this mean?
Get housing lined up, full-time employment, counseling for the children, seek legal advice long before the divorce process, etc. Establish a plan for those first months of separation or divorce.
Had I done this, my children wouldn’t have had to watch friends and family deliver food and school supplies when their father withheld the money. Nor would they have had to witness and endure so much more.
I ask my friends to understand there are mechanics of divorce.
But there is something far more dangerous lurking in the distance.
The personality of the individual they may divorce.
Multiply it by ten.