Divorce sucks. Two people who married with dreams of happily-ever-after become enemies who seemingly simultaneously want their former spouse to die and to love them again. It's a confusing, frustrating and maddening situation to be in.
More often than not, a divorcing spouse will lean toward one of the two opposing fantasies. I leaned toward wishing my ex would die — not because I really wished he would cease living, but because I wanted the pain I felt to stop.
Although my ex was the one who filed for divorce, I was fully onboard with the idea. I knew I would eventually be better off on my own than to remain in a marriage that I only knew how to make work by sacrificing who I really was in favor of who he had grown accustomed to me being. He became accustomed to be being the one that figured out how to make things work because that's what I did. I thought it was my responsibility to make our marriage work. (And, yes, we did work with a marriage counselor. But like most couples who finally choose to see a counselor we had waited too long to ask for help. Our counselor agreed with our assessment that we would be better off divorcing.)
We decided to work with a mediator to help us negotiate our divorce agreement and then we each retained an attorney to review the final document to make sure it served our long-term best interests. My attorney was fine with the agreement we had reached. Unfortunately, my ex's attorney wasn't. His attorney advised him that our decision to keep our individual retirement accounts was not in his best interest. His attorney's suggestion was that he should have half of mine and retain all of his.
As you can probably guess, I didn't think that was a good idea. So I said something that I'd rarely said while we were married. I said, "No." It was scary after I realized what I'd said, but I meant it. I really did. I was so used to just going along with what he wanted and needed without much concern for myself that the idea of standing up for myself terrified me. I was sure that God was going to strike me dead because I was getting divorced and because I had told my husband "No." I wished that my ex would just die so I wouldn't have to experience what I assumed would be the torture of shedding years and years of blind obedience that had to be shed so that I, the real Karen that I'd put into hiding in favor of having a working marriage, wouldn't die. Yeah, there really was a part of me that thought it was either he or I.
He didn't take my "No" in stride. He seemed shocked that I didn't immediately agree. He tried pushing my buttons so I would feel guilty. After all, guilt was a simple way for him to get what he wanted when we were married, so I can only guess he thought it would still work. But he was wrong. I felt guilty, really guilty, and I still said, "No."
When the guilt didn't work, he tried to achieve his goal by saying that he wouldn't agree to anything less than half of my 401K. I repeated myself and said "No." He then let me know he'd wait until I agreed.
Months passed during which I fervently wished my pain would stop and still saw his death as a way to my goal. Finally, he sent me an email stating he would let me have my way; he just wanted the divorce to be final so he could move on with his life. I felt wonderful that we were finally able to move forward again with our divorce.
The laws in the state where we divorced were such that only he needed to appear in court before the judge to finalize our divorce. He let me know this and when the proceedings would take place. He asked me to let him do it on his own. Again, I told him "no." I explained that I had been present when we married and I would be present for the end of our marriage too.
I was thrilled when our court date finally arrived because I believed I would finally be free as soon as the judge signed the decree. With happy anticipation, I sat toward the back of the courtroom where I could take in the entire scene. My soon-to-be-ex husband sat closer to the front and slightly to my left. After just a few minutes the judge requested that we stand as he asked each of us a couple of questions before agreeing to sign our divorce decree. I was ecstatic! I thought I was free!
We dealt with the last bit of filing the paperwork and then my ex hurried away. I caught a last glimpse of him as he turned around in the elevator before the doors finished closing. He was crying.
I was shocked! Why wasn't he as happy as I was? Maybe I should be sad too. Of course! He was sad so I should feel sad too. My happiness evaporated and so did my sense freedom for another couple of years, during which I still occasionally wished he had died.
Luckily, I did eventually find my happiness and freedom again. It just took more than death wishes and a judge's signature on the divorce decree.
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