Of course we’ve all contemplated if the grass is greener on the other side. Hopefully before we make life changing decisions, we look at all angles before we hop into making a decision. Sometimes, decisions are made for us though and we have no choice but to move forward.
My STBX (soon-to-be-ex) thought the grass was greener by leaving. Maybe it is, but for the most part, he looks pretty morose. He left me and I was devastated by his departure, but now I am settled into a routine with the kids, liking how my life is beginning again and I’m not missing him. Ok, let me be honest. I never wanted a divorce. I wanted to work things out, but when he left, there was no turning back. The only way was forward, through the grief and the bereft feelings that he left in his wake. I had to learn how to make it on my own and I’m doing just that!
However, it amazes me how some people think that getting a divorce is easy. I have had a few married women tell me that they envy my position and freedom. I looked at them dumbfounded. What do they see that makes them envy me? My reply to one of them was that it’s not as easy as it looks and if it were possible, I would have never chosen to walk this path in my lifetime. It was her turn to look sheepishly at me and mumble that she just meant that it would be nice to not have to deal with a husband and kids all the time. She was thinking that she would have a bit of freedom if she divorced her husband and that they would share custody.
So let me set you all straight, those that think that the grass is greener on the divorced side of the tracks…Before you decide to go through with it, read below some of the stumbling blocks ahead.
HEARTACHE: No matter who decides to leave, there is heartache for all involved – for both partners (even if it doesn’t seem like it, we all grieve at some point, to some degree), for any children of the marriage, for all family involved since now the family usually takes sides with their chosen family member, for friends who may have to choose sides, for pets who now don’t see a parent much anymore, for neighbors, for friends of friends who aren’t sure what to say, for relatives of each person, etc., etc., etc.
FINANCIALLY: There’s now a division and all the messiness that comes with separating finances, selling the family home because it’s a shared asset, and dividing up debts. Changing names on bank accounts and getting new credit cards (if you shared them). Changing car insurance policies, the change of car registrations (if needed) are also required. Retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, mortgages, home equity loans, etc. all need to be figured out as well. Not to mention with a divorce, there’s now a division of who pays for what for each child involved and no matter who you talk with, it never seems fair to anyone. Let’s not forget the insane debt incurred by paying lawyers to negotiate the divorce.
Then there’s the divvying up of possessions, furniture, and all items acquired during a divorce. What do you do with your silver, your crystal, and your china if you had them? Do you really want the wedding china that was chosen with so much hopeful bliss? Or do you sell it and get less than 1/4 of what you originally paid for it? Will you ever be able to use it and not remember all of the meals you shared as a family?
And let’s not forget that when it comes to a divorce and finances, I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t have problems getting the information needed in order to sign the divorce agreement and feel comfortable knowing that they had all of the financial information at hand. Many spouses hide money. Like with a death sometimes, first there’s grief, then there’s greed. Hidden accounts, credit card debts, moving of funds, etc. makes it hard to trust completely the spouse you once thought was your honest partner.
Alimony and child support are other factors to consider. No salary is ever enough when it comes to this division and nobody ever thinks that what they are giving or getting is fair enough.
CUSTODY: Sharing custody with a partner is tricky when you have children. The horrendous inconvenience to the kids in having to pack up as the exchange of parental responsibilities comes and goes according to the custody agreement makes it hard. It’s a burden on your children and a bitter sadness to hold when you know that it’s because you and your spouse couldn’t stay married. You probably each have a place you call home, but the children are the ones who suffer the burden of packing and unpacking in order to accommodate living at mom’s for a time and then at dad’s as per the divorce agreement.
Holidays are no longer a family celebration. In a divorce, we share the holidays with our ex’s which makes it sadder for ourselves and the kids. I’ve spent quite a few holiday hours alone waiting for the kids to return or spending it alone because it’s his turn. Kindness prevails here and hopefully you will both make a huge effort to make it easier on the kids. Maybe you could try, if the divorce is amicable, to share the holidays sometimes. We did that for a bit, but after awhile, it got to be too hard and we stopped. It takes a commitment on both spouses to make it work and put aside all ugly feelings for the sake of the kids. It’s also really weird to have your STBX sleeping over in order to be there when the kids wake up on Christmas morning. Graduation parties and birthday parties can work if everyone involved works as a team, but I’ve found that most times, kids have to have 2 separate parties because the parents and their families no longer get along well.
Or if you are the primary parent, you are the full-time responsible parent alone as your spouse gets an occasional weekend. You don’t have freedom because you are parenting alone, 24/7. There’s no passing the baton and sleeping late in the morning or not staying up until your child comes home or if there’s a problem, it’s on you – even if you have a decent relationship with your spouse. The kids are in your care and so it’s you who disciplines them in that moment. Maybe your spouse will back you up and maybe not. It depends on the circumstances and the relationship.
TIME OFF: Here’s the part that you may believe the grass is greener for divorcees. You think that if we have weekends off, we are out partying and enjoying ourselves because we’re not parents on our time off. Wrong. We are sad when our kids leave to go to their dad’s home, as much as we are happy to have a little peace and quiet. It’s a strange trade-off. On one hand, yes, we have a few hours or days alone. On the other, we are probably still getting calls from the kids from time to time and when you’re used to having your kids at home, it feels empty when they are gone for a long period of time. Yes, we get to enjoy a little downtime, but as soon as we can begin to relax in it, the kids come home. Because as soon as they return, you’re on again 24/7, full-time parenting alone. There’s little happy medium no matter what the custody agreement says. You worry when they’re gone. And then when they return, they may come home to complain about the situation at their other parent’s home or they gossip about how the other parent is dating or tattle on what that parent said about you.
Sure we can hog the remote, watch every chick-flick we ever loved repeatedly and even eat yodels and wine for dinner if we choose when the kids are away. We can leave the bed unmade for weeks if we choose and sleep in the middle with every single pillow in the house surrounding us. We can do whatever we please without worry. Those are pluses that I can agree on with you for sure. I will unabashedly admit to enjoying each of those listed above with glee.
But remember, you are now all alone at home. There’s nobody to go out to have a couple’s dinner to celebrate alone or with your kids. You attend school functions alone. There’s nobody to hold you when you are crying and need comfort. There’s nobody to check what that noise was downstairs at night when you hear an unfamiliar sound and of course, you are thinking immediately that there’s a stranger in the house! There’s nobody to sit on the couch with you to watch television. There’s no partner now to understand when you want to vent about a problem – you know, when your family drives you crazy and you need someone who just ‘gets it’ because he knows them and he knows you. There’s nobody to cuddle in the middle of the night. There’s nobody to help you carry the heavy stuff. You are in charge of making sure the garbage and recycling go out on time or you have to get the kids to do it.
There aren’t couple dinners with friends anymore. There’s a bunch of missed parties because you are the odd woman out (and even if they invite you, it feels weird to be alone when you used to be part of an established couple and everyone knows it).
You can’t turn to your partner when there’s something going on with yourself. Your health is your problem and you can’t share when you’re scared because something hurts or you have to have tests or there’s something not quite right with you.
You are always the DD (Designated Driver) because you’re driving yourself (or sometimes a friend will drive you somewhere). There’s nobody when the kids are out to make sure you made it home safely. When the kids are out, you are up waiting by yourself to make sure they are home safely. You try to forget your wedding anniversary since there’s nothing to celebrate anymore. Wedding anniversaries are harder now because they are stark reminders of the marriage failure. The final divorce signing is yours alone to handle, unless you have family and friends to be with you.
Still thinking the grass is greener? Read on!
NAME CHANGES: As ex-wives, we have the opportunity to change our names back to our maiden names if we choose. I have been on the fence about this one for awhile, but I finally decided to stick with my married name because I’ve been that name for more than 2 decades and it feels strange to write my maiden name. It’s not natural. Part of me would like to go back to my maiden name since I will be Ms. Leeds now and not Mrs. Leeds which feels strange as well. But on the other hand, I don’t want to have a different last name than my children. All of their friends call me Mrs. Leeds and I doubt that will change since they won’t remember to say MS. now that they have for years, called me MRS. Also, it’s a huge pain in the neck to change every single document to a new name after a divorce. The magnitude of changing my license, my bank accounts, my credit cards, and all of the paperwork that comes to me in my married name feels like too much work to me. So I’m sticking with Leeds.
STARTING OVER: Dating after divorce feels funny. Being with the same spouse for decades makes the thought of having a new partner, physically, mentally and emotionally and learning to trust someone else feels daunting. Being intimate with someone new can be exciting and feel adventurous, but it can also feel strange. You knew the rhythm of your spouse and what each of you liked and now it’s a new body to learn.
In addition, if you haven’t dated since you married your spouse eons ago, you may be hesitant to get out there via online dating. Fact is, if you’re like me, you’re probably hoping that Mr. Wonderful Part 2 is going to suddenly show up on your front doorstep with flowers, candy and the perfect personality, ready to sweep you off of your feet and take care of you. Please know that this only happens in Disney movies and not in real life.
Dating after divorce and at age 50 is more difficult as every single one of us now has baggage. We aren’t youngsters anymore filled with hope. We’ve been hurt. We’ve survived marriage’s ups and downs. We’ve developed into adults with a divorce behind us and all the pain that comes with it. Sure it’ll be fun to date again. But we’re not 22 anymore, thin, with baby soft and wrinkle free skin and no grey hairs. We are adults who have aged, maybe some better than others, but we don’t look like we did back in the day. Also, back then, we were probably more fearless in meeting people. We didn’t have the heartache burden. We probably didn’t have kids who throw a monkey wrench into the dating scene at times. We were free and only responsible for ourselves. If things didn’t work out with a date, we moved onto the next one and there was always a next one. But now we wonder if we had that one chance at a soul mate and now it’s gone? Did we use up our quota? Will we ever find love again?
For those of you who may have thought the grass was greener and in a moment’s ecstasy let your mind wander to the benefits of a divorce, I hope that my reality check made you think twice. And if you are still thinking you want to do it, then please do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it on a whim. Do it the right way. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Have a plan and make sure that you get a good lawyer whom you can trust.
If you can mediate the divorce with your partner, you’ll find it may go smoother with less financial burdens paid to lawyers. Try to do the right thing by your spouse. Be respectful. Once he was the man you loved and perhaps even had children with so remember that please. It will only help all of you in the end. You went into the marriage with kindness. Leave the marriage with your integrity, kindness and respect intact.
It’s your choice. Choose wisely.