Friday, June 25, 2010

Divorce

It's not for everyone. I don't advocate it. I certainly, in my Disney princess fairy tale happy ending view of life and marriage, never dreamed it would happen to me. I really don't know many people who have been divorced - a couple of friends, maybe. My parents have been happily married for almost 40 years and that is just how I thought this was all supposed to work - especially having two kids, now ages 7 and 5.

I sat down with my Mom a year and a half ago and said, coming from a walled up, stressed out, angry, confused place, "I want out." She gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received, "Go to counseling. For six months to a year. If not for this relationship, for your next one. You'll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over unless you work on yourself and your marriage." So I did that - spent over a year in counseling and six months in marriage counseling. I can't say I regret the time one bit. I am still in divorce, and even though we hadn't been working for a long time, I tried as hard as I could. I think if I had exploded without all the work, I would have many regrets. I owed it to myself, and my kids.

So here I am plugging along this alien path of divorce. I'm learning so much - hiring lawyers. Answering interrogatories. Doing house inventories. Learning the custody lingo, as well as child support and alimony terminology. Taking transparenting (Yes! The actually call it that!) classes. My ex and I, while not really on a friendly basis, are doing a great job of co-parenting the kids over the summer, and we are very good at being cordial. It was tough giving up five whole weeks with the kids, but I've now got two under my belt and the second was a hell of a lot easier than the first.

I'm not sure really what the point of this blog is other than to talk about my experience, so far, and open the table for future discussion. I haven't made my divorce a secret - it is obvious in my comments and I think I may have alluded to it in a past blog. A couple of months ago someone asked me to write about going through divorce and I was so stressed out and worried over emotionally supporting my kids that I couldn't imagine talking about it. But now I think I'm ready.

Here's the toughest part - Sicily, my 7 year old, is in that age (thank god I took the transparenting class right off the bat) group that likes to play "Parent Trap." She is constantly trying to get us back together, and that is so heartbreaking to watch, even though I look back on my marriage and see that even at 3 and 4 she was trying to get us together, so this is not so different from then, only more out in the open. Here are some particularly painful examples:

"Mom, I'm going to have Dad bake you a cake for Mother's Day so you get back together." She got him to do it. That girl has amazing powers.

"When is Christmas? What I want from Santa is for you and Daddy to get back together. Can we start calling Santa now?"

"If you didn't have to work would you be going to the beach with us and Daddy?"

I know she is just trying to wrap her seven year old brain around all of this, but ugghh. Luckily she has a few key players in her life that have been children of divorce, and they have offered incredible support. I'm glad she has examples of those who have been there and have turned out OK - not to belittle their experience, I am sure it was hard.

John is of a different age - one of magical thinking. He is just 5, and his adjustment has been quite different. He doesn't talk about it as much, and at first I made the mistake of thinking that it was easier for him. I talked to a friend who has a mother with her masters in childhood development, and she said that girls usually come out better because they talk a lot more, and boys shut down. I started paying more attention, and I've had to troubleshoot some fear, separation anxiety, and stuffing emotions issues that were much more subtle, but I think that he is doing pretty well, overall. Kids struggle with divorce. But they also struggle in marriage. Attentive parenting is what matters the most.

I know marriage is hard. I've seen lots of people struggle and hit highs and lows (including my own parents). I think that if you do get married, you should try to work through the low points. I believe in those vows - but I also reluctantly, slowly, finally admitted that sometimes two people just don't work. I'm starting my life over at almost 37 years old, with two beautiful children. There's nothing to regret - and lots to look forward to. I am a pathologist who is about to be a partner in 4 months. I can support myself and my kids. I can afford good childcare and help, and am getting a lot more vacation that I've ever had. When I make partner, I will have the flexibility to cut back more if I need to while my kids are young. I'm in a great place. But it is still tough.

24 comments:

  1. Wishing you the best of luck during this tough transition. I admire your honesty and with a Mom like you, I'm sure your children will be just fine :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing, Giz. I am sort of the opposite to you in that divorce was always a huge part of my life. My parents divorced when I was 3 and my husband's parents divorced when he was 7. That probably increases our chances of getting divorced by like a million. We've had rough patches in the past where divorce didn't seem completely ridiculous like it did when we first got married, but fortunately, we're not in a rough patch right now. (Another reason why I'm not eager to have another baby.)

    One of my first memories is of sitting on the couch and watching my dad move his stuff out of our apartment. The divorce was incredibly hard on me, and if I can give you any words of wisdom, it's to pretend to like your ex-husband around your kids, no matter how much you don't. A childhood of my mother telling me she wished my father would die a fiery death was not fun.

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  3. I will also wish you luck. I have several friends who are divorced now, and they are definitely better post-divorce than pre. There is life after divorce. It sounds like you are adjusting great. Your kids will be ok in time.

    I also am glad you've put yourself out there and written about this. When times are tough, it can help so tremendously for people to see that other people are going through the same things as you are. Thank you for sharing your story.

    And yeah, the rest of your life sounds like it's going GREAT now. The personal life will hopefully catch up eventually.

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  4. Fizzy - good to see another great product of divorce. That's encouraging. And yes, we are very cordial and polite in front of kids. I constantly back up any negative statements that Sicily makes with positives. When she said, "Mom, you are so mean. How come you don't like Daddy anymore? Why don't you want to live with him?" I take a deep breath and say, "Your dad is wonderful, Sicily, and we will always be together as your parents, for the rest of your life." I think he is trying to do the same. I hope it continues - trial date is September 21st.

    Thanks Old MD Girl - sharing is a way to get support, I realize. It helps a lot.

    Thanks Melissa!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I was married after 2nd year med school to my first boyfriend. I had huge doubts but felt an obligation to everyone but myself to continue down a path that I thought was my destiny. I did not find the strength to leave this relationship, choosing my happiness over my perception of everyone else's, until mid-way through my final year of residency.

    The first few months of separation were very difficult. Soon after I told my husband that I wanted a separation, I left for a 6 week Obstetrical elective in a rural centre. I was alone and living in a gloomy, abandoned, old wing of a rural hospital in the midst of winter. The loneliness was initially overwhelming and I constantly questioned my decision to leave the relationship. But after some time, I started to feel a bit better each day.

    Ultimately, I was fortunate to be alone for 6 weeks with forced time to contemplate my past relationship intermixed with the joy and excitement of attending deliveries on my own. I journaled, cried and learned a lot about myself in those weeks.

    As an overachiever, I viewed my divorce as the biggest failure of my life. But, in hindsight, I celebrate the strength, courage and belief in self that allowed me to leave behind the security of marriage for the anxiety-provoking unknown. My actions resulted in less pain, more happiness, and a bit of wisdom.

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  6. Thanks for sharing yourself, k-kel. You are right - the biggest hurdle of making the decision is getting over the feeling of being a complete failure. My first month of separation was pretty shaky - I hardly told anyone and I felt constant fear. It is nice to gain strength as the weeks go by, and feel more confident in having made the right decision and moving on with my kids.

    The anxieties are still there - I laugh about where how they surface and try to explore what is really going on - mostly fear for my kids. But they are diminishing slowly.

    I really appreciate hearing success stories.

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  7. So sorry. But it's going to be OK.

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  8. You are a remarkable woman and mother. You and your kids are going to be more than fine. You are going to be great. I'm so sorry that you are all going thru this experience, but in the long run, your kids will be much happier with a happier mother.

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  9. Thanks anon!

    Thanks Tempeh! And you are right - happy mom equals happy children. As I told KC in her recent single parent post - you've got to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children. I had to learn that the hard way - ignored my own mental health for many years.

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  10. I'm sorry to hear about your divorce--but I'm super happy to hear that you are really working with your ex to be cordial and co-parent your children civilly--your kids need "drama-free" as possible.

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  11. Sounds like you are doing the best you can on all fronts. My kids are very close in age to yours (8 and 5) and I can imagine how hard it would be for me to watch them experience this and want to much to fix it somehow. (Though, KayTar did ask me if I could stop being married to Josh and marry someone new so I could have another baby...she clearly thinks Josh is having fertility issues which are preventing further procreation. LOL!)

    I'm glad you shared this...I'd be glad to listen anytime you need additional support!

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  12. Thank you for your post. I've raised my now 18 year old son on my own post long term relationship that I ended.

    You have already focused on the most important aspects of your divorce:

    1) your kids and how to effectively co-parent

    2) yourself

    The better you are for you, the better your kids will be as well.

    Kudos to you for showing them through your actions that people deserve to be happy and to seek out the means to be happy. Those are lessons they cannot learn in books, only through mimicking their parents.

    My best to you as you trudge along the lonely road of divorce seeking the sunshine of a new and better life!

    AD2B

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  13. My parents divorced when I was in my early teens (four decades ago!) and although it felt like a death at the time, in adult retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened. Of course your kids don't like it, kids are inherently conservative, but keep life as simple for them as possible and as adults they will probably be able to understand that you had to do what you did.

    Wishing you strength!

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  14. Thanks Mandy - that is what I am going for, drama-free. Sure, I occasionally regress into my 2 year old self, but I make sure I don't do it in front of the kids.

    Kyla, that is hilarious! LOL indeed. Love that it is Josh's problem, not yours:) Your support on my blog and this blog means a lot to me!

    AD2B - Thanks! Divorce is such a range of emotions - and I am super labile these days. Happy, elated, liberated, scared, lonely, independent, strong - I run the gamut. Hopefully time will bring more stability. Looks like you aren't looking back - that's encouraging.

    Thanks anon - you are right, kids see more in black and white, but while conservative, they are strangely more flexible. I hope they will bounce back soon and yes, understand in the future. At least they (and I) will know that I tried. I think I have read early teens is one of the hardest ages for a kid - sorry for what you had to experience. My parents were married when I was a teen and my life was still pretty rough - that may or may not be the subject of a future blog.

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  15. Giz- glad you wrote about this, as difficult as these things can be. Sounds like you are handling this situation as best as possible. I think it takes courage to take that step that would make life better for all parties in the long run.

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  16. KC - thanks. You hear all the time, "divorce is hard." And you nod, thinking you might be able to imagine. You can't. Luckily many others have been there, and can offer support, but all cases are unique, and I learn that I can get support but can't really compare, ultimately. And that's hard. Makes you feel alone, but better than feeling exposed, I guess.

    Live and learn!

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  17. As profound as this experience is I have nothing profound to say here, just wanted to thank you for sharing with us through this blog (please continue) and express my support, hoping you and your children get through this healthfully.

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  18. Thanks, T! Wow, who knew? Sharing is hard, but I am receiving such great support. You all give me the courage to continue.

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  19. It's sometimes hard knowing that doing the right thing for yourself and your family is also the hard thing. My mom never divorced my dad ten-fifteen years ago (I'm now in my mid-twenties), and to this day she always wonders (unfortunately, aloud and to me) if she did the right thing by staying with him. I can tell she's not really happy, and as her daughter it's always been difficult knowing that she's unhappy. As I got older and realized what was causing it, it was also distressing knowing that it was my father causing the unhappiness, and that she just wouldn't leave him, which made for an interesting relationship model for me (I've stayed too long in relationships that were very, very bad for me, thinking that it was a normal thing to do).

    I can't imagine going through a divorce with two children, so I won't even pretend to understand what you're going through, but it seems like you've made the right choice, and that you're handling it so well with your children. It's really inspiring to see a woman of your strength and character (which, actually, can be said about all of the women who post here)

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  20. Thanks, Shirah - I had been wondering about the relationship model I was creating in my own family, and worried about long term effects on my kids. I truly hope you have learned enough from your very bad experiences to find a good one next!

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  21. Gizabeth~ There is nothing left here to say that the lovely and wise commenters have not said above, but I wanted to send you cyber-hugs and let you know that you have shown such strength and amazing resolve through such a difficult time, even through the rough circumstances. Wishing you all the best.

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  22. Thanks for sharing. It isn't any easier the second time around, which I would never wish on you or anyone:(

    I don't know what I would do if my kids were trying to get us back together. It hasn't come up at all. I think it may be because he was so awful to me in front of them. Or, it may be that I just don't have a seven year old. It must be so difficult to hear her say things like that.

    Anyway, keep on keeping on.

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  23. Thanks a bunch, Dr. Whoo and MomTFH. Not to stereotype, but I think having a 7 year old girl exacerbates the Parent Trap phenom.

    I will be very careful before I even consider a second time around - marriage or divorce. Being 36 and having my experiences makes me finally wiser in social matters - smart doctors can sure make dumb mistakes in their personal lives. But dumb mistakes can yield amazing kids - so hard to have regrets.

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  24. You might want to check out the blog: LivinginSplitsville.The author is a good writer who posted weekly for the first year after her marriage fell apart. I recommend it.

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