Thursday Ten: Things I Have Learned About Marriage, Life and Myself… While Waiting for the Finalization of My Divorce

Writing a glib, funny, sarcastic Thursday Ten today seemed wrong. Today, my lawyer and I entered a courtroom, I had to take the stand and swear before the court that yes, I wanted my marriage to be over. And now, after waiting. It is. And it’s not something I take lightly. It’s a big deal. For months today was what I’ve been waiting for and now is day one of a new life, and it’s been a weird ride. So, if serious isn’t your thing – step away. I’ll be goofy again next time. I promise.

But for those of you who are sticking around to read…

I’ve learned a lot in this past year. Some of it about marriage, some of it about myself, some just general life stuff (like hey! I’m good at shoveling the driveway). Here are ten things though.

1. We are not, at 30, who we are at 20.

I remember telling my dad and his wife that I was engaged – they weren’t happy. It was 1999, I was 22 (ish?), and I was on my own, had a good job, was paying my own bills – but, I remember them saying they just didn’t believe that anyone under the age of 30 should get married. Of course it made me angry, it seemed unsupportive (well, it WAS unsupportive) but fact of the matter is – they were right. You change a lot between 20 and 30, and you even change in your 30s. Which is fine – that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed if you marry young, but, it means you have to change with each other. That’s the key. Also? Easier said than done.

2. It’s entirely too easy to get married. Getting divorced, on the other hand…

Over the past six months as I’ve been waiting for my divorce to be finalized, I’ve had the thought several times about those folks who vehemently argue that by enforcing a mandatory waiting period to purchase guns, the government is trying to take their rights away. I’ve not heard a single argument from anyone about the mandatory waiting period to get divorced (in Michigan, if you have kids you’ll be waiting six months). What about my rights to not be married to someone I don’t want to be married to? I’m not seeing any memes on Facebook about THAT (surely we can paste a fake quote over a picture and attribute it to Morgan Freeman, can’t we?). Getting married is a huge deal – it should be more difficult to do. People may disagree with that statement and it’s fine – but that’s my belief. Were it harder to do, maybe some people would be less likely. [I blow my own argument out of the water because I probably still would have gone through with it… but I still think the end process should be less tough with less hoops to jump through.]

3. No matter how big of a pain he might be (or that I might be for that matter) I’m grateful for the time we were together

Because we were together for the time we were together, we have two beautiful and amazing children. Sure, this splitting up part hasn’t been much fun, but I’d go through any of the wretched awful stuff a million times over just to have my children. They’re better than any of the worst stuff. Would I erase my time spent with him? Nope, because without the him and the us, there’d be no them.

4. Things are just things, but…

I really miss my dresser. And I sometimes wish I hadn’t give up this thing or that. I didn’t want to fight over things – I wanted to try to be fair (and he may well argue that I wasn’t, and that’s for him to blog about somewhere else, I suppose). I didn’t want us fighting over the Roy Rogers Wagon Wheel coffee table. But some of that stuff? I miss.

5. Divorce and co-parenting require marriage skills and that’s often why it’s so ugly.

Back in the day, when he and I were in counseling to talk about his son and his son’s troubles and to vent about his son’s mother, our therapist gave us that gem: “Divorce requires marriage skills.” And it does – the compromise and the ability to work together and all that… and if the couple had that, well, would they be divorced (well… yeah – but you get his point, right?). Having to be a team with someone you aren’t really a team with is hard. I get that now in a way I didn’t when we were sitting on that couch.

6. Everything I learned about being an ex-wife I learned by being a stepmom

I’d like to think that for as much as I will drive my ex crazy about any number of things, that in the ways that truly matter, he’ll see a difference in the way I am versus the crazy we dealt with from his son’s mother for all of those years. I have no intention of ever using my children as a pawn to get back at him. I will do my best to keep him informed and involved in their lives. And generally? I’m not an awful person. It’s not in me to be mean JUST TO BE MEAN. And by dealing with her toxicity for 15 years, I know how I don’t want to live my life.

7. Free time is interesting, but there’s still a bit of a void when my kids are away

I like having time to workout, sleep in, pursue hobbies, spend time with people I dig. And when my kids are with their dad, I fill my days with lots of that because being in my house without them and with idle time? It’s really tough. When I’m alone in the house, it doesn’t quite feel like home. It’s important they have time with their dad, and it’s important that I get to be Sarah and not just mom… but there are some moments where their absence is like a gut punch.

8. Like it or not, money is a factor

I really really did not want to be one of those women counting every penny, but as a colleague told me, it takes women about 5 years to financially recover from a divorce. Though I had experienced no lags in my employment and was and am working (though my current work situation is unpredictable and scary), it took a long time to get a child support policy in place (thank you, Michigan, for that delay) and once it was put in place it wasn’t retroacted back to the separation and it wasn’t even extended back as far as when I filed. That means that before an order was even in place, I was doing a good chunk of the financial heavy lifting alone. And eventually that all catches up. And I don’t mean the good way. I’d like to think it won’t take me five years, but yeah, I’m stressed about finances. AND I HATE IT.

9. Lawyers are really expensive

Not a whole lot I can add here. They are really stupid crazy expensive. Ridiculously so. At one point in the process, I paid $200 for a consult. A CONSULT. I didn’t even hire him. As far as ways to earn $200 for an hour of your time that probably won’t get you thrown in jail, having consult meetings has to be a pretty good gig. If I was a lawyer, I would just have consults all day every day. Wouldn’t take any cases, but hey? Wanna meet with me? (And yes number 9 contributes heavily to number 8.)

195 | 365
10. I still believe in happily ever afters

My stepdad gave me this plaque for Christmas that says, “It’s never too late to live happily ever after” – and there were points along the way, during the marriage and during the divorce process, where I was sure there was no such thing. There were moments of extreme frustration (okay, some of them were recently!) but also moments of “I’ll just be the crazy old lady who lives alone and has a bunch of dogs” or “I’m going to die alone.” I really have no idea what the future holds but I know that I deserve good things and that I am capable of loving and of being loved and I am not so jaded by past experiences that I’m closing myself to whatever comes my way. I so love being happy. And a new happily ever after starts now.