Enough With The Positive Attitude. Let's Talk About Divorce!
There isn't one good thing about the topic of divorce! The idea that someone would want to write about it at all is surprising. I'm aghast that it's me writing this!
But, I just have to stop for a moment and vent! And you lucky people get to choose to read on or not!
On December 5, it became final. Documents signed, now all that's left is to pay the lawyer! The whole thing had been nothing but a stressful and frustrating nightmare. It's one thing to feel robbed by your spouse. It's another thing to feel that your lawyer did a better job of representing herself than you. All together, everybody walks away with money...that is, except me!
So, here's all the ugly truth about divorce!
The Person We Marry Somehow Vanishes!
When I met him, he loved to go to nice restaurants. We would go dancing afterwards till the early morning hours. One New Year's Eve, he said "Buy a nice cocktail dress. I'm taking you somewhere special". We spent the weekend in downtown Chicago, seeing a play, dining at a beautiful restaurant and joining a New Year's party that was fabulous. I was so in love.
When we married, he was working. We bought a bigger house, he convinced me that I should have a new car. I was smitten by this materialistic extravagance. It was something I had watched with other friends of mine but with my first marriage, it had been out of reach. I had thought that now, finally, together we would be able to enjoy some of those nice things.
He encouraged me to move up the career ladder, even encouraging me to return to school too so that I was qualified to step even higher.
He always said "Trust me!" And I did.
He was making enough money at the time that he started taking weekdays off to join friends out on the lake, partying until well after dark. He said he deserved some time off and I didn't disagree, even though his freshly tanned face on a weekday burned me more than him because I had worked all day! It wasn't long, though and the occasional day on the lake turned into days and days of not working. He finally admitted that he was becoming disenchanted with his job. I encouraged him to look for other work. He supported my career changes. I should support his.
I needed to move to the community where I worked. He wanted to be the general contractor for building a house. I thought it would boost his moral. Instead, he got into an argument with the developer and it ended up costing us $15,000 in a lawsuit. To this day, he still insists that he was right!
This attitude carried over to trying to find work. He felt that he was too good for most jobs. He deserved more money, couldn't deal with the hours, didn't want anything too physical. The list went on and on. Soon, he didn't work at all.
On the other hand, I loved my new job. I worked long hard hours. I was making good money. And because this was new to me, I cautiously saved in tax-sheltered annuities. I made extra payments on loans to get the car paid off early. I kept my credit cards paid in full each month. I wanted to be smart about this money. I didn't chastise him for not having a job. I assumed he just needed some time. For a while commission checks still allowed him to pay some of the bills. I was busy with my job and had little time to pay attention.
But then, he said "We need to sell this house!" He said that he hated it! Too much lawn to mow. Too many bad memories from the initial build. We needed to build something smaller and in town. Again, I didn't disagree. So downsize we did! This time with a real general contractor who was willing to let him help and things worked out better. Still it didn't change his attitude about getting a job.
A little job here and a little job there, he didn't want to work too many hours. He preferred being at home. The commissions dried up. Day after day, he watched television, drank beer, and became less and less involved in the outside world.
As an administrator, it was important that I attend different work functions. He made excuses to not attend. He said that people ignored him. They only wanted to talk to me. So soon he didn't want to attend and I would go by myself. Those nice dinners out, theater, dancing, and beach vacations had ended long ago. The local bar was good enough for him. He couldn't hear at the theater. His feet hurt too much to dance. And he hated beach vacations because he didn't like just sitting around! (Now that's actually funny!)
So I switched to restaurants, vacations, and movies of his choice, doing my best to be a good partner.
Then I was about to celebrate a milestone birthday and said I wanted a special vacation and wanted my daughters to come with us. Instead, he suggested a different vacation without my daughters. I said "No". It was my turn to choose. So, he stayed home! Then he refused to attend my daughter's wedding because it was to be a beach wedding. He thought it was rude of them to choose a destination wedding. So, I went without him. it gets to the point that I go to so many things by myself that some people are surprised that I'm actually married.
Reflecting On It All!
I started my first full time job immediately after I graduated from college. I worked full time, raised two kids, and even helped out for years at a family business. I knew nothing other than hard work. When I turned 60, I decided that it was time to formally retire from my career in education and when I retired, he quit his part time job! I asked what he was going to use for his money and he just said "Your's. That's what a retirement account is for!"
He then said that it was time to spend some of the accounts I had worked so hard to preserve. After all, I didn't want to just die and leave it all to my daughters did I? He wanted to buy something in Florida. He didn't want to deal with the cold and snow anymore. Or maybe he wanted to buy a cottage in the northern part of the state. Or maybe a travel trailer so he could go someplace different every year. He didn't know but he wanted to spend some of that money that I had saved.
I said that I would think about all of that. When I said that we could maybe think about a warmer climate for the winter months if he would be willing to move closer to my daughters for me. He not only refused to move closer to my daughters but also said that we'd have to get rid of my cat if we were going to be gone for months at a time. No way was he going to travel for days trying to deal with a cat in the car.
Finally, after sixteen years of doing things his way, being told to "Trust Me", only to end up working full time, taking over all of the bills, giving in on any entertainment and vacation options, going alone to parties and even my daughter's wedding I said, "that's enough!" I was done. I wanted out.
His first response - "You know it will cost you. This is a community property state!"
What Do I Really Want?
That's the question the lawyer asked me. "What do you really want out of this?"
He wanted to stay in the house because, you know, after all he helped build it! So I moved into an apartment that is closer to my daughters and waited for him to file for a divorce because I knew the inevitable! And so it happened...I met with the lawyer and, of course found out that all the assets that I had painstakingly saved was now to be split 50/50 with this man who had spent very little of our married life actually working, who had never made one house payment, and who had not saved one penny. I also get to split my retirement fund with him so that he has a monthly income. And...if I want to continue to live with my current bills, I may have to return to work!
So, what do I really want?, the lawyer asked again.
What I want is for him to say he's sorry! I want him to apologize for letting me down. I had loved a man who, I thought, was going to share dreams with me. I had loved a man who tricked me into believing that I could trust him because he said he loved me too!
What I want is to have him feel some sense of remorse for the fact that I am the only one bringing assets to this table. I want him to feel some sense of guilt and shame for taking a monthly check from his wife!
I want to not feel so stupid! I want to not feel like I let my daughters down. This is the second time that I am leaving a marriage because I felt used. I am only proud of the fact that each time I have had the courage to leave. But then I feel stupid because I leave with so much less money then I had worked so hard to save. I never wanted to be a burden on my daughters. I had always wanted to be able to take care of myself.
What I don't want though are the material items that I bought thinking that they made me look accomplished and happy. The house, the furniture, the pictures on the walls - those things mean little to me. They would only remind me that I was trying desperately to show others that I was successful. I have not been successful!
What do I want? I want and have the unconditional love of my daughters. And...I want the cat!
And Then There's The Lawyer!
At first I was not alarmed by the fact that weeks passed by without contact. She had said "There's plenty of time. Don't worry!" Even my daughter said, "You wouldn't want her calling all the time and charging you for each of those calls now would you?" Well, no, I guess not. So, a month went by and I had more contact with the soon to be ex-husband than I did my lawyer but finally she called saying that her para-legal was working on typing up my financial statement and would be sending a copy to me in the next day or so. it was always like that: "I get back to you tomorrow." "You'll get it in the mail in the next couple of days." Instead, I would always wait at least two weeks. The first attempt at my financial statement was a mess. Why hadn't she just sent me the template? I could have typed the answers in correctly. Instead, I had submitted a hand written copy and now had a para-legals interpretation of what I had written. It had been so long that some things had changed, like my address! But the best was dealing with trying to get this person to understand that when she changed numbers in a list of assets, it also changed the bottom line! I thought I was going shatter my phone as I tried to get her to understand the logic of that!
Then, at one point, my soon to be ex proudly shared with me that he had successfully sold his van! Now wait a second, hadn't we signed some agreement to not make large purchases or sell large items until the divorce was final? Apparently this fell in the category of "His" property. Soon after though, my lawyer calls me to say that I am about to be served with an injunction to force me to keep paying my ex a monthly allowance until the divorce is final. I very clearly explained why I had stopped, going into great detail about the fact that he had sold his van. He had the money to live on and he wasn't supposed to sell it anyway. I had no legal obligation to support his habits. The lawyer was astonished. She said that she would call his lawyer immediately and tell him of his clients transgression. Of course, she didn't. She forgot. Then a week and a half later, she called to tell me that everything was finalized on the paperwork except for language that his lawyer wanted to add regarding an obligation for me to pay him a monthly amount until the divorce was final. Well, yes, I blew up! Did she not recall our conversation about that van? Oh, she would contact his lawyer and get back to me tomorrow!
Oh, for god's sake!