Saturday, September 19, 2009

The End of a Marriage

(Ten months after this post was written, I’m modifying it a bit.)
It's been a busy three months this time since my last update. Two days ago, my 32 year marriage came to its legal end, at 9:35 a.m. We'd been living separately since he first filed for divorce, 2 1/2 years ago, so I've had a lot of time for growth, adjustment, and understanding. It's hard, though, to lose such a huge part of my identity, to say "ex-husband" instead of "husband", "divorced" instead of "married." It's early Saturday morning, and I've had thoughts running through my head about this for much of the night. I've also been sick this week, and some of the prescriptions that help my bronchitis and asthma keep me awake. I'm hoping to go back to sleep after writing a little.

I do think being a bereaved child and having a long way to go in healing when I was in college affected a lot of things, including who I was attracted to, and who I attracted. I was a wounded person who felt most comfortable with others who could understand what it was like to be damaged by life. My ex-husband has a lot of wonderful talents and good qualities, but came from a childhood full of his illnesses, his father's alcoholism, and tirades by his mother at times about how worthless men were. We met in my church, after he'd just become a Christian. He told me later that he felt like he was rescuing me, and I think I felt that about him too. It's not a good way to start a marriage. He had a list inside his head of things he would like me to change. I had a lot of things I needed to change, too, self-esteem, confidence, overcoming shyness, but he wanted a different woman than I knew how to be. Motherless children often have no example of how to be a healthy female, and we try to figure it out in our own way.

We did help to heal each other, and kept growing, but a lot of my changes were a blossoming into the person I should have been, and they were in ways that didn't fit well as well with him. I'm a social worker, and have become more liberal in politics. He's a staunch Republican. I'm empathetic, he's logical. I'm an extrovert, he's definitely an introvert. When I found a place that felt safe and comfortable, a church or a community, I didn't want to leave. I wanted roots, he wanted adventure. I've learned to be assertive about things that need to be fixed. He avoided conflict. Unfortunately, I grew in one way that he could not accept. I have had a lifelong battle with my weight, and gained weight after our children were born. I’ve had successes in taking it off followed by gaining it all back plus more. My former husband felt like my weight gain was a personal betrayal. An effort didn't count to him if I gained it back. I've had men tell me they loved their wives throughout their marriage, and big or small, they were still attracted to them. That was not the story of my marriage. I’ve known for years that he hasn’t thought me small enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, or optimistic enough. And I haven’t heard the words “I love you” for many years.
At the beginning of our separation, I asked if there was another woman, and he said no, but he hoped to find one. If he has, I don't know about it. He's been an honorable man, even in his unhappiness with me.

I do have a lot of things I'm thankful for in my marriage. Even though my ex-husband told me long years ago that he wanted to leave, he didn't want to leave me or our kids in financial trouble. Brian always worked hard to provide for the family, and made many sacrifices. Once we had kids, he always worked full-time, often went to school, and did music jobs. He had to let go of some of his dreams. Brian stayed with me through years of being home with the kids, grad school, and while I was establishing my career. He's been my friend for 35 years, and was fair in our divorce. And we did raise three wonderful young adult sons.

When all of this started, I told one of our ministers "I've failed." She said back to me, "You didn't fail, the marriage failed." That helped. I've realized over the years that you can't make someone else happy, and you can't make someone love you, even as much as you want to. People have to find those things inside themselves that fulfill them. Even with my challenges in life, I do have a peace about who I am, and a basic sense of satisfaction about who I've become over the years. I really like myself, and that will help me get through. There was a time I didn't appreciate myself as much as I do now, and was willing to give up parts of myself to try to make someone else happy. If I ever marry again, I want to find someone who likes who I am right now. I'm worth a husband that would accept me and love me in a way I haven't been, for a long time.

I've gone through a multitude of emotions over the last few years. One was fear of how I would survive on my paycheck. I wanted to keep the house, which gives my college aged children a place they can call home. Since the first filing for divorce, we've used some retirement money to pay down the mortgage, and I am getting enough of his retirement in the settlement that I can cash it out and pay down the rest. Having confidence that I will be able to pay my bills helps a lot. He lives in a duplex we owned together, so we each get a piece of property.
I've been in several divorce recovery support groups. Two have been based on my favorite book about adjusting to divorce, "Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends" by Dr. Bruce Fisher and Dr. Robert Alberti. I highly recommend that book, and the workbook that goes with it. There's a website of many places nationwide that use the book in divorce recovery, at . Another thing I found very helpful was going to a Beginning Experience weekend. Information is at .  For people who would be fine with a biblically based curriculum (I am one), information about the DivorceCare program can be found at

Someone said to me the other day that this is a new beginning, a blank slate on which I can begin the story of the rest of my life. I do believe that. Another person wrote, after I told her I was divorced, "Congratulations! and my deepest sympathies, both. I really believe your life is about to just blossom in ways you never imagined!" I do think that's true. I've grown a lot over my lifetime, and keep growing. And it the midst of it all, I find every experience I go through teaches me something I can use to help others. Life will be different, but it will be good.