Divorce: Taking The Long View


BY ERIN LAVERY

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

A year into my second marriage, I waited in bed for my wife to return from her daily bender. I was 39
years old and miserable. My children were safely tucked in bed in their bedroom and, as I waited to see
whether she would be yelling at me again that night, I wondered whether I could handle another forty
years of this and, if so, what I would be like after that kind of a stretch. It wasn’t pretty.

For those of you who never married into anger, let me give you a window into what the life is like.
Imagine a world where you do all the stuff you are already doing now, but are constantly having to
process your tasks through a set of questions, such as “what is her preferred way of this happening?” Or,
“If I do this, will the kids be woken up with yelling later?” Or my personal least favorite, “Will this ruin
Christmas?” Since the day we had said “I do”, my wife has shifted from a person who sent me love
poems to a person who sent me hate mail. Everyone and everything was suspect. She was convinced my
friends were lovers. Offers to navigate while she drove were considered an affront on her navigational
skills. On and on it went, and every perceived slight led to another round of accusations and yelling. It
was a nightmare and I wanted out.

However, this would not be my first failed marriage and I wasn’t even forty years old. This would mean
my 4-year-old son would become a child of not one divorce, but two. I’m sure you’re following along
here. That figure does not look good. Reflecting on that failure kept me stuck in a miserable pattern. I
attended personal and couples counseling trying to save my marriage. Meanwhile, things kept getting
much worse. I didn’t want to acknowledge my mistakes and fail my children, but in that moment,
reflecting on who I would become if I didn’t leave, I was greeted with a new question. It wasn’t just about
what I would become, it was about what my children would become, too.

Looking into the future allowed me to look past my fears in the moment (of failing my marriage, of the
inevitable social judgment, of the public embarrassment, of the expense). Taking the long view reminded
me what really mattered and that trying to make an insane situation work would be an even greater
mistake. I didn’t have the courage to end it that night, but it wasn’t long after that I did.

When people are in crisis, it’s normal to go into a survival state. After the past year, a lot of us are stuck
in that right now. Unfortunately, this mind frame often gets in the way of us being able to think
reasonably and make sound judgments regarding how to respond. People become focused on the
immediate future and immediate needs. As a result, it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of figuring out how
to get through the day rather than sorting out how to build a better life. You are not likely to make your
best choices and often, this is when your choices matter most.

If you find yourself in an untenable position and can’t imagine how to get out, take a deep breath. Shift
your attention for a moment away from your fear and to what you want. Now ask yourself, what do you
need to get there? Write it down and make it happen. Take the long view and you could very well save
your life.

Now, almost three years after that difficult night, I can say most certainly admitting my mistakes didn’t
hurt as much as staying. My poor son is hard to feel bad for most days. He’s too busy making fart jokes
and showing off his new Tae Kwon Do moves.

Sure, when I filed for divorce, the social judgment came. I think we can all agree that was inevitable.
Some people wrote me off, but I’m still here and I’m happier than ever. So the jokes on them. Or maybe, the joke is on the woman that I almost was. Doesn’t really matter either way. The important thing is I can
laugh again and mean it.

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