1. It’s expensive. It costs thousands of dollars to retain an attorney to wrangle with your spouse’s attorney to figure out how to divide up the tons of debt that contributed to the demise of the marriage.

2. Single parenting. It is much harder than parenting with a partner. No down time. No logistics-splitting. No chore-sharing. On the other hand, if you were already experiencing this while the ex- was sitting around the house, you will feel MUCH better doing them without resentment.

3. Absent kids. Conversely, when the kids go off with the now ex-partner, you will miss them terribly. And you will realize that this person you had to excise from your life because he was an irresponsible fool is now in charge of your precious babies. And he’s taking them to a LAKE to ride on dangerous watercraft! There are probably sharks in that lake! And hundreds of drunken boaters! And no lifeguards!

4. No shared memory bank. Of course, if your ex-partner had no recollection of most of your time together, that’s really no loss. But it’s sad not to have anyone to whom you can say, “Remember when MOS-32 had croup?” or “Remember when MYS-27 insisted on drawing only in black and white, and refused to use colored markers?”

5. Tainted life cycle events. Bad enough that your parasitic ex- comes to your son’s bar mitzvah and sits there like a guest (which he was, since he contributed nothing to the festivities). He will also come to your children’s weddings and to your grandchildren’s birthday parties. There is no avoiding this, short of a convenient bout of the plague (his) or a selfish move to Florida (also his, one can only hope).

I’m trying to make light of it, but of course, it is especially traumatic for the children. No child wants their parents to split up, no matter how much they fight. I remember my parents fighting a lot, and crying in fear that they would divorce (they didn’t). It’s almost 17 years since my ex and I parted ways (divorcing 2 years after that), and I still feel terrible about hurting my children. This wasn’t supposed to happen! I didn’t plan it this way!

I actually waited too long, but that is because I wanted to be 100% sure there was no possible solution. It’s hard to say exactly what was the last straw, partially because I’ve repressed it, but I do recall thinking that this self-destructive individual was going to drag us all down with him into a place where we couldn’t recover. I had to save the kids and I couldn’t continue to rescue their dad if I was going to be available for them.

As the years go by, of course, the painful moments recede and I have often questioned my decision, but thankfully I have people around me to remind me how bad it was (constant lying, trouble with the IRS, police calling the house and terrorizing my son, sheriffs serving us with lawsuits, garnishing of MY wages, more lying, three mortgages, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and did I mention the lying?).

No one can know what the future will bring, or what effects time and life crises will have on a person you met in your twenties. I should have heeded the demographic differences between us, but that’s too facile. It wasn’t just those obvious factors. It was more like the old commercial for Scott toilet tissue: two rolls that look alike at the start, but when you unroll them, it turns out one runs out long before the other one does. The real fatal flaw was the difference in capacity between my ex-husband and myself, by which I mean resilience, the ability to understand consequences, the ability to learn and grow from the lessons life brings us, and the ability to feel deep love and devotion. When he started to put his own selfish interests before those of the kids, and indulged his need to avoid conflict and his refusal to make himself the least bit uncomfortable in order to make their lives better, it was time to make a change.

I perseverated over this through not one but 4 separate therapists (2 individual therapists, 2 marriage counselors) for way too many years until I was able to take action. What finally did it was the cataclysmic realization that the choice I wanted WAS JUST NOT AVAILABLE TO ME. I was never going to have a relatively happy marriage with two functioning partners, at least not with this guy. After 18 years, it was getting worse and worse, and as they say in court, the marriage had broken down irretrievably (I always picture a large dog sniffing around in the woods looking for wedding bands when I hear that phrase).

That realization – that what I was trying to hold out for was not on the menu – was a very freeing one. Once I figured it out, it was a “D’oh!” moment – as in, how could I not have seen it? But I have learned that “process” – the act of going THROUGH something for as long as it takes until you get to where you need to go – cannot be circumvented or avoided. I see this in every aspect of life, and it influences everything – whether people are invested and happy in their work, whether families will stay close as the years go by, whether children learn good values.

So out of heartbreak and loss came some good life lessons. I was lucky to get out safely and legally, and to save my kids from more pain. But I don’t recommend it.


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