Finalizing My Divorce -TWICE
Ten years ago my divorce was finalized. It was my second divorce and so much different from my first and yet still the same. Even when you want the divorce, know with every fiber in your being that it is the right thing, no one can prepare you for the feelings that you have when the judge tells you it is complete. With a signature of a stranger, your marriage no longer exists.
My first divorce was a tragic comedy of errors. My then husband insisted that he could do the divorce himself. While I had wanted a divorce for several years, he insisted on filing the divorce as the petitioner. We did not have much money, and had amicably agreed to the division of the little financial assets we had. We had even come to an agreement on the most important things we had, custody and visitation of our three sons. I questioned several times if he knew what he was doing and he insisted he did. Our divorce was a perfect representation of our marriage…me questioning his competence and his defensiveness and determination to prove me wrong.
He filed the appropriate paperwork and a court date was set for December. I had a heavy travel schedule for work at the time including a 2-week long trip in Asia with a return date just before our court date. With every question I asked about his preparedness for the court date, his level of defensiveness and irritation rose. He assured me he knew what he was doing.
The day of the court date, I found that I was a ball of conflicting emotions. Relief, regret, sadness, fear, grief and even a bit of happiness that the next chapter of my life (whatever that was going to look like) was starting. My husband asked if I wanted to go to the courthouse together – I did not. As I was sitting in the courtroom waiting for our case to get called, the tears fell unbidden down my face. I remembered our wedding day…how we had walked down the aisle together to start our new life. Memories of happier times with our sons. His face when he was trying to make me laugh. At that moment, all of the reasons why we were getting divorced weren’t as clear as the reasons we were together.
When the judge called our case, my stomach lurched. All of those positive feelings left the minute the judge said, “I suppose if you two were going to have surgery, you would do it yourselves, too?” She started pointing out all of the things we were missing in our documents, things that were done wrong, etc. My face grew hot and my palms started to sweat. All of the years of disappointments in our marriage began replaying in my mind. All of the businesses started and lost, the house that was mortgaged for a business idea and lost, standing in a bedroom while he was curled in a ball on the bed telling me he couldn’t make the meeting to dissolve a partnership he had entered into and asking me to go do it, the fact that every single time I had needed him, he hadn’t stepped up and left me to deal with whatever crisis had happened as a result of his actions (or inaction). I knew that whatever I had been feeling minutes before wasn’t real. What was real was the fact that I had been on my own for most of our marriage. Divorce was just a formality that would allow me to officially be on my own.
I asked the judge when her next available court date was before the end of the year. She said she had one on December 20th, just a few days away. I asked her to put us on the docket for that date. She pointed out that we would need the help of an attorney and it would be difficult to get with one within that short time frame at this time of year. I assured her that I would AND I would make sure that all of the documents were in order. She took one look at my face and said, “I believe you will.” She set the court date and we walked out of the courtroom. My husband started making excuses as soon as we hit the door. I didn’t want to hear them anymore. I told him I would take care of it. Something I had been saying for most of our 13 years of marriage.
I reached out to a friend that I had known since junior high who was an attorney. I explained what had happened. She told me she wished I had reached out in the beginning. Thankfully, between the two of us, we got everything pulled together in time for the next court date in just a few days. I will forever be grateful for her help.
A few days later, standing in front of the judge, my feelings were different. There were no tears this time. All of the times I had to “fix” things were clear. I had wanted and needed an equal partner in our marriage and I realized I had never had that. We did not bring out the best in each other, we actually brought out the worst. I was grateful that the first court date had gone the way it had because it had brought a clarity for me that tends to be elusive when finalizing a divorce. This divorce was the right thing for me, for our sons and ultimately for him. I walked out of the courtroom knowing I had done the right thing and then cried all the way home.
A little over five years later I was in the same courtroom, ironically in front of the same judge for my second divorce. My second husband didn’t show up, whether because he didn’t care enough to or because he had several pending court cases in front of this very judge and he was afraid to. This divorce couldn’t happen fast enough; I should have gotten it years earlier. Part of the reason I hadn’t was I didn’t want the stigma of being divorced TWICE. I had finally realized what other people thought of me didn’t matter.
Within a year of getting divorced the first time, I had rushed into a serious relationship with “Prince Charming.” He had quite literally swept me off my feet. It was just a week after our wedding that I discovered the first of many lies and realized he wasn’t who or what he had told me he was. I should have walked out that day, had the marriage annulled. But a part of me wanted to believe his lies. I wanted the fairy tale that he had promised me. I didn’t want to go through ANOTHER divorce.
I stayed in the marriage for three years, three years longer than I should have. Those three years cost me both emotionally and financially. My sons were put through turmoil that I will forever regret. Hearing the full story now, people don’t understand how I stayed as long as I did. It’s taken me a long time to be able to answer that question.
Divorce is like a death. It is the death of your hopes, your dreams, your family, your relationship with your best friend. No one gets married thinking it will end in divorce. When it happens, your world shifts and you never quite go back to who you were before. It fundamentally changes you…who you are and how you view the world. Even if it’s the right thing to do, once you’ve gone through it, it is something you never want to go through again.
It has been ten years. I haven’t gotten remarried, you could say I am “gun shy.” I do believe in love and I believe in marriage. I have not given up hope that one day I will find a man of integrity that will love me the way I love him. Until that time, I am learning to love myself and be the best version of me that I can be. I don’t regret my divorces, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had gotten each of them sooner. Both of them have contributed to who I am today…a strong woman who knows her value independent of a man. I really love her and know she deserves everything the world has to offer!