Okay, waiternotes.com blog-ites, here’s some big non-restaurant news in my life. I am getting divorced from the Wife of 8 years.
First general thought is it’s a sad thing. I didn’t marry until the age of 40. By that point I had seen my parents and half of my good friends marry and divorce. I believed I was the one who was going to do it right. I thought I had the right partner with the right values to do it for the long haul. There might be tough times, problems to work out, but we would make it through those things and have an ultimately happy life together. You know, ‘. . . richer/poor, sickness/health,’ all that stuff.
Despite my initial and ongoing perception, our marriage bond wasn’t as strong as all that. It did not make it. Tough times were encountered, and we were not able to weather them.
The sadness I speak of is contained in that failure. But also in the remembrance of the really good times, the special bond we did once have, and to a much smaller degree the time lost in an ultimately fruitless undertaking.
That is the first general thought.
To be more specific and timely, however, I am happy and optimistic right now.
As I have told the various important and marginal people in my life the news, I’ve mostly met condolence. Virtually everyone shakes their head, says some things about how difficult it is, what a shame, etc. They say they are sorry.
It’s not their fault, but it’s the wrong tack on me at this time. If it were 1.5-2.0 years ago, they’d be dead-on. That was when I was head-over-heels, but not in love – more in complete chaos and confusion. My world was completely spun off its axis: the toilet water was swirling the wrong direction, the sun was setting on the wrong horizon, and time was a snarled mess of yarn. I was annotating cell phone records, staking out her friends’ houses, triangulating time/distance/tasks to see if things added up, cruising local watering holes where she might possibly be hanging out, etc. I was in a frenzy.
And then nothing happened. The wife and I did not get divorced. We had the sporadic blow-out yelling match; we didn’t share the affection and understanding we had before things fell apart; we spent more time separate. Essentially, there was no further deterioration, but also certainly no forward movement in repairing or rebuilding a marriage.
As months passed I had two basic modes: 1) numbed and willingly staring off in the metaphorical opposite direction to avoid confronting the situation; and 2) laborious introspection into every aspect of her behavior, trying to determine what it meant and where it was going.
As more months passed, Mode 1 came to rule. As long as the surface status quo (we still lived together, shared meals, contributed to the household, and generally kept maintaining the shell of our marriage) remained in place, I was comfortable enough with it. In fact, it was kind of a welcome relief, and something of a much-needed correction in the balance of our marriage.
That might sound confusing, so let me explain. The wife is that person who is always striving for the next thing, the next rung, the achievement. This is a good thing. Forward progress is what life is about. Through our marriage, she had many such striving projects. Buying the house I live in was a very good one. She pursued and attained her teaching credential. She took teaching jobs hoping to change her/our life. She started her own restaurant.
Meantime, I had my own set of striving goals when I met her. I wanted to become a capable musician and songwriter. I was already a writer and I wanted to bridge into professional writer territory – be it novels, short stories, screenplays. I wanted also to have a family and happy marriage.
Because of a character flaw in myself and the nature of the Wife’s personality, something else developed. Gradually, I came to espouse and support her causes and goals, to the vast detriment of my own personal goals and dreams. By the time the shit hit the fan, I no longer played in my blues band, and my writing was something I was able to get fired up for about twice a year for 3-4 week periods, essentially accomplishing nothing.
Our ghost-like occupation of what once was our marriage allowed me freedom from her demands on my time and psychic energy. And I gradually started writing regularly again (this blog is a product of that). I have not joined another band, but I’ve written and recorded more than a handful of original songs. (Update: Actually, since first drafting this a few days ago, my old drummer contacted me again. He’s got a bass player, and he’s invited me to be the guitarist/singer. Not bad.)
Then one day at the end of last summer, she said she had to move out – a trial separation. It’s hard for me to believe now, but I was surprised at the time. I urged her not to do it. For some reason, I saw our growing comfort with our bad situation as progress. Which it wasn’t. I begged and argued that I didn’t think it would solve anything, when we obviously needed to communicate more, not less. But she said she already had a place lined up and she was going to go ahead with it. Try it for a month. Maybe she’d be back in two weeks, missing me too much . . .
So she moved out. And I was surprised again. I found that my missing her was more than balanced by the relief and ‘lightness of being’ from not having her around.
She moved back home a few months later, just before Thanksgiving, in order to keep up the façade for visiting family. (The separation was a secret from everyone except one of her friends. We still worked together at Carney’s, still sometimes hung out on our off days.) Things seemed a bit better. To reiterate however, there was no forward progress. It just wasn’t being a problem.
We did the holidays. If you’ve read the blog, you know she quit Carney’s in January. Then in February, she suddenly said she had to move out again. I was again taken by surprise. I guess I’m not the smartest guy in the room, as long as there’s at least two people.
This time, things changed for me. It didn’t happen precisely right away, but a switch flipped in my head. I’d long marveled, during my dating days, how women could be in love with me one day and the next they really didn’t care if they ever talked to me again. Women have that switch they can flip. Well, apparently I have one too.
I was basically over it. I felt fantastic. My luck improved. I gained a certain mojo.
One day, a little over a month ago, a beautiful young woman came into Carney’s with 7 octogenarian women. We connected. She put one of the old women up to ask me if I was single? I said yes. This gave me the confidence to ask her out. She texted me that night, we had a drink together when I got off work, and we were quickly having a romance.
This was all I needed to make the big change in my life permanent. I had to tell this lovely new woman my exact situation. Which was, frankly, not nearly settled enough for her. I didn’t blame her.
It was this that spurred me to make an appointment for the wife to come over so I could break her the news that I was finally done and wanted a divorce. I did not finally take this step so I could be with the new girl, because who knows where that will lead? But she did provide the needed motivation. She was the catalyst.
It was not easy or fun having this sit-down with the wife. She knew something was up. She came in the front door and her eyes were already welling with tears. I made my point concisely: A long time had passed. I had observed that there was no forward progress on fixing our fucked up marriage. This led me to understand that it was time to get divorced.
I put my personal spin on it. That it would be better for both of us from this very day forward, though it might not seem like it immediately, because we have taken a deliberate action. And that was so far better than just sitting stuck in the mud as we had been. I said that we could also end the charade of lying to our friends and loved ones.
She said a very nice thing to me. ‘You’re going to be hard to replace.’
That got me, and I started crying.
In all, though she cried and was sad, she seemed to take it well.
The next couple days yielded some awfully bitter and contentious phone calls from the wife. Then by the weekend, she seemed to be in a much better place. She had already found a permanent place to live, somewhat close by, and was excited doing that.
I feel relieved. It appears this will be orderly.
Thanks for reading.