Sunday, April 26, 2009

Definitely not the easy way out

Being divorced is like being hit by a Mack truck. If you live through it, you start looking very carefully to the right and to the left.
- Jean Kerr

I only mention the topic because I just read last week that my own community, the Comox Valley, has a much higher population of divorced folk per capita than larger centers like Vancouver. In fact, we are in the top five of marriage dissolution survivors (or victims) than is found in the mainstream.

I like to think it’s something to do with the climate, or maybe the ennui of smaller community life. Or maybe we’re just a thoroughly irresponsible lot who just don’t have the gumption to stick to a commitment for life.

Whatever is the case, I honestly don’t know many people in my circle who haven’t been divorced at least once. Yet, very dear old friends in Toronto of the same age attest that virtually nobody in their circle has made any divorce lawyers richer. I almost find that weird and highly unimaginative.

I jest, of course. Divorce is a horrible thing to go through and it takes a very long time to make the emotional adjustment to the sense of failure that transpires, not to mention the overweening sense of loss. Divorce bites and all levels, even though it is sometimes necessary. And sometimes it is.

As follows are some thoughts I had on the matter a few years ago. It’s very small excerpt from a book I wrote as a guide to middle aged men as they deal with, well, middle age. The book is as yet unpublished, but that is mainly because I haven’t pushed diligently or even hysterically enough. But, as a survivor of breakup I felt I had some insights to offer. So, here are a few scattered musings:
On a dismal and damp morning, a week, a month, six months after the divorce, you awaken after a fitful sleep (all sleeps are fitful these days), and you realize as you've never realized anything before, that you are alone. You are utterly alone. You are isolated-sans companion-desolate-remote-detached-forsaken-solitary-solo-you-and-your-shadow-an-island, and lonelier than you could ever have imagined was possible.

Welcome to the world of despair. How could it have all gone so wrong? This isn't what you'd fantasized divorce would be like. Your fantasy called for -- after the unpleasantries of the separation period were completed – a bevy of ladies, young, exquisitely beautiful, and extraordinarily uninhibited. You would finally get to participate in 'all tomorrow's parties', in which the strong drink would flow with no fear of a disapproving look; you'd live in a condo that would be a dream bachelor domain with soft Florentine leather furnishings, a king-size bed with black satin sheets, a bar stocked like an upscale liquor store with fine vintages, imported beers and velvet-on-the-tongue cognacs; there would be a mammoth ice-dispensing refrigerator, containing only T-bone steaks and lobster tails, sitting next to a Jenn-Aire range (both appliances in burnished stainless-steel; and parked in the driveway, next to the Range Rover SUV would be that '58 Corvette you've always cherished.
What you didn't imagine is what you've got: a dingy, drab, roach-infested one-bedroom flat in a down-at-the-heels and violent neighborhood, with your recently-purchased rusted '92 Tercel sitting in the parking lot, next to a long-abandoned K-Car with a smashed windshield and missing front wheel. That's where you are because your fantasy didn't take into account that divorce is, in the early stages at least, ever so much more costly than being married. You will have more than just the material losses you to contend with, however. You will also have the emotional stuff. If you didn't think before that you actually had emotions, you are now realizing you were living a lie. You are wounded, grievously wounded. If you're in denial about that, you aren't going to grow at all.
But, if you are a mass of weeping, festering wounds, then you're normal. Apply some bandages and be prepared to face one of the nastiest ordeals of your life to date. If you are on your way towards the divorce court, be forewarned, this is not a day that will enchant you. But, you have to do it. And you’ll survive. Thousands before you have. Just go with the flow and remember that statements made in the heat of the moment are not necessarily a reflection of the baseness of your character. Or, maybe they are, but you’ll still survive if you have the will to do so.

Having had too much personal experience I this regard, take it from me, it gets better, and it gets ‘different.’ It’s in the differences that life can eventually gain a little of the enchantment that it lost during the conflict.

My suggestion is to live for the day every day in the early stages. You won't see a big change in your feelings immediately, but eventually, in small increments, the days do improve and, if you're playing your cards right, one morning you will awaken and find your life is more positive than it has been in years. That's if you've gone about it in the right way. If you haven't, then you can't avoid becoming a divorce statistic. Did you know that divorced men have the highest premature death rate of all creatures in the known universe? I exaggerate, but it is much higher than the rate for married, or long-term relationship fellows. I hate the fact that divorced women have a really low death rate, but that's another issue entirely.
All things considered, by this point in life, and being very happily married (finally), if there had been any way to avoid the pain of divorce, I would have definitely done so. Neither of my divorces was without agony, either for me or for my spouses. It is never a matter to be taken lightly. As I say, it has all worked out for all of us, but Jean Kerr's 'Mack Truck' reference is well-founded.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a somewhat different fantasy, but I know what you mean. Divorce, or any break-up, is brutally hard.

7:04 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

As for the Comox Valley's high divorce rate, the answer is simple: everyone is a lot older there, so, statistically, there's a greater chance! :)

8:31 AM  
Blogger meggie said...

As a child from divorce, I can attest to my mother's slow fade & deep & utter misery. I don't think my father fared much better, but he did remarry, only to have that marriage also fall apart.

2:04 PM  
Blogger beachgirl said...

I haven't done the divorce thing. But I did walk away 7 years ago. I have no regrets. My life is much happier and fuller without the bull shit or the roller coaster ride. But it took me years to get here.

The wusband is back from Iraq and staying at my house this week for a down week before he goes back to his real life. It should be an interesting week.

1:08 PM  
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6:18 PM  

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