After more than 21 years together, 19 years of marriage, 14 months of separation, and 2 days in court, DH and I were granted a divorce yesterday—December 11, 2013.
In the end, it all came down to numbers—what that time and energy and battling was monetarily worth, as decided by a judge who had never met either of us prior to Monday morning. In a few hours, we both were granted the chance to lay out our cases and argue, again, why what we wanted was the best solution.
My dad had told me months ago that in the end we would both feel like we'd lost. He was right, of course. I'm not thrilled with part of the judgment, and I'm pretty sure DH is unhappy about some of it, as well. But because we couldn't come to an agreement on our own, this is how it had to play out.
Leaving court, I kept my head up and looked straight ahead, trying to get as much distance between the two of us as possible. I didn't want to have to walk out of that building where our marriage had finally died and have to be close to him. I didn't even want to walk past his car—the one that had also been my car until just a few minutes before. I didn't want to have to look at anyone in that building, afraid that I would cry or that they would somehow be able to peer right through my stoic facade and see my broken heart.
Last week, while trading off the children for visitation, he and I had a conversation in the driveway, waiting for the boys to gather their things. It wasn't about anything important, just chit-chat, but for a moment I could see a glimpse of the sweet, smart, funny man I had loved for half my life. There was a glimmer of the same quirky guy I'd known I would marry from the moment I first saw him, when I was 14.
It broke my heart.
In all honesty, when the judge went through her list of questions about how long we'd been married, when we'd separated, and if I believed our marriage to be irreconcilable, I wanted to shake my head and cry. I wanted to say, "No, your honor, I don't ever want to believe that it's irreconcilable with this man, with the guy who took care of me when I couldn't, with the man I loved so much that I fought my way through hell to give us two beautiful babies. I don't want that to be over. Ever."
But I knew it didn't matter. The damage of everything we've done to each other and our relationship is too great. It has overshadowed the joy and the beauty and the love in the most agonizing of ways. We did it to ourselves, and we did it to each other, even though we promised time and again that it would never come to that.
A recently-divorced friend told me yesterday that he read once that the people who get through this process in the healthiest way are the ones who have good memories of the marriage. Make no mistake: I have thousands of good memories with DH. Years of them, both before and after the boys were born.
I loved him.
After court, I called my parents and the Castration Committee to let them know how it went. I cried a little bit, but mostly I held it together. I emailed my former attorney and our mediator and our marriage counselor, to let them know how it ended. It reminded me of calling people in 2006 to let them know my grandfather had died. It felt like writing the thank-you notes for funeral flowers.
When I got home, there was a lovely Christmas cactus on my doorstep. A very sweet friend left it for me, along with an even sweeter note. Covered in buds, it's a constant reminder that something good and beautiful can always appear when you least expect it, that life will fight to flourish no matter what, and that even the most delicate of things can be far sturdier than they appear.
The boys had known we were going to court, and I explained that the divorce was finalized. I didn't go into details about the settlement or what had transpired during the proceedings. Ultimately it's none of their business, and there are parts of it that I will never share with them.
"Can you and Daddy get remarried?" Tricky asked. His question was like a knife to the gut.
"We could," I said carefully, "legally, but that's very unlikely ever to happen."
"But what if you loved each other again? What would happen then?"
I caught my breath. "Well, if that were to ever happen, then your father and I would have to decide what to do. But I don't want you to get your hopes up or expect that, sweet boy."
I stopped and asked both boys to look at me while I spoke to them. "I know this has been incredibly difficult. This is not where any of us thought our lives would be, but we are here nonetheless. I want to make sure you both know, though, that Daddy and I love you very, very much. We also loved each other very much. I never want you to think for a second that we didn't or that you somehow came from less than absolute love. No babies were ever wanted more than you were, and your father and I loved each other deeply when you were born. Always know that."
In the end, the only number that matters is 2—Max and Tricky. Our sons and what is best for them are my only real, lasting concern in this. I have tried my best to behave and keep as much of the drama away from them as possible. If I have done nothing else right through this divorce, I know that I have been a damn good mother.
I also hope, though, that the finality of the process will allow DH the closure he needs to heal. I hope and even pray that his heart finds the peace it needs to be the man and the father I know he is, deep inside under the rubble of our destructed marriage. He was special and important to me like no one else, and I have loved that soul for a very long time; I want good things for him, especially as they apply to our sons.
Ultimately, I want the same things for me, in my own time and in my own way. As long as I've had to deal with it all emotionally, it was still shocking to find myself so sad and grieving again. It's all too easy to fall into the dark place of thinking half my life was for nothing, that those 21 years were wasted. I know they weren't, if for no other reason than those 2 little souls who found their way to us in the beautiful bodies that DH and I created together.
I'm glad the process is pretty much over. I'm glad to be out of legal limbo. But I hate that it came to this. I hate that we couldn't get our shit together and make it work. I hate that two people who loved each other so much could get to a place of utter disdain.
I'm going to take a couple of days and distract myself with work while I try to process it all. Then I'm going to pick up the pieces and move forward, a little bit at a time. I may want to curl into a ball until the crying stops, but I can't. There are two babies who need me, forever and always and no matter what.