Saturday, February 23, 2013

“What will you always remember about this home?”

Tomorrow will be the first public open house for our condo. As we prepared for putting the condo on the market, I had to fill in this marketing book with questions like, why did you buy your home? Which window is your favorite view? Fine, I like to write, I can whip up some fantasy about how perfect life has been in our condo and therefore how perfect life will be for the buyer.

Wedding photos prove that nice people live here.
Want to buy our home?
But the last question put tears in my eyes: “What will you always remember about this home?” (It still puts tears in my eyes as I write this.)

I will always remember this condo as the place where my marriage crumbled.

Unlike the sweet, dreamy stuff I wrote in the marketing book (like how we loved to have wine and appetizers on our balcony before walking to dinner in town), let me tell you the truth about our condo.

In early 2010, Max and I were newly married. We had a respectable amount in savings for the down payment and to buy grownup furniture that matched. We bought a little condo in a super swanky town (seriously, you would puke to know how much we paid for how little we got, but location is everything, right?). We had it painted before we moved in (yes, we PAID someone to paint for us!). We couldn’t believe what grownups we were. Freshly married homeowners, both 30 years old. We were really doing things right, weren’t we?

We moved in in spring 2010. The relationship problems we’d had for years followed us to the condo. I hate to admit it, but some small part of me was surprised. I kind of thought with our solid jobs, platinum bands on our left ring fingers, and a cute condo to live in, things would improve.

That autumn, right around the time of our first wedding anniversary (coincidence? I’ll never know), Max had fallen into a deep, dark, mysterious depression. It was terrifying and heart wrenching for me to witness, so I can’t begin to imagine what kind of hell he was in.

By spring 2011, Max had moved through his depression and was doing much better, so I was optimistic our relationship might finally get back on track. We decided to gut our repulsive kitchen and start over. Seriously, it was bad. Let me tell you, remodeling a kitchen is a huge pain in the ass, especially in a condo that is not even 1,000 square feet. But it came out just beautiful. We were so proud of it. I remember us cooking our first dinner in the new kitchen, and we even had a bottle of champagne and used our wedding crystal and china.

Little did we know that we would never use the china again.

Over the next year, our marriage steadily weakened, not that anyone could tell. In the living room and in the kitchen, we talked and explored and pontificated and fought about our problems. In the master bedroom, I cried myself to sleep more often than Max will ever know. In the guest room, he told me he was not attracted to me. (He wasn’t being mean; he was just stating what he didn't realize was a life-altering fact.) Three months later, in the living room, I told Max I’d talked to a divorce lawyer. And it was there that I saw him cry for the first time.

Tomorrow, during the open house, potential buyers will know none of the pain that has tormented Max and me over the past three years. They will see what we want them to see, including the beautiful wedding photos that still hang over the couch in our living room. (We left the photos up to make sure that no one thinks we’re getting divorced, and because we look like your stereotypical nice, normal couple who would’ve taken good care of their home.)

But how will I really remember our home? We made a lovely home when we couldn’t save a failing marriage.

I left that question blank.

Related reading: Divorced but Still Living TogetherDepression in men – How To Recognize It and What To DoHow to Hire a Real Estate Agent in Divorce.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Has your marriage irretrievably broken down?"

Today, a judge asked Max and me, "Has your marriage irretrievably broken down?"

The response? "Yes, Your Honor."

Ugh. What a loaded, complicated question, and what a quick, simple response.

For those of you who have never had to go through a divorce (but might be curious), allow me to describe what I've been calling D Day.

We had worked with a mediator (which I'd highly recommend) to navigate the process and draw up the papers. Legally, in our state, I was suing Max, so that made me the plaintiff and him the defendant. (Sounds kinda scary, right?) Our court date was established back in November, and then a few weeks ago we received a summons in the mail informing us to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. on February 19, 2013.

Initially, I wanted my parents to come to court with me (I am 33 years old, which is not too old to hold my parents' hands when I need them). After discussing the matter with my therapist (something else I highly recommend, but more on that later), I decided that I wanted to face this with Max alone. Just us in the car, just us in the courtroom. I noticed that most of the 30+ other couples in the courtroom couldn't even sit on the same side of the courtroom as the other. Meanwhile, Max and I not only sat together, but I grabbed his hand a few times. We were both hurting, and no one understood the pain like the other. I needed Max to get me through this moment.

D Day toast (through tears)
We arrived in court at 9:30 a.m., but we weren't called until 11:45 a.m. We listened to cases of couples dealing with parenting plans and houses in just one spouse's name and so on. Oh and there was the guy who said that his wife's check to the court was bounced so she was at an ATM getting $350 in cash and would be right back. When it was finally our turn, I had to sit in that chair next to the judge and get sworn in, just like on TV. The judge looked through the paperwork and then asked a few simple questions, like if this was my signature and that was Max's, and were we married in my hometown on October 24, 2009? And then, in judge-speak, the judge asked us if the marriage was over, for serious, did we mean it for really real? I thought I was going to puke when I confirmed that yes, it was over.

When we stepped out of the courtroom, we embraced. We couldn't let go of each other. He told me that this didn't change that he'll always love me. And we cried. Then we walked back to to his car, and we cried more. It sucked!

Then, my parents took me to lunch. I had two glasses of prosecco. And an Irish coffee. (Don't judge, it was a tough day!!)

It was right to have the time I did with Max, but then to have my parents' support.

If you've walked this road, what was your day in court like? Do you have any regrets about how you handled yourself that fateful day?

Monday, February 18, 2013

My last night as a married woman

"Max," my husband, and I are in our condo, sitting side by side on the couch, watching "The Bachelor" and sharing a pizza. It feels like a normal night in the course of our eight-year relationship, except that there is a cloud hanging over us:

In 12 hours,
my husband of three years and I will go to court to dissolve our marriage.

The courthouse is in the town where we first met, shared our first date and kiss, moved in together, got engaged, and then planned a wedding. It's also in the town where we put countless hours and dollars into therapy as we desperately tried to fix some very serious problems in our relationship. And now it's the town where the state will officially and legally end our marriage and give me permission to take back my maiden name.

Starting tomorrow, I will share with you my journey as I pave a new path for myself, a path I will walk without Max.