Sunday, May 26, 2013

8 Tips to be A Kickass Friend to a Divorcee

A friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
-Anais Nin
I must have been an amazing friend the past 25 years or so. Like, someone give me a medal and throw me a parade kind of amazing. That’s my best guess as to how I’ve been so blessed with the company I keep.

After reading Confessions of a Serial Dater’s blog about the importance of positive friends, I immediately thought about my girlfriends. I always knew I had terrific friends, but over the past year, they’ve really proven themselves.

Here are eight ways that that my friends have been awesome to me as I’ve dealt with the end of my marriage:
  1. Don’t judge. My divorced readers know how anxiety-inducing it is find out people’s reactions to the D-word (especially after just three years of marriage). I’m sure some of my friends think I was out of my mind for staying in a sexless relationship for so long, but no one made me feel foolish. Instead, they seemed to actually admire me for trying so hard to make my marriage work. 
  2. Don’t badmouth the ex (unless he/she really deserves it). No one has been unkind about Max. Not one of my girlfriends said they never liked him anyway. For one thing, that’s irrelevant. For another thing, that would still upset me because it’s not like he betrayed me in some way. I appreciate that my friends followed my lead on this one.
  3. Offer your home as a place to escape to. My local friends have been generous about inviting me into their homes, whether welcoming me for dinner or for an entire month while Max and I sorted ourselves out. (Yes, I stayed with a friend for an entire month!) I often declined the invitations (for example, several friends offered the keys to their home while they were on vacation), but it meant so much that they loved and trusted me.
  4. Don’t force your friend to talk (even if you’re itching for the details). Leading up to the divorce, was very tight-lipped. Since I filed, I became much more open. All the while, if I wanted to talk, my friends were there (and by “there” I am including in person, phone, text, IM, email, and Skype/FaceTime). And if I didn't want to talk, they gave me my space.
  5. Surprise her. For my 33rd birthday (which fell halfway into my divorce waiting period), two of my best friends coordinated a surprise for me. Ali came from out of state with Broadway tickets in hand. I thought that was the surprise, and obviously I was thrilled. Turns out she and Sue had also coordinated a birthday dinner that included Lillian, Jen, Nora, and Celine (a high school friend). They had all traveled from the suburbs into New York City for it. On a rainy night. The night after Christmas! I couldn’t believe it.
    I <3 Haribo.
    But it wasn’t just my local friends who have stepped up. One of my best friends lives in Germany. For no particular reason, she sent me a care package with a snuggly shirt and Haribo gummy candies. I was so touched that she made that effort from across the ocean to make me smile.
  6. Hang out. I’ve heard tales of divorcees getting dumped by some friends. This hasn’t been true for me at all. My friends and their spouses have stayed my friends and still invited me to stuff. They don’t seem to think that divorce is contagious either. (I probably wasn't always super fun to hang out with either. Props to them for still asking me to do stuff.)
  7. Bring booze. My friends were always willing to crack open a bottle of wine with me, which sometimes meant me ending up crying and talking endlessly about my divorce. Sorry girls!
  8. Hug. Even though Max and I didn’t have sex, we did hug and hold hands and snuggle on the couch. Once our relationship was over, I was and am so deprived of physical contact. My girlfriends have been so sweet about doling out the hugs. More than ever, I need them.
I reference The Golden Girls as often as possible.
Yup, my friends like me anyway.
(Feel free to share this list with anyone who needs some pointers on how to be awesome.)

To all of my wonderful girlfriends, Thank You For Being A Friend. You have exemplified what it means to really love a friend through good times and bad.

How did your friends respond to your divorce? Have they been a source of support? Have any of your friends disappointed you?

See also: Why There's No Joint Custody of Friends After Divorce; The 8 Types of Friends You Need During Divorce9 Things a True Friend Would Never Do.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

From Engagement to Divorce: A Tale of 3 Therapists

What would a woman’s blog about divorce be without bringing up therapy? So let’s do it!

The therapy story began a few months after Max and I got engaged, back in 2008. We had gone away for a weekend to a wedding and stayed in this beautiful, romantic inn. I brought lingerie. Max and I tried to be intimate, and as usual, we were unsuccessful. Max’s disinterest and the resulting frustration was obvious. For whatever reason, that particular night the fork in the road that led to Therapy Lane.

I knew Max wouldn’t agree to just go to a therapist right off the bat, so I suggested that we have him see a doctor first. We first went to a urologist that specialized in sexual dysfunction. After a battery of tests, we found that there was nothing physical causing Max's lack of libido. The doctor prescribed Cialis and told Max to go have sex with me.

Yeah, OK, then. It’s just that easy.

Cialis, Levitra, Viagra, pick your ED drug of choice. But here’s the thing about physical intimacy: it really is mind over matter. If he didn't WANT to be sexual, he can pop all the pills in the world and it wouldn't make him want to screw his loving, eternally patient, eternally horny wife-to-be. The problem was more about the lack of passion for me than the state of his penis.

Therapist 1 -- The Nurturer

So, we went to Therapist 1 (a psychotherapist out of our insurance network), who was recommended by the urologist. We saw her together and separately. What I liked about her approach is that she gave us homework to try to help us rediscover each other. We started experimenting with massage and showering together. We did some journaling to go along with it. It seemed like it was starting to help, and I was cautiously optimistic.

Then, Max got a new job that required him to go out of state for training for almost five months. I was heartbroken because I’d miss him, but I was also terrified that we’d lose all the progress we made. He assured me that wouldn’t happen. (We all know how that went.) We went on a therapy hiatus.

He returned from training in August 2009 and we got married in October. A year later, Max fell in to a dark depression. He slowly walked around listless and nearly silent. He wouldn’t touch me (we’re talking even hand holding) and sometimes he couldn’t even look at me. One time he told me he was sorry he married me; I thought it was because he didn’t love me anymore when it was actually because he didn’t love himself and therefore felt unworthy of my love. I couldn’t say it out loud at the time, but I lived in constant fear that I was going to come home to find him dead in the bedroom. That period ranks up there with my mom’s stage 4 cancer diagnosis as one of the most frightening and heart wrenching time in my life.

To Max’s credit, he agreed to go back to our therapist. She couldn’t get him to try antidepressants, but he did talk therapy and got to the other side after about six harrowing months.

Once Max had moved past the depression, we tried to readdress our intimacy problems with the therapist and I could sense she was running out of ideas for us (particularly Max). I decided it was time to try a new therapist for a fresh perspective – and one in our insurance network.

Even after we stopped seeing her, she emailed me twice just to say she was thinking of us and hoped we were OK. I emailed her after I'd filed divorce to let her know. She really cared.

Therapist 2 - The Tough Love Deliverer / Judgmental Asshole

So on to Therapist 2 (a Jungian psychotherapist in our insurance network). He was very different in his approach with us, and he pushed us harder. In private sessions with me, he urged me to face that I was not OK with my marriage. Zero passion and sexuality was not acceptable to me, and I had the right to find that unacceptable. He probably wasn’t entirely professional when he would point out that my husband could likely live forever with things the way they were. Therapist 2 put the thought in my head and courage in my heart that I had to stop treating Max with kid gloves and get the damn truth out of him once and for all.

That’s when I finally got Max to tell me that he wasn’t attracted to me. (He wasn’t attracted to anyone, period.) The oddest thing about that life changing moment was that Max delivered the news as if it weren’t THAT big of a deal. I guess since he’d lived with his truth for so long, he was out of touch with how devastating it would be for me.

A few weeks later, we went to the therapist together and it was emotional chaos. I was sobbing starting the moment we walked in the door. I asked Max if he wanted a D-word. Max was shocked. (Seriously?!) And during the course of this tumultuous session, the therapist said that our marriage was a mistake. It was probably one of the most offensive things anyone has ever said to me. I fiercely told him that I would never consider my marriage a mistake and despite Max being totally shell-shocked through the session, he adamantly agreed with me.

We walked out of the session and held each other in the hallway while I continued to sob. I can’t speak for Max, but I knew that things would never be the same after that session. We never went back to a therapist together.

While I’m grateful that that Therapist 2 pushed me to get the answer that I had to hear, I also feel: FUCK HIM. He repeatedly made me feel judged, like I was a fool for sticking around this screwed up marriage with this screwed up spouse. Don’t you PAY a therapist to listen to your shit and not judge you?!

Anyway, I filed for divorce four months later. Six weeks after I filed, I sought out a therapist who specialized in women’s issues and stress management. Yup, so now I’m on to Therapist 3 in four years.

Therapist 3 - The Perspective Provider

I’ve been going to Therapist 3 (a clinical social worker in network) for six months now, and it’s been hugely helpful. When I started seeing her, she asked what my goals were. No one told me I’d have homework, so I didn’t know how to answer that. We uncovered that I was looking to continue sorting my sadness and anger and love for Max, and then not repeat past mistakes as I look to future relationships. There have been several “ah ha!” moments where I truly feel like I’m understanding myself post-divorce on a level I would never have achieved on my own. And did I mention she’s covered by my insurance plan so I only pay a $15 copay?! For the cost of one bottle of wine, I get to talk about myself for an hour and not worry if I’m dominating the conversation. That’s the beauty of therapy: you pay to dominate the conversation.

So that is the story of my marriage, divorce, and aftermath via my therapists. Have you gone to therapy or counseling for your relationship? Did it help?

Related reading: How to Pick a TherapistDepression in Men: How to Recognize It and What to Do; How to Support a Loved One Who is Dealing With Depression.

Super Sunday Sync

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm Not A Mom. Do I Cry or Cheer? 12 Reasons to Cheer for Being Childfree (Right Now)

This week, I was in CVS buying a pile of cards. Two of my friends had babies. My brother and sister-in-law’s and parents’ anniversaries are coming up. And of course, Mother’s Day. (Any other card-worthy occasions we can add to make this divorcee feel sorry for herself?)

You should know that I pride myself on finding the perfect card, which means I’m one of those annoying people in the card aisle who has to read every card before deciding on one. As I waded through the sappy Mother's Day cards, tears sprung to my eyes, quite unexpectedly. Would anyone ever buy me a Mother’s Day card?

Well-meaning friends and family often tell me how “lucky” I am that Max and I never had kids because when we go our separate ways, it's over. They also say that being 33 isn’t that old for me to have kids with someone else in the future. But let’s be honest: I’m not getting any younger and I’m not in a relationship, so do the math. (For goodness sake, I still LIVE with Max.) The harsh reality is that I might never be a mother because of the years I spent trying to salvage a sexless relationship.

Before Max and I got married, we agreed that having kids was a deal breaker – we both definitely wanted to be parents. As our sex life disappeared, we took to telling people that we weren't sure if we wanted kids. This actually was true for me; I knew my relationship wasn't stable enough to bring a baby into the mix, which genuinely made me NOT want kids, even though Max and I would've been a fantastic team as parents.

Now that I'm single again, there are moments when I'm so unsure about where I stand on motherhood. Being 33 and childless is not a choice I made, but rather a corner I backed in to. Max stopped having sex with me and there was nothing I or any therapist could do to reverse it. I admit it: I’m angry at Max for possibly taking away my chance at motherhood. Some part of me will always resent him for it, whether that is fair or not.

But I prefer to have a positive outlook, so here are 12 reasons why I’m glad to NOT have kids at this exact moment in my life:
12.There are no Baby Einstein videos or Old McDonald mp4s clogging up my iPhone. My phone contains stuff that amuses me and only me.
11. I can answer a booty call and not come home until 3 a.m.
10. My breasts are mine.
They are playthings that nicely fill out sweaters, and not a food source. Hot!
 9. I could splurge on my right-hand ring and monogram necklace. I never would’ve done that if I had kids.
 8. I can waste time if I feel like it. Yesterday, I ran a 10K then sat on my friend’s couch smoking some weed and watching How to Train Your Dragon. Find me a mom who wasted a Saturday that stupidly and awesomely.
 7. Since it’s just Max and me living here, it’s not hard to keep the condo clean while it’s on the market. When my parents put our house on the market in the late 1980s, they had three kids under the age of 11. Sounds like a nightmare!
 6. I have time to dedicate to keeping my body and soul healthy.  Exercise and volunteering are critical for keeping my problems in perspective. I ran a 15K last month and plan to run a half marathon by October. I’ve also been going to yoga and Spinning regularly for months now. I am keeping up my volunteer work; this summer I’ll spend a week as a volunteer sleep away camp counselor for kids with cancer. If I had a baby, I just wouldn’t have this kind of time.
 5. I make meals that I like. No chicken fingers, no pureed apples and pears, no Puffs.
 4. If I had a baby, I would focus on my baby and not other people's babies. Since I don’t have my own, I get to focus on my niece, nephews, and my friends’ children. I play with and snuggle them and then give them back when they start whining or smelling suspicious.
 3. I don’t bore people with the hideously dull and/or disgusting details of diaper rash and sleep training and teething. I find other ways to bore people.
 2. It’s Sunday morning and my big motivation to get out of bed was to go to my 10 a.m. yoga class. You parents whose kids wake you at 6 a.m. on a Sunday have my condolences.
 1. When I felt I had to get a divorce, I didn’t have to consider anyone’s feelings except Max’s and mine. I truly cannot imagine going through a divorce with children.
A theme I keep coming back to is how remarkable it is that I can experience polar opposite emotions in the same moment. This Mother's Day, I'm simultaneously relieved and heartbroken to not be a mom.

What does Mother’s Day mean to you after your divorce?

Related reading: What not to say to people who don't want kids.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dissolution of Kat's Marriage: The Soundtrack

Let’s talk music. No, not my wedding song or anything obvious like that. Let’s talk the totally mainstream songs that I would hear on the radio or in Spinning class and suddenly be overwhelmed with emotion about Max, my marriage, and/or my future.

Over the previous year or so leading up to my divorced, there were songs that would strike a nerve every stinking time I heard them. Still now when I hear them, I get a pang. Let me share a few tunes from the soundtrack of Kat’s collapsing marriage.

Animal – Neon Trees

The line “I won’t be denied by you” cut so deep. Max denied me every night for years. I so wanted to be passionately desired.

Yeah – Usher

I know, kind of random, but the line about wanting “a lady in the street but a freak in the bed” made me sad. Yes, I’m serious. I totally wanted to be married to someone who could love all parts of me. That will be top of my list for my next boyfriend.

Shattered – O.A.R. 

“How many times can I break ‘til I shatter?” Enough said.

I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz

In August 2012, I stayed with my dear friend Sue for a month to give Max and me some space to figure out what to do next. During that time, Max’s devastated mother sent me an email, asking me to please listen to this song and fight harder. She meant well, but it hurt me terribly. I hadn’t given up on us; Max had given up on himself a long time ago and there was truly nothing I could do to help him.

Somebody that I Used to Know -- Gotye

This song haunted me all last summer when I knew deep in my heart that things were going to end. There was a time years ago that I actually told Max once that I “felt so happy [I] could die.” And now I was terrified of him going from the center of my world to "just somebody that I used to know." Did I cry driving home from work on I-95? Oh yes. More than once.

Oh, and the day I got divorced, it was the first song I heard when I went to lunch with my parents. Obviously.

The second half of the soundtrack will be my empowerment songs, but that collection is still in progress! Check back this summer for the rest of the list.

What are the songs that can bring you right back to the heartache of your break up?