Sunday, July 28, 2013

6 Reasons I'm Grateful For My Divorce

I hung out with my older sister, Katherine, over the weekend. We went for a walk around our hometown with Diet Cokes in hand. She told me -- again -- that she is worried about me and my living situation.

"It's not healthy. The divorce has been final for five months and you're still living together!" Ah, thank you, Big Sister, for stating the obvious!

"Katherine, you might not believe me, but I am the happiest now that I've been in years. Like sometimes I'll just be driving to the grocery store or something and I'll think, 'I can't believe how much happier I am now,'" I replied.

"Even though you still live with Max?" she asked, totally incredulous. "How is that possible!"

I will tell you the secret:

I certainly had a time when I felt really sorry for myself because my bad marriage gave me plenty of good reasons. But once I knew I had to get a divorce, that there was no hope for us because Max had no hope for himself, the confidence and optimism I’d always had started to resurface. 

Over the past six months, I have countless moments when I pause and I think how happy and grateful I am for my new life for reasons such as:

1. I am coming out of something as traumatic as divorce with relatively few scars. Of course I'm going to have my baggage, but I know it could be so much worse. My ex and I don’t hate each other, I’m not forced to move in to my parents’ basement, and I still believe in love. Sadly, I know few divorcees who can say the same.

The view from my picnic.
Not bad, right?
2. I can come and go as I please. I LOVE THIS. Take this weekend as a perfect example of the life I'm meant to have:

Friday -- I had a waterfront picnic at twilight with three girlfriends, complete with baby carrots, cheeses, and white wine. Then I went to another friend’s house for a college-style party, complete with a 72 (?!) cup version of beer pong. It was totally dumb and absolutely hilarious to watch and play. 

Saturday -- I hung out with Katherine her kids, then I got a manicure and pedicure. I spent the evening with a personal pizza, a face mask (masque?), and a deep conditioning treatment for my hair.

Sunday -- After my morning yoga class, I spent the afternoon with Mary, one of my oldest friends, and her fiancé. We ate lunch at an Irish pub then spent two hours on their couch taking bong rips (not kidding) and watching baseball.

To be clear, I did plenty of fun stuff when I was with Max, but not like this, not this varied. And you know what? This is the real me. I’m so appreciative that I’m living my life more fully.

3. I am still healthy. When I was younger, I struggled with terrible self image and had even worse eating habits. I haven’t let my breakup derail (mostly) healthy eating and a (mostly) regular exercise routine and bring me back to that dark period. I cook as much as I can. I signed up for my first half marathon (October 12, 2013!). I can carry groceries or a 17-pound baby. (Probably not both at the same time. I’m that person who walks into door frames and trips over her own feet.) Physically, I can do whatever I’m not too lazy to do. What a blessing.

4. I don’t have children. This one is layered and complicated, but the fact is that it made the divorce decision and experience cleaner and easier because there are no children.

5. I am less judgmental of others’ relationships. I admit it: there was a time where I would’ve looked at someone like me and thought, “Divorced after only three years? [insert eye roll] Either she doesn’t really honor the commitment of marriage or she just gave up too easily.” I’m here to tell you that I very much admire the commitment of marriage and I did not give up too easily! 

Further, if there is one thing I’ve learned, other people’s relationships are not what you think. I mean, people were SHOCKED that Max and I were divorcing, while in my head I was all, “Really? This is surprising? We’ve been screwed up for years!” Since I’ll never truly know what’s going on in someone’s relationship, I must not assume anything. If it took heartache and loss on my end to become less judgmental, so be it.

6. I am maintaining this blog. I neglected my creative writing for many years, and it was high time I dust off the cobwebs and start writing again. This blog has been a wonderful outlet for sorting my feelings and an unexpected venue to connect with people who have either walked a similar path or are curious enough to follow along. So thank you, dear readers, for helping me through my journey and encouraging me to write about it every week!

But, even with all of these reasons for gratitude, let's keep it real. I still struggle with why the master plan had me staying in a dysfunctional relationship for so long. I would be lying if I said I’m grateful for my entire relationship with Max; sometimes I wonder why I didn't end it years ago. Why did I have to go through all the heartache?

So, don’t worry, I haven’t gone totally Pollyanna on you. I’m actively working on accepting why I have gone through all of this, and sometimes I get really pissed off at myself and/or Max. As I do that work, I am also allowing smaller lessons and moments to flood my heart with peace and love… a combination that always brings me back to the greatest feeling of all: gratitude.

As always, I want to hear about your experiences. In the early stages of your breakup, what were you grateful for? If you're years out from your divorce, what are you grateful for now?

Super Sunday Sync

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Divorcing Max's Family: Saying Good Bye to My Mother- and Father-in-Law

I've shared tales of my divorce and the repercussions for me, Max, my friends, and my parents. It occurred to me this week that I haven't shared anything about one of the huge losses of my divorce: my in-laws.
...but sometimes it's the only way.

Let's go back to the day I said good bye to them.

I was going to be in New England visiting some friends. I decided to email my mother-in-law to see if I could stop by to visit. We had been in touch that fall as my marriage unraveled, but I was trying to be very careful about not saying too much to them. Max had gone to see them a few weeks earlier and told them the truth about our marriage, so she knew things were bad between Max and me and probably only going to get worse. Still, I knew she was clinging to a prayer that we might reconcile. So, she replied to my email saying that of course I could come visit, but that she just hoped it wasn’t for me to say good bye. In fact, that was exactly what I was preparing to do.

On October 22, 2012, within a few days of when I filed for divorce and two days before my third wedding anniversary, I drove through Max’s hometown. My stomach twisted itself in knots. As I passed through the familiar neighborhoods, I thought about the first time Max brought me to his parents’ house and how excited I was to get to see the house where he took his first steps. I remembered the Thanksgiving when my parents came to Max’s house and how thrilled I was to have Max, me, my parents, and Max’s at the same holiday table. As I pulled into the driveway, I recalled Max’s sister’s wedding day and taking pictures in the backyard. My heart filled with sadness and something resembling dread as I walked up to the side entrance. The entrance family uses. I knocked on the door, something I’m not sure if I’d ever done before.

Max’s dad answered the door and hugged me, as usual. He started with the small talk, asking me about the traffic. Then Max’s mom walked into the kitchen. She just looked at me and burst into tears. We stood there hugging, while trying to wordlessly comfort each other.

We finally sat down at the kitchen table, as we had many, many times over the years. I would chat for hours with Max’s dad over coffee or his mom over a slice of homemade cake. I had engaging conversations with them ranging from current events to baking tips, and I truly thought of them as my second parents. Now, I looked at them and saw something I’d never seen before: pain.

As my father-in-law continued his futile attempt at small talk, we eventually got into the inevitable: why I was there. My mother-in-law asked, “Is it over?”

Tears misted my eyes as I choked out an answer. “I wish it weren’t. But yes, there’s nothing more we can do to save our relationship. I've filed for divorce.”

The clock hanging on the wall over my head ticked loudly. No one knew what to say. I mean, what the heck do you say after admitting that you can no longer be married to the man that these wonderful people raised? And what do they say to the woman who has no choice but to leave?

They broke the silence, saying how very sad they were, but they understood. After some brief chatter about the logistics of filing, selling the condo, how long until the divorce would be final, and if I would change my name back, it was time for me to leave. There was just nothing more to say.

We stood up, and they both wrapped their arms around me as the tears started again. My father-in-law stepped back, looked me in the eyes and said, “You’ll always be our daughter. Always.”

“Thank you,” I replied weakly, afraid of completely losing it. “And thank you for not hating me.”

I stumbled out the side door to my car. As I drove away, I realized that I had no idea if or when I would see Max’s parents again. They were my family for years, and now everything was changing. These loving people were in  fact losing a daughter and gaining an unwanted perspective on their son: that he had failed me as  a husband. I don’t know who I was sadder for: Max’s parents or myself.

That night, I received an email from my mother-in-law:

I wanted to thank you for having the courage to face John and I today to give us the news of the ending of your marriage to our son.  I know this must have been very difficult for you to have to share this news with us instead of Max doing it.  I am so sorry that he has failed you as a husband and it has led to this drastic action being taken.  I wish I could make things right for the both of you.
Max was definitely angry about you stopping here today.  Both John and I are glad you did.  We are sorry that you no longer will be a part of our family.  We will always think of you as our "Daughter" no matter what the circumstances.
Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing.  And when the time comes to move, let us know your new address.  Thank you for giving our son many years of your life and three years in marriage.  I wish things could have ended differently.  Let us know what is going on with him if we can do anything.

Though I haven't seen them in nine months now, I am still in loose touch with my in-laws and I continue to feel blessed that they were part of my life. They knew how much I loved Max and that I did everything I could to save us. But even they, as Max’s parents, understood that sometimes you have no choice but to leave.

What is your relationship like with your ex’s family? Do you speak to them anymore? Is there resentment?

See also: How To Live Through Your Child's Divorce.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dreams: Window to My Subconscious or Just Brain Farts?

Sometimes I think dreams have meaning as my subconscious works overtime to reconcile some issue in my life, but I also think other times dreams are just sleeping brain farts and don’t mean squat.

Since Max and I stopped sharing a bedroom and I filed for divorce, I have had surprisingly few dreams about him or us. But, starting the night before Nora’s wedding (my first wedding post-divorce), Max is infiltrating my dreams. Since I started this blog to help me sort through my unmarried life, let’s take a look at those dreams, shall we?

Holy crap! Why am I dreaming about my ex?!
And why are my eyes so scary?!

The night before Nora’s wedding (June 21)

I called off my own wedding the night before. I have never dreamed this before, not even when I confessed to my journal late at night, just weeks before my wedding, that I was terrified that the intimacy issue would tear us apart. Maybe riding Nora’s pre-wedding bliss brought me back to my own pre-wedding bliss, only this time with a harsh dose of reality: CALL IT OFF. Ouch.

A week after Nora's wedding

It was the equivalent of right now, and I found out somehow that Max was engaged! This was particularly shocking given that he spends so much time alone on the couch with ESPN or the History Channel. Seriously you guys, I think he’s as likely to have gone on a date or kissed anyone as Cheater is to dump his girlfriend or my former mother-in-law is to dump QVC or I am to dump Beverly Hills 90210. Like no freaking way.
So anyway, I said/screeched to Max, “But we promised each other that we would tell each other first about big life changing events!” (We did actually promise each other this months ago.)

He just shrugged and was all like, whatevs.

I got a little hysterical and yelled, “But you haven’t even dealt your shit yet! What kind of a person would marry you?!” (I’ve been in therapy off and on since December. Max, who has serious intimacy problems, has not set foot in a therapist’s office since we stopped going together, and as a far as I know he hasn’t read a self-help book, wrote in a journal, meditated, etc.)

The dream ended with me sobbing one of those super ugly cries. End scene.

My sister, who was widowed at 28 years old, was the first to warn me that men remarry fast, whether due to divorce or widowhood; I keep getting confirmation of this, so I know I need to brace myself for the possibility. Here’s the thing, Max really has no right to begrudge me moving on. I made it clear I wanted physical with emotional intimacy and he couldn’t deliver, so of course now I’m going to seek exactly what he couldn’t give me. But, the thought of him moving on seems so… unfair. I will admit it right now: it's unlikely that going to take it graciously if/when Max starts dating again. It will hurt me terribly, the thought that he was finally able to be intimate with someone after how very hard I tried to get him to open up to me and love me the way I needed to be loved.

I’d like think that my second thought would be to thank goodness that he was able to move past his problems and open up to someone. Eh, probably not. I’ll probably just bitch about it to you guys and my Twitter peeps.

Last week

It’s the night before my wedding (but I think it’s somehow current day). I had to assemble my bouquet myself. As I tried to put it together, it was full of pins or something, and I saw my hands scraped and bleeding. While my bridal bouquet tore my hands apart, a fire started in the kitchen of my parents’ house and the house started to burn down. Happy wedding day!

I’ve read that dreams symbolize how you connect with the world, so injured hands can suggest bruised ego and blood on your hands means guilt. Well, I think two of the most ego bruising experiences are rejection from your significant other (check!) and getting divorced (check!). And guilt? Oh, I have plenty of that. For one thing, I was raised Catholic, so there’s always something to feel guilty about. But more seriously, I tortured myself over leaving Max, someone with such serious problems… and problems that I think are rooted in sexual trauma of some kind. Leaving someone in pain can be absolutely necessary and the right thing to do, but it doesn’t change the guilt that I will always have. What do you think is the meaning to the house burning down? 

Whew, thanks for joining me on my dream interpretation. Now it’s your turn. Does your ex appear in your dreams? Do you dream about the way things were or how you wish things had gone? Have you learned anything about yourself or your relationship due to a dream? Or do you think dreams are just useless sleepy brain farts?

Check out my first post on Geek and JockIs Masturbation Healthy? Taking Matters Into My Own Hands With Joy.
Super Sunday Sync

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cocktails, Knives, and A Sex Toy Party: 11 Reasons Why I Can't Wait to Live Alone

As we enter the fifth month of our condo being on the market, more and more I find myself starting statements with “once I move I will…” and “when I live alone I will…” I know that I’m very lucky that Max and I don’t fight and we have two bedrooms, but man, I am just dying to get the last part of the separation process done. I know it will be terribly emotional to separate our belongings and then say our final good byes. But you know what? It’s so overdue. We both need to move on in a very literal sense.

In the meantime, here are some reasons why it will be awesome to live alone again after living with Max for six years:
    I will be such a charming hostess when I live alone!
  1. Have guests over for drinks. Max didn’t like to have guests over, other than maybe, if I begged, one couple for one drink before going to dinner. I have all these fun cocktail glasses and wine glasses and they’ve barely been used. I want to fill my wine rack and make use of those glasses! 
  2. Have guests over for appetizers and dinner. With each year I slowly get better at cooking for myself, but I need to work on my confidence by cooking for others. I have nice plates and china in mint condition (both wedding shower gifts, of course), so it’s high time I have friends and family over to make me hone my hostess skills.
  3. Have guests over for a sex toy party. I am in love with my vibrator and I want more toys! So, what sounds more fun than my girlfriends, some wine and appetizers, and chatting about how to rev up our sex lives (whether we're flying solo or in a couple)?
  4. Get some decent knives. Max’s mother is a wonderful person and I think very highly of her. The one not wonderful thing about her is her obsession with QVC. (Seriously, like every gift she has ever given me is from QVC, each more random than the previous one. Do I seem like I'd want an nine-inch Celtic crystal cross? I'm not even Christian anymore! I digress.)
    She gave us a block of QVC knives that we didn’t ask for just 10 months before our wedding. I would’ve registered for nice ones, but then I couldn’t because we had this wonderful QVC set. Well guess what? The knives suck so Max can take every stinking QVC knife and I will invest in a few quality ones that will assist me in achieving #2.
  5. Get a hamster. I’m insanely afraid of reptiles, I don’t see the point of fish, and I'm allergic to pretty much everything that’s cute. The one exception? Hamsters! So, I will get a hamster, and I am either going to name it Bruce if it’s a boy or Library if it’s a girl. (There are only two things I’ll miss about the town I currently live in: Bruce Square and G-town Public Library.)
    To be clear, I’ll only get one hamster. A woman with one hamster could be considered cute and quirky; a woman with multiple hamsters might be just weird.
  6. Self tan.  I know, you’re probably wondering what this is doing on the list. I haven’t self-tanned since I last lived alone, back in 2005. I exfoliate then apply self-tanner while wearing very little and smelling funny as the stuff soaks in. It’s not a sexy look – in fact, it’s a weird and smelly look – so I never did it in front of Max. When I live alone again, WHO CARES?
  7. Watch more movies. Max and I have one TV, so we have to compromise a lot. The big one for me is that I love to watch and rewatch my DVDs. Max isn’t so much into rewatching much of anything other than the Jason Bourne trilogy, so you can imagine his enthusiasm for Dirty Dancing or a Disney movie for the 87th time. When I live alone, I will go back to watching 1-3 movies a week, I guarantee it.
  8. Play more music. Max always wants the TV on. I like to play my CDs (retro, right?). My stereo has hardly been used in the six years we have lived together. That will change, particularly when I’m cleaning. Cher’s Greatest Hits, anyone? 
  9. Invite my booty call over. Going to the 26-Year-Old’s house – that he shares with two roommates – is not ideal for me. He can get his ass over to my place and then be the one to schlep home all flushed at some ungodly hour. 
  10. Date. I’m trying to picture myself dating, but it’s hard to even conjure up the image when I live with Max.
  11. Have sex in my home. In the three years I’ve been in our condo, we had sex maybe five times, tops. Since we bought our king size bed six years ago, we’ve probably had sex on it maybe 20 times. Well that is all going to change, thanks to #10. I have no idea when or who it will be with, but it will! I refuse to have a celibate bed in my new apartment.
So those are some random reasons I’m excited to have my own place again! What was it like for you to move out? What were you super excited to do on your own in your own space?
Super Sunday Sync