Getting divorced is exhausting in so many inventive ways. You can’t just deliver the “it’s not you it’s me” speech and push the button on the ejector seat. Well, yes you can, but then you have to come back and confront the person who either doesn’t love you or whose heart you broke and settle down to the fun task of doing a thorough accounting of your material possessions. You have to confront pain in every permutation and in all of its mundaneness.
The mediator is the woman who stands between me and my husband. She’s got a solid grip on what she does. I’m glad we were able to find her. She’s the one picking through our stuff, patiently figuring out budgets and finances and the skin stripping awfulness of dividing one life into two. She walked us through the division of bank accounts and IRAs and social security entitlements. She proposed a fair way to divide our mutual household expenses now that my husband doesn’t live with me. She’s the one who suggested we draw up an inventory of everything we own and figure out who gets what.
She suggested at the beginning that the mediation process would also help my husband and me to reach some kind of understanding about why our marriage failed. That hasn’t happened. In its essentials, right down at deep, dark bedrock, our marriage failed because we declined to communicate at quite spectacular levels. And we’re continuing that pattern as we inch towards divorce.
We don’t talk. We’ve reached absolutely no understanding of the other person’s point of view. We’re standing on opposite banks of a very wide river shouting at each other through megaphones. That’s okay, I suppose. It’s irrelevant at this stage, it’s not like we’re going to have any kind of communication once this is over. There are no children, no pets. So I doubt we’ll be meeting for cappuccino and reminiscing about that lovely walking vacation in south west France. I know where this is heading … to our own personal event horizon. No going back.
New York State also makes it pretty easy. It has no fault divorce, so we toss around some terms like ‘irreconcilable differences’ and ‘no contest’ and sign a few papers, figure out who’s going to be the plaintiff—the mediator has suggested flipping a coin—line up in front of a judge, sign a few more papers and it’s basically done. There are no obstacles.
There will be no third act plot twists.
And I don’t want there to be. I want it done. I want this to be over. I really do.
So I was surprised to find the other day after a very long two hours in the same room with my husband, how very much it still hurts. After I have long abandoned all hope that he would change his mind and come back. Long after I have laid some serious scar tissue over the fact that he has somebody else. And that he so vastly prefers that somebody else to me that he’s prepared to divest himself of several hundred thousands dollars of worldly assets to have her.
I have got used to the fact that he blames me for wasting years of his life. I’ve swallowed it. The shock is no longer new.
Yet it still hurts. It’s not the sledgehammer-to-the-thoracic-spine pain of the early days. This is more of the paper cut variety. Still, my hands shake and I think I want to cry. I don’t cry, but I think I want to. After all these months.
And we’re taking the easier path. We’re in mediation, not litigation. We’re co-operating. We’re not fighting over material stuff. He wants the dining room table. Fine. I don’t care. Really, really don’t. I want the mid century modern writing desk. It’s mine. As a point of principle I want the original down payment I put on the apartment back in full. It’s quite a substantial sum. He’s okay with that. We’re not out to get each other. There are no overpriced lawyers and tricky strategies for ‘winning.’ I think he really wants me to keep the apartment if I can. He understands what an anchor it is for me. I can make a stupid joke about him being sure to take the decoy duck—a family heirloom with a fair shot at being the ugliest tchotske in the history of human civilization—and he will laugh. And yet it still hurts.
Divorce can always conspire to hurt you. It’s inexorable. It’s like a river seeking the lowest elevation. It will find a pain shaped hole and it will fill it.
Fortunately, the universe took my husband but gave me instead friends. And the day that you’re walking around the city thinking about how much you want to cry, your friends will go with you to a crappy bar that you all hate but you keep going to anyway and feed you beer and French fries and make you laugh. And make you feel warm. And make you feel loved.
And that will be sufficient for that particular day.