Saturday, April 09, 2005

An Overlooked Casualty of Divorce

When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they “don’t understand” one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.
Helen Rowland (1875–1950), journalist

One of the saddest days of my life was when the legal papers arrived and typed across the page were the words dissolution of marriage. Even though I initiated the proceedings, it was no less painful. Failure permeated my mind as I buried my face in the pillow and cried. I won’t go into all the details, but to say that I was left with nothing, literally less than nothing because of bills and government debt, only because I was male and declared “head of household.”

I had to live at my parents’ home in my old bedroom for a year. I dropped out and collected unemployment for the first time in my life. I played ping pong daily and for hours at a time during the summer of ’95 with a childhood friend, who lived around the corner. By the end of summer, I decided I wanted to be a teacher and not deal with the corporate world ever again, so I went back to school. I was going to get a second B.A in English to go with my journalism degree. However, the corporate world beckoned again and I left school three or six units short of a second degree and my dreams of getting a Master’s degree or even working toward a PhD evaporated.

It’s been 11 years since the first marriage has been over. The second marriage is almost seven years old with plenty of poignant and humorous stories to revisit. But, there are the early chapters from the first family album that now seem incomplete or missing. Often I think about various stories that I want to recall and laugh about, but they are only funny to the us that is no longer.

The early us who naively hurdled the various obstacles and challenges and shared the joys and sorrows involved with starting out together and building a life are not as meaningful to others. No one really cares that we-worked four jobs between us, chased teenage-burglars bursting out of a neighbor’s home, buying and selling mobile homes to afford the first house, the pregnancy, the delivery, vacations, holidays, and all of Daughter’s growing up stories. Now it’s as if I go through the family albums and only half of each picture remains, and unfortunately it gets fuzzier with time. Shared memories are another sad casualty of divorce.

Note: I have been thinking about this post for a while, but I was inspired by a much more complete and well-written essay titled “Aftershock” at Hoarded Ordinaries.

14 comments:

Pirate said...

Divorce is a sad thing. A signal that some tenderness has left the world ... Love the quote. Sure is true. I, too, am on my second. My first was to a musician (in the doing-the-bar-circuit sense); the total time we were together, from the time we met to the time we separated, was 18 months. I call that marriage a "speed bump" in my life. I was WAY TOO YOUNG to be marrying anyone.

Janet said...

I read an interesting book the other day called Blink by an author whose name escapes me at the moment. Anyhow, in the book there is a whole chapter on people who can predict whether a relationship will succeed or fail by watching how they argue for a short period of time. In fact, I started to write a post on this, but I have yet to finish it...

The Misanthrope said...

I was a very immature 24 when we got married. Much to young in today's world.

Jack Steiner said...

That was a very powerful story.

bitchphd said...

A really moving post. Not at all misanthropic, by the way.

Lorianne said...

Oh, yeah, it hurts no matter how it happens. Thanks for writing this: that opening quote was especially on target.

An aunt of mine once said she wished kids were like waffles, where you can get away with throwing the first "botched" one away. Maybe marriages are similar, at least to those of us who married young. Maybe you need to weather a half-cooked one before you start to get a clue.

Thanks for the honesty & self-disclosure here.

Teresa said...

A poignant story, and one I can relate to. So is this when you became the misanthrope?

The Misanthrope said...

Thank you for all the nice comments.

This is not the origin of The Misanthrope. I came into this world screaming, and it has been Sturm und Drang ever since.

Panthergirl said...

I was moved by Lorianne's story as well (on Hoarded Ordinaries). Thanks for sharing yours too...sad, but true.

Sophie said...

misanthrope-
if you are such a misanthrope, why did you manufacture another homo sapien? i though part of being a misanthrope was abstaining from this primordial biological imperative. i know i am.

The Misanthrope said...

I was a younger misanthrope at the time and idealistic. But, my one creation is a great one, if I do say so myself.

Natalie said...

You definitely hit the nail on the head with this post. That's exactly what I'm feeling. I'm still at the point where I can't imagine getting married again though. I don't know that I can ever make myself that vulnerable again.

Jack Steiner said...

I just read this post again. In some ways it felt even more powerful than the first time.

The Misanthrope said...

thanks Jack, I re-read it from time to time myself. Those days were indeed dark and I thought they would never end. This May will be 10 years together and just a little hiccup that truly strengthen our bond.