I did not choose divorce because I wanted to be happy. I chose divorce because I didn’t want to continue to be not happy. There is a difference. Unless you have been there, you won’t understand the difference. When my wife and I sold our home a little over two years ago, separated and went our separate ways, I knew there was a tough road ahead, maybe more difficult than the crooked and uphill one I had been travelling for years. And that was it.. I was tired. The pain of climbing that road had become too much, and I knew that it would do nothing but continue the same way if I didn’t make the choice to take a different path, one that wouldn’t guarantee happiness, but maybe just maybe there would be relief.
There wasn’t another woman to turn to, no one pulling me away from my marriage of nearly 25 years. Changing the path meant making an extremely difficult decision, one that I contemplated for years. It meant losing a life that I knew and was comfortable with, estranging myself from in laws and nieces and nephews that I truly love, risking friendships and developing new ones. I was Uncle Steve, a guy those nieces and nephews admired. Suddenly I was no longer Uncle Steve — my status was former. I miss them, miss watching them become adults, miss fawning over their children. That was part of the happiness that was my marriage. I knew I would lose that. That is part of the sadness.
Oddly enough, I am glad that I have found out who my true friends are. There have been people who look at me like an evil person who had left their friend. That judgement is part of any divorce, for that is what happens — judgement. There are the mutual friends who treat me the same now as they did before, I suppose they are the ones who made it through the character sifter, and I see that as a blessing. Truthfully, a lot of time can be wasted on superficial relationships, and difficult times have shown me the good ones. New friendships have developed, some of them renewed friendships, relationships that now feel like a true gift, as if I needed something to help me realize the value of true friends.
I have a lot of them.
I am a Christian, the #2 reason why the decision to divorce took so long in coming. I had to figure out that God hates divorce because of what it does to me, not because it’s a sin. He reached out to me during the heart wrenching times of the last few years of my marriage, through the loneliness and frustration. I found it really hard to take God’s hand during that time, often enough I couldn’t. Oh, I thought I was reaching out to him and I cried (and screamed) plenty to God. During that time, I felt a gap, a vastness of separation from God. Really, it was that pain that I honestly wanted to carry myself that wasn’t creating that gap. Only when I made the decision that I needed to make… yes, I needed to make… was I able to approach God. He is always there, always calling, always wanting me to come to him and it took laying down that burden at his feet before I begin to be not happy. I had to learn to recognize God’s presence again, his constant blessings. I am not one to say the things happen for a reason. I honestly don’t think that is what God is about. I think God is about showing me the way when I look to him, before and after and during the good times as well as the hard times. Divorce changed the way I approach God, affected the way I trust him, renewed my ability to tell him thanks every day, helped me to see him in a different light. He made me in his image, after all, and there is no way he hates his own creation.
That brings me to the #1 reason divorce was such a difficult decision — my wife and my children. Yes, my wife. A lot of people leave that out. It’s not that I stopped loving her. It’s that it hurt so much to love someone who could not, would not respect me. Yes, I didn’t want to hurt my children, as well. I wanted to and still want to be the best father I can be. I tried very, very, very hard to be that father. My wife would not let me be the father I wanted to be, would not support me as the father I wanted to be, got in the way and resented me in many ways. I knew that divorcing would damage the relationship I have with my children for a while, but that it would also give me a chance for them to have a relationship with me without her influence. I have seen my relationship change with my children over the last two years — most of it is good. There is still healing that needs to take place, but that toxicity that existed two years ago barely exists now.
What is life like now? It took over a year on my own before I could feel myself beginning to heal. Separation felt like jumping into an ice cold pool of water. There was no wading in. That was what it took, because I had spent the last few years of my marriage dipping my big toe into the water, afraid of the cold reality. I jumped in and it indeed it was a shock that took some getting used to. However, I was in up to my neck, so I had to deal with it. I had to get used to being by myself, find ways to reach out to people, learn to make new friends. I have. Slowly, I am learning to accept my status as a divorced man. I am not sure it will ever feel completely right. But, well, not happy has become at peace.. and I needed that so much.
Dating as a newly single 58 year old man is different. I didn’t waste too much time trying that out. Most men are that way, I think. The only thing is that I really didn’t know what I wanted, just that it had been so long since I had someone close to me. Shortly after my divorce, I met someone online and dated her for a little over a year. I learned my lessons from her, good lessons, got to experience the life of dating as an “adult”. I also learned a little about what I want in a relationship, and that I am not really ready for a new wife. After that year of dating, I got to be the scum bucket who did the breaking up. That wasn’t easy! I swore that I was done with online dating — the pressure of a serious relationship is just too great with online dating (at least it is for me). I have a profile, but don’t use it. A few months after the break up, I started casually dating a neighbor of mine, someone who I have been getting to know since I moved into my condo two years ago. It’s been a good thing, although it was a bit scary at first. She lives in the building next door. I like her, enjoy that she gives me my space (which seems ironic since she lives so close), am not feeling the pressure to jump into a serious relationship. Oh, I get my hugs and kisses from her, but I don’t see a ring on my finger in the near future. It’s nice to have a friend who enjoys getting to know me, fits me very well,… and respects me.
It’s my hope that my children will learn to let me be with someone. They are not ready yet. I know it’s different for everyone. Some children want to see their parent enjoy dating again, others need a lot of time before they can accept that. It’s OK. I just hope that some day they will. I am not going back to their mother. It’s so obvious now that we, the both of us, needed that change.
Lots to learn. The path is leveling off, becoming more and more straight as I journey on.