Divorce, perfection, and recovery?

It’s been a while since I got divorced. Ten years? It was certainly a life ago.

I think about what my life would have been like if I stayed married. The thought doesn’t last long because I’m certain I’d not have made it. “Unalived” is what the TikTok algorithm accepts.

I’m breastfeeding Georgia, and writing this on my phone. I see my blonde haired, blue eyed daughters twirl around me. Del rubbed my feet last night, and took care of our household when I got glutened today. I have the most boring, domesticated, uninteresting life – and I enjoy that tremendously.

Yet I was feeling this twinge of anger about the past, as the anniversary of my first marriage twirled around. Not jealousy, and I certainly don’t miss whatever that life would have been. I still felt guilty that I never pressed charges, stopped him, or spoke up sooner. If something happens next who is to blame? It feels like a bad person got away with something terrible.

I talked through my sadness with my therapist. I shared the history, the trauma, and where I’m at today.

“But if he never apologized, and if he hasn’t changed – he has to live with himself.”

I’ve lived with this thought for a few days. What is it like to live carrying the weight of many terrible things? Do you hate yourself, hate everyone else, or just live indifferent to the world? What would it be like to not care about anything?

That felt overwhelmingly empty. My greatest joys in life are the people I love, and the people I share my life with. But then I moved to the next step in my path.

“When did you know it wasn’t going to work?” my therapist asked.

“I knew the moment he proposed. But I just kept going because I was worried if I didn’t I’d let so many people down. I was just trying to be so perfect.”

I struggle with perfectionism. I believe that if I fail, am too difficult, or cause too much trouble – I am unlovable. I try to stay small, be self sufficient, and come to people only after my problems are solved. This has created a ridiculous amount of overachieving. If I am great at everything, I will get approval – right? President of this, VP of yadda, yadda, volunteer of the millennial.

How lonely is that? How long have I lived trying to hold it all together, when crumbling would be so nice for a change. Let some other over achiever deal with it, right? The world is burning from so many things. I’m exhausted from COVID, four years of terrible politics, people that deny inequality, and so much more. Wouldn’t it be better to share that grief together?

I diverge from this point. Anniversaries have passed. I’m trying to examine my own life. This recovering perfectionist is trying to start falling apart. There’s nothing to get right in this season. I’m getting away from leading the group projects, and just want to ride on someone else’s coattails. For now, I’m just want to exist for a while. I’m just going to spend some time falling apart. Want to come with me?

On $257.52…

It isn’t a large sum of money, but it isn’t small either. What it represents to me, however, is quite a lot.

It isn’t a large sum of money, but it isn’t small either. What it represents to me, however, is quite a lot.

I don’t think I’ve ever typed these words in my blog, but I’ll say them now. My ex-husband is an asshole. I wish him well, but he is not a good person. In addition to general jerk-faceness, he was exceptionally controlling about money.

If I paid for ANYTHING, I had to turn a receipt in to him. During our marriage, I was the sole breadwinner. Thus, I was essentially turning in receipts for my own money. On top of that, I’ve never been a frivolous spender.

While we were going through a divorce I tried to separate our car insurance. Because my ex-husband was listed as the primary person on the insurance the car insurance refunded ALL of the money to my ex when I tried to separate the account. So I asked my ex-husband if we could compromise and split the $500+ refund, to which he said, “No.”

In our divorce, my ex-husband gave me the house. However, since the car insurance incident was a disaster I never took my ex-husband off of the homeowner’s insurance policy. I thought, “He’s listed as primary. So they’ll just send him the money…”

Time passed. I got re-married. We sold that old house. At closing I was told I would have a check from my homeowner’s insurance for $257.52 mailed to my new address. Unfortunately, that check never came. Instead, they mailed it to my ex-husband.

Soon after receiving my check, my ex-husband e-mailed me and said he wanted half of the money. He said he would mail me the check to sign, then I was to mail it back and he would send me my half.

I did what you would expect me to do. I told him to go fuck himself, and then I shut down that email and never talked to him again. I’d rather not have the money than deal with being controlled.

I assumed he illegally cashed the check.

That was over four years ago.

But then, a few weeks ago, my old insurance company called saying a check was owed to me. It turns out, the ex had never cashed the check. I explained the situation, and they stated that if I could send them proof they would send me the check.

Oh yes, I sent it proof.

A few days passed, and then – they sent me a check yesterday. #victory 

In a strange ironic turn – tomorrow is the anniversary of my divorce. #vindication

Having someone control your expenses changes you. I feel scared about spending money on myself, and keeping receipts seems to be a habit I can’t break. Breaking control is hard.

My husband Del is so good to me. He encourages me to spend wisely. Del is the kindest, most gracious person I know.  Del… you’re amazing.

Today, I went to the credit union and cashed my check for $257.52.

I thought about saving the money, but we have enough in savings. I thought about donating the money, but we donate a lot of money. I thought about getting new brakes on my car, but we have money saved for that.

Instead, I’m going to do something different.

For the first time in my entire life I’m going to blow that money on WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT. I’m going to walk into the mall, fill my cart with crap, and then throw away every receipt. I may buy a new coat, or weights, or boots, or food. I just may buy 563 packs of bubble gum, or 200 random things from the dollar store. Because no one controls me anymore.

I’ve spent all of today dancing around. I’m likely being petty, and even a touch juvenile. Living in an abusive marriage takes a toll. When I think back on it, it feels like a slow death. It’s just cut, after cut, after cut. One thing gets taken, and then another. When  I add up the sum of abusive behavior it feels overwhelming.

But I got out. I lost money, and friends, and more in the process. But I got out.

I’m happy now. I love my life. I’m re-married. I got it right. And after I go to the mall, I’m going to have a cart full of $257.52 worth of stupid crap just to prove it.

On how to help a friend going through a divorce…

The divorce rate has been declining for the last couple decades, and the “50% of marriages end in divorce” stat hasn’t been true for a while (1, 2). Depending on how you calculate it (and the calculations have a TON of differences), closer to 40% of marriages end in divorce (3). The notion that Christians who attend church regularly get divorced at substantially lower rates is a convenient myth (sorry, but it is)(4). Although divorce rates are declining – it remains true that – whether you’re a Christian, a member of another faith, an agnostic or an atheist – you’ll likely know someone who goes through a divorce.

I’m divorced. And my current husband also went through a divorce. Prior to that, I believed I had to succeed at everything in order to be loved. Going through divorce helped me learn an important lesson: that grace exists beyond my failing (Romans 3:20-24).

Every situation is different, but I wanted to write about divorce. Specifically, since we will also know someone who goes through a divorce, I wanted to write about how you can help a friend who is going through a divorce.

 1)      Don’t pick sides.

 Marriage is complex, and messy, and tough. There aren’t two sides to a marriage; there are like… a gazillion. While it’s easy and convenient to think, “It’s his fault because he did X” or “It’s her fault because she did Y” – that is overly simplistic. People get divorced because they’re people, and imperfect. Don’t pick a side, it just makes one person feel like crap and the other person feel justified. And the truth is, no one will ever understand what happens in another marriage. So just listen. Just be kind.

 2)      Try to keep in touch.

I have such good friends. When I was going through a divorce they let me call or text as often as I needed. My friends were my life line. They listened to me and loved me when I needed it. If you have a friend going through a divorce, try to keep in touch with him/her. If you don’t want to be overbearing send a text that says, “I love you friend.”

3)      Don’t say, “I’ll pray you’ll get back together.”

People mean well when they say this. They are holding out hope that a friend won’t have to go through the pain of a divorce. But when you’re going through a divorce and someone says this line, what you likely hear is, “You’re wrong for doing this.” It feels like a slap in the face, because you likely already feel like crap for getting divorced. It is also undermining. It assumes that the person getting divorced hasn’t been trying for years to fix their marriage. A better thing to say is, “How can I help you?”

4)      Gossip is the worst.

When I was going through a divorce, I remember feeling like people were talking about me wherever I went. Although I was being slightly paranoid, I’d never felt that terrible feeling before. And despite never asking for gossip reports, things that were said always seemed to come back to me. If you know someone that is getting divorced and you need to talk to a friend about it, do it in private – and try not to be a jerk about it. Gossip has a way of coming back around.

5)      Remember – you could be next.

My least favorite pictures on Facebook are the ones like the below. Divorce isn’t Santa Claus or the tooth fairy – it exists. And unlike Santa, who “supposedly” comes around on the same night each year, divorce isn’t always expected. Today, I’m remarried to a wonderful guy who also went through a divorce. My husband Del and I have had the conversation, “We never thought we would have gotten divorced.” You never know what will happen next in life, or what weird twists and turns may come your way. With kindness I say – before you pass judgment upon someone for getting divorced, remember that it could be something you go through (although I hope it isn’t). And if you ever have to go through it, I hope you’re surrounded by kindness and grace, instead of judgment.

You “don’t believe”?

 (1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/23/144-years-of-marriage-and-divorce-in-the-united-states-in-one-chart/

(2) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/upshot/the-divorce-surge-is-over-but-the-myth-lives-on.html?smid=tw-share&abt=0002&abg=0&_r=2

(3) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/19/health/divorce-rate-its-not-as-high-as-you-think.html

(4) https://www.barna.com/research/new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released/


On all the good things…

My husband and I got baptized together. Well, not in the same hot tub (our church does immersion), but we got baptized on the same day.

Right after we got baptized, one of our friends said to us, “I love you guys. I like that you both had prior relationships that didn’t go well, but you don’t let that stop you from moving forward.”

I cried a little. I thought that was one of the nicest compliments my husband and I had received about our relationship. I also thought it was especially fitting right after being baptized.

The compliment was also true. My husband and I both had some bad stuff, but we didn’t let that stop us.

Del (my husband) and I were both married previously.

Del got divorced because his ex-wife just left. One day they were together and married, and the next day she decided she could no longer handle being his wife.

I never really knew Del’s ex-wife. I had met her before. When I met her, I thought she was nice and funny. I know she can/could bake well, and that she can/could sing well. Beyond that, I know very little about her. I couldn’t tell you what makes her tick.

Whenever I think of Del’s ex-wife, I feel disappointment. I’ve spent a long time contemplating why I feel so disappointed with her.  She has never done anything to me, and frankly, her decision to leave was my gain. I think I feel disappointed because Del will never tell anyone (except me) what it was like to be married to his ex-wife. I have heard from other people that his ex-wife told tons of people intimate details about their relationship. Del will sometimes say ‘It was terrible’ or ‘She was not kind.’ I see the irony in my disappointment, or is it the hypocrisy? I’m divorced too. I left too, and I’m writing a blog about it. But I feel disappointment nonetheless.

I am never sure if his silence is Del being honorable, or if the pain of whatever she did is too much to discuss. Maybe it is both.

I got divorced because my ex-husband was controlling. I wasn’t allowed to: bake, spend money, decorate the house, spend time with friends, talk to certain members of my family, etc. etc.  My ex-husband also enjoyed calling me names. I think ‘bitch’ was his favorite. Any of my friends and all of my family will tell you that I had to leave my first marriage. It was, well, super bad.

Neither Del nor I were perfect spouses.

The strange this is – I am married to Del – and I cannot tell you exactly what he did as a husband that contributed to his marriage failing. My husband is not perfect, but he is SUCH a good husband. He is kind, forgiving, a hard worker, funny, at sooo cute. At any rate, why Del did to his marriage that contributed to its failure is his story. He can tell it, if he ever wants to.

I also did a lot that contributed to my first marriage failing. I was not forgiving – of anything. If my ex-husband would do something wrong, I would hold it over his head. I never told my ex-husband how I was feeling or what I was thinking, which really doesn’t make a marriage work. I mothered my ex-husband. I would try to force him to see all of the little details he was missing.

I think the greatest lie I hear people tell is that one person caused a marriage to fail. Yeah, I am sure that is true for some people (like 1%), but most of the time it is two people not doing enough to make a marriage work.

For some reason, our society excuses the three A’s as a reason for getting divorced: abuse (physical or mental), adultery, and addiction (drugs or alcohol). If one partner has a problem with those, our society gives a green light to leaving. I have always thought that was so strange. And no, I’m not supporting the three A’s, or insulting folks who chose to divorce because of them. I just think its fascinating… If you are called to love your spouse forever, why are there this weird tickets to single town? What is it about these three things that suddenly make the decision to leave a marriage so black and white?

In some ways, I am grateful for that I had a green light. It removes a lot of societal disapproval I faced after getting divorced. I’ve never heard anyone admit this, but if you say ‘My ex was abusive’ – it removes so much critique. And no one ever asks the spouse that was cheated on ‘What did you do to contribute to your spouse cheating?’

Don’t worry though, while society may remove that critique, I still give plenty of it to myself. My first marriage failed. I contributed to that failure.

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: I forgive my ex-husband. I forgive Del’s ex-wife. I forgive Del for whatever he did to contribute to his first marriage failing. And – I forgive myself for whatever I did to contribute to my first marriage failing.

With this grace, we move on.

Del, my husband, is the best husband in the entire world. When I think of him, my stomach still gets butterflies. When he kisses me, my knees get weak. Just writing about him right now makes my heart beat faster. Just writing his name makes me miss him.

Del and I came together at a time in our lives when everything was falling apart. I’m guessing that most shrinks would say we bonded over a traumatic event, and then they would tell us that our bond is unhealthy. Meh. I disagree.

Del and I work because we have four important things: 1) a ton of common interests, 2) a healthy respect for individual growth, 3) Jesus, and 4) good sex (my parents read this, so I’ll just bullet this one for the sake of my father).

Together, Del and I both love: food, tv, drinks, friends, games, Jesus, reading, learning new things, visiting new places, exercise, bad jokes, good jokes, being kind to people, and more. If Del starts liking something I don’t care about, 90% of the time I will try to become interested in that too. For example, Del just started listening to tons of weird pod casts, so I’ve started listening to pod casts as well. I guess I could just poo poo that new interest and move on. But if something is important to my husband, it is important to me.

Despite caring about 90% of my husband’s interests, there is that 10% I just can’t seem to care about. I try to support and nurture that 10% as much as I can. For instance, my husband likes bourbon. I think bourbon tastes like how I imagine cat piss would taste, so I don’t drink it. But for Christmas, I bought him a nice bottle I thought he would like – and some mixers. My husband is also exceptionally good at finding weird stuff on the internet. I can’t keep up with him on that, so I just try to tell him as often as possible that I love that he is learning new and weird things.

We are into Jesus. We attend church together. We serve in church together. We pray together. We read the Bible together. However, we also encourage each other to grow however Jesus is calling us to grow. My husband might be called to do one thing, and I another. When the day is done, we crawl into bed and talk about where we are at. What happened today? What do you need? How is God working in your life? How is God working in our marriage?

I am not sure what most people think you are supposed to do after a failed marriage.

When I was in my teens I had a teacher (Ms. T) whose husband left her and her children for another woman. Ms. T was the most miserable bitch I ever did meet. In the south, I think they’d call her ‘awnry.’

After Ms. T’s class, I made a silent vow to myself. I vowed that, no matter what happens to me in life – I don’t want to become an angry, bitter old woman that all the kids loathe.

When I got divorced, I guess I could have sat alone in my house crying myself to sleep about the crappy things that were happening. But I just don’t fucking have the time or energy to be miserable.

So I cried a bit. I dusted myself off. And I just kept on trucking.

I am so thankful I kept going. If I hadn’t, I would’ve missed all of the good things that life has given me with Del.

I would’ve missed Disney World, and drinking at Epcot. I would’ve missed Del teaching kids how to beat box. I would’ve missed playing board games with friends. I would’ve missed trolling around Grand Rapids, sleep-all-day Saturday, watching too much Netflix, napping in the backyard, bonfires, cuddling, smoking cloves, listening to pod casts, and enjoying music.

I’ve taken some punches, but so has every other person on the earth. At some point, you just have to realize that life is unfair, but you still get to choose whether or not to be happy – and whether you want to miss all of the good things.