EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO LEARN ABOUT LIFE I DISCOVERED DURING MY DIVORCE
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Though I had been able to move on, in my head I was still a bit stuck. Until one day it dawned on me that I might never "get over it" — and this was truly liberating. I realized that my divorce was a part of the fabric that made up me, just like all of my life experiences.
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That it didn't have to define me, hold me back or make me a lesser, broken person. Before my divorce, ending my marriage would have ranked as one of the most terrifying things that could ever happen.
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And then I ended my marriage — and survived. And I evolved into a person who no longer allowed fear to define her actions. Having one of the scariest things ever actually happen turned me into someone who is not scared of much anymore.
I truly believed that if I worked hard enough, talked it out enough, I could change my ex's behavior. And though it seems so obvious now, it was not clear to me at the time that the only person I could and should control is me. I stayed in a humiliating, degrading situation for months, while I tried and tried to change him.
I now face all relationship challenges with the understanding that I only have control over me. Pre-divorce, I "knew" exactly what I'd do if my husband cheated: clothes tossed out onto the street, locks changed. I remember harshly judging an acquaintance who was "putting up with" an unfaithful husband. And then there I was — putting up with an unfaithful husband. And this has been the biggest discovery since my divorce: You never know how you're going to react to a situation until you are actually IN it.
I'm much less quick to judge now, and way more embracing of life's "gray areas. When you're hit with a tragedy it's only natural to try and understand "why" it happened. I spent a lot of time on this after my divorce, but it was finally my mom who said, "You know, sometimes bad things happen to good people and there is no explanation. Let me be perfectly clear: I am not complaining about having to pay spousal support. For 30 years, I was either the sole or principal breadwinner in our household, and consequently, my wife never needed to pursue a career.
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Now that she does need to pay all her bills, I need to help out. But during the initial meetings with the mediator and through the majority of the divorce process, I didn't give a lot of thought to what the spousal support agreement would actually be. As someone who probably doesn't think hard enough about budgets, saving, investment, and retirement, it only became apparent to me when I started writing those checks after the divorce that this money accounts for virtually all of my disposable income.
And since I'm now a freelancer without a k quietly building equity in the background, I'm worried that I am not going to be prepared for the retirement age that's rushing towards me like a speeding train.
Your mileage may vary. If you've only been married a few years, spousal support might only last a few years — enough time for the lower-salaried spouse to get back on their feet and start a career. But we were married 30 years just slightly longer than "The Simpsons" has been on the air , and that means, in the eyes of the court, that I'm obligated to pay support indefinitely. Of course, the terms can be modified. If my wife were to remarry, start earning more money than me, or win the lottery, we could head back to court to revise or terminate the agreement.
But that's expensive, time-consuming and is sure to open old wounds. Or, more likely, aggravate raw wounds that are unlikely to ever heal properly.
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So it's unlikely I'll ever request any changes to the spousal support agreement — I will do my best to pay the amount, even though it was based on a salary I no longer have. The only reason I'd ask for the terms to change is if she really does win the lottery. When you're married for a long time, you stop thinking of yourself as an individual and more as a unit — a two-person team. At least, that's more or less how my wife and I had approached life.
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That doesn't just apply to attending dinner parties and deciding where to go on vacation, but to routine expenses and purchases as well. Take the phone bill, for example.
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For now, we're simply keeping the family plan. But if my wife chooses to switch to another carrier, I'll need to spend more for the same service, just because I'm single. I've found the same is true for other expenses as well. Auto insurance, for example, has gone up significantly. Because we opted for a mediator and never had to get lawyers, see a judge, or spend time in court, our divorce was no doubt a relatively painless experience.
But everything is relative.
The experience was relentlessly, soul-crushingly sad, and nearly two years afterwards, I honestly still haven't stopped grieving. Even so, if there was any upside to all that, it's that we were able to save a substantial amount of money by working with a mediator instead of a lawyer. Yes, that's only a third of the initial estimates, but even so, it's a lot of money when you don't have a ton of liquid assets in the checking account. I don't need another person or relationship to validate that.
That's what divorce taught me and now it's something I have tattooed on me! I now refuse to be silenced or made to feel like I'm nothing or a nobody. Keep in touch! Sign up for our newsletter here. News U.
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