This month marked ten years since my divorce. Ten years. How the hell did that happen?
I don’t really think about my ex-husband too often. Last I heard he lives about a mile from one of my parent’s houses and in addition to being a successful banker and college professor (you’re welcome for the grad school education), I don’t know anything about his life. We didn’t have kids-thank gawd- and despite the circumstances the divorce was somewhat amicable. Heck, we sat next to each other in the courtroom calmly answering those seven questions that severed our marriage and then grabbed lunch at a Bennigans. The hurt and anger had faded, replaced with other things like triumph and even retribution. New lovers, new discoveries and best of all new freedoms replaced “what the hell happened” and the tears that had become my bedmates night after night.
He and I met in Hawaii at a wedding. It was an instant connection. Despite his blue eyes and blonde hair not falling into the “my type” category I made an exception for his astounding physique. From opposite corners of the country we declared we would make it and off I went to the Pacific Northwest with a couple of suitcases, a lot of idealism and the glaring naiveté of a girl of twenty-one. Practicality be damned.
And oh how I fucking hated it there! This Miami native needed her sunshine and 364 days later we were on our way to Florida to get married and build a life. And build we did. We built success by our standards. We built a large bank account. We built houses. And then THE house.
When he left to Wales for a portion of that international grad school program in which spouses weren’t encouraged to attend on a quintessentially hot and humid Florida summer day, ever the supportive wife I waited until after I drove away from the airport to cry. Three weeks without my husband seemed like an eternity and the nauseatingly co-dependent emails and calls between the two of us commenced mere moments after he landed. Then almost abruptly they stopped. I didn’t hear from him. And I knew.
Then the email came…
From: 19 year old HER (to 31 year old him) Subject Line: Hey Body of the email:
…accompanied by the punch in the gut. The crazy thoughts. The lump in my throat. The constant nagging thoughts and the inability to sleep.
Two days later the excuses came via phone…then the fight. And the deafening click.
Another two days later the request for a divorce in the airport parking lot. You couldn’t have waited til we got home?
And just like that my marriage was over.
He never admitted he cheated. Apparently the relationship hadn’t started until “after” we separated. But there was that time I went to OUR home while she was so easily making it into hers, cooking for him; declaring their future to me, still his wife, along with her reasons why THEY were going to make it. I laughed to myself. Nineteen. So naïve. Just like I was when I had gotten on that plane seven years prior…
As we toured the 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom perfect home we had built from the ground up; every detail chosen just for us-the home in which we’d never live-I wondered how he could throw it all away so easily. Forsaking all others… right.
Two years later as we sat across from each other at dinner he told me I was right; he regretted what he had done. Two years later as he cried on my shoulder because she cheated on him with their co-ed softball coach, I thanked him. I told him he did the right thing. I told him how much happier I was. His regret and what it meant hadn’t resonated with me until long after the conversation took place. Both of us going through break-ups at the time leaned on each other. We used each other. Being there with the ability to walk away at anytime was my pay back. He wanted ME. The woman he used to have ALL of he’d never “have” again. Keep wanting. Take that, both of you.
There were no more ties to bind us. When the houses sold, he actually got more than I did. As he built more success, without me, he declared, “I know I would have nothing I do now if it weren’t for you.” No shit, Sherlock.
I have been asked time and again why I didn’t pursue alimony. He cheated. I should have taken him for everything!
Hell. the. fuck. no.
I am better than that and there is no way I could justify it – not to a court, but to myself.
Sure, I know women who receive alimony and don’t deserve it; weak women who I’d pity if I wanted to spend my energy on that sort of thing. They manipulated the system, pat themselves on the backs and forget about this little thing called karma. They spend their child support on anything but the child, too. Either too insipid or just too damn lazy, they have reduced themselves to a court-ordered dependency, most lacking a back up plan for when the gravy train leaves the station.
So did I really deserve alimony? Did I deserve to kick my feet up because my husband decided to tap out? We were married five years; not twenty. We didn’t even have a dog. There were no mitigating circumstances other than him not being able to keep it in his pants, actually not so mitigating, even then. I was not “accustomed” to some sort of lifestyle I had to keep because he paid my way through life. In fact, I find the idea of alimony downright insulting. I didn’t need to be maintained. I’m not a car.
I was better than a pay-off. I was better than a monthly reminder that my marriage failed because he failed me. I was better than a hand out. I was better than the idea that I need HIS money to sustain myself. I was better than tying myself to a person who would intentionally screw betray his wife. I was better than being enslaved to a monthly auto-draft.
But most and best of all, I was so much better without him. And that is the best damn “settlement” I could ever want.
Postscript: For those newer to the blog, I am now happily remarried.