Perspective is everything and seldom appreciated until the offending circumstances are well in the rear view mirror.
When my former marriage fell apart, I did the unthinkable and moved out.
The one that leaves loses, I’d heard over and over. I was hell-bent that I would not lose.
What I failed to do was consider just what it was that I was set to lose. I was so focused on gaining my share of the equity and assets along with support that I didn’t factor in the emotional toll on all involved.
Four years I dragged my case through the courts fighting a battle I could never win: my opponent was a brick wall narcissist, whose sense of self existed outside the realm of common law and ethics. Four court decrees in my favour held no sway over my ex’s intentions: he was not going to pay.
In the end, I was able to reimburse my lawyer (more than half of the settlement I received) and I had a small lump sum I used as a down payment on a home – a paltry amount considering what I’d figured I was owed. I had to waive support arrears to get it.
That was many years ago, and the resentment burned in me in for a long time. Everyone was right, I told myself, the one who leaves does lose.
In hindsight, I have a different take on what happened. Yes, I lost the equivalent of seventeen years of invested time and money, but that can happen in life anyway – economics change and losses occur. If I had managed to get him to leave (unlikely, since he worked from home) I would have soon lost that house as I had no appreciable income to sustain the upkeep. As it is, he held onto the home, and the children have at least one structure from their childhood in tact.
Financial losses can be recouped. It is the underlying pain and suffering that is hard to replace: the damage done to the children.
I recovered – raged, despaired, railed against the injustice, and then got on with my life. My children, caught in the crossfire, were not so fortunate, and I wish I had been more aware of that at the time.
Divorce is hard, I get it. Typically, the adults involved revert to childlike behaviours in response to the emotional pain, which is understandable, but not helpful.
I was at least conscious enough not to make the children pawns; I didn’t threaten to keep them away from their dad if he didn’t pay up. Having a relationship with both parents, I realized, was their birthright. I did, however; involve them in the fight. It only served the purpose of forcing them to take sides – a choice no child should ever have to make.
If the kids never really know what happened that’s okay. What they need from their parents is reassurance, and a role model for how to overcome adversity.
I told myself at the time that at the very least I needed to conduct myself with integrity and civility – a goal that is only ever possible with the right therapist on board. I was not always successful.
When weighed against the losses, the gains of ending a disruptive marriage ultimately win. Post divorce I was able to receive the counselling and personal growth that I needed so that I was ready when a healthier relationship came along. I embraced opportunities that I never would have before, and most importantly, I reignited a sense of self that had been slowly extinguishing over the years.
And….the greatest gift of all: my three children.
Divorce is not the end of the world. It is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is a loss of a dream, and an opportunity to follow a new path. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it is humiliating. Yes, it feels like insurmountable failure. How the challenge is navigated determines who and what is lost and gained in the end.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say, in hindsight.