My Divorce, Chapter 3: Holidays
Here it is, Chapter 3 of ‘My Divorce’. A friend of mine from the Northeast is writing about his experience as he starts the divorce process, he writes, I comment. If you missed the beginning, click here.
I’m not sure where it began, I know it was in a few movies in the ‘80’s. and I distinctly remember it being used liberally on the few episodes of Ally McBeale I could handle, but I know I need it now: the needle scratch across the record stop everything scene-stopping screech.
The whoa, hold everything, momentum killing moment, I think you all know it. The moment came for me the week before Thanksgiving, I drove 5 hours to pick up my youngest from college, then five hours back. Nice to have him coming home after his first months in college.
I should stop for a moment and just get this out there – I was having a hard time deciding when to pull the trigger on starting the divorce. I’m certainly there mentally, but when, exactly, is the right time to just talk to my wife and get it out there?
I write for a living, I couldn’t do the primary kind of writing I do without having a constant stream of scenes and dialogue running through my head just enough of the time to still be healthy. So, I pictured the discussion a few dozen different ways with a dozen different dialogue trends and a dozen somewhat different outcomes.
I was, then, as prepared as I could be.
Then it hit me that the holidays were looming. Two children were headed home for Thanksgiving, al three are headed home for Christmas. Not for a day or two, but for a few weeks.
That, I think, would give anyone pause. It’s been 4 years since everyone was under our roof at the same time. Did I need to have the drama of an impending divorce proceeding hanging over it all?
All that, plus a few scenes from other projects I’m working on, ran through my head all the way up to school. I barely heard the Audible book or any of the Spotify playlists. By the time I pulled into my son’s dorm I thought I had it all worked out.
That feeling lasted just a tiny bit longer than the time it took for him to toss his laundry in the trunk and for us to hit the highway. Then, the record scratch – he hates his school, wants to transfer, knows exactly what he wants to do, knows he can’t do it there, needs to regroup and start over Probably needs to take next semester off to work through it.
He’s a serious kid, therefore this is serious. We talked, I agreed with everything he said, we’ll be working through it for the rest of the semester. Nothing is written in stone, but it seems certain he will be taking next semester off to look at schools that match what he wants to do.
Which is great, I’m lucky my youngest knows what he wants.
But, talk about record scratches. Now, where to I fit the divorce in?
Ok, got it. The short answer is there’s never a “right time” for a divorce. Here’s the long answer:
You may be thinking scratching sounds as in Ally McBeal, but I’m thinking what may be more appropriate is scratching sounds as in Sabotage by The Beastie Boys. I forgot how funny that video is, you should check it out again. Seriously though, you may be actually sabotaging yourself. I have a friend who specializes in mental health issues for men, and we were talking just the other day. He mentioned that most of his clients’ issues are created by hesitation and the inability to make a decision.
From my experience as a divorce attorney, I’d say that’s correct. I have a number of people who see me multiple times over the course of years, they continue to be unhappy, but they don’t move forward. When we meet or talk, each time they believe they are in the same place, but they’re actually worse off because they’ve lost another year of their life being unhappy, and that’s a year they’ll never get back. I’m not saying divorce is or is not the right thing for you, but I am saying by not getting off the fence, you’re hurting yourself.
Again, I see this all the time in consultations…we’ll go through their situation, which is generally terrible, we’ll talk about how they’ve tried or not tried to fix the situation, talk about their prospects if they do nothing – which are again, terrible. We then go over the options, weigh pros and cons, discuss the process and legal arguments, and then I’ll ask if they are ready to get started.
What I’ve found is that people who are not ready will find any reason to say no – too expensive, need to wait for someone to move out, need to wait for the house to sell, need to wait to handle that big job at work, need to talk to whoever about the divorce they’re already talking to me about, or the holidays. (Yes I’m looking at you, my friend). It’s no secret to divorce lawyers that business drops significantly in November and December, only to bounce back up after the start of the year. It makes sense that people don’t want to deal with that issue over the holidays.
However the people who are ready, consider the same issues and do not hesitate. It’s sort of like what an anonymous law professor told me a long time ago, – the Court can find any reason or legal precedent they want, to justify the decision they want.
Again I’m not saying that’s good or bad, right or wrong for you, but I do want you to know, that by not making a decision in either direction, you’re actually making a decision to stay in what is likely a stressful and unhappy state of purgatory. I always ask my prospective clients if they have tried marriage counseling or if they want to try counseling. I don’t want families to break up, and I’m very happy to refer them to some of the best marriage and individual counselors in my area to help them sort things out. But the same people that can’t decide to move forward with a divorce, often also can’t decide to move forward with marriage counseling either. You can change your life now, or you can change your life later…so when do you want your life to change?
I get the concern for the children and the holidays. My parents divorced when I was twelve. But I remember living through a Christmas season that was stressful for everyone, including me and my siblings. I remember that I wanted to my parents to be happy, and I knew they weren’t. I didn’t necessarily want them to divorce, and I’m sure they didn’t want to either. People who I talk to don’t “want” a divorce – most people don’t want one. Most people see me because they need a divorce.
Your kids are probably the same way…they already know what’s going on and they just want you to be happy. I do too…either way you decide…but it’s your call.