The day before I left with my children on a two-week vacation to the West Coast, my ex-wife brought by the paperwork. After our 90-day waiting period and each having attended the court-mandated parenting class, it was official: we were divorced.
I still struggle with the finality of much of it. There are days that it is so surreal that I’m certain I will wake up and have everything back to normal. Other days, I am completely aware of the reality of it and the grief is so great I don’t know how to go on. I spent 15 years of my life with this woman, and in a matter of months, it’s all been vaporized.
Like it never happened. Like she never really loved me. Because she didn’t.
Today, to be divorced means trying to accept my new identity, but really not wanting to.
When I knew there was no chance of saving my marriage and I had to move out, I started changing everything I could in order to sever ties and form a new identity. I didn’t want to do these things, but it was out of necessity that I changed as many things as possible. Memories of my old life were too painful. All I wanted to remember was my children.
I even changed my laundry detergent.
We started using All years ago when we did cloth diapering because it was one of the few brands that had a version with no scent or dyes (that’s important for cloth diapers). But I always liked the way Gain smelled, so when I did my first big grocery shopping trip in my new role as a single man, I decided to change. That set off a chain reaction of change that is still continuing.
I changed from coffee to tea. From pasta to rice. From Cascade to Finish. I changed how I leave our neighborhood (we live next door to each other), my alarm ring tone, and what route I drive our kids to school. I changed from the Velveeta Shells and Cheese to the original Kraft kind with the orange cheese powder. I even changed my cologne from Aqua Di Gio (which she loves) to Tommy Hilfiger (which she hates). I made that change before I moved out. I don’t know if she noticed. It’s not like she got close enough to me to notice. If she did, she didn’t say anything.
I don’t know how many of these changes will stick. I’m happy with most of them, but I kinda miss coffee.
I don’t want to remember her, so today to be divorced means change – because the familiar hurts too much.
This week I was in Tucson, Arizona for a funeral. Tucson is where I grew up from fifth grade through college. I have friends there that I’ve known for 35 years. It’s where I had my first kiss, my first job, and my first car. It’s where I left the innocence of grade school behind and started becoming a young man.
It’s also where I proposed to my wife.
We met under a strange set of circumstances. She was going to marry a friend of mine and I was going to be in the wedding as one of his groomsmen. Their relationship, along with the wedding plans eventually fizzled out, but she and I kept in touch. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, doing stand-up and working two jobs. We both ended up in Tucson at another mutual friend’s wedding a few months later. I liked her instantly.
She did not reciprocate.
After the weekend of the wedding, I went back to L.A. and she returned to Oklahoma. Despite her initial lack of interest, we kept up regular contact on the phone and AOL messenger (yeah, it was that long ago). Eventually, she began showing interest in me and our phone conversations had gotten pretty serious. We made plans to meet in Arizona again – and this time I was bringing a ring.
We attended a Pearl Jam concert in Phoenix, then headed to Tucson to see some friends. I proposed at an Italian restaurant called Gavi. It’s called Piazza Gavi now and it’s in a different part of town, but it’s the same restaurant. Once we were done with dinner, I got down on one knee, and with everyone in the place watching, I proposed.
She said yes!
And now, fifteen years later, she’s divorcing me because she says she was never really in love with me. She said she married me because she thought I would make a good husband. She hoped the romantic feelings would grow and we’d be fine. But a decade and a half later, they still haven’t and obviously we’re not.
Why didn’t she just say no? Why take such a major risk? Why build a life together and bring three children into her roulette game of emotions? Why?
I wish she had just said no. Yes, it would have stung. It would have been humiliating. But it wouldn’t have been nearly the soul-crushing blow that this divorce has been. I hate her for taking that chance. I hate her for breaking up my family. I hate her selfishness and cowardice. I hate her for making me second guess everything I thought I knew about my life.
My wife stood in our kitchen on Sunday, November 11th, 2018 and told me that after 15 years of marriage that she was never in love with me.
Somehow a discussion about some shoes she had been given as a gift turned into a two-hour confessional about her real feelings about me.
I know it happened. I know I was there. I know it was my wife saying those words. But somehow none of it seemed real. She seemed like a stranger. Her face was familiar, but I didn’t recognize what was behind her eyes anymore. Her voice was hers, but the words she said sounded like she was being fed a speech through a hidden earpiece.
She was somebody else.
As the weeks unfolded, she seemed less and less like the woman I had spent a decade and a half with, and more like some kind of android or shapeshifter that had taken her place, while the real her had left in the mothership.
With the foundation of my life suddenly pulled out from under me, I quickly started questioning everything I thought was real. She said she had no romantic feelings for me. She said we have no chemistry. She said she didn’t miss me when we were apart. She said she’s not bothered by the thought of me with other women. She said I had never gotten her sexually aroused.
Fifteen fucking years.
Nothing was making any sense. I was in shock. I had so many questions, but for a couple of days all I could do was sit in a chair and stare. I was living an episode of The Twilight Zone and some pod person had come and replaced my wife.
Maybe I never really knew her. I guess it was all an act. She didn’t have the guts to say no when I proposed, so she perfected her acting chops and pretended to be a loving, supportive wife. But that’s not who she is, I guess. At least not for me. She wants someone else. She wants to be a part-time parent. She wants to be free.
I realized today that a few of my recent posts have been angry. I believe that anger is warranted and justified. A week before Thanksgiving my wife of 15 years told me that she never really loved me.
So yes, I’m pissed.
But I’m not pissed all or even most of the time. What I am most of the time is profoundly, acutely, and overwhelmingly sad. The anger comes in waves, maybe five or six times a week. But the sadness is an always-present undertow that tugs at me all day. It’s an unrelenting agony of despair that I don’t wish on anyone.
Often when people get divorced, it’s a mutual decision and both parties are relieved when it’s over. They grew apart, got together too young, or fell out of love. They don’t really want to get divorced, but they don’t want to stay together either. They realize this at about the same time, talk about it, and do it.
That’s not what happened to me. I was blindsided. I stood in my kitchen and listened to my wife tell me that it was over. I fought like hell for the next two months to convince her (and myself) that it wasn’t. I argued and debated. I pleaded and reasoned. I cried and begged. But she was done with me and nothing I said or did made any difference.
The only pain I can think of that could be worse than this is losing a child. I won’t equate the two, but I am mourning a loss. I’ve lost my marriage and fifteen years of my life. I’ve lost my wife, my confidant, and my best friend.
Today, to be divorced means the sadness hurts so bad I can hardly stand it.