Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The beginning of the end, and new beginnings - Part 1
I've debated on sharing this for quite some time. For a myriad of reasons.
My personal life has been one that, for the most part, I've kept off of social media.
I made one post about my divorce. In which I tried to be as transparent as possible but also making sure to respect my former wife, kids, family, and friends who all knew in details of how things arrived at that place. I've said many times, my private life is private. That word private is in there for a reason.
But since that post, I've gotten I don't know how many messages asking how me and the former Mrs. Carter ended up in the place we are now. Where we have a great friendship, and co-parent about as well as I think any two couple could. Or people who were going through a similar crisis, and just wanted some words of wisdom about what my thoughts about their situation was.
Divorce can be a hard place to arrive at. The finality of it all. But it can also be a liberating one. I remember leaving the lawyers office after our final visit feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders. There was closure. A chapter in my life I could finally turn the page on. And my future was now this blank canvas that I could paint with any types of shapes and colors that I wanted to paint it with. That can be scary for some people. Or as it was for me, it can feel very freeing.
I only had one person tell me "congratulations!" when I told them about my divorce. She too had divorced and also hated when people said "I'm so sorry" about it. Louis CK had the same take.
"It's a stupid thing to say."
The whole "I'm sorry" bit.
Yes, it is. It's stupid. Or let me say, I think it is.
Because, and to borrow from him....no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. None. Not one.
"If two people got married, and they had a really good thing, and then got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has literally happened zero times."
So just for your own insight here, when someone tells you they got divorced, just say congratulations. Or simply ask "so what's on the horizon?" But at least try to avoid saying "I'm so sorry". Even if they feel broken up about the split, you can ease the pain a bit by helping them to realize that as an adult, they have a future in front of them that is probably not shackled to a romantic relationship that wasn't worth being in anymore. They have choices. They have control. People have to learn to embrace those things post divorce, and take steps towards moving on with life. As a great friend told me "you're not starting over, you're just getting on with life."
But that's not the social norm. Saying "congratulations" about divorce, I mean.
And I know there's probably quite a few people reading this that don't agree with me. And that's ok. Because you know what? You'll never walk a single mile in my shoes, and you'll never pay a single bill of mine, or carry any burden I will ever have to bear. I also know what a lot of people are probably thinking as well.
"No, it's sad because of what it puts the kids through if they are involved."
And I have an answer for that as well.
You shouldn't save a marriage, or stay in one, for the kids.
Two people staying together for "the sake of the kids" and creating a model of a relationship they see everyday, that isn't filled with love, passion, enjoyment, togetherness, and harmony. That's what sad.
Those are the traits kids should be seeing day in and day out, along with how to resolve conflict, which will happen in every marriage, in a way that helps the relationship to grow and prosper that they too can learn from.
It's better for kids to exist inside of a model where two people are split, but co-parent effectively in a loving manner, than for them to exist inside of a home where to people co-exist but don't share intimacy and a deep seeded love for each other. Couples living as roommates that split bills? You can find one of those on Craigslist. That's not a marriage.
A loveless relationship without passion and excitement is a tomb. It's where souls go to die before our physical body does.
I wonder how many people surrender their happiness to a life of misery in those relationships? For their kids of course, I mean. Because splitting means there will be emotional trauma, pain, long and unpleasant talks about why mommy and daddy aren't together anymore. That shit is not fun. And many people avoid all of those things because it's painful. It's painful for them to have to watch their kids try to understand the complex natures of these relationships and the emotions involved in them.
But you know what else causes trauma and damage? The kind that is not easily undone either.
Keeping the kids in a loveless home where two people sleep in a bed together (or maybe he's on the couch some nights), talk about finances, and do shit together...with the kid(s) of course...but there's no real joy in it all for them as a couple, is tragic. And you're fooling yourself and lying to yourself daily if you don't think the kid(s) don't know that.
We don't give kids enough credit, even at young ages, for really understanding the lack of love and intimacy shared between their parents. They may not can express it or articulate it in grown up words when they are young, but they certainly can, and will, when they are older. The recognize it. They feel it. Trust me, they know mommy and daddy don't hug, kiss, and snuggle on the couch together. They see disconnect and apathy. They are fully aware of it.
"We don't yell, or argue in front of our kids."
Take yourself back to your childhood for a minute. You didn't always understand what your parents may have been arguing about, or the complexity of what they were hashing through. But you did understand emotions. You did understand love or anger or bitterness. Even at a young age. You did understand rejection and apathy and rejection and a wide array of emotions that we as adults like to pretend kids don't grasp.
They don't grasp the depths or the complexity of the situations that caused us to arrive there. But they understand what the emotional destination looks like.
And this is how people lie to themselves. Kids end up enduring the emotional alienation that exists in the paradigm of the relationship shared between their parents. What's the opposite of love? It's not hate. It's apathy. If kids can feel love between two people, do you really believe they can't feel apathy as well? Damage doesn't have to be loud. It does't always exist in the form of furious words or physical abuse. It can and does exist in the the vacuum that is known as the absence of love and disowned romance. That's the tomb.
And kids are sponges.
Give them anger, and they will soak that up, and wring it out in their future relationships. But show them nothingness, and they will suffer through repeated failed relationships in their future because you'll be the one responsible for having left their sponge empty. How are they to shower someone with genuine affection, love, and sincerity when you never genuinely showed them what that meant at a truly authentic level with your significant other?
I give my former wife all the credit in the world for being an incredibly courageous and strong woman, for having the knowledge and strength to know we were no longer showing our kids what a great marriage looked like anymore. So she walked.
And she always give me credit for working my ass over in the years after that, to make amends to her and working hard to co-parent with her in a way that ended up creating a new and wonderful friendship between the two of us. A co-parenting relationship we've been able to watch our kids thrive and flourish in.
After our divorce was final, I actually took her out to dinner at this really nice restaurant and we toasted to all the years that were great, not so great, and to our future together to be the best parents we could be for our kids and to a new friendship. Our kids still see love between us. Not discontent or anger or resentment. They got to watch what letting go of resentment looks like. And in retrospect, I also realized we've given our kids a model that when or if their relationship is no longer serving them or growing them, or isn't fulfilling, that there should be a time when letting go of it will serve them the greatest.
All romantic relationships aren't worth saving. That includes marriages. And certainly, there comes a point where you should be introspective enough to recognize that while relationships take work, they shouldn't BE work. I had a psychologist tell me that people have to learn what to "fix" in their relationships. And they often don't understand that "fixing" a relationship, sometimes means ending it. For your health, your significant others health, and the health and well being if there are kids involved. That most people do not understand that kids growing up in a home that is devoid of love between their parents is horrifically damaging.
We were smart enough to know that it's better to split for all the right reasons, than to stay together for all the wrong ones.
Falling on a sword and being a martyr in a romantic relationship is a benefit to no one. Not even your kids. There is absolutely nothing heroic about it. I don't care what your therapist, friends, or the dude behind the counter at Quick Trip tells you.
No one ever fixed a problem in their life by waiting around. Reactive people are the ones that end up with mountains of stress in their life because they are constantly having to duck and dodge all the shit that is being hurled at them. If you've ever watched boxing, you'll know the guy eating all the fists to the face is the one standing still, and not bobbing weaving. The problems in life aren't a lot different. If you're just standing in one spot, expect to eat a lot of punches.
Proactive people have stress too. But proactive people understand that usually there's one major underlying issue that has to be resolved, that has a domino effect in their life that transcends into resolving other minor problems. The proactive boxer responds to stimulus by making a choice to try and avoid getting hit, while answering back with his own fists.
Staying in a relationship or marriage for no other reason than the other person is the mother or father of your child is is faulty logic. It's failure. Plain and simple. And one that is going to leave you with a very fragmented legacy because one day your children will be adults. And most likely, unbeknownst to you, they may be in a conversation with friends, or even with their significant other where they utter a sentence, or sentences, that if you knew about, could break you.
"I knew my mom and dad never really loved each other."
"They only stayed together for us."
I read from a Christian author that, the greatest gift we can give our kids is a marriage that radiates love and passion and desire that is undeniable to them. Because that's the representation of what Christ gave to us. Whether you are a person of faith or not, I think that's a hard concept to disagree with. And if those things aren't there, then something else has to be existing in place of them. And those things will be what they take from you to carry on into their own romantic lives as adults. You get to be at least partially responsible for the model they create in their future romantic adventures.
"Paul, this whole thing sounds like it's very pro-divorce".
I'm not pro-divorce. I'm pro-awesome marriage. And I'm fully aware that it can't be awesome 100% of the time. But if you can't meet the 80/20 rule then something is amiss. 80% of the time, it should be awesome. Everyone should be able to put up with 20% of bullshit, or times where things suck.
I'm pro-working on things to make it better. But you can't get blood from a turnip. And you should reach a point where you know that what's going to serve you best after you've exhausted your emotional and mental resources, is to walk away and work on that new blank canvas.
So what happens after all of this? What was my aftermath?
I was single again.
No I really was. Apparently that's what happened after my divorce decree arrived in my e-mail. It didn't tell me "hey Paul, you're single." I kinda figured out that it went without saying.
So there I was...........single again. With more baggage than LAX at Christmas time that I had to figure out what to do with.
Part 2 later.........
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