How many years were you married?
Functionally, we were married for 19 years with four children ranging in age from 9-16. The divorce wasn't final until the 20th anniversary had actually passed.
Did you want a divorce?
This is a tough question. It was never something that I had really thought about (mainly because I was worried about him having unsupervised time alone with the children and I *thought* I was protecting them). However, when he was arrested for rape, I didn't even think twice about filing.
Describe the break-up of your marriage.
When my ex was arrested (though he subsequently got off on a misdemeanor, though I believe he was guilty of exactly what he was originally charged with), it just became crystal clear that the marriage had to be over.
It hadn't been good for a long time, there was a lot of verbal/emotional abuse but it wasn't until he was in jail that I realized how bad it was. You know it's bad when your 12 year old thinks that home life improved with his father in jail. During the whole time that the divorce was in process, my ex stalked me and the children. Once he was arrested for stalking but the divorce went quickly.
What helped you cope with your divorce?
I made up my mind early on to forgive him--not in the legal sense (condoning the "adultery"--although to me, rape is in a completely different category than adultery) but in the sense that while I absolutely wanted to have no relationship with him, I also do not actively wish him harm.
I only gave him as much thought as I had to in order to assure the safety of myself and my children but I made a conscious effort to not wish him ill other than wishing he would go find a job and leave us alone. He preferred to be unemployed and "homeless" so that nothing much would interfere with his stalking schedule).
I made every effort to aim for being a "class act" and always take the high road. Although I have never received a cent in child support, I've never said a negative word about him in front of the children and made every effort to keep my conversations with my lawyer either through email or where the children could not overhear my half of the conversation. Even in the multitude of occasions when I had to call the police (documenting each incident), I did my best to keep the children right out of it.
I also sought counseling for myself as an individual as well as family counseling for all of us and individual counseling for each child. This was tough in terms of time (though we qualified for free counseling due to income), but I think it was essential for us to get through the situation.
Initially, I felt a great deal of shame about the situation that I was in. It's really hard to have the end of your marriage show up as headline news in the local paper. However, I began to open up to friends, again always being careful to keep my children from ever hearing because I was not always so noble as to avoid calling him pretty nasty names in the privacy of conversations with adult friends. And I relied on a select number of friends who became a support network for me while this was an on-going thing.
Also, on the advice of my counselor, I started going to a day spa on a regular basis. I had never done anything like that before, something just for me and a luxury, to boot. However, these visits would dial the stress down so I could cope with it.
The most important thing, however, was to keep my eye on the "other side" of the valley that I was going through. I suppose you could say that my motto was "this too shall pass".
Now, it has.
- I learned that I am not the incompetent, worthless person that my ex wanted me to believe that I was; I am much stronger than I ever thought before.
- Anger, bitterness and hatred are poison to the soul. No matter how much right I have to be angry, bitter, and hate my ex, I have to love myself enough not to.
- I learned that hope and dreams can be stronger than disappointment and tears. No, it's not a perfect life now, but I can find the opportunity in difficulties. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns, adapting is better than wallowing.
- Taking care of myself isn't a silly waste of money and time.