Wednesday, June 9, 2010

That Awkward Third Phase

Current Husband and I were married in August of 1995.  That summer, everyone was getting married.  We attended either 14 or 16 weddings between April and September, and being the classy people we are, we prided ourselves on usually arriving at the wedding so late that we were the last people to see the bride before she walked down the aisle.  This was Phase One:  The Marriage.

When I first graduated from college and people started getting married, I was really bad at being a wedding guest.  I never got my RSVP's in on time, I didn't book rooms at the hotels and crashed on people's floors, and I was clueless about gift registries.  I just got them something I thought was cool, like an Annie Liebowitz coffee table book (you know who you are) or placemats or something.  I had no point of reference, and my parents just didn't take me to weddings (with GOOD reason).  I didn't know how to do the Chicken Dance, and thought the Dollar Dance sounded vaguely porno.  I apologize to those couples whose special day was graced with my presence, and my presents.  Once I was engaged and figured out what the hell was going on, I was completely addicted to gift registries, and I loved checking them to be sure people were getting what they wanted.  It was a bit like gambling - "I'm going to say 3 to 1 I'll get 12 place settings in the Mikasa!" - and it all just seemed so happy and fortuitous.  

Then, a few years later, people started having babies.  Lots of babies.  Again, not so good in the baby department myself, OBVIOUSLY.  I didn't like babysitting much, and little babies sort of freaked me out with their ET-Phone-Home-ness, so again, I apologize for the ridiculous baby gifts I doled out.  "Here's a breakable bead necklace, some lead paint blocks, and a Charms Blow Pop for your baby.  Congratulations!  Wanna stay up all night drinking?  No?  Why?"   

This was Phase Two:  The Baby Phase.

I got better at the baby thing when I had a few of my own, and suddenly buying baby gifts was easy...diapers, books, thermometer, multiple onesies, case of wine and one glass.  Now I am a baby gift professional, and I even make those crazy yet functional diaper cakes.  I had a retail store for four years with a baby SECTION.  Don't mess with me.

So now here we are in 2010.  It's been 15 years since CH and I were married, and it has been the best of times and the worst of times.  However, I am finding myself a rookie again, and it's because so many of our friends are contemplating or getting a divorce.  And I am really bad at it.  I want to be exactly what my divorcing friends need, and I'm not always sure what that is, exactly.

It's tricky, le Divorce.  
That awkward third phase.

You're friends with a couple, and then suddenly they are splitting up, and not only do you find yourself taking a "side" in the divorce, but suddenly you find yourself looking at your own spouse and thinking, "hmmmm."  I think it's almost impossible to have someone close to you get divorced without sizing up your own relationship, for better or for worse.

Almost seven years ago, two different friends of mine were getting divorced.  When our group would get together for coffee, they would talk about all of the bad parts about splitting up, but I had a seven-year-old, a four-year-old, and a newborn, and all I could hear was "...and he gets them two nights a week and every other weekend.  Does anyone want to go to a movie?"  One of the women lived across the street from me, and I swear to God, every Friday he would get the kids and she would walk outside with a bottle of champagne and a stack of magazines and sit in her deck chair for two hours, drinking and reading and listening to her iPod.  EVERY. DAMN. FRIDAY.  I would stand with my nose pressed against the glass, watching her and drooling, listening to my kids fight in the background amongst the mess, waiting for CH to show up all crabby and hungry and tired too.

I would fantasize about those two nights alone, able to eat Long John Silver's and drink a 64-ounce Mountain Dew and stay up reading and then sleep, blissfully sleep, until I decided to wake.  One less person to cook for, clean after, do their laundry, listen to.  I could hold the remote.  The seat would always be down.  Sweet freedom. 

So at first, the whole divorce thing sounded great.  And I was bad at being the support friend, because I would vacillate between "get the hell out of there!" and "are you sure about this?"  Now we've been through a few, have a few divorces wrapping up and a few freshly filed, and I have a couple of friends who I know are secretly contemplating it, and I know a little more.  Enough to know that until you've been through one, you have no idea what you are talking about.  You don't know the reasons people are doing it, you don't know what goes on behind closed doors, you don't know the pain or the relief or the technicalities, or sometimes the joy.  Sometimes you're pretty sure it's the right thing, and sometimes you're not so sure.  You just want everyone to come out of it okay.  Unless the husband is a dick, of course.

I hope I'm always married to CH, but there are no guarantees in life.  My wagon is pretty firmly hitched at the moment, but I have learned that the minute you take the whole thing for granted is the moment it starts to slip away.  We try to communicate and make time for just the two of us and not freak out about kids or money or dishwasher issues and my obsession with British men and musicians or my lack of paying work, but marriage is damn hard work.  He's cute, and he laughs at my jokes, so I'm keeping him. 

So teach me, oh wise readers, to be the experienced, empathetic friend of potential divorcees - Do you know people getting divorced?  Have you been divorced?  Do you think there is a prevalent time in relationships when things fall apart?  What do you think are the major factors?  What do you think was the best thing you did for a divorcing friend?  As a divorcee, do you regret it or wish you had done it sooner?  What is the best thing someone did for you during your divorce?  I await your wisdom.

In the meantime, what is the best gift for a friend going through one?  I think I might know:


Peggy Sue Brister said...

I was with my first husband for 17 years. Our relationship ran its' course after about 10 years. I think it's different for every couple. Some couples never get burned out on each other and want to stay together, but by the time I divorced my ex husband I cringed if he touched me. I hated hearing his car pull up outside. It was time to move on. I was a much happier person after I left him. I found and married a man I hope to spend the rest of my life with.

GrandeMocha said...

I think Ann Landers (or was it Dear Abby) said it best, "Are you better off with him or without him?"

You have to make sure you are both happier together than you would be apart.

That alternate weekends off from the kids DOES look good. Good thing Ann didn't ask if you'd be happier without them.

Mary said...

Well as a person who has my husband on a weekly contract which must be renewed every sunday, I can say....I have no freakin idea what to tell you. My CH and I have been together for 20 years so obviously I renew his contract weekly and he knows I will the brat. We too have lots of friends who are getting divorced and it's awkward and horrible but our take on it is this, we don't choose sides, which is hard, we don't talk bad about the spouse (had a friend actually thank me for doing that as she was still in love with her ex and didn't want to hear the crap being rehashed by me that she already knew), and we just encourage the people to look inside of themselves and do things to make themselves happy. No matter what you do, you have to treat divorce as if it were a death and help your friend go through the same grieving process. Bottom line is, nothing you can say will make things better....just be there and lend a non-judgemental ear if you can. Okay, stepping off my soapbox now. You're welcome. : )

Brittany said...

Woah - I've gotten through many an issue of Whoreticulture Friday to be suddenly feeling too young to read your blog! Most of my friends are just now getting married, and it's just now occurring to me that not all will last...

Allers Family said...

DH and I mark 7 years on Aug 16th- yes, the first day of school. Should be an exciting anniversary!

I have no advice, just wanted to second what Brittney said... we've just gone thru most of the wedding phase and friends are working on the baby phase.. not looking forward to what is (probably) around the corner.

Oddly enough, I just read Stacy Morrison's
Falling Apart in One Piece,

It's about her experience with divorce. A good read for the most part... a good eye opener for me.

lori said...

The bebe - GREAt gift idea. Because there's something about a divorce that makes you want sex. All. the. time.
As for when is a good time to divorce, or when do you know it's inevitable - I don't know. For me it was 12 years in and most of it was heartbreaking...for me. Fun for him. I think it's best when HE loves YOU just a little more than YOU love HIM. If not, trouble brews.
The best thing someone did for me was when my sister made me mix cassette tapes of songs that she thought would speak to me. I don't have a cassette player anymore, but I still have those tapes.

Brought to you by Dorothy Louise said...


Deb said...

P.S. A vibrator is AWESOME, too. Affirmation and sex toys. Maybe some wine. Brilliant.

Deb said...

I went through the same gift-giving faux pas with weddings and babies, and I am a new woman. I have also been through a divorce. I can promise you that the worst gift is a blind date. I used to wonder why my friends all thought I was a giant douchebag and weren't telling me, because it was apparent, based on the men they set me up with, that's what they thought. Anyway...

Two things to consider:

- A marriage is over long before anyone puts the official divorce into motion. People who haven't been there don't know that, so they're shocked when someone starts dating "so soon" or has a fling. Offer understanding.

- A bottle of wine and a friendly ear are the best gifts you could ever give. So much gets bottled up during a divorce, and just having someone to bounce things off of--someone who just listens--is such a relief.

The best gift of all is affirmation.

I worked with a guy for years, and when I told him I was getting divorced, he looked me in the eye and said, "In a million years, if I owned a relationship configurator, I never would have put the two of you together. You were always too good for him."

My marriage counselor mailed me a note about six months after I stopped seeing her, and she said, "This is the right choice. You never would have gotten the emotional support you needed from that marriage. You have done the right thing for yourself."


Anita said...

Divorce sucks. And I am pretty sure your neighbor drank like that because she was sad to see her cutest childrene ever go away with their motard of a Dad. Even if she could have used a couple hour break.

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