I come from an era of children raised by both of their parents—for their entire lives. The term “blended family” didn’t exist when I was a kid, and, as I’ve said before, we looked at the rare “broken” family like they were circus freaks.
Before I got married, one of my sisters left her husband. After I had my daughter, my other sister did the same. I remember thinking, “Well, I guess I’ll be the only one who wins at this game of marriage.” I didn’t believe in divorce—I married for life.
Sadly, I can only chuckle when I think back to my naiveté about marriage and my judgement towards my siblings’ failures. One by one, the marriages of those in my generation fell by the wayside—mine included. Little did I know that I was going to be the winner in the marital competition—I beat them both at the game of divorce. Twice divorced, I was crowned the victorious loser.
My first husband was an immigrant, and couldn’t get a credit card on his own upon his arrival, so, like a good wife, I had supplemental cards put in his name. By the time he left to return to his country after only 18 months in Canada, I had both emotional and physical wounds to heal, and maxed-out credit cards to pay. He promised that he’d send me the bulk of his paycheques until it was all paid off.
Hello? Hellooo? Anyone there? Where did you go?
That’s right. The money never came, and he literally disappeared a year after he left. So, I worked my ass off to pay down the debt, and also accepted my parents’ generous contributions on more than one occasion. Also know that, while I was staying in Canada during my pregnancy (before moving to Central America to live with him), he drained my bank account in Miami and built us a house in his city (all the while assuring me that money was safe and earning interest).
In my second marriage, I was surrounded by successful people in successful marriages. I thought my relationship with my husband was bulletproof. As he started driving us into debt at Mach speed, I stayed optimistic that he would make good on his promise to become successful. Success never happened, but, to his credit, he was very successful at spending the money I earned. When we separated, I took half of the debt—basically, if I was the primary account holder, I took it; and left him with what was in his name. I had to go into debt consolidation to get out of that one though. He was far more skilled at driving us to the brink of bankruptcy than my first husband; a skill that will probably never appear on his resume—“Bankruptcy Facilitator.”
Was money the reason for the demise of my relationships? No, that was only the icing on the shit-filled cake that I called “marriage.”
So what does “positive divorce” mean to me? It means many things to me, but in part one of this blog series, it means that I did not waste energy on an unwinnable battle. If my day-to-day consisted of fighting and dwelling on the negative, it wouldn’t have allowed me to move forward in my new life.
I have been asked why I didn’t sue my first husband and sell the house he built. Well, unless we could find an American buyer, that enormous house would never sell. Oh, and one little detail that I probably should have mentioned—my name was never on the title. So, my stock answer to those folks was simply, “Take this rock. Once you squeeze some water out of it, let me know, and I’ll start to fight for my money.”
My second soon-to-be-ex was supposed to pay for half of the fees for our divorce, but informed me that he’d have to owe it to me because he only had enough to buy his bus pass that month. So to those of you who want me to fight… here’s a rock…
I chose to walk away from the poison that those men would infuse into the life I was trying to create, and stand up on my own. I chose to have peace and no attachments.
Am I recommending that every person owed some form of monetary compensation should just walk away from it and suck it up? No, I’m not. What I’m saying is: Put your situation into perspective and pick your battles. Will you gain from fighting for what’s “yours,” or will you spend more money doing so and, more importantly, sabotage your emotional health?
To the payors in the scenario—don’t be an asshole. Be honorable. Be fair. Step up to your responsibility so that everyone can move on to rebuilding his or her lives happily and healthfully.
To the payees in the scenario—don’t be an asshole. Be fair and not greedy. Respect that the other person must also start again and be able to pay their bills every month. Stop having a skewed sense of entitlement.
To both parties involved in this uncoupling—do your best to remember the love and respect you once had for each other, and make the best out of this crappy situation. Treat each other as you wish to be treated. That’s what it all boils down to.