Should I Get A Divorce? The things no one ever tells you about divorce

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The grass isn't always greener

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 “A divorce is like an amputation: you survive it, but there’s less of you.”
Margaret Atwood

Over the years, many friends have asked me, “Should I get a divorce?” A huge question that has life implications most couples don’t stop to think about while emotions run high. Very high.

I was never in a place to give real-life advice, unfortunately, now I can. A while ago, I mentioned a “tsunami” in my life on this blog, but never mentioned what it was. Well, I got divorced last year. It was the reason this blog wasn’t being updated, the reason I had a hard time going to work and the reason I  questioned everything about life. I’ve waited a long time to publish anything about so I could work through everything.

I need to write about it because it was such a significant event in my life. If I didn’t, it would be like Lindsay Lohan showing up to teach a kindergarten class and nobody saying anything. Something needs to be said.
Plus, I’m a writer and that’s what I do.

While I’ve made peace with it in my way, it’s something that you should avoid at all costs. The grass is not always greener. Your kids will suffer no matter how well you think you’ve worked it out, your friends will suffer, and your family will suffer. Most of all, you will suffer in ways you never thought – even if you’re the one pushing for it. It is a tragedy on par with a death in the family.

Here are the things no one ever tells you about divorce:

There are no amicable divorces. If anyone says they had an amicable divorce, they’re lying. I’m not saying everyone hates each other, but disagreements are everywhere. It’s the most personal thing a person can ever go through, and you will feel attacked, sad, and incredibly insecure through most of it. And that’s if it doesn’t go to court. If it goes to court, you’ll feel hunted and realize you’re in a system that little to do with right or wrong. Think of being in ’78 Chevy station wagon, hitting ice and spinning out of control. It feels like it’ll never stop and there’s nothing you can do.

You’ll miss between 50-75% of your kid’s lives. At best, as a man you’ll get 50/50 (unless your wife smokes crack and juggles chainsaws while cooking dinner). That means you’re going to miss 50% of the rest of your kid’s childhood, and that’s the best case scenario. I lost out a trip that my kids took to Disneyland last month. Couldn’t find my heart for a week. It’s always in the last place you look.

Divorce is incredibly selfish. I shouldn’t need to explain this, but if you’re not sure what this means just read the article by Penelope Trunk. Powerful and controversial.

You will lose control of your kids. In its most basic explanation, when you divorce the state basically says that you can’t be trusted to know what’s best for your children anymore, so they’ll get involved — forever. They need to know where those kids are and who they’re with at all times until they’re 18.  This monitoring has different levels, but you’re no longer in charge. If the state were Adam Carolla, it would say: “you fucked up your family so we can’t trust that you won’t fuck up your kids too. We’re going to keep an eye on things for the next decade or so.”

Do not get lawyers involved. There is nothing scarier than the family court system. If you hire a lawyer, you dramatically increase the chance that you’ll end up there at one time or another. It is hell. You’d have a better chance getting the outcome you’d like by getting drunk and playing Russian roulette. You just never know. It’s unpredictable, and decisions are largely decided by emotion, unlike criminal court which tries to take right and wrong into account. If you don’t believe me, read this piece on divorce in the state of Washington. It will not only scare you, but you also won’t sleep tonight. However; sometimes you don’t have a choice and need representation. If she lawyers up, you have to as well. Also, remember that there’s a difference between getting legal advice and retaining an attorney.

Ask yourself if you’re ready to be replaced. You will be replaced by some guy your spouse chooses, and he will enter your kid’s world. Even if you’re not formally replaced, you’ll sure feel like you are. Wait until he takes your boys fishing or buys them something you can’t afford because of what the divorce costs you. The ghost of William Wallace will fill your gut, and it will take everything you have in you not to storm the castle. You will feel empty.

You will be financially ruined. Most guys I know either claimed bankruptcy or got damn close to it after their divorce. No one tells you this, but it’s true. You know those old guys greeting people at Wal-Mart in their 70’s? They got divorced in their 40’s (actually I made that up, but it could be true). It’s a lot like remodeling your house. Whatever you think it will cost you, double it – then double it again. Oh, and it will take twice as long. Most people say it takes about three years to bounce back. Could be longer if you were the breadwinner, because, after the divorce, you’ll have even greater financial responsibility.

Love is grand; divorce is a hundred grand. ~ Shinichi Suzuki

– You may not miss her, but you will miss your family. And it will be the things you don’t expect: watching TV on the couch, fighting with the kids in the car, dinners that go horribly wrong and days where nothing ever happens. Instead of that, you’ll be trying to reinvent your life. Most likely in a stinky apartment … with no pool.

image by Tony Guyton, Should I get a divorce
The kids are always in the middle.

You HAVE to document everything. I cannot emphasize this enough — document everything you can. Your word is shit in divorce proceedings. Everything you say is looked at as a lie unless you can back it up.

You’ll get caught up in the swirl. Lawyers get a bad rap, and in some cases, it’s justified. However; you hire them to protect you … from your spouse. Plain and simple. When you start listening to them, along with your family, friends and everyone else you get fired up and lose sight of what needs to happen: your kids have to be taken care of above everything else.

Don’t “burn down the house.” If you think divorce is the only answer, don’t lie, cheat or ruin your spouse. This will destroy any trust between you and her during the divorce. Divorce proceedings that lack trust will bring down your family and friends. It will cost tens of thousands of dollars (or hundreds of thousands), you’ll lawyer up and find yourself in court.  Be honest, come clean, try to see it from the other side and you might make it through without sinking the ship.  And ruining your kids.

The last thing I’ll mention is that couples don’t work hard enough at marriage. The highs are really high, and the lows are extremely low, but most will come out the other side if they stick it out and put their family first. One thing that’s easy to forget is that your marriage should always come before your kids, not after.

And what is true love? It’s loving someone when they least deserve it. That’s how you push through to the other side.

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  1. Good stuff, but I think a huge problem in marriage is that 90% or more of the focus is on the kid part of the family and not enough weight is given to the most important members of the family: the husband and wife.
    Great article!

  2. This was tough to read. Do you regret getting divorced, Craig, or do you still believe it was the right thing to do?

    • Anna – While things happened that made divorce inevitable in my situation. I do regret that our family couldn’t be saved.

  3. Great read Craig, you put it all out there. This should be required reading for anyone facing a similar situation.

  4. am sorry. praying 4 U all. Really felt like U didn’t care =now i GET IT. ThankU being here = GOOD will come just “Look UP” ~God is ALL OVER this. U R LUVED.

  5. I wasn’t divorced, but did break up with the mother of my son after 5 years together, and it was just like a divorce. This nailed pretty much everything I went through. Thanks for putting it in words.

  6. Thank you for all your great comments, I appreciate it. Not the easiest thing to write or read, but it must be said.

  7. Wow, sorry to hear about that Craig. You make so many excellent and valid points here. Thanks for posting this, and good luck going forward.

  8. It’s really tough weighing out all of the hardships and freedoms. I am not sure if the grass if greener or if I’m just not willing to suffer a boring, unhappy life just for the sake of my child, but no option seems good. Your perspective is much needed and appreciated.

  9. I’m living this right now and agree with everything. Particulary the comment about not working hard enough at saving the marriage. My wife told me she wanted a divorce at 12:15 AM on January 1, 2012. That’s right Happy New Year I want a divorce.
    While faking her way through counseling I discovered a disgusting affair and a promiscuous life. She had me removed from the house by the sheriff because I refused to leave and filed a bogus protection order to keep me from the kids for 6 weeks.
    I lived on my boat all summer to save money and that became a reason to keep the kids from me. Now I’m living with a female friend and that’s a reason to keep the kids from me. All the while she is leaving the kids with babysitters for the weekend to visit guys out of town.
    The legal system is broken and apparently easy to manipulate by vindictive woman. So I asked myself why she is so angry … well because I caught her living a disgusting life.
    Divorce is not the answer its a cop out. If you are not happy then work on it. If you discover it can’t work then counseling will build closure. Don’t engage in infidelity, finish what you started. It’s better for everyone and especially the kids!

  10. This all brings back memories. My wife of 27 years divorced me for another man. it literally ripped my heart out. This was 11years ago and I still feel the pain. I have dated off an on, but it has never really felt right. Friends would say, just move on and I have tried so very hard. Divorce sucks and it leaves scars for life.

  11. MDG – I told myself I would start start 2013 off with a new sense of pride, knowing that I would not have done anything different. But the New Year just opened wounds from Jan 1, 2012. I have a wonderful woman in my life and she wants a future as I do. Unfortunately the ex uses that and my kids against me. Meanwhile she continues trolling bars are being promiscuous.
    All I want is a family environment for my 3 wonderful children. I will never understand what good she thinks comes from all of this.

  12. MDG – I’ve come to the conclusion that some people just really invest in others, making it much tougher to just slide in the next spouse or partner. Others don’t invest that heavily and have no problem moving from one person to the other. While it hurts a lot more, in the long run it’s better to roll the dice and invest in someone you believe in.

    Thanks for the comments, hope both of you get some relief.


  13. Well said, Craig. I wish there were more people highlighting the negative aspects of divorce. So often I browse through forums and blogs that give the impression that divorce is the best or only option to a troubled marriage.

    I would also like to add, if you don’t mind, that the effects of divorce can stay for a long, long time, maybe even for life. It can take many years for the dust to settle and a clear vision be found. I’m 15 years away from my divorce. At first I dealt with it and then rebuilt life. For a while I then found genuine happiness in my busy, different new life. Many do and you often hear stories of how divorce was for the best. But as time goes on that financial hit, loss of old friends, loss of the in laws, etc can really begin to show their downsides. There’s also no guarantee that you find someone else. Many don’t.

    It’s rarely told that the reality for many divorced people is to eventually spend life alone, financially struggling and with a dwindling support system around them.

    I visit my parents in their mid 60’s, after of 45 years and many ups and downs of marriage and see them now truly reaping the benefits. Supporting each other, living in financial comfort, sharing memories and history with each other, remembering their first home and the childhoods of me and my sister. I then come home to my empty home, plan a week of socialising and hobbies, maybe worry about how I will ever afford to retire and think to myself “my ex wife’s affairs don’t seem that big a deal anymore”.

  14. This is such a great read, even from the perspective of a wife who asked for and pushed for the divorce. Excellent advice. You should be commended for putting the truth out there! Divorce is HARD. I sure wish my soon-to-be-ex would have read this before refusing to try counseling or therapy (or even acknowledging there was a problem)…I only want the best for him, myself, and our children.

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