Should I Get A Divorce?

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.


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
image by Tony Guyton, Should I get a divorce

- 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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