On June 23rd, 2020 I will be officially divorced. Yay! Well, don’t get me wrong, I wish things would be different, but they aren’t. Life does not always work the way we envisioned it and divorce happens. My ex-wife and I are separated since April. We lived together in the same house until then, in different rooms of course, but we were still around each other. We were able to go through this divorce in a civilized manner and we are able to talk and see each other without getting on each other’s throat. We used mediation to come to terms with our separation.
If there is one thing that I learned when going through the process it is the need to maintain your mental health and your mental well-being. Divorcing sucks – no matter how good or bad the circumstances – it sucks. I had to get out of my relationship for many reasons and I am making some progress towards healing. I was sick of negativity, zero love, zero sex, zero positive vibes and emotions. We lived next to each other for 20+ years, but we did not live together for the majority of that time. I stayed because we have a now 15-year old son even though deep down I knew that was not necessarily the right way of doing things, but I cannot turn back the clock.
Looking back now I can clearly tell the different phases of my emotional state. October and November last year were pivotal in a way that I finally came to the conclusion that a divorce is needed to put my life back into place. There were two specific moments that changed the trajectory of my life. First, I ran across the Grand Canyon twice in one day. These 16 hours of solitude away from civilization gave me freedom and peace of mind and I did a lot of thinking. Second, about 10 days later I met with a (female) friend from work for drinks (no, there is nothing between us). We had some great discussions about life and she finally asked what would be the three things that would have to change for me to make 2020 the best year ever. This got me thinking. It was easy to have the first two answers ready, the third answer was difficult in a way, but then it was not difficult. I suddenly had the mental clarity that I needed to recognize that my relationship with my then-wife was toxic and not sustainable. I left that response open and did not tell my friend other than that I knew what I had to do, but was not ready to share it with her. My friend is awesome and was totally understanding. I think she knew, but that does not matter at this point.
Phase 1 – The Decision
Phase 1 was the most difficult phase for me. It took me three weeks to go through this phase. I did research in many different ways and challenged myself to make sure that is what I really wanted. Of course, I also looked at it from the legal side of things and if I would be able to survive it financially. At the end of those three weeks my then-wife and I went for a walk with the dog and that is when I told her that I wanted a divorce. I was absolutely scared and horrified to say it out loud and I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Phase 2 – Reality kicks in
The next few days were like a nightmare for both of us. While she was shocked, she actually admitted that she had had similar thoughts about divorce – just not as far progressed as I was. There were a few moments where she came begging to try again, but there was very little she was offering emotionally. I think for her it was fear about an uncertain future – emotionally and financially. A few days after I had told I left onto a 5 day business trip which was a relief, but stressful emotionally as well. It gave me time to process the new situation and to find my mental strength. It is scary that your brain is always trying to offer you an easy way out (stay together, it is easier, this hurts, don’t do it, and so on) and so being away definitely helped to build up the mental strength I would need to go through the process. I opened up to two other work friends about my new situation and found comfort in their support. During that time I also had talks with my brother and parents I knew it was a shock for everyone. I decided to reduce my emotional vulnerability by limiting the discussions around this topic.
Most important for phase 2 were the following things:
- Stay away from alcohol as much as possible or limit yourself to one drink per night
- Keep busy with whatever you can to allow for the distraction from the overall topic
- Do not listen to love songs or slow type of music – especially combined with alcohol consumption
- Be active. I am a runner and going for early morning runs in a foreign to me city was great to get my mind into the right place
Phase 3 – Mapping out the divorce procedures
Many divorce situations are toxic and abuse (mental and physical) can have dramatic effects on your well-being. It will be much more difficult to map out the divorce proceedings in those situations. I am thankful that we were able to peacefully talk and come to agreements on how to proceed. We’re both financially responsible people and it became clear to us early on that we would go into mediation and avoid involving lawyers. Finding ways to communicate helped me to build up the mental strength and confidence to go through the negotiations. I am very structured in many things I do and so I went to town setting up an Excel spreadsheet – building my own divorce calculator. Having the financial side of things covered and seeing the numbers in all clarity made a heck of a difference for me. It helped me to build up the necessary confidence to go through the process. Mentally I felt I was in a good place. Knowing the next few steps and having financial clarity made all the difference.
Phase 4 – The Divorce Mediation
Mediation started in the first half of January. We had picked a local lawyer as our mediator. She was actually a former lawyer and now ran her mediation practice from a small office near the coast (in Carlsbad, Ca). The process felt slow and there were some confusing steps involved for us, but overall we were able to come to terms. For me there were two things critical. I had decided to be as open as possible and not to fight down to each nickel and dime. I shared my numbers and with the guidance of the mediator, we navigated through legal issues and negotiated the financial terms of our divorce. As mentioned, I was not fighting for my best outcome, but the overall best result for both of us. Yes, I could have saved myself some money, but I did decide to give my mental health and well-being priority. It would have been super-stressful to fight for every single cent.
Phase 5 – Waiting for separation
In a way I have to say my divorce was probably unusual. We separated into different night quarters in our marital house, but other than that we did not physically separate until a major stepping stone in my ex’s life came along. Early on she had decided to leave the United States and go back to Europe to live with her parents. I did not exactly knew when she was going to leave and I had an outside place lined up to live at. But then she gave me the date of her departure and I decided to stay in the house. We have a 15-year old son and he would stay here with me. To reduce the divorce impact on him sucked it up and stayed in the house. And then COVID-19 hit and both my ex and myself found ourselfs working from home. Now we were sitting on top of each other for a 6 week period. It was pure stress – especially as her flight to Europe got canceled a few times. I think this was the hardest part during the divorce.
Phase 6 – Separation
The last day of her living in the US had arrived. Almost like a miracle, her last flight did not get canceled. My son and I drove her up to LAX in a trip that was surreal in many ways. I have been to LAX many times and if you know how busy the highways are in Los Angeles, you know it is always a busy trip. But not this time around – the pandemic had emptied out the highways. I have never seen the 405 that empty. Even more “impressive” – getting to LAX and seeing how abandoned the airport was – crazy. One of the most busiest place on earth felt like a ghost town. The parking lot was empty, there were maybe 5 cars total. I kept it together while we dropped her off and left. That evening I cried – secretly as I did not want my son to see me. A major chapter of my life had just ended and new one, yet to be written was ahead of me.
Phase 7 – Learning to be Alone
It was counter-intuitive, but I counted every day after she had left. Then week #1 was done, then week #2 and so on. Time heals many wounds and I was waiting for mine to heal, but it time until 8 weeks after when I realized that I was no longer counting in days. I was actually not even counting in weeks anymore. But it was not easy to get there. Even a single drink at night might have made me depressive. I never drank much anyway, but I stopped drinking completely. Next I had pay more attention to the music I was listening to or what movies and shows I was potentially watching. I think from week #6 to the beginning of week #8 I was borderline depressive. Every single symptom I read about – it matched up. I even considered going to the doc to get some anti-depressants, but I was then concerned with having to go through therapy. So, I ended up buying St. John’s Wort and started taking it to fight off depression. And it worked pretty well actually.
Online Dating – Forget about it
A week before my ex left I signed up for three online dating websites (Facebook Dating (free), Bumble, Match,com). Don’t judge me, but I wanted to find out what my options would be at age 52 or better in a few years when my son will head off to college. What a shitshow Online Dating was. Facebook Dating felt like the dating graveyard – I guess that is what you can expect for a free dating service. Match.com – holy shit, their website and interface felt like it is 2005. In addition, it became apparent quite quickly how many fake female profiles there were on Match.com. They did not even bother to use common sense when creating these fake profiles. Female profiles saying that the profile owner was 48 years old, showed pictures of a woman probably less than 25 years of age. This happened repeatedly. Many of these profiles used the same text blocks and content as well – maybe in a different order or only as part of these profiles – but Match.com is just a waste of time. No wonder the FTC is suing Match.com for this misleading practice. Too bad I found after I had already for 3 months in advance..
I was actually impressed with Bumble. There were some fake profiles as well, but by far not as many as on Match.com. I even got some positives matches and was able to send messages back and forth with a few women. But overall it was a big fail as well.
I came quickly to the realization that a) I am not ready for dating just yet (I knew that anyway) and b) that online dating is really just a big shitshow. If I would ever use online dating again, I would use Bumble but would never ever touch Match.com again – Match.com is not only having an outdated app and browser-based interface, but there is way too many fake profiles and it is totally overpriced.
I am a bit lonely for sure and I so much miss getting to hug the soft body of a woman and to feel her lips on mine. But heck – I’ve been missing this for 14 years anyway. The only difference now is that I am a free man and do what I want. But I also have a 15-year old boy living with me full-time and his mom is 5,000 miles away. That is where my attention is now until he graduates from High School. If I will meet a woman along the way, life will decide but for now I am good with where I am and who I am.
The Divorce Decree
In late May I received the court-signed divorce decree and the date for the marriage to be dissolved was set to June 23rd, 2020. It was relieving to receive this letter. I needed that letter to be able to complete one of the requirements of the divorce contract. The property equalization for our different retirement accounts can only proceed with this letter and that is what is in process now. From there I will have to pay spousal support for three years followed by one large-sum payment when our house is being sold.
There you have it – the different phases of my divorce. I will write another article about my mental health and mental well-being next, but if you read this far you will have a good understanding of how my “amicable” divorce has worked out and how it affected me.