The following, written by John Prindle, author and musician, was originally published as an article in our Divorce Guide.
What happens when your spouse has one foot out the door and you don’t know it? You weather the divorce storm and give recovery time to catch up to your feelings.
We house-hunted as a “happy couple” for about three months until we finally found our dream home: close enough to the city, yet far enough away that the yard was huge – and there were raised garden beds and even a glass greenhouse!
Our realtor, Troy, had been with us every step of the way. He was a gregarious guy who told funny stories, and he was a cancer survivor. When we met him at our new house to get the keys, we all hugged. It was a beautiful day.
Blindsided by an Unwanted Divorce
Little did I know that just four short weeks later, my wife would make me the recipient of an unwanted divorce. We’d gone on a short vacation just after closing on the house. Due to my job, I had to fly home a few days ahead of her. I guess she used those few days to really cement the idea of divorce in her head and come up with her plan – because when she returned, she was swift and sure about it. She texted on her way home from the airport. The dreaded, “we need to talk.”
“Sounds pretty serious,” I texted back in jest, never thinking my life was just about to unravel. She entered the house (our old one – at this point, we hadn’t even moved into the new one), walked down the hall, and set her suit- case on the floor. Then she leaned against the wall and slid down it until she was seated on the floor. “I want a divorce,” she said.
I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the line of, “wait – can we at least talk about it?” But we couldn’t. Her mind had been made up. I needed to get out of there, so I packed a few things and went off to a crappy hotel by the airport. I hadn’t had a drink in five years. But that night I got myself a six-pack and hung out with the tv remote, wondering just what the hell I was going to do. Divorce is much harder on the dumpee. I’ve read about the awful guilt that the dumper feels, and how it’s not easy for them either – but I think we all know that it’s worse if you’re the one who gets rejected. Oftentimes, the dumpee is completely blindsided. I was.
Other Life Stressors AND An Unwanted Divorce
But sometimes an unwanted divorce hits right when there are other major life stressors, making it even worse. We had just purchased a new home. I had just started a new job a few months before. About two weeks after my wife said the dreaded “D” word, they found out the boss and owner of the small company I worked for had been embezzling. His business partner took it over. Everything changed. Work had been the safe spot I could go to, and now even that had become a major stressor. Longtime employees warned me that the company might go under, and we should be looking for new jobs. Not only was I getting divorced, but I might also soon be unemployed.
I lived in our old house and she lived in our new one. I worked with our same realtor, Troy, to sell the old house. He was shocked to hear that she was leaving me. “But you just bought that house,” he said in disbelief. Apparently, it’s not very common for one spouse to leave the other just one month after buying a house. Who would have thought?
To add insult to injury, she said the “D” word just two weeks before my birthday, and I met her – at her request – at a UPS store the day before my birthday to sign some paperwork and get it notarized. “You do realize that tomorrow’s my birthday,” I said to her. She simply looked at me and shrugged.
She kept the new house. She made a lot more money than me. I couldn’t afford that mortgage alone. In one fell swoop, I lost everything. My wife, my home, my sense of security, and even my will to live. And each day at work I had to wonder what I’d do if the company went under. Jump off a bridge maybe?
Two Years Post-Divorce: I Survived, and Things Do Get Better
I’m coming up on the two-year anniversary of my divorce, and I’m still not over it. Sure, I’m doing a lot better in some ways; worse in others. Sometimes divorce comes bundled up with a whole lot of other major life stressors, and you wonder how you’ll ever get through it.
I have finally let go of the intense hatred I felt for my ex – but it wasn’t easy. I wanted those wasted 14 years of my life back; I wanted my ex to suffer worse than she made me suffer; I wanted her next partner to treat her like crap and bail on her at the worst possible time; I wanted a piano to fall on her head, cartoon-style. I was steeped in negativity for quite a while.
The last two years have undoubtedly been the hardest of my life. But I survived. If you’re going through a similar situation, hang in there. Divorce is bad enough. Divorce plus a few other major life stressors is an emotional hell that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. But give it some time and things do get better.
Don’t give up.
John Prindle is a writer, photographer, and musician who lives in Portland, Oregon. He is currently editing his second novel, which he regretfully abandoned during his divorce. www.twitter.com/JohnPPrindle