Eight Things I Didn't See Coming When I Got Divorced

by Marnie Brodersen
Originally Published: 
A divorced woman holding her ring and looking longingly at it.

Divorce sucks. If you don’t think so, I have to believe you’re the exception. I debated it for many years and held off because I didn’t have any misconceptions about this (nearly) universal truth. I was unhappy and, if my ex were being honest with himself, he’d admit to being unhappy too. I knew the process would be excruciating. Telling the kids was as horrifying as I expected. And the paperwork? My God. My ex and I are the worst at facing paperwork, so that in and of itself dragged out the process for years. But beyond these expected atrocities were so many horrifying things that I couldn’t have predicted. Not by a long shot.

Friends Will Jump Ship Faster Than You Can Say “Mediation”

The fact that friends will choose sides is nothing new, but man, it doesn’t hurt any less knowing this is a possibility. In our case, something happened at the end of our marriage that I never thought would happen. Not only that, but I thought this incident would make a clear line in the sand with everyone crowding over onto my side. I was so, so wrong.

You see, friends like low hanging fruit. They don’t want to work for the narrative they choose and, more importantly, they don’t want you to hold up a mirror to their marriage. I found out both of these things the hard way.

What ended up being the perfect storm was that Trump got elected right as we started our separation process. And, well, there went the neighborhood. I couldn’t understand anything at the time. Nothing, and I mean, nothing made sense. Friends who I thought would go to battle for me were nowhere to be found. Humans who had seen a man make fun of a disabled person on live TV and who had heard a man talk about blood coming out of woman’s “wherever,” grabbing women by the pussies, and who had over 25 assault accusations against him decided, yeah, let’s put that guy at the helm. A guy who wouldn’t take back his assertion that the Central Park Five should be put to death even after the DNA had proven them innocent. A man who had tried to instill the fear of God into all of us about anyone who didn’t look, act, or talk just like us.

I. Lost. My. Shit. I was picking online battles with friends and strangers. People I thought were friends were sending screenshots to my ex, who was trying to further the narrative I was unhinged. I wasn’t helping the matter, but he knew I wasn’t unhinged so much as mourning who I thought our friends were and who I thought America was. But he didn’t care. He wanted me to feel eviscerating pain, and that I did.

You Might Think You’re Free to Date, But You Could Be Very Wrong About This

Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone. I know a woman from an old friend circle who was going through a divorce at the same time I was, and I just saw on Facebook about six months ago that this woman had given birth to a third child with a new man. Meanwhile, I have been on about six dates, two of which ended up with me leaving through the back door (and one with me in a cast — long story). I’m not going to lie, I did assume the grass would be soooo much greener on the other side. A part of me was excited to get out there and perhaps find someone more fitting for me. But what happened at the end of our marriage set me so far back that I ended up with a PTSD diagnosis and near-agoraphobic tendencies.

Timetables Are Shot

This goes hand in hand with the last one, as when you get divorced, you have this idea of when you’ll be over it. When you’ll feel better. When you’ll have moved on. And I’m here to tell you that I’m four years post-separation, and I’m still a f*cking mess. I used to lament the situation on Facebook, which wasn’t smart, I know. But every once in a while, I just felt the need to scream from the rooftops — why!? Why did this go down this way? Why am I stuck living somewhere that I am the pariah? Why am I the one without friends and any support system where I live? And I’d get well-meaning texts and notes from longtime friends saying, “Honey, it’s time to move on.” And I get it, and I want to. I do. But these cement boots are tight and unrelenting.

Memories Will Stab You Right In The Heart

Despite the horrendous conclusion to our marriage, I’ll never tell you there weren’t good times. I’ve recently been thinking about the time when I was pregnant with my first son. Despite all the physical side effects, being off my beloved wine for nine months, and all the other hard things that go with pregnancy, I can look back now and think, wow, those were happy memories. I wish I’d fully realized then how positive of a period we were in. We’d adopted a pug and would take her to the dog park, where my ex would try to get her to run around to lose the many rolls she’d come with from her foster home. People would howl with laughter at the sight of her running.

I went on maternity leave early to prepare for our bundle, and during this time, this pug and I formed a relationship that I didn’t think could even happen between wo(man) and pet. We were inseparable. I recently came across a photo of her lying on top of my giant pregnant belly as I wrote at the computer, and it nearly brought me to my knees. Despite the brutal ending. Despite all the heartache. Despite being completely alone—photos from our marriage can still make me breathless with emotion.

Disorganization Between The Two Homes Can Be Crazy Making

As with the paperwork I mentioned, organization isn’t a strong suit for me or my ex—and admittedly, it’s more of a problem for me. And despite the high rate of divorce, teams and schools still generally dish out ONE of everything. You see where I’m going with this. I can’t tell you how many times this has caused tears on the part of my boys and, quite frankly, for me.

Whether it’s a phone that’s fallen behind the crack of a bed (three times now) or a baseball jersey we needed 20 minutes ago, this has been a nightmare of our own making that I honestly never saw coming. I’ve ordered shelves, crates, and other organizational items; we try to both have two of everything, and we’ve replaced more supplies and equipment than I can count. And yet I know the last time this happened (last weekend) won’t be our last. It’s not only agonizing for me, but it makes my boys’ lives miserable, and that makes me cry for long periods when they’re not around.

Belief Systems Matter

When you have different beliefs, and you’re married, you deal with it. My ex and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, so our votes essentially canceled each other’s out during election years. We would laugh about it and, yes, fight about it. But on a day-to-day basis, we tried not to let our differences weigh us down. However, when you’re divorced with kids, controlling the narrative between the two houses can infuriate, especially during election years. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “But neither of you should say anything about politics,” I get where you’re coming from. And while this is true, it’s unrealistic. My kids, ages 10 and 12, come over here spewing some crazy-ass shit sometimes, but we talk about it. We hash it out. I let them think independently, but I also let them know if I know something to be untrue.

Holidays Are Hard AF

Yes, this is another one that’s to be expected, but it’s far beyond the loneliness of spending holidays alone and missing out on those moments. For example, just after the incident at the end of our marriage, our former BFF (or so I thought) couple was having their annual Halloween shindig. I knew our holidays wouldn’t always be together, but he’d barely been out of the house a few days, so I asked this couple if I could still tag along, at least for the trick-or-treating part. They said no.

What’s interesting about us is, we’ve been able to put on a brave face in front of others, particularly at baseball—to the point where others have said that we are an example of what all divorced couples should look like. And while I take that as a huge compliment, it’s problematic that no one knows the turmoil we go through on a weekly basis. The hurt feelings. The hurled insults. The insults smoldering inside us until they threaten to burn us from the inside out. The differences in opinions. The accusations of inept parenting. The lost friggin’ items.

This year has been incredibly tough on us, and we are surely not alone in that. So when I asked my ex if we were doing the tree trimming and Christmas together this year (we haven’t missed a year yet) and he said, “No,” I wasn’t shocked. But damn, it still stings a bit. It’s yet another hurdle to jump, and we’ll be okay. Our boys will be fine (better than fine) because we work hard to make it so. This decision was an inevitable first and yet won’t be the last heartache I’ll feel on this divorce path.

I’ve seen divorces of all kinds. I was besties with a woman who went through a three-year, hugely expensive divorce complete with court cases and private detectives. I’ve seen ones that are barely a blip on the radar, and the pair slips seamlessly into their roles as friends. And of course I’ve seen everything in between. I had an idea of what mine would look like, and it’s been anything but that, but I will say that we both work hard to make our boys as happy as they can be, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Happiness Seeps Through The Cracks

In the past few years, a former friend of 16 years stole from and then took me to court for harassment for sending her so many texts and emails begging for my money back. I lent another person from high school close to $5,000, as she was a fellow single mom who I thought had fallen on hard times (but really had fallen into hard drugs). My parents moved in the middle of my divorce—a move I wholeheartedly approve of for their happiness, but, well, there went the last of my support system out here.

I’ve had to call on my ex when I’ve had flat tires, COVID, and even once when I was choking on carrots (true story—when we were still living together at the end). I’ve had to go to bat with our schools to get an IEP in place. I’ve lost all but about 2-3 friends who have lives of their own. And yet I still feel it—hope—it may be dangling by a piece of dental floss at this point, but I’ll take it.

Yesterday, I had the day to myself (read: pretty much every day my kids are at their dad’s house), and, instead of letting it get me down, I cranked my favorite tune, poured a glass of champagne, and worked my way through some long overdue chores. The song is “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles, and my favorite part goes like this:

She’s imperfect, but she tries

She is good, but she lies

She is hard on herself

She is broken and won’t ask for help

She is messy, but she’s kind

She is lonely most of the time

She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie

She is gone, but she used to be mine

It’s not what I asked for

Sometimes life just slips in through a back door

And carves out a person and makes you believe it’s all true

Life has genuinely slipped in through the back door for me, and I’m trying like mad to realize it’s not all bad. Not by a long shot.

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