I Married My Best Friend — Then I Divorced Him
We’re still close, but it just wasn’t working anymore.
My ex-husband and I met in music class when I was a freshman in high school and we became friends. Sweet, polite, funny, and solid, he was one of the few people my parents trusted enough to let me get into a car with, as we had all just gotten our licenses. We spent many Saturday nights in the ‘90s driving up and down 86th Street in Brooklyn with our clique. He was the guy that always saved the day.
We nurtured our friendship through graduation, even after going our separate ways for college. We began dating in our mid-20s, after a drunken kiss at a wedding. We fell in love and everything moved quickly after that, like my person had been staring me in the face all along.
We got a place together, got engaged, got married and had a beautiful son. But 11 years after our wedding, our marriage was no longer giving either of us what we needed or wanted.
I had to ask the man who had been my best friend since I was 15-years-old for a divorce.
My ex-husband is a good man. Emphasis on good. He's caring, kind, wicked smart, has a lucrative job, and can fix just about anything that needs fixing. But he was very much married to his job. And though I knew his heart was always in the right place — he wanted more than anything to provide as best he could for our family — he could never seem to find the right balance. While I was home with our newborn, I counted the minutes until he walked through the door after his normal 12-hour day. More evenings than not the phone would ring at 7pm and, on the other end, I would hear, “I can’t leave for another hour or two, babe. I’m sorry.”
And every night I grew more and more resentful. I felt myself checking out, all while beating myself up for feeling ungrateful and unappreciative of his hard work.
Don’t get me wrong — I played an equal part in the dissolution of our marriage. I could have spoken up about my feelings a lot sooner, and maybe things would have been different. But I didn’t. I could have rung some sort of alarm the minute I felt myself slipping away from him. But I didn’t. I could have been a much better communicator. But I wasn’t. When he wasn’t working and home with us, I could have been a lot more present. But I wasn’t.
We tried to work through our issues. We went to counseling as a couple, while I worked through my own stuff in individual therapy. But I could never get past the feeling that his work was always going to take priority over our marriage. I know, in his head, that was absolutely not the case — he was working this hard for us! But every night when his office phone number would come up on the Caller ID, I would feel this overwhelming crash of sadness, anger and disappointment.
After years of struggling with guilt and fear, and blaming myself for not being able to appreciate this man who worked his ass off to provide for his family, my therapist helped me come to terms with the notion that I deserved to be happy too. That my needs mattered. That asking this wonderful man for a divorce didn’t make me a villain, it simply made me a human being with needs that yearned to be met.
Asking him for a divorce was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I suggested we separate at first. Maybe because I thought that would be easier on both of us. Or maybe because I thought everything would change if the reality of us not being together was very clear. But once I moved out, and we started to build our separate lives, the burden of waiting for someone else to make me happy lifted. It was now solely up to me to create that life for myself. And that felt doable — unlike trying to convince my husband that if he didn’t work 70 hours a week we would still be alright.
It’s been nine years now since we first split and, believe it or not, my ex is still one of my very best friends. We have worked HARD to get through the pain, grief, anger, and heartache that divorce brings. Finding a way to stay close with our friends and family that had become so intertwined in our lives as a married couple was extremely important to both of us. So, we figured it out. And we’re still figuring it out, but we remain committed to managing this “uncoupling” (thanks, Gwyneth Paltrow), in a way that feels right for both of us. We have learned how to navigate co-parenting in a healthy way, knowing that our son is comforted by the respect he sees us showing each other. And together we created this amazing child, who still gets to hear stories about his mom and dad driving around 86th street in Brooklyn as teenagers.
This is a new chapter in our friendship. While there will always be awkward moments or fleeting feelings of disappointment, there has never been one second that I regret marrying — or divorcing — my best friend.