The Divorcer

by Marnie Brodersen
Originally Published: 
The Divorcer
Peter Dazeley/Getty

It sucks being “The Divorcer.” It’s kind of like being The Terminator but, well, you won’t be back.

It’s interesting when you are filling out the paperwork for a divorce as, even in a mediation situation like mine, they still ask you to choose a “plaintiff.” You just wanna scream: “Okay, it’s me, but I tried. I really tried. For years!” I think what hurts the most is that there seems to be a public perception that the people who want the divorce are in less pain than the other. I can tell you that, in my case, I truly don’t believe this is true.

I wasn’t the type to say, “I’ve dreamt of wearing that white dress since I was five years old.” I will say, however, that as I reached my low to mid-30s and was still single, I was getting pretty panicked, as I never pictured myself as the non-marrying type. More specifically, I really wanted kids. I was living in LA and babysat my two nieces and nephew every week. I loved and still love those kids like they are my own.

I remember one morning, waking up hungover at a friend’s house right by my brother’s place. Dehydrated and miserable, I hoped to catch a greasy, bacon-y meal at their house … I was known for this move. When I walked in like Kramer from Seinfeld — hair every which way and unannounced — my brother and his family were in their family room watching home videos. I felt ashamed. I’m sure I reeked of last night’s shots and looked like a mess but, as always, they welcomed me with a cup of coffee and I grabbed a seat to watch the show. This was what I wanted. I would have given up partying right that very moment if I had control over that sort of thing.

During that time, I met my now-ex-husband, and it was a bumpy ride. In fact, when we announced that we were engaged, no one even knew we were dating because we had kept it to ourselves to avoid our embarrassment after all of our previous breakups.

In hindsight, I do feel like I forced the issue. I honestly think this man was made to be an eternal bachelor, but I was determined to mold him into my future mate. I know you’re probably shocked, but this didn’t work out. In fact, the deacon that “interviewed” us during our Pre Cana weekend told us that, based on the inventory you take, we pretty much saw almost all topics completely differently.

We laughed awkwardly and went on our merry/marry way, but that moment stuck with me. We ignored all the signs, including a sewage leak in our tiny apartment on the morning of The Big Day. Is there a bigger sign than a river of shit running through your place? I have an image burned into my brain of my ex carrying my wedding dress above his head as we ran out of there as my family members used a wet vac to try to control the situation.

Much like our dating, our marriage had its ups and downs. We had some absolutely wonderful times and brought two boys into this world that are everything to us. And, again, we tried. Two separations later — one when I was pregnant with my youngest son — it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t a shock to anyone — including us — but it was painful regardless. And, yes, I led the charge on making it official, but I didn’t see any other way. You only get one ride on this merry-go-round and living in this kind of misery just didn’t make sense.

I did not think any of this process would be easy, but what happened, in the end, was not something I expected. It got extremely ugly and, as our mediator said, the fact that we were trying to live together to save money throughout the separation process made us like a pressure cooker with no valve. He turned into someone I didn’t recognize and then turned a lot of people against me.

I lashed out, too, at friends who I thought were coddling him, so that didn’t help matters. But people believe what they want to believe, and that’s the low hanging fruit. No one wants your life’s narrative to inconvenience them or, worse, to force them to look at their own marriage in a way that’s painful.

It’s equally interesting and excruciating that I — The Divorcer — sit here four years later in this much pain. The way people reacted was not something I anticipated and has hurt me beyond measure. I am utterly and completely alone when my boys are not with me.

When I open up about this on social media, I always get a few “Move on, babe” messages from well-meaning friends who live elsewhere. I know I need to move on and I desperately want to, but I’m so, so stuck. As my therapist has told me, I sit in wait for apologies that will never come. I rarely date because I’m just so damaged. I have an official PTSD diagnosis. I can’t move to where I have a support system because he won’t let me. I’m terrified every minute of every day. The only times I sleep through the night are the few times a year I get to see my parents when I can let down my exhausted guard.

Add to this the pandemic and that I’m essentially a zombie, or a collection of terrified cells willing themselves to move forward. I also have to call my ex when I have issues, including flat tires, overdraft fees, and what was presumed to be the coronavirus a few months ago. It’s a pride-swallowing, soul-sucking endeavor I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I guess my reason for writing this is twofold—to those who think the people who want the divorce are not suffering, you are so, so wrong. No one in their right mind takes breaking up a family with a grain of salt. Many of us have agonized for years over the decision and to make that final leap takes every last bit of grit within us.

And to my fellow Divorcers—I see you. I hear you. I am you. This is not easy. There is no timeline or manual for our healing process. It’s one day at a time, and even one step at a time, but we can do this.

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