Guest post by Richard Crane
Envy, gluttony, greed/avarice, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath.
They ain’t got nothing on me.
That’s because I’m going through a divorce.
If you are too, then you know…
The emotions you experience during divorce are raw.
And what you feel is probably different than what I feel.
Every divorce is different.
Every divorce is unique.
While it is intensely personal, anyone who’s currently riding the rails of divorce is bound and joined at the hip with everyone else who has gone through one (or more), too.
The money part sucks. On that, I think we can all agree.
Divorce is a slow-moving train wreck on your finances. Even if you have a lot of money, there’s still a sense of violation that comes from the jumble of feelings that you’re either entitled to a certain amount of money because you endured, or that you worked your ass off only to have to give a good part of it away to a person you can no longer stand to be around.
As if that doesn’t mess with your brain enough, there’s the whole rainbow of emotions that comes with the entire divorce process.
Although I’m going to attempt to limit my feelings on my divorce to seven emotions here (not gonna lie, partly because it makes for a catchy title), you’re going to have your own set of emotions to wrestle with. Probably a lot more than seven. More like 37. Or 122. Or 853.
I’m sharing the oversized emotions I’ve felt since my wife left. Not so much to be a whiner, but more to let you know you’re not alone.
Like I said, if we’re both going through a divorce, then we’re bound by that common suck-ass experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 26-year-old single dad living in the Midwest, or a 40-something former beauty queen surviving in a big east coast city, or you’re approaching retirement and you finally decided to stop looking the other way.
You’re not alone. We’re joined by circumstances.
And there are a lot of us.
What you feel, no matter what you feel in a divorce, is normal.
That’s because there is no normal.
And everything is normal.
The other thing (and this qualifies as the best thing I have ever been told about divorce and emotions) is that eventually, it gets better.
When divorce hits you, this is the last thing you want to hear. But it’s necessary advice from people who’ve been there. It’s part of the healing process.
And unless you’re totally off the rails in a “requiring institutionalized help” type of way, what I’ve found is that it is true.
But healing takes time.
And nobody can rush you through it.
You’re going to feel what you’re going to feel.
For as long as you need to feel it.
Before we begin, many of you are going to think, “that guy needs therapy” or “a hug.”
I’ve had plenty of both.
Despite what you’re about to read, the vast majority of the time, I’m okay. It’s just sometimes, my 7 deadly emotions creep in. Kind of like Dexter’s dark passenger, they’re along for the ride, whether I like it or not.
At the most unusual of times.
I see a couple walking hand in hand. Guilt says, “hello.”
They get my order wrong at Wendy’s. I angrily over-react because “I said no cheese!”
Then shame creeps in and I eat the damn burger anyway.
You get the idea. I won’t bore you with more examples.
So, here are my 7 deadly emotional sins, in no particular order (to pre-empt questions about ranking, for those of you who are into overanalyzing all things divorce, which is an emotional sin in its own right.)
First, a biggie.
But anger doesn’t begin to describe what I feel most times. As George Carlin reminded us, profanity is an intensifier, so let’s call this the “Fuck You!” emotion.
Anger on steroids.
Mentally, my middle finger always seems to be stuck in an upright position. The bird is the word.
I can hide it by flashing a peace sign or giving a five-finger wave. But make no mistake. There is always an undercurrent of Fuck You.
Sometimes I control it. Sometimes it controls me.
What used to be 80-20 one way is now 80-20 the other way. I have a ways to go, but it’s getting better.
Warranted? Probably not. Not true, yes it is! But you’re going to feel what you’re going to feel. And I wouldn’t be attempting to help you if I wasn’t honest, even at my own expense.
Thinking about controlling my anger helps me. It leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment is a part of self-awareness. And self-awareness is a big step toward healing.
Welcome to my hellish version of zen.
There are times when I get frustrated at being angry, so I release my anger which inevitably leads me to…
Guilt that I think of myself as a fairly bright guy, but that I couldn’t make my marriage work, no matter how hard I tried.
I rationalize by telling myself some things you simply can’t fix. I take solace in knowing that 40% to 50% of all marriages end in divorce. But then I’m like, “screw that, it’s all about me.”
Then I guilt out some more.
Then I eat a big bowl of ice cream. It helps……sometimes.
More often, I guilt out over the damage I’ve done to other people I love, primarily my kids. Some of the guilt is real. Some of it I conjure up. I think I do this to punish myself for failing at one of society’s most common institutions. If so many people can get it right, why can’t I?
Guilt in divorce is common. From what I’ve felt, it may also be the most crippling.
Until you get over this emotion, you can’t possibly hope to have another healthy relationship.
Only shitty, half-ass ones.
Closely associated to guilt is…
These may be intertwined for some people, but I wanted to call it out separately.
Guilt is an inside job. You looking at you.
Shame, on the other hand, is how you feel about how other people see you.
This one is the ghost. It’s the demon that resides inside of you. It’s an emotion that must be exorcised. Yet, there is comfort in shame as well.
I know that sounds stupid.
Shame can be a shield. It can keep you from getting hurt even more. That’s a priority for me.
When you’re ashamed, you rationalize that it’s easier and cleaner to be on your own.
Many days, its actually nice to be free from having to worry that you’re making, doing, stumbling, bumbling, and tripping your way through the emotional minefields that come with relationships.
Sure, you miss out on intimacy. But while you’re wounded, that’s okay.
Shame fades over time, as you put your emotions in place.
Some of you can do this quickly. But I’ve also seen others who never get over it.
Until you do, you’re in for a rough and lonely ride.
One that’s sure to have a certain degree of…
Let me rephrase that…Deeeeepppressssiiionnnnn.
It’s a killer. It’s a slow-moving form of death.
Depression is real.
Depression stops all forward motion.
Depression produces irrational thoughts and illusions.
Sucks the very life out of you.
Unless you’re a superman or a superwoman, you’re likely to feel some degree of depression. If you don’t, then you have to ask yourself if you were ever really in love in the first place.
You need to mourn the loss of your relationship. The loss of your identity as a spouse. Your loss as part of a family unit.
Watching the Hallmark Channel or seeing rom-coms in the theatre should be off-limits until you’re through this phase. For example, I’ve been avoiding one of the best movies of the year, “Marriage Story” at the insistence of my kids. I’ll probably watch it soon anyway and end up regretting that decision as well.
And speaking of, how about…
Since I was young, I always told myself I wanted to lead a life governed by, “I’m glad I did…” instead of, “I wish I had…”
With divorce, I really missed the boat on that one.
In a failed marriage, if you’re being honest, you should have some regrets.
Regrets over choosing the wrong person, even though it seemed right at that time of your life.
Regrets over missing out on the true love that the Hallmark Channel says you’re entitled to (why I stay away!).
If you’ve got kids, then guilt, shame and regret all take a seat at your dinner table. That’s a lot of uninvited guests. And just like at Thanksgiving, there needs to be subtle ways of dropping hints that it’s time to leave when the jig is up.
But most of all, my regrets are over lost time. Time you can never get back. Time wasted. Time better spent alone, or with someone (anyone) else. Time is the one commodity you can’t bank. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
As you move through all of these and begin to heal, you’ll experience new emotions, including one that will remind you of young Bambi trying to walk for the very first time. It’s called…
Even though nobody minds, I feel awkward going into a neighborhood restaurant and asking for a “table for one” time and time again. In fact, I’m locally famous for over-tipping waitresses who take a couple of extra minutes to be my “dinner companion” of sorts and spend a little extra time with me because they know I’m flying solo.
It’s worth a couple of extra bucks to me. Plus, the next time I come back, I get the best service, like you wouldn’t believe. Servers and bartenders work hard. They remember those who are kind to them.
And so do I.
I also have a new appreciation for those of us who are now third- or fifth-wheels at social gatherings. When I was a kid, we always had a great aunt who came alone to family holiday celebrations. She was cool and was always really nice to us. But I remember thinking at the time, “where was her husband?”
Sidebar…turns out he was a traveling salesman who drove drunk and killed himself one a lonely Texas highway one night.
Awkward extends to filling out taxes for the first time. Changing your healthcare plan. Drawing up a new will. And designating new beneficiaries on your life insurance policies.
It makes a guest appearance when you try to talk to your kids about what happened. That’s assuming you can even figure out what happened yourself.
Awkward comes from learning how to use the tremendous amount of freedom you have in choosing how to spend your days and your life. It sounds cool, but it’s not always easy.
That awkward feeling also extends to feeling like nobody has your back at times. You may have already experienced it in the death-throws of your marriage, but it’s a whole ‘nother universe when it actually happens.
Awkward also happens when you’re dividing up marital assets. Even though you’ll do your best to hide it. Who gets the car? Who gets the memories? What’s it all worth to me? To you?
Until you get used to it, awkward also happens every time there’s a kid exchange before, and even after custody is hammered out.
Unless you’re really smooth, and I envy those who are, awkward comes from learning how to date again. Of fending off suitors when you’d rather be alone. Or wanting an evening to end as soon as possible because you wound up on a date with a toad instead of a prince or princess.
Yeah, awkward happens a lot.
That’s because awkward is, well, uuummmm……awkward.
So you fake it, until you learn how to make it, which leads me to my last deadly emotional sin of…
7. Foolish pride
Although pride is one of the seven originals, divorce elevates this sin to an even higher level. Thus, I add the adjective “foolish” to my last emotion.
I’m actually okay with this one.
It’s a coping emotion.
You sweep tears under the carpet. You never want to let the wrong people see you down.
When people ask how you are, the pat answers are, “I’m fine!” or “Doing great!” or “Getting better every day.”
When in reality it could be more like, “I’m feeling so fucked right now,” or “Don’t ask,” or “Thought about stabbing myself in the eye last night, how ‘bout you?”
It’s okay to wear a mask with certain people. You learn who you can trust and who you can’t.
You’d be surprised who steps to the plate to help when your marital situation changes. People that were indifferent, or normally assholes, or too busy to give you the time of day, now offer you great advice and a shoulder to cry on.
Your challenge is to figure out who those people are.
At first, it may be a sister or a brother, close friends, or a mother or father (yeah, I know dads aren’t always optimal). Although I did get the best piece of advice from my dad when I sensed trouble in my marriage.
He was on his death bed, and to lighten the conversation a bit, I told him my marriage seemed to be hitting a rough patch. Maybe even headed for divorce one day…..just trying to fill an awkward space.
His response to me was three of the most liberating words I’ve heard through all of this.
“Let her go.”
Let her go.
Of course, foolish pride and the fighter in me resisted giving up. It felt like losing, and when you’ve competed all your life, you hate losing at anything, even a bad marriage.
But ultimately, dad was right.
I’ve let her go, more or less. Sure, there’s still feelings and memories there.
I still have bouts of…
and foolish pride.
And so, I carry on, day by day, just trying to do my best.
All the while, trying to forget the rest.
It’s not easy.
My 7 deadly emotional sins of divorce won’t be the same as yours.
And that’s okay.
These are mine.
I own them now.
Which is not perfect, but still a helluva lot better than them owning me.