It was almost two years before my ex-husband and I divorced after we decided that our marriage was over. I lived in the house for a few months after we had the conversation that saw us choosing to end our relationship. Before we made the final decision to divorce, we both had discussions about what a divorced home would look like for us, seeing that we had two kids to think about. We wanted to be thoughtful and considerate while we planned out who would get the home, what the finances would look like, and what time with the kids would look like. We knew for certain that we didn't want to pull the rug out from under our children's feet, so we took our time when it came to telling them what was going to happen. We knew it was over, but we waited two years to divorce. And looking back, I think we made the right call.
The night my ex-husband and I told our children was like any other normal Thursday night: We usually did shower time and bedtime prep together, the four of us getting ready to settle down for the evening. So as I washed my sons's hair and my ex-husband was drying my daughter off, we eased into the conversation about divorce. We talked about love being able to exist within marriages and relationships and outside of those things, too. We talked about changes and evolving as people. I took my son out of the shower and braided my daughter's hair, trying to hold back tears as both kids asked such sweet questions about weddings, loving people, and about my ex and me.
We reminded them that we loved them and told them mommy and daddy would no longer be married. We added we'd always love each other, but not in the same way that we had. My son, who was 4 years old, didn't really have a reaction, but our then-5-year-old daughter sat in the corner of the bathroom with her head down, her knees in her arms. My heart broke. It broke even more when she said quietly, "I wanted to be different than the other kids at school; I wanted Beck and I to have a mommy and daddy that still lived together."
We took our time and eased into it. We wanted to make sure it wasn't a big sudden change that would flip their worlds over even more than we already had.
The reality of moving out of the house finally set in after we told the kids and our families about the divorce. I mostly freelanced, and had spent the early years of my children's lives as a stay-at-home mother. Having a spouse who was the main breadwinner made it so that I didn't have to think about money — ever. Our bills, mortgage, and car payments were all handled by my ex-husband. All I'd ever known before marriage was my parents' money and their help. I'd literally moved from their house into an apartment with my ex-husband. Almost instantly, we had a baby. So when we decided to divorce, I began to question whether or not I could actually live on my own. Even with help from my ex, I struggled to understand how I would be capable of taking care of myself. When I realized that I was 27 and without very much experience of being on my own, I felt so ashamed and anxious. I knew it was what needed to happen, but I felt so unsure of how that would be possible.
Even though I felt confident and secure in our decision to separate, I suddenly felt afraid and heartbroken on my own. I missed my kids immensely whenever we were apart. The sight of my house without me, whenever I had to drop the kids off or pick them up, made me feel physically ill. Memories of my children growing up there destroyed me. How could it be a home without me? How could I ever have one without them?
As my ex and I figured out my future living situation and slowly moved select finances over and into my name, we continued to do dinners together as a family. We went to see the grandparents' together and attended school events as a unit. The kids were used to us spending a night or two away from the house since we'd been doing that for a year already, so we started to extend our nights out of the house to help them adjust to being apart from each parent. We took our time and eased into it. We wanted to make sure it wasn't a big sudden change that would flip their worlds over even more than we already had. For the most part, they handled the shifting of our family with ease and grace. Only every once in awhile was there an explosive situation that left the kids and I in tears, afraid and defeated, terrified of what was going to happen next.
When I finally moved out, I was relieved things were moving forward. I thought that leaving home would be the hardest hurdle we'd face, but I had no idea that we'd only just begun. It would be exactly a year before we signed our divorce papers. Even though I felt confident and secure in our decision to separate, I suddenly felt afraid and heartbroken on my own. I missed my kids immensely whenever we were apart. The sight of my house without me, whenever I had to drop the kids off or pick them up, made me feel physically ill. Memories of my children growing up there destroyed me. How could it be a home without me? How could I ever have one without them? In an effort to cope, I tried to avoid stopping by the house, asking my ex to bring the kids to me instead. He never complained because he understood.
My ex-husband and I knew divorce wouldn't be the total and complete end of our relationship — we have the children that we happily co-parent together and still do dinners together and hang out when we can — but signing divorce papers meant the end of a marriage that we, at one point, held with lots of joy and love.
A few months after moving out, I got extremely sick with mono, so my ex and I remained married so I could stay on his health insurance. I'd spent the last two years in and out of the hospital for various health reasons so we were both nervous about what would happen if I was without insurance and ill. We used that excuse for awhile, and for the most part, it was the truth. But we also dragged our feet to the courthouse for another reason. My ex-husband and I knew divorce wouldn't be the total and complete end of our relationship — we have the children that we happily co-parent together and still do dinners together and hang out when we can — but signing divorce papers meant the end of a marriage that we, at one point, held with lots of joy and love. It was hard not to reminisce together on the good times. Even though it was what we both wanted and were ready for, signing the papers marked a line in the sand — one we couldn't undo. We shared a lawyer who assured us that the process would be pretty painless, so in the back of our heads we always thought, "We can just do it whenever." There as no urgency. We were lucky that way.
Eventually, we both felt as if we were clinging to the bare bones left behind from the foundation we'd once built together. When we finally went to sign our papers though, we were excited — excited to move on to the next part of our life and see what our friendship would look like without marriage attached to it.