The Story of My Divorce
This story is about my own divorce back in 2011. I met her the first of five years I was living in China. We got married two years later, applied for her spouse visa, and we’d been living here in the Bay Area for 5 years already. I was doing what lots of people do with their lives. I was “living the script” as I like to call it now; doing what society expected of me to achieve some objective standard of success. Unconscious, uninspired, unaware.
Get married? Check. Buy a house? Check. Working towards a high-paying career? Check. Next up was to have kids, and we’d already been trying for 2 years. Then it came out of nowhere: she never actually want to have kids. I didn’t handle it well. That’s even being nice to myself. The truth is, up until this point in my life, I was an asshole: no consideration for other people, I wanted to get my way no matter the cost, and I couldn’t handle opinions that were different from mine.
My initial response was guilt tripping and manipulation. I wanted to force the situation. It was so unfair to me, we’d already been trying for 2 years. Isn’t the point of getting married so you can have kids? Why is she telling me this now?
When this didn’t work, I made a desperate attempt at couples counseling, but it was clear that she was already done with the marriage. The experience of having my bargaining, negotiating, and explaining make absolutely no difference was humbling. There was no chance in altering the outcome of this. That’s when I finally had no other option than to confront myself.
At that point, it could have gone many different ways. One of those ways would have been for me to become cold, bitter, and angry that she deceived me. Upset that she didn’t tell me until 7 years into our marriage that she really didn’t want to have kids. And I’d be righteous and justified about holding on to that anger. But that’s not what I did.
Instead, I took on a new perspective: she still is the woman I fell in love with and married. It’s just that now she wants to do something else. From there, I started to see my responsibility in having her feel unsafe to tell me what she really wants. After we’d made the decision to get divorced, conversations between us were not about blaming each other, it was more like who could take more responsibility for how things ended up.
“I’m sorry, I was such an asshole. I didn’t pay any attention to you or hear anything that you were trying to tell me all along.”
“No, no, I definitely could have said something earlier so it didn’t drag out so long.”
It’s truly a different experience when both people are willing to admit responsibility like this.
In the end, we didn’t “lawyer up.” We hired a mediator who looked over the agreement we wrote up to make sure it was adequately clear what we were agreeing to. 2 months later, we signed the divorce papers.
We still talk to each other. She’s living her life, and I’m living mine. There are absolutely no ill feelings towards each other. Divorce is not a bad thing, it doesn’t make either of us evil, or somehow lost or damaged. It’s just something that happens, and it actually happens very very often.
Then I began to work on myself. I made a list of who I thought I was, then crossed out the characteristics I didn’t like and wrote in what I wanted to replace them with. “I’m insecure, but I don’t like that, so I’m going to replace it with being confident.”
Two years later, I came to the realization that all that was based on the idea that there was something wrong with me that I needed to fix. That’s not what real confidence is. At best, it’s trying to be confident. In the words of Master Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
What if there was actually nothing wrong with me? This started me down the path I’m still on now: love, acceptance of self and others, ending struggle by getting rid of “should” from my vocabulary. Some people would call this my spiritual awakening. I call it self-awareness, calm, and clarity.
My divorce was the single most impactful event of my life. I can’t imagine who I would be if we’d tried to make the marriage work. It was exactly the wake up call and kick in the pants that I needed to shake me out of my automatic, unconscious trodding along a pre-scripted path. I’m so grateful for the lessons I learned and continue to learn from it.
Much like a lot of lessons life has to offer: it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.