I remember the day well. I had been delaying it for a couple of years. Something was wrong and I didn't want to deal with it. My attempts at direct communication and problem solving was met with indifference. I didn't quite understand why anyone would want to continue living in a loveless household even with beautiful children giving more love to their parents than either of us returned to each other.
At the time I didn't know that you cannot negotiate desire and if your wife does not admire you, your relationship is over and its just a matter of how you let it play out. Relationships often end and people continue to live together for years suffering in silence. They do this out of fear, insecurity, or often for the sake of the children. They never think of themselves or their own happiness. I had always put others before myself, but I knew I could not stay with someone where I was paying all the bills, doing all the yard work, and coming home to a dirty house even though the person I was married to didn't work. When I was not at work, friends and a computer were prioritized over time with me. Why this was the situation didn't matter. Married people can blame each other for why things turned out the way they did, but ultimately doing nothing would destroy me and probably my kids. The past cannot be changed but you can see the future and mine was ongoing devaluation and probably a heart attack because I knew things were not right.
I never thought I would call a lawyer for help with a domestic issue. Domestic lawyers were for people who weren't raised to treat others with respect or who didn't have God in their life. They were for people who cheated and lied to their spouses with such impunity that you couldn't rely on them to be a partner. They were for people who didn't take their marriage vows seriously. I wished it was that simple.
I wasn't sure who to call despite my vast network of professional people. I finally got the courage to do it and after a referral I made my way to the lawyers office. My first thought was of self hate as I entered the big brick building with new carpet and office furniture that smelled like it was just unwrapped and set down for my appearance. The indifferent secretary ushered me in to a lawyers office where he had more certificates on the wall from doing who knows what than I had baseball cards from the 70s in my moms basement. I soon learned that real money was going to start being drained from my pocket if I wanted to do anything to change my life. I would soon learn that as much as it would cost, it would cost me more the longer I waited.
I got a lesson in family law that day. The lawyer with his years of experience made it clear that I was going to lose most of what I had worked to save and how much it might cost. He told me how he would defend me. Yes I needed to be defended because I was a man who wanted equal custody of his kids and a fair disbursement of the marital assets. I learned that North Carolina was a no fault state which meant that no matter how my wife behaved, it did not change what she would get out of the marital assets. None of it made sense. I had done everything right. I had worked to build a business, pay off my school loans, was a great father, thought I was a great husband, and valued my family. Yet the person who brought nothing financially to the marriage was now going to own at least half of what I had saved and the years of school and building a business without pay before I married her literally had no value. It was a tough pill to swallow. It was going to get worse. My lack of knowledge about how things worked financially as it related to marriage was entirely my fault and I would pay for it.
My wife had never told me she wanted a divorce and her position was that she made a commitment and she was going to honor it. I asked the lawyer what he would advise my wife to do if he was representing her. He said something that made a light click on in my head and told me that taking action was the right thing to do.
He said " I would tell her to stay with your sorry ass as long as she could stand it".
I didn't take that to mean I was a bad guy but instead I understood in a legal context I was the one providing a life for another person and she was going to do what she wanted until she decided it made sense for her to pull the plug. The financial reward for her was going to be there either way. I knew I had to get out of the marriage because it was one sided economically and emotionally and the longer I allowed it to go on, the more I would be admitting that I had no value other than as a wallet for someone who did what they want caring only about themselves. I would hope I would have felt the same if I was staying home with the kids while all my financial needs were being met. No matter which side you fall, love and a connection should mean more than money. It did for me or I would not have been in the lawyers office. It was still a hard pill to swallow.
I do not want to neglect the importance of being a mother and the value that comes with it. There is not a better feeling then loving a woman who provides you children. She gives up a lot to do it but the right man will appreciate her and encourage her to maintain her own sense of individualism and not to give up career goals. A man who expects her to also earn money while being a full time mom is a bit selfish and shallow. Every circumstance is different in terms of how a family balances rearing of young kids while earning money. Too often both parents must work and kids are left in day care to be raised by others. Couples devoted to each other will be able to do what is best for their kids without keeping score as to who does what. A man also wants to be admired by his wife so he wants to show he is a boss and bring home as much money as he can for the family. In the same context, an honorable woman who bears a man children will not use them as pawns for her own financial benefit or to emotionally destroy a man who wants nothing more than to be a father to his kids.
Sadly things go wrong and they cannot be fixed. Divorce is a horrible experience but once you know that it is necessary, you need to make it happen as you will be better in the long run. The longer you delay it the harder it is and the insecurities that come with age cannot be ignored as you venture out on your own as a single person.
Think about where you are in life. Your wife may not want to be with you but will do nothing about it as long as she can live the life she wants. That life does not include you even though you are under the same roof. Your spouses indifference does not mean she is happy. Your perfect looking quiet soccer mom wife may also not be faithful. If you think she isn't plotting a way to maximize things when the time is right you are naive. Women are smart and calculating and don't think otherwise. While most people are rational and don't use children as pawns in court or want you financially ruined, you have to learn all possibilities so you can fight best battle possible. In extreme circumstances she will try to alienate you from your children and think she is doing you a favor offering every other weekend custody to you. If you think your wife will do the right thing when it comes to finances and children you are as naïve as I was.
No matter how difficult the process is and no matter how long it takes, you will be better off the sooner you make it happen and push through to the end. You will find yourself and who you are even though you never thought you were lost. I would give anything to have my full intact family and a loving marriage that I thought I had signed up for, but once it was gone, it was never coming back.
A man alone is happier than a man in a bad marriage and we don't live forever.
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The Red Devil