Divorce fucking sucks. There's no other way around it.
Many of you reading this are either in the process of getting divorced or are already there. I'm in the latter camp. My divorce was finalized in May 2014 and it has been far from all rainbows and puppy dogs since then.
Going into the separation, I thought "how bad can it be?" I mean, we just need to sign some papers, tell our daughters about it and move on with our lives, right?
Oh how naive I was to think it would be as simple as all that. Maybe it was that I just didn't want to think about the negative side of it all or maybe I was just so caught up in the emotion of it all. Either way, I was way off base.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't think my life would miraculously be 100% better the day the courts made it official but little did I know just how much fallout there would be afterwards.
Of course we all have different experiences; some good, some bad, and some fucking miserable. And to be fair, my divorce hasn't been terrible. There are a lot of things I would do differently and even more things I don't like about what's happened in the aftermath, but it's the past and there's nothing to be done at this point except learn from it.
And learn I have.
As a matter of fact, below are the 6 biggest things I've learned since my divorce:
1) You'll regret giving her so much in the beginning.
I was highly emotional and struggling with the fact of losing my girls and just wanted to make the whole thing as quick and painless as possible.
So I took the path of least resistance and that involved me offering to pay her far more than she probably should have gotten. Sure, we could have battled it out in the courtroom, but at what cost? The way I looked at it, I'd rather have my hard earned dollars going to her (and the kids), than to a greedy attorney.
So I locked myself into a non-modifiable alimony payment (attorney mistake #1) and offered up a very generous child support payment (which has since been modified).
And while it seemed noble in my own mind, my friends and family thought I was nuts. Even so, I didn't care. I was happy to overpay her if it meant providing more stability for my daughters.
But the nostalgic feeling wore off shortly thereafter and I was left with a feeling of bitterness (and poverty) and there was nothing I could do about it.
Now, almost three years later, I look back and realize that I should have let my emotions subside and sought council before offering to pay through the nose.
For those of you in the midst of this battle right now, please do your future self a favor and make decisions based on logic rather than emotions.
2) Co-parenting will be harder than you thought.
When you're married, it's pretty common to be on the same page when it comes to parenting styles. Either that, or you just give up and let your wife make the decisions and you follow along with it..
After the divorce however, things take a radical change for the worse and seemingly bizarre. Some of her decisions will leave you wondering what fucking planet she's on and how she could make such a terrible decision.
When it comes to our kids, there is nothing more sacred and we will do everything humanly possible to protect them. And when poor decisions are made (by either of you), you have to decide how to handle it and hope for the best.
The problem is that there is not a damn thing you (or she) can do about the decisions you make. Unless it's putting the children in danger or doing something morally wrong, we just have to grin and bear it.
For example, late last year, my ex decided she was going to pull my daughters out of public school and enroll them in a private Catholic school (where she had just taken a job).
This decision took the girls out of a great public school that they loves, which was five minutes from their house, and into a much smaller school forty minutes away. It was also in the middle of the school year and would cost me hundreds of additional dollars each month.
Needless to say, I didn't take this well and it almost came to a courtroom battle. It got very ugly and I did my best to shield the girls from it, but it was awful.
In the end, I had to decide to either fight it out in court (spending thousands of dollars) or allow it to happen and hope that it was a decent decision.
This is just one example of how different we want to raise the girls and how difficult it is when we disagree.
My advice is to have a sit down with your ex (if she is a reasonable and rational person) and make the big decisions about your kids future and put it down on paper. It will save you a lot of frustration (and money) in the long run.
3) Communication will suck.
If you thought communicating with your ex was difficult while you were married, you ain't seen nothing. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus while in a loving relationship, after you've split, it's more like men are from Mercury and women are from Pluto.
Gone are the days of civilly asking your (ex) wife to discuss things during dinner and instead are replaced with fragmented text messages, cryptic voicemails, and unreturned emails.
Neither of you will have much interest in entertaining a lengthy (or productive) conversation, but if it's at all possible, I'd suggest doing your best to try and make that happen.
When married, we can talk things through and if we don't agree, can voice our opinions and it will be respected. Not so much post divorce.
Now that you don't have to agree on things, you'll find that you are disagreeing a lot more! About everything. This makes things a bit more challenging when trying to make decisions for your kids.
She wants one thing, you want another. What to do? In the end, it's usually just doing whatever the fuck you want and making the other person deal with it.
Healthy? No. But sadly is exactly what happens in many cases.
4) Your children will get caught in the middle of it.
I do my absolute best to keep my girls out of anything to do with our divorce and have never spoken a bad word to them about their mother. On the contrary, I talk very highly of her and think that's the way it should be.
Just because she and I didn't get along doesn't mean that the kids feel the same way. They had nothing to do with this and I feel very strongly they need to be as far removed from it as possible.
Unfortunately, if you have an ex who thinks it's OK to talk to your young children about the issues between the two of you, you are stuck. You can't make her not talk shit about you or your new relationships, only hope that she makes the right decision and doesn't.
I've spent more nights than I care to remember crying about the emotional fallout my girls have from our divorce and it breaks my heart when they ask me questions about it.
All you or I can do is be honest with them, love them, and protect them. And that's what I focus on 100% of the time.
5) It's much more of a financial struggle than you thought it would be.
Trying to raise a family while married is tough enough, especially if you live in a crazy expensive region like me (Washington D.C. metro area).
When I was married, we had decided that she should stay home with the girls and I would work. Being a single income family in a very expensive area is rough and we struggled for years and could never seem to get ahead.
After we split, it got worse. Not only did I have a rent payment but now had a very high child support and alimony payment to go along with it. I had to supplement my income with before/after work gigs just to make enough to live.
But after all of that, it was still worth the struggle. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather struggle financially and be happy than have loads of cash and be stuck in a miserable marriage. We can always find ways to make more money but we can't make more happiness if we're in a toxic relationship.
6) You find out who your friends are.
When we get married and have kids, we tend to start finding friends that are also married with kids. And while some of us keep our old friends, you know the guy who is still single at 43 and hits the bars every night, our new "married" friends become a much bigger part of our social lives.
After we split, it's like an unspoken rule that all of your "married" friends have to choose a side. It's either you or her and in my case, they chose her.
I'm sure it has something to do with the wife siding with the ex and her husband having to go along with it and I understand that. It's a tough thing to maintain friendships with bitter rivals and choosing a side is only logical.
That doesn't make it any easier though and I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. But such is life.
What Have You Learned?
How about you? What things have you had to learn the hard way since your divorce?
P.S. I realize this post comes across as very bitter and I am bitter to an extent. I'm not unhappy about my decision to divorce and start over, but rather I'm unhappy with the lack of control I seem to have over my daughters lives and all the stress it entails.