I sat across from a very happy man. He is recently separated from his wife of 25 years. His children, through with their education, are ready for the next phase of their lives and so was he. I had known my friend for more than 20 years and this was the happiest I had ever seen him. He had nothing bad to say about his wife. Not then, and not now. Now, after waiting patiently for 2 decades he is ready to move on with his life. He is not in a hurry. He is not dating. He is living in a world where nobody is mad at him. He wakes up in the morning and eats what he likes for breakfast that day. All day every day, he makes his decisions, he goes about his days, he does his work, and he pays the bills. But now he does all of that out of the shadow of his angry and judging wife.
Still, 20 years down the tubes can’t be easy for anyone. I asked him what he thought now that he was seeing the light at the end of this particular tunnel, of all that had happened before. He was beaming. The happiness he feels at just being alone cannot be contained or concealed. He said, “It is not anyone’s fault. We were not the right fit for each other. I love her, I will always love her. She raised my children. In fact, in many ways, she raised me. But I am looking forward to someday falling in love with somebody who is madly in love with me.”
These are not spring chickens, and dismantling a lifestyle is difficult work, but they are doing it at their own pace. They will sell their house, establish two new residences; divide their belongings and their debts. They will do all of that over the course of the next 6 to twelve months, one step at a time. And, when they have completed this work, they will file for divorce. No judge will be able to tell them who lives in what house; or how to distribute the assets. These are wise people who have made decisions together for half of their lives. This final batch of decisions – the ones in which they create their own ending – may be the most critical ones they have ever made. By refusing to blame each other, hate anyone, or make things tumultuous, they are creating a future in which they will always be able to respect each other.
Sometimes the decision to divorce is a rushed and emotional result of an unhappy moment, or series of moments. Sometimes it is a patient conclusion to a lifetime of causes and effects. Either way, the process of divorce can still be a time to carefully consider the best alternatives for everyone involved – spouses and children, even adult children. When we focus our attention on the culprit, look for a bad guy, and aim for retribution, we risk missing the delicate and somewhat beautiful opportunity to see a bigger picture and a wider world.
What We Love: Whoever said that patience is a virtue missed the fact that it is also a gift to one’s self.