I’ve spent a lot of time with Wife in the past few days. Maybe six hours each day on both Thursday and Friday. And I have to say, I quite enjoyed the time we spent together. I was reminded once again of some of the many qualities that she has that attracted me to her. Even after this time of being separated, I found it very easy to slip back into the comfortable role of being with her.
In fact, if it weren’t for the topic of conversation and our purpose for being together, I would think it would be easy for anyone seeing us together to believe that we have a great relationship. And we do. She is amazing. She is fun to be with. In spite of that, however, our topic of conversation revolved around the D word: divorce. You see, her lawyers had completed the paperwork, and it was time to sign.
Irreconcilable differences. That’s what the paperwork states as the reason the judge should grant the divorce. I guess that’s the fancy way of saying it’s a no-fault divorce. I just can’t get that phrase out of my head, though. Irreconcilable differences. It sure does fit.
Before we signed, we spent a day talking about trying to avoid the divorce. We went over and over and over everything again. We covered everything from the little things that we’ve always disagreed about that in the end really don’t make much difference, all through the facets of religion and belief in God, and up to what ultimately is the one single point that makes our continued marriage impossible: Girlfriend.
It would be easy to think that religion would be our main sticking point. Mormonism is strong, and it preaches very vocally about apostasy. In the church’s view, as an apostate, I have officially moved over from God’s team to Satan’s team, and I am powerless except to work with the devil to try to tear down the church and destroy the faith of its people. But Wife is really cool. She’s far more accepting than that, and she told me she’s fine with my lack of faith and my current beliefs. Every belief, that is, except that marriage is no longer ordained of God. And perhaps in that one small way, religion really is at the root of our issues. Because Mormonism teaches that marriage and chastity vows are the single most important promises we can make on this Earth, anyone seen violating those vows is obviously violating God’s will. And messing up is one thing. But willfully violating sacred covenants? Yeah. Straight to hell.
Okay, so I’m probably being a little dramatic. Mormons have a more nuanced version of hell than probably most mainstream Christians do. But you know what I mean. It’s a big no-no. And so her leaders counseled her: “God doesn’t want you to remain in an abusive situation like this.” Divorce, not normally something countenanced with much relish, was suddenly not only on the table, but it was presented as the only sensible option. She wasn’t exactly counseled to divorce. No. That’s not something that the leaders in the LDS church do. But she was told, “I can’t tell you to divorce, but if you were my daughter, I would advise you to run.” So yes, religious differences definitely contribute to our irreconcilable differences. But I think they could be surmounted if the two of us felt like we had a chance of working things out. The problem is, we really do have irreconcilable differences.
Wife told me: “Just do the right thing. Give her up and come back home.”
I said, “I can’t just walk away from her as if she’s died. I love her and I want her in my life.”
Wife said, “I can’t live with you choosing another woman over me.”
I said, “So don’t make me choose. We love each of our children, and we don’t have to choose between them.”
Wife said, “Yeah, but you prefer her over me. I can’t live with not being your favorite.”
I said, “Each of our children would also like to be our favorite. We probably shouldn’t have favorites, but we do. We probably shouldn’t like one just a little more than another, but we do. Yet we can still love each of them, and nobody is forcing us to choose.”
Wife said, “Well, I can’t live that way. It’s too painful. You have to choose me or her. You can’t have both.”
I said, “I can’t live that way, being forced to deny my feelings. If I have to choose, I can’t choose you.”
And that’s about the extent of our irreconcilable differences. She can’t accept my love for Girlfriend, and I can’t pretend I don’t love her. That’s ultimately the long and the short of the reason we’ve been throwing around the D word.
And yet, I can’t quite explain what it’s like to actually see the paperwork. Wife’s full name printed out in capital letters, followed by the word “Plaintiff.” Then a space and a single heh-don’t-mind-me letter: “v.” Then my name in caps and the word “Defendant.” How can I explain it? It’s painful. It’s shocking. It’s surreal. Like finding yourself in an Escher drawing or a Dali painting. I know that the divorce is unavoidable. But it’s still surprising–it still stings–that it’s actually happening. I knew I would never divorce. And here I am, signing the papers.
It feels a bit like jumping into a lake at Boy Scout camp. You’ve just spent a couple hours in the car in the heat of summer, in anticipation of a week of camping. And the first thing they do when you get there is take you to the lake for the swim check. You know the water is cold. You know you don’t want to do it. The sun shining through the thin mountain air doesn’t feel quite as hot as it did a few hours ago in the valley. You actually shiver at the thought. Yet you know you have to. So you gather your courage, take a deep breath, and run toward the end of the dock. And as you take that leap off the dock, as you push away with your foot and for that one instant you can feel every grain of wood beneath your big toe, that one part of you still connected to safety and security, and the next instant you are floating in the air, touching neither the dock nor the water, you have that single moment of clarity, of fear, of unmasking the inevitable, as you realize you can’t go back. You can’t take back that final leap. You can’t will yourself back on the dock, dry and sure-footed. All you can do now is let gravity take its course and try to brace yourself for the coldness and wetness of the landing. That’s how I felt signing those papers.
Then there are the details. It was actually rather amicable. Wife wanted custody. I didn’t really want anything. I walked away with my personal effects and a vehicle. I left everything else with Wife and the children. The child support calculations ended up being much higher than I thought they would be. But what can you do? It’s just a fact of life. So I’ll just tighten my belt and pay what’s required. I want my children to be taken care of. If that’s what the state says it costs, I’ll pay it.
And that’s pretty much it. Divorce. Wow. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the notification from the court that it’s all over.