Fork in the road

I wasn’t afraid he would kill me. I wasn’t afraid I’d be homeless. I wasn’t afraid my family or church would shun me.

Mostly divorce didn’t occur to me.

Despite years of pursuing professional help on how to make an unhappy marriage happy, divorce never occurred to me until weeks before I filed.

We fought, sure. But we weren’t the dramatic type who threatened to call our lawyer first thing Monday morning.  I was the divorce lawyer. I knew what to do. There was no such thing as an idle threat.

Divorce was simply not an option I considered.

Compared to my mother’s marriage, mine was a dream.  Unlike my father, my husband never spent a week’s pay on his bar tab, never lost a job, and was an always present parent. Shouldn’t I be grateful? Compared to the women I represented who had been strangled and beaten, an occasional bowl of pasta or vase of flowers smashed against the wall seemed petty.

We had two beautiful, bright, and healthy children. Enviable careers.  A house, two cars, a black lab and a boat. And plenty of sex. There were enough good times in between the bad such that I didn’t realize how I rationalized that things were okay.

Divorce was not the direction I was going.

My focus was to make my marriage work, not on figuring out how to get out. I was so focused on what I wanted—the dream, the possibility—that I ignored what was. How I tallied every dollar I spent on a tube of lipstick to defend his claims I was hiding money. How friends made excuses to check on me because they feared for my safety. How utterly sad I was.

Divorce didn’t fit my picture of him, of myself, or of us.

I never lost sight of the goodness of the man I was married to. How he loved his children despite their challenged relationship. How he was playful in ways I would never be. How much family meant to him.  Surely anyone this good was capable of having a good marriage, right?

I saw him as a decent and caring man, me as a happy and successful woman, and us as married.

Divorce didn’t occur to me.  Until it did. Until I was willing to look, see, and tell the truth about how my indomitable optimism wasn’t enough. How hard we had both tried. How much it was costing not only us but our children.

While the decline of my marriage was a slow slide downward, the path to divorce was a sharp turn.  It was the change of direction I made after a decade of trying, once I had the courage to consider another way even existed.

While I could regret that my marriage did not survive, I have never regretted my divorce. For me, it was the next right path. I only needed to realize it was there to step onto.

Coach Koenig