By June Headley-Greenlaw
Statistics say that 40-50% of first marriages will end in divorce. Unfortunately, I was part of that statistic. I was married to the man I now jokingly refer to as my starter husband for nearly 20 years. When that marriage expired, it was a very scary time in my life and the lives of my children. I had been married since I was 20 years old and didn’t know what my identity would be outside of that marriage. There was no abuse or anything else that you’d think would cause a divorce, we simply stopped loving each other the way married people should.
Our friends used to ask us how we had stayed married so long. My then-husband used to reply that it was because we just never wanted a divorce at the same time. It wasn’t because we never had hard times. We did! We were both going thru college while working and later raising children. We struggled frequently. We were both blessed with loving families and lots of friends. We made it through – until we didn’t. There just came the point in time when we no longer felt supported or loved by each other, and something told me it was time to start over. I believed it was whispers from God.
I won’t tell you it was easy because that would be a big fat lie! I moved into my best friend’s house for a few months and slept on what we now affectionately call “the divorce couch”. She lived on the same street so the kids could walk back and forth. I looked for a new home close to the one we owned so the kids, then 6 and 9, could be close to both of us. I found one that was a foreclosure and needed a lot of work. New carpet, new appliances, etc. the house had 11 different colors on the walls from orange to black. I vividly remember many friends and family members with rollers and brushes in their hands and my nearly 80-year-old Uncle taking up the carpet and hauling it outside. But on Thanksgiving, all of those people had commitments. Alone in this new empty house, I turned up the music and rolled and cried and rolled and cried. The whole time praying that God would give me the strength to get through it and help me find a way to explain to my children that this was necessary. I was determined to have a home IN ORDER by Christmas for the sake of my kids!
I should tell you there were times when I thought my heart would just stop beating because it was so broken. There were a lot of tears, sometimes anger, fear, and TONS of times when I questioned this decision. Thankfully, my ex and I were both committed to not making this any worse than it had to be so we put on brave faces and marched thru the logistics of starting over. We split the debt. He kept the house with the equity, and I kept my retirement. I took things from the house that he could easily live without and bought whatever else I needed. On credit cards! Ugh! We even shared an attorney to keep costs down. As divorces go, I think we might have had the cheapest one on the planet. I strongly suggest that anyone going thru this think carefully before fighting. The only people that win in these situations are the attorneys. It’s much easier to buy new furniture than to hire a lawyer to fight over it. You owe it to your kids not to sweat the small stuff.
We made about the same amount of money, and we shared custody, so neither of us paid child support. We never argued over switching weeks or days with the kids for vacations, family events or other fun activities that might have fallen on the other person’s time. We both wanted what was best for our children. I’m very proud of the way we handled those years.
The divorce was final 17 months after we filed. I would have bet when we split up that I
would never remarry, but in a very short time, I met my do-over husband, and my affectionately called “wusband” met his do-over wife. We were both remarried within five months of the divorce being final. Those marriages are still going strong after ten years plus. Fortunately, our kids were blessed with great “Bonus” parents and lots of new “Bonus” siblings. I don’t use the word “step” because I think it insinuates some sort of distance between people. A friend once told me that it’s always a bonus when you have another person to love you so we had a lot of bonuses in our new blended families!
While the statistics on second marriages are abysmal, we are all committed to beating those odds. We have both thrived in our do-over marriages, and we still support our now college kids as a team. All four of us! I’m living proof that life after the Big D doesn’t have to be a horror show. I credit my strong faith in God and a lot of commitment from all involved for carrying us thru such a challenging time.