I write this in March of 2021, about ten and a half years since the Man (my erstwhile spouse) shocked and devastated me by moving out, after 22 years together, so he could pursue a relationship with a woman he met on Second Life. Our youngest child (a surprise mid-life baby) was then just eight years old; the other two were a high school senior and a college sophomore. Because he (a well-compensated government contractor) had had the breadwinner job and I (an lowly adjunct professor) the dilettante occupation, and because I was at the time of his desertion an almost 50-year-old with an eight-year-old kid, there wasn't much hope that I'd ever (1) become financially independent of him or (2) find love again before the end of what might be generously termed my prime years. I instead set myself the more modest goal of simply surviving till the youngest graduated from college -- and, if I can just last another three years and a bit, I'll have achieved that goal.
In the beginning, I was a walking ball of misery. It's a wonder the two kids still at home eventually turned out to be the fine young men that they are today, given the traumatic disruption to their childhoods. All at once, Dad's a disappointment and Mom's a damaged cliche. But I guess the sheer commonness of divorce helped them to take it in stride.
Not so their mother. I'd loved him so much, you see, and I'd felt so cherished by him. He was my best friend (I thought) and my partner in life. And I admired him, as well (love & admiration don't have to go together, which I know now because I still love him; but back in the day I thought there was no better man on the planet). It's clear that I wasn't the perfect spouse, or he'd have stayed; however, we'd both begun the marriage as avowed "disbelievers in divorce" (as in, "I know it happens, but I don't believe in it for me"), so I was particularly thrown by his unwillingness to try to help me fix whatever it was he'd come to find intolerable about me.
As I told more than one person, It wasn't like finding out there's no Santa Claus. It was like finding out there's no gravity.
For a good five years, I stumbled through my life, one of the walking wounded. Of course, I had a great extended family and a rusty but more-or-less durable faith, plus a talent for manufacturing happy moments with my sons. These gave me a reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other. After year six, I thought I began to feel some of the burden lifting, to the extent that, at the seven-year mark, I was optimistic enough to try counseling. I went for a year before my therapist unexpectedly retired when his wife got sick. Though I felt I had definitely been helped, I wasn't up for starting over with someone new. I am picky about who gets my respect, and I always felt I'd kinda lucked out with therapist Number One. Also, I am cripplingly self-aware, and it took a lot to get to where I was really stream-of-consciousness-ing rather than carefully constructing my sessions. I didn't trust myself to be able reach that point again.
But, like when you backslide after stopping a diet (something else I know a little about), I have seen a reversal of some of the progress I was beginning to think therapy was helping me to make. Part of the problem is that I am so heart-achingly lonely. See, apart from loving the Man, I also loved being married. The togetherness, the having each other's back, the shared history and jokes and intimacy and whatnot. Talking about everything and nothing, enjoying the same meal, splitting a dessert, sleeping together, touching and being touched. (I am not a touchy-feely person in general, but the Man and I were a touchy-feely couple.) It came easy, in a way that alone-ness never has.
I also fear that I am still ashamed of being divorced. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that I look down on other divorced people. (Do I? I hope not!) But given how I feel about the sacredness of marriage, losing mine can't feel to me like anything other than failure.
I have never been whole enough to seriously consider looking for another romance (plus, I knew the kids would've hated it while they all still lived at home), but I have let the thought cross my mind in a fantasy sort of way. And when I do, it invariably gets me down. In all probability, I realize in my most honest moments, there is no one out there for me. I am a weird statistical outlier who was lucky to find love once. Shyness and bookishness were what kept younger me out of the dating pool until I met the Man. My middle-aged self, I'm happy to say, is not so shy, and has long since learned that fun can also be found outside of the pages of a novel. But my odd mix of lefty politics and traditional religion, along with a Mrs.-Santa-Claus figure and dodgy financials, combine to make current me a likely "swipe left" for any single chap in the appropriate demographic. Those godly greys don't want a socialist, a vintage hippy isn't looking for the church lady, and no one's in search of a chubby senior with a modest bank balance (at my age, I could be either poor OR homely, but not both, I think). Still a hopeless nerd, I need a smart guy. But a smart liberal in his lower 60s could probably have, and would surely want, a younger and more energetic (not to mention more libidinous) partner. And anyone much older would start to approach my parents' age (I had young parents), and that would be weird.
Oh, and I'm triggered by vow-breaking, so if I met an otherwise congenial single fellow who got that way by ditching his spouse (or who "believed in divorce"), I don't see how I could commit. Add to that the fact that I'd still take the Man back if he asked me (which may tell you all you need to know about me right there), and you can see why I'm sure I will die alone.
For some reason, the whole thing is bothering me more now than it has for the last few years. It's undoubtedly connected to losing my mom in January, and maybe also a little connected to the beginning of what might be a return to normal-ish life after a year of utter weirdness (aka quarantine). My normal life is perfectly adequate, and I hope I'm duly grateful for the best parts, but it's not like I will regain much of a social life when the world re-opens.
Okay, that's the end. There's nothing in this post that I haven't written in these pages before, but I just needed to rehearse it again, I guess.