(The picture above came up through a google search for “wave goodbye.” It is from a site for a band called “Unholy Matrimony.” How great is the web?)
On August 30, 1995, Dennis and I left City Hall in NYC, together and married.
On August 4, 2011, we left City Hall in Ann Arbor, together and divorced.
We were the only couple in the courtroom. Everyone else came without his or her ex, and with his or her lawyer. D and I used a mediator, no attorneys, sat together, walked up to face the judge together. Afterward, he bought me lunch at Panera.
I report this because our split has been public via our separate blogs; he posted first, I responded, and I got a fair amount of readers due to James Wolcott’s very kind mention, for which I remain grateful. A year after it all began, it seems right to let you all know how the chapter ended.
After Dennis and I had our penultimate fight (by phone; he was in NYC), I wrote to him and told him that no matter what, I wanted to keep things as amicable as possible. We had been having problems for years, and I had thought at least three separate times that it was time to get a lawyer, but we always managed to work it out. Dennis’s parents own divorce was classically bad; acrimonious is probably the most euphemistic term available, with him being drafted, at age 12, as primary pawn. It’s haunted him throughout his life and was certainly a spectre in our time together; he’s currently writing about it, which didn’t occur until we separated though he’d talked about doing so for years. His history is responsible for us keeping it together as long as we did; I had only to mention the word divorce and he’d get into battle mode. My parents are still married; to me, it seemed like a reasonable solution. To him, it was a declaration of nuclear war, an admission of tremendous failure, and the worst possible thing we could do to our kids.
In any event, we’ve mutually kept the promise about keeping it amicable, through all the sadness, anger, and just plain annoyance that goes into dissolving a 16-year liaison. One bad clash since we made the decision, which we did mutually on August 30th of last year. Not bad, and certainly many less than we had on an annual basis throughout the marriage. Our son – the Eldest moved out 2 years ago, at 18 – remained our primary focus. He’s thriving, and has told both of us separately that things are much better now.
Maybe most important is our shared view that over the last decade and a half, we have a lot more to be grateful for than to bitch about. We’re both better writers. We’ve laughed a lot more often than we’ve cried. We raised two wonderful kids who are what we always hoped our kids would be: creative, funny, smart, honest, passionate.
We’re friends. In many ways, much better ones now that we’re not married.
Both of us doubt we’ll ever get married again, though of course that’s only natural at this point in time. For me, my primary obligation is to myself. It’s scary to emerge naked into the world after years of being half of a duet. My voice is pretty shaky on its own, and it cracks a lot.
But it’s my song. Ready or not, time to sing.