For a lot of couples, ending a marriage is horrific for many reasons, but when you add children into the mix, it's just downright terrifying. I wanted to write about "the end" of my marriage, why I think it failed and the effect it has/had on Kailyn.
Not all relationships have a fairytale ending. In fact, I’d bet that less than 1% of them do (I totally made that statistic up).
According to this article I found, 50% of all marriages end in divorce, 41% of all SECOND marriages end in divorce, 73% of all THIRD marriages end in divorce. I personally think it’s crazy to keep a stat about 3rd marriages . . . But you do you. 🙂
In order to talk about “the end”, I think I’ll need to go back to the beginning.
I wanted to make it clear that I’m not a person who believes in preconceived destiny. I believe that we all make decisions in life that lead us to where we are today. We an infinite number of paths we could have taken in life, but we chose the ones we did, which lead us to where we are today.
It’s important that you know this is how I feel, because none of the stories in this blog can be changed . . . nor would I. They are part of my history, and I look back at them not to change them, but to learn from them so I make better choices in the future.
I get asked all the time, “If you could go back before you were married knowing what you know now, would you change your decisions?” The answer is a BIG NO. First, I wouldn’t have my Kailyn and second this is silly because that’s not even a possibility. I’m really happy with who I am right now. I am always trying to be a better person and am FAR from where I eventually want to be, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my past, because it is the past that will shape my future.
Know this, let’s take a trip back in time . . .
In The Beginning
May 28, 2005. This was my wedding day. But I want to go even further back than that . . . all the way back to 1998, the year I met my ex-wife in college. Like most relationships start, I had the BIGGEST crush on her. She and I worked at the same bar in college and I always showed an interest in her. She did not reciprocate at the time.
After I graduated from the University of Illinois, I moved to Las Vegas. After a year of being out there, my company was hiring and we flew her out to see if she’d be a good fit. She was a perfect fit, so she was hired.
At first, we were just “roommates”, but quickly became more than that. We were engaged and then married a few years later.
I’ll Be Fair
I don’t want to write blogs about my ex, her life or her decisions because I don’t think it’s fair to present my side of the story without her being able to present her side, so I’ll do my best to stick to the facts. When I talk about my marriage, I’ll make sure to do so in the context of filling you in on the backstory, and not to try and illicit an emotional response. This is my promise.
I think that’s important to know so that you don’t think my viewpoint is based on emotion. I’m a very cognitive thinker. The majority of my responses have some initial emotional input, but eventually come from a logical place.
Why Write About This Today?
The photo I used as a header is of the cup my ex left on the counter as she moved out. It’s the last part of her that she left in our home. I still remember how painful this day was.
There’s also a photo of my ex, Kailyn and me in bed for the last time together that morning my ex moved out, but that one I’m going to keep for myself (and Kailyn some day). I knew that someday I’d be able to look back these photos as a reminder of what happened and how far I’ve come since then. Today is that day.
The reason I’m writing about this today, is that on June 22nd, 2012, (I’ll do the math for you, seven years ago today), my ex and I decided that we we no longer going to be married. The End. In my phone, I have it listed as “The Day We Called It Quits“.
And I think that title is a good place to start . . .
I think one of the biggest reason people stay together that SHOULDN’T, is because they don’t want to be considered a quitter. Nobody wants to be a quitter. We’ve all been told since we were little kids, not to be a quitter.
You are a quitter if you get divorced because you can’t agree on the color of the carpet in your bedroom. But I would guess that most of you out there who are divorced or separated, didn’t decide to end their relationship because of something so trivial as this. And if there are children involved, I PROMISE you it wasn’t a trivial issue.
Nobody who means anything to you, would call you a quitter for trying to create a better life for yourself and your children (if you have them). I remember someone telling me that it’s better to have two divorced happy parents, then two unhappy married parents. I didn’t agree back then, but as a 6-year veteran of divorce, I’ll tell you that I now full-heartedly agree.
Another reason people stay together that SHOULDN’T, is because they don’t want to lose. As an entrepreneur, the idea of losing is never an option. We fight to win, and we work hard to turn adverse situation into positive situations.
I can’t tell you that getting divorced won’t feel like you’ve lost. It will. And you’ll undoubtedly lose several aspects of your life; financial, friends, physical items, property and even possibly full-time custody of your kids. To some, these are unfathomable consequences of divorce, so they decide to stay together, unhappy. I’m not a therapist, so I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. What I am here to write about is the fact that there is happiness out there, you just have to choose to want to seek it out. I titled this blog post “The End”, but divorce is far from that.
Changing The Status Quo
The last reason I’ll mention that people stay together that SHOULDN’T, is because they’re afraid to change the status quo. There’s something in human nature that wants to keep things the way they are. Even if the way they are isn’t good. We are creatures of habit, and we gravitate towards what we know and are comfortable with.
My ex’s new husband, who used to be my childhood best friend (yes, you read that right, but I’m not going to get into this now), once said to me as I was going through my divorce with his future wife (that reads really fucked up, but it’s an accurate statement), that “shit is just shit, Ben. You can divide up shit, but you can’t divide up your happiness”. It’s honestly probably one of the smartest things he ever told me.
It was difficult for me to picture my life outside of being married. We had so much “shit”. Houses, boats, cars, bank accounts, etc. But those things were all dividable. And we did just that. I won’t say it wasn’t painful, but he was right . . . shit is just shit. But it is impossible to split your happiness . . .
Filling A Void
Here’s what I did. I was in a loveless marriage. It turns out my ex didn’t love me. Maybe never. That’s a really hard thing to come to grips with. Again, I won’t put words in her mouth, so I’ll just say that from my viewpoint, it was this way. If you know me, I’m a VERY loving person and draw a lot of my energy from the people around me. Because I was in a loveless marriage, I looked for love elsewhere. I want to be clear that it wasn’t PHYSICAL love I was seeking, it was EMOTIONAL love.
I fell in love with going out. My favorite place to go was a nightclub. A couple nights a week and on weekends you’d find me at my favorite spot, Moon Nightclub at the Palms. There are many who would question filling my void at a nightclub, but to this day, I met some of my dearest and closest friends there. To my ex-wife, her husband was out partying when he should have been home with her, but to me, I was yearning to fulfill the void that was being left at home. Honestly, she was right. I should have been home cultivating my marriage, but as it turns out, I was filling a void that I needed from home . . . And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
Splitting Your Time
This is an example of splitting your time. I was getting what I needed emotionally from my friends and everything else from my wife. The reason why it’s dangerous is because in my mind, I was “complete”, but in her mind I was absent. I can tell you that 7 years ago when she confronted me to let me know how unhappy she was, I was completely floored. I was unaware of how unhappy she was. We were so disconnected.
I failed to realize how unhappy my wife was in my failed marriage. This is one of my biggest regrets in life to this day.
How could this happen to someone who seems to be in tune with all of his own emotions and those of people he cared about around? I can’t answer this for you. It still something that I think about all the time. Could I have changed the course of our marriage had I been aware? I’ll never know.
The end. It’s permanent, but that’s not to say that some couples reconcile. What I mean, is that our actions are permanent.
I turned 42 last year and it became apparent that I’m definitely on the “back 9” now. In my younger years, I thought that I had TIME to change any mistakes I made. But as you get older, you have to get it right the first time. I think that makes me more cautious, but also make me wiser.
This is a good transition to the next thing I want to talk about, and that’s the affect this has on our children (if you have any). Same thing goes, but the permanence lasts another generation.
The Real Loser
When it comes to separations and divorces, the real loser in the situations are the children. I’m not going to sugar coat the fact that this decision is going to ROCK THEIR WORLD. If you can’t accept that, then you’re not living in reality.
I do believe you should fight for your relationship. I certainly fought for mine. But unfortunately mine had ended long before we separated. I just didn’t know it.
I grew up in a divorced family and I always aspired to create an environment for Kailyn that was different than mine. And I failed. So let’s get personal and talk about these failures . . .
Nobody likes to talk about their failures. And I’m certainly no different. In fact, I had to think really hard about whether or not I wanted to type out these thoughts or just skip over this section entirely., but I decided that if I was going to do this blog thing, that I was going to be honest, open and factual.
Every marriage is a two-way street. In my experience and what I’ve observed with divorce, it’s rarely just one person’s fault. At face value it may look like it, but in reality, a marriage is carefully orchestrated dance. This isn’t to say that it’s NEVER a one-way street, but it’s been my observation that it’s rarely the case.
I’ve observed that this carefully orchestrated dance is like a teeter-toter and one person is often weighing this down. Marriage and parenting takes work. There’s no magic formula, and you need to evolve as quickly as your kids and spouse. I liken this to 3-dimensional growth. It’s important that you evolve and not stay stagnant, but you also need to grow in parallel with your spouse (i.e. the 3rd dimension). It’s entirely possible to evolve in an opposite direction as your significant other. My ex once said, “We were hand holding distance apart when we got married, and by the time we got divorced, we were 1000’s of miles apart”. She was right.
You can’t get divorced from your kids. It’s imperative that you evolve with your children. You must key in on cues that they’re giving you. The good thing is that the games that are often embedded in relationships, are absent in parenting. Kids just want you to be there and love them. Being present and listening to the signals they’re giving you is really the key.
It Takes Work
You have to work at marriages. This is one thing that I missed in “Marriage 101 Class”. Every Day. Ever Moment. I really wish someone would have reminded me of this. I just assumed that you’d get married, have some kids and grow old together. Unfortunately that’s not the way it works. Anyone who’s married and reading this is probably nodding right now because they know what I’m talking about.
I know this seems like a no-brainer, but after 12 years for me, we got into a routine. And this was an unhealthy routine. This lead to complacency which led to us falling out of love (if we were even in love in the first place). But I didn’t work on my marriage and that’s why it failed.
I won’t claim to know how my ex-wife felt, what she wanted or what she did as she’s not here to explain herself. I will say that I do believe that divorce takes two people and although it sounds like I’m shouldering most of the blame here, it took two people.
As I mentioned above, the real loser in this whole thing is the innocent bystander, Kailyn. She’ll never know what it’s like to grow up in a married home with her mother and father. This is the part that makes me most sad.
I grew up in a divorced household and wanted to do better for my daughter. My home growing up was a loving one. My mom is the best mom you could ever ask for. I wouldn’t change a thing about my upbringing, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want better for Kailyn.
My job, much like it is most of you who have kids’ job, is to create the most loving, stable environment as we can for our kids. That means co-parenting the best you can, loving the shit out of your kids, and being the best example you can for them.
Co-Parenting when there is almost zero communication is the hardest part of being a parent for me. Advocating for someone who you don’t like is even more difficult. Sharing custody of someone you love is hard. Check out my previous blog on custody & the dreaded hand-off.
I want to explain to Kailyn why her mom and I aren’t married. I want to explain to her what happened and why it’s not my fault. This is definitely not helpful (or appropriate). My job is to make her mom infallible in her eyes. When it would be convenient to lash out at her mother, and “hit her where it hurts” (especially in the upcoming teen years), I need to defend her mother as passionately as if we were still married. This is difficult to stomach, but it’s the truth. I’m not telling you what to do or how to act towards your exes, but I’ll tell you that you need to play the “long game”. While it would feel nice to get a jab in here and there, in the long run, it’s your kids who lose out in this scenario.
The title of this blog is “The End”, because this story marked the end of a chapter in my life. My story will have so many more chapters. This chapter is now filed and on the bookshelf of “The Story of Ben”. It’s important to remember that there will be MANY more chapters and the most important thing is that you are alive to be a part of those. The next important thing is that you make those chapters filled with love, kindness and compassion. It’s evolution . . . the next chapter MUST be better than the previous. I believe it’s a matrix of good decisions based on previous bad decisions that allows this.
Every “the end”, precedes the next “the beginning”. In my mind, there is no preconceived destiny. You get to decide. It’s a wonderful thing. Just make the right choices.
Next up . . .
Next up for me is continuing to figure out myself and trying to be a single dad. I think that this is a daunting enough task for anyone. I’ve been asked countless times if I think I’ll ever be a husband again, and my answer is “I honestly don’t know.”
I’d like to think that I’d make someone a good husband someday knowing what I’ve learned, but that may not be in my cards. But what I’ll tell you is that I’m going to be a dad forever, so I’ll just focus on being the best dad and man I can be for Kailyn.
Thanks for taking the time to listen to my story and take a look into my mind. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from some of you about my previous blogs, and would love to hear from you about this one too. Please drop me a line. Hearing from all of you gives me reason to write . . . And I do enjoy sharing my life’s lessons.
Have a great weekend everyone. Hug your loved ones closely, and give them as many kisses as they’ll allow.
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