I think we’re close to a final agreement on the divorce settlement. It hasn’t been contentious, but I’ve been a bit careful about the language because I figure that my wife will misunderstand something and try to fuck me on it later.
I don’t have to appear in court, so I’m going to skip that. My attorney will take care of that. But, once the court approves the settlement I’m back to the problem that I think was the biggest part of the divorce: my wife does not take care of her financial responsibilities and doesn’t understand her obligations. Again, I’ve tried to make it very clear in the settlement what she needs to do so I can protect myself.
I haven’t spoken to her in over a year. Even though this is an “amicable” divorce, she hates me and still isn’t grateful for what I’m doing for her. I’ve reined in my attorney plenty of times where I could have been vindictively harsh in the terms. There’s no good that can come to me from destroying her to the extent of my legal rights. I think I’m already coming out of this process much better off than most people would have since I’m not making emotional decisions (which is different than not being emotional about it).
But, once divorced, I’m back to the stomach-churning process of dealing with my Ex and our shared finances. Imagine having to negotiate with a middle schooler who at once doesn’t understand the financial devices but also has a naïve (often liberal) belief in the way the world works. For things that don’t matter, like where to eat or what to watch on TV, there’s no real risk. When it comes to retirement accounts and how much money I’ll have this year to spend on food, it’s maddening.
So several months I’ve been at peace with the state of my divorce, but now that we’re close to the end it’s picking at old wounds. With some distance, especially emotionally, so things make more sense.
I think the last straw in our marriage was a Christmas trip she took alone that last year we were together. That would be our last holiday together. Her parents are divorced and geographically distant from each other. Normally, we’d visit both of them each year and switch up Thanksgiving and Christmas. In June, I had asked her who we’d visit when so we could buy the airline tickets. I asked her a few more times before she decided in November, but which time tickets had tripled and gone beyond what I thought we could afford at the time.
Her decision was to go without me, spending more on just her ticket than we could have spent for both of us. When she got back, she was chilly toward me in a way she had never been. She was physically repulsed by me, and I that’s the last time she allowed me to touch her. I think her family had worked on her over the holiday and that she had probably lied about the reason I wasn’t there during the holiday. She wouldn’t have told them that I tried to arrange it so both of us to go but she delayed until the last moment. I don’t think that she would have told them that she spent much more than I thought we could afford so that she could abandon me during Christmas.
But, I think the seeds were already there. Since I knew I wouldn’t be with her on Christmas Day, I had arranged a pre-Christmas the week before. We had hung stockings, gotten a little tree that we decorated, and had planned our own Christmas dinner.
Looking back on that now, I understand more about her behavior even then. I had quite a bit of fun filling her stocking (and the stockings for our cats!) with various trivial fun things, including citrus as part of a throwback to the days when oranges were treats. I was unable to hide my disappointment when I discovered on our fake-Christmas morning that she had done nothing similar. She said “I didn’t know we were doing that”, a bit flatly. And that’s the rub: unless I pushed and specified something she didn’t do it. I wasn’t hurt so much that she didn’t do the thing I expected, but that she hadn’t thought to do anything.
That she might have already divorced me in her mind might explain why her only gift to me was a three-ring binder. It was a step up from what you’d get at Staples, and I saw her intent to collect the photobooth filmstrips of us I collected. Still, it was a three-ring binder. My own gift to her had been an expensive bottle of scotch and special scotch tasting glasses, underscoring her latest interest, at once relevant and desired.
She had unwrapped her present first; I take care of myself last. That’s just me. But two things happened. I think she was embarrassed at her own lack of effort and thoughtfulness even before she opened her gifts, but my gift amplified her feelings of guilt and shame. Her reaction might have been worse than mine, even before I opened her gift to me. Her enjoyment of my gift was belayed by her own thoughtlessness.
I wasn’t able to hide my disappointment at her gift, something I regret but also see as unavoidable. It’s the irony of wanting genuine connection but realizing a well-executed lie would work better. I immediately saw her intent, but also recognized the last minute nature of it. I think I started to cry a little, and had to walk to the back of the house to get myself together. I knew I wasn’t that important in her life, and I’d always known that I think, but this was putting a big exclamation point on it. I wrote about that in Gifts, the Revealer of Reality.
What I saw most, though, was a reflection of myself. For her previous birthday, I had bought her a deluxe sheet-music binder engraved with her name and voice type. It had a place to hold a pencil even, as singers make frequent interpretative notes in their scores. It was admired by many other singers and conductors. Her low-rent tattered school binder was a bit of an embarrassment for a world-class singer. I think she mirrored that gift and might have noticed me looking for the missing inscription on the binder, realizing that what I had given her was personalized and what she had given me was off-the-shelf. But it’s also Cut off Culture: once they’ve made their decision, they don’t really care what you think. I think she was more upset that she didn’t get away with it rather than my feelings.
On her solo holiday trip she’d made the decision that we were definitely done. She didn’t tell me though. Still, she tried to get us into counseling. I think she only did that because she thought the counselor would tell me I was an asshole and that she’d feel better about her decision. It was definitely over when he told her she needed to start seeing a psychiatrist right away and that I was doing what I needed to do. In short, she had to face that she had severe problems.
This is the person I’ll have to deal with directly to split the remaining shared assets. We won’t have attorneys to mediate the actual settling of the accounts.