From the editor: What does it feel like to be in the midst of going through a divorce at 65 years of age, after 40 plus years of marriage? What fears and anxieties creep into your life when the prospect of “starting over” arises? What goes into one’s head when you know you still love the person you married, but you know you cannot go on another day living like this? The following is a very real-life story of just such a person who is “one pen-stroke away” from signing the final divorce papers. I’m sure you’ll find the dialogue that goes on within to be very captivating. ~GB
I screamed as I heard a loud crash followed by a dull thud. Jumping out of bed, I ran as fast as I could. What happened?
Stepping out of the bedroom, I found my husband sprawled across the floor with his head cocked up against the bathroom door. Only the whites of his eyes were visible as his eyelids fluttered. He was making gurgling noises and saliva drooled out of his mouth.
Was he badly hurt? Had he cracked open his head? Did I need to call 911? I dropped to the floor calling his name. No response.
“Damn it! Are you OK? Do I need to call 911?” As precious seconds passed, he finally nodded his head, “No.” In a drunken stupor slurring his words, he said, “I’m OK. Really. Don’t call 911.”
I shouldn’t have listened to him, drunk out of his mind, but I did.
He lay on the hardwood floor for nearly 30 minutes before he could roll over and get up on his hands and knees. Crawling out pathetically into the bedroom, he struggled for some time to pull himself up into bed. Thus, he finally succeeded.
I dropped down on my knees asking for help. “Why can’t he just have one beer? Why does it have to be an 18-pack in one sitting? Are you out there, God? Can you hear me?”
The last time he struggled with extreme alcohol addiction, it nearly killed him. Not surprisingly, he had admittedly been trying to drink himself to death, and he nearly succeeded.
I got a frightening call at work telling me to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me my husband had no heart rhythm and that the cardio team was trying to resuscitate him. I drove in a frenzy to the hospital not knowing whether he was dead or alive.
I later learned that the medical staff had worked on him for 20 minutes to bring him back to life — a life he wanted to end by his incessant drinking. Yes, he had flatlined and was gone. It was only by divine intervention that he was in the hospital when it happened.
He certainly attempted to kill himself, but it didn’t work. Little did I know how much hardship “his close death experience” would cause me in the months and years to follow. I was shaken to my very core.
It took months for him to recuperate and after being released from rehab, I told him if he ever drank again, that would be it for us. We’d be through. Period! And here he is back drinking again and I haven’t left him yet. Why?
What sort of hold does he have on me? Am I afraid of what life would be like divorced? Can I continue to live this way and deny myself the care and love I need?
It feels like there isn’t anything left for me to do but to leave him. I’ve taken all the steps and now I find myself one pen-stroke away from divorce. And I’m scared out of my mind!
Forty years of marriage for what? To end up in divorce at 65? I never thought I would be in this situation. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision me going through a divorce and having to start over. Can I do it? Am I capable of starting over? Will I ever find love again? Yet, some say I’ve been pussy-footing around the “obvious” for much too long.
Who are they to say that? Have they walked in my shoes? Have they seen my pure strength behind the scenes? No.
But then again, they haven’t seen my fear either.
Where is the positive in all of this? I’m incredibly grateful for my small group of friends and family who have supported me. They love me for who I am and listen to me in my time of need. Most importantly, my friends believed in me and looked after me. Nonetheless. I know that.
Yet, none of that helps me heal the hole in my heart or take the ache away in my soul.
I’m grieving for a man, who was once the love of my life. We shared a full and abundant life together. We made passionate love, had silly times, and enlightening moments.
Life was exhilarating and it seemed our love for each other would never change. It went on for years like that. But it did change and I pine for what we had as I face the prospect of divorce and being alone.
Could I have done something differently? Am I to blame? Could I have tried harder? Am I just a damn loser? Was I complicit in the loss?
These questions swirl around in my head constantly ––– ever present in my psyche. But deep down, there’s always that elephant in the room ––– alcoholism. It’s so insidious. His worsening dependence on alcohol is suffocating and killing this relationship.
But even when he was sober, our relationship was faltering. On one level, I was so glad he wasn’t drinking and I didn’t have to be his nurse 24/7. On the other hand, he was different and it left me confused and lonely. Consequently, he could be aggressive and self-absorbed one minute and then, sweet, attentive and charming the next.
He still says he’s nuts for me even to this day and wants the relationship to work and at times, it does. I definitely yearned for so much more from life though.
Always wanting to have an active lifestyle, get out, socialize, seek out the arts, hike, swim, and be outdoors. Yet, my husband is content to isolate himself within the house, sometimes sleeping the day away.
I long to have a partner who takes care of himself, who is actively engaged and gives back to the community. I’d love to see him out helping others, either through his love of music or through performing volunteer work for others. At times, we seem light years apart.
Are we? If so, why do I still love him? Why do I enjoy hearing his footsteps on the stairs? Cherish the morning coffee he brings me in bed? Love hearing him sing and play his musical instruments?
He is so talented on many levels, but he is letting his talents go to waste. It’s as if he has lost all hope, and now I am his only connection to the outside world. That feels like a “ball and chain” around my ankle. How I miss those days when it didn’t feel like that!
He dreamed so big for so long and I dreamed right alongside him. He was going to be the next big singer/songwriter. And he could have been if it weren’t for his “thin skin” and perfectionism.
He couldn’t take constructive criticism. It sent him over the edge. You must be able to fall and pick yourself back up again and move forward. He just didn’t seem able to do that.
Meanwhile, I continued to pursue my career and moved up the corporate ladder. For years, I got amazing enjoyment out of my work, but after 40 years of supporting us financially, I don’t know how much longer I can do this. Therefore, divorce likely means that I will have to continue to work to support him. Yes, you heard me right!
Obviously, I’m not one pen-stroke away from divorce without having consulted lawyers. Every one of them told me the same shocking news. Not only would he get a 50/50 split of our community property, but I would have to support him with a monthly check the rest of his life. It was a shocking amount and truthfully, for a while, it stopped me firmly in my tracks.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine pointed out to me that I was letting my life pass me by that I began moving forwards towards divorce again. I wasn’t happy. I was losing my joy. What happened to that line in the sand of “no drinking”? I now know that I can no longer let that line waver. Likewise, he must stop drinking. It’s non-negotiable.
I don’t want to encounter any more of his drunken accidents. Falling down stairs, slipping and burning himself badly on the oven door, black eyes that remain a mystery as to how they occurred. Is this any way to live? No!
And what about his continued drinking. He said he’d quit in two weeks. Will that two weeks ever come? How can I trust what he says when it comes to his drinking? Where is his AA support group that he relied on when he didn’t drink for years? Why is he refusing to elicit their help? Furthermore, doesn’t he want to get better? Ultimately, doesn’t he want to save this marriage?
I feel the need to break free of this marriage. Indeed, I believe that life has to be better than what I’m dealing with now. However, could “letting go” be a big relief for me? Would solitude allow me to grow and prosper? Or would it take me down roads that will be filled with fear, uncertainty, and unfathomable challenge?
Earlier this year, I insisted on having 4 weeks to myself to be alone and think things over. I felt love for this temporary newfound freedom, socialized, reached out, and joined a book club. Likewise, I kept active — even going to the movies alone for the first time in my life. It felt so right. Perhaps this is exactly what I need … a fresh beginning. Maybe it’s long overdue.
Is there promise in a solo journey ahead? Certainly, I realize there will be major challenges and struggle. But what about me? Besides, do I care for and love myself enough to let go of this relationship?
These are questions I still have in my head after pouring my heart out to you. Probably, the reality of my situation scares me. Do you have words of wisdom for me? Can I trust that the Universe has my back and will support and help me?
I hope so.
My Best Hopes
Despite all I’ve shared, I believe there is light at the end of this tunnel. I need to release my fears and embrace gratitude for the blessings that are in my life. Being a positively natured person, I fill my thoughts and intentions with what I want my life to be — a purposeful one. I wish to have abundance, joy, laughter, and fulfillment in my life. I wish to be bold, show limitless compassion, be able to forgive, and have gratitude in my life. Most of all, I want to love and be loved, for who I am.
Maybe by signing these final papers, that one pen-stroke away from finalization, my spirit will be free to fly again. Thus, I wish to once again bloom, blossom to my fullest, and have faith that the best is yet to come!
Underneath all this, I don’t regret loving this man for the over 40+ years we’ve been together. I have grown, and am honored for what we had all those years together. A part of me will always love him. But now I know that I must release this relationship for the love of me. Hence, I must let go and allow myself to grow, flourish, and begin fulfilling my own dreams and desires.
I will follow my heart where it leads me. It has always led me in the right direction. While my path may zig-zag at times, I know that somehow I will find my way and my true calling.
I thank the Universe for all that has been given to me, all that I am, and all that I will be. Use me, God. I am open and ready to be your channel for whatever purpose you have in mind for me!
My heart is ablaze and I’m ready for the wonderful challenges that lie ahead in this magnificent journey called life. Nothing separates me from that once I sign these papers. Also, I believe this whole-heartedly! Most noteworthy, I am beginning to believe in myself again, and in all the love I will bring into this world.