I am two years into my Divorce and have found that writing has been my greatest comfort and one of the only ways I have been able to maintain my sanity.  I have decided to share my story with Divorce Angels with the hopes that I can provide insight, help and awareness for those going through a Divorce or supporting someone going through a Divorce.  I welcome your comments but remember, I am not the authority on Divorce and this is just one girls story….

The Marriage

“Nick” and I were married in our late 20’s.  We had been together for over two years and although we didn’t have the perfect relationship, we certainly loved each other and looked forward to spending the rest of our lives together. 

Looking back there were many clues to indicate how this relationship would end up but we were young and in love and not paying attention.  I always say that marriages that go the distance are just dumb luck.  How can anyone know what they want or will need in a life partner in their 20’s? And what you want in your 20’s is different than what you want/need in your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. 

I got pregnant on our honeymoon which was not in the plans.  I was finishing up my teaching certification and had great plans for my future –  none of which included having a baby.  However we rallied around it and began our family.  We have 2 beautiful girls and I am thankful every day for them.  They are the greatest product of our marriage.

I gave up my dream of being a teacher and became a stay at home mom.  I didn’t even think twice about it.  I wanted to be able to raise my kids and Nick and I decided that it made the most sense.  In retrospect, I think he liked it because it gave him ultimate control.  I needed him to take care of us and he thrived on being needed.  I was so busy with the girls that I never really stopped to notice or did I? He gave me a weekly allowance and a credit card.   Everything I did was monitored by him.  I don’t think this bothered me when the girls were little, but as they grew up and didn’t need me as much, I had issue. 

I am not sure if I would call Nick a narcissist although he exhibits many of the qualities but I would say he is extremely difficult to live with.  He would yell at the girls and I if our shoes weren’t lined up at the front door, he would freak if there was a glass in the sink.  As he got older he became more obsessive compulsive and there seemed to be a right way (read “his way”) to do everything… we couldn’t even flush the toilet correctly.  When he would walk in the door we would be terrified… fearful of setting him off and listening to his rant.  We walked on eggshells and our home was not a happy place.

Miserable, I knew I wanted to leave but I am a child of Divorce and didn’t want the same fate for my girls.  I hung on until finally I couldn’t take it any more.  I sat him down and told him it was time.  He agreed, he too was miserable he just didn’t have the balls to call it.   The reality is that he had a huge ego with little self esteem and got his way by being a bully. 

I was both relieved and scared.  I knew money was going to be an issue and that he would be difficult to deal with, but my girls were getting older and I had to show them a better way.

Guess What Girls – It’s OVER

I was convinced that telling the girls was not going to be easy.  I spent many sleepless nights agonizing on what to say and when to do it.  We couldn’t agree on a right time and it was becoming such an issue that we just sat them down and told them.  Their response was telling…  They asked us what took so long? They knew we were both unhappy and they were tired of living in an unhappy home.  I was so proud of them for speaking their mind and telling their father the effects he had on them.  They told him that he spoke to all of us rudely and that he was impossible to keep happy.  I didn’t say a word.. I let them vent.

Of course Nick blamed me.  I had poisoned the girls against him. I had over shared.  He didn’t want to take any responsibility for his part or look at himself.  I was done fighting with him and just wanted to move on.  I also wanted him to move out. J

I assumed that I could make him leave the house.  That I could change the locks like they did in the countless TV shows I had watched and that he would be gone.  Boy was I mistaken.  Not only was he not planning on moving out, his lawyer had advised him not to.  The law protects both spouses and both have “an equal right to possession of the matrimonial home”.  His lawyer? I was shocked that he had moved so fast and couldn’t believe that he didn’t tell me he was hiring someone. 

I cannot tell you how crazy it is to be so in love and part of someone for 20 years to feeling like you don’t know them at all.  I began to question everything  about our past and that was not fun.  I went over all our years together and every scenario and suddenly saw it with a different perspective.

I was soon to learn that everything I had assumed about Nick would be incorrect , and that good old Nick was going to give me a run for money.

My first visit to a Family Law Lawyer

Given that Nick had already seen a lawyer (hence the parenting plan) I knew I had to as well.  Of course it wasn’t so easy for me.  I did not have any of my own money and I had limited access to our bank accounts.  Yes we had a joint account where Nick deposited money into but that was all I had.  I had no personal credit card and the card I had from Nick had a $2500 limit.  Where was I going to get money to see or hire a lawyer?  This was one of my biggest mistakes during our marriage – but more about this topic later.

I didn’t want to but I had to go to my mother and ask for help.  I knew we owned our house so I knew I could pay her back, but I was totally illiquid. 

My best friend came with me to meet the lawyer.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to take in all the information at the meeting and she was amazing.  She came and asked all the questions and took notes.  I sat there like a deer in the headlights.  It felt surreal to me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to my relationship ending.  I just couldn’t imagine going through the whole Divorce process.  And I was scared.  Very scared about money and being taken care of and what the future would hold for me and my girls.

I don’t remember much from our initial consultation other than he explained to me my options: Litigation, Mediation, Arbitration, Collaborative Law.  I was so overwhelmed that my mind shut off.  The only real thing I remembered was that he wanted a $5000 retainer so that he could begin and that his offices were big and fancy and I found him arrogant .

I went home feeing overwhelmed.  How did I know this lawyer was the one for me? How do you ever know? I decided that I couldn’t make my decision based on one meeting and felt I needed time. 

So I went home and did my research.  I first researched Nick’s lawyer to get an understanding of how he was going to approach our Divorce.  I then sat down with Nick and asked him how HE intended to approach our Divorce.  Could we do this through mediation? Did we really have to fight? We both wanted out and I just wanted a fair settlement.

I sat Nick down and said “Let’s do this easily,  Let’s be amicable”.  I quickly learnt that amicable for Nick meant he would be amicable as long as we did it his way. I realized that he was so used to being the one in control in this relationship that achieving a fair settlement on my own would be next to impossible. I knew then and there that I was going to have to get it together and take Nick on as he believed that the laws did not apply to him.  I discussed Child and Spousal Support Guidelines with him, showed him the online calculators –  he told me  that they don’t apply to him. 

I needed to find a good lawyer (that I could afford) and quick.

My next visit to a Family Lawyer

Recognizing that I had to get it together and advocate for myself, I went on a quest to find a family lawyer that I was comfortable with and that I could afford.  I asked friends and family for recommendations.  I did research on each name I was given.  I went to Divorce Angels (hence how I got to the site and started this blog).  I found someone who was highly recommended and whose credentials checked out (on the web at least) and booked a consultation.

This time I went on my own.  I was stronger and more focused and I was ready to listen and plan.  This lawyer was more my speed.  She was a sole practitioner and her offices were quiet and calming.  I felt at ease as soon as I walked in to reception.  After hearing my story, she agreed that we had some obstacles to overcome but was quite confident we would get the right results.  I loved her honesty – she told me she was not a therapist and that as much as she would be there for me it was in my best interest to not use her that way.  She was mindful of my finances and really took the time to explain to me how I could keep my costs down.

During our initial meeting she advised me to do a couple of things that I hadn’t even thought of.  She had me change all my passwords for Social Media, Banking and most importantly my Email. 

I hired her and felt like I was in great hands.  I cannot tell you how comforting that was for me.  It is really important to find someone you connect with.  It would have been a terrible mistake had I hired the first lawyer I saw.  If I can offer any advice it would be to shop around and interview a couple of people before you commit.

Please Get Out – Please!!

Nick and I were at a stalemate.  Neither one of us would move out and neither one of us would move into the spare bedroom.  How could we possibly be separated and not just living in the same house, but the same bed? It was ridiculous and awkward but I couldn’t see another way.  I couldn’t force him to leave the bedroom and I wasn’t leaving either. 

For the first time, I actually realized how controlling Nick was and how I had given him so much power through our years together.   We were having the ultimate power struggle and I was not going to be the first to blink.  I used to do anything to keep him happy and calm. Now I was doing anything I could to piss him off.  It was a very unhealthy way to live.

I was doing awful things that were so out of my character.  At first it was thrilling and I definitely got caught up in the moment. But ultimately I was just stooping to his level and wasn’t really considering my girls.  I was ashamed of myself and knew that if I was ever going to move on, I would need to move out.

The reality was that we could not afford to keep the house and so I was delaying the inevitable.  If Nick wanted to stay in the house while we worked out the Divorce then he could.  I decided to take charge of my life (finally) and create a new home for my kids. 

We were both relieved that I called it, even though Nick wouldn’t admit it.  However through our lawyers we worked out a temporary custody and financial agreement so that I could actually move out.

Umm.. I have no credit?!

As I am looking for places to move to, I realize that I have no credit.  I don’t even have my own bank account.  I don’t know why but I had always assumed that as a secondary credit cardholder I was obtaining credit. 

I made an appointment at our bank and sat across from a “twenty something” service rep who looked at me like I was insane when I told her I didn’t have my own account or credit card. 

On My Way

Once my finances and living situation was sorted out and a schedule was in place for the kids, I finally felt like I could move forward.  I have stopped focusing on my Divorce and am concentrating on myself and my kids. 

I hope my tips help someone else going through a Divorce.  I felt so overwhelmed and truly had no idea where to begin.  I know it’s scary but I promise you – you will be okay after your Divorce.  In fact, you will be better!

Jacqueline

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