Divorce Survivor: Kat

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"I feel only focusing on the bad parts of your former spouse and former relationship, I don’t find that a way to help me grow."

Kat spent a total of eight years with her ex, the final three of them as husband and wife. Although her marriage broke down for a fairly unique reason, she and her ex were able to work out a very amicable split that was simplified by a non-confrontational attitude, alternative dispute resolution and not having children.

The night before the final court hearing nearly two years ago, she began a blog to help her work through the anger and confusion that inevitably comes up after a marriage ends, which has played a major role in the healing process.

Kat’s story and road to recovery shows that it is possible for marriages to break down for reasons quite unexpected, as well as some helpful tips on living with your soon-to-be ex during the divorce process and dealing with the emotional toll after it’s over.

Why did you get divorced?

Because we had no sex life at all. That was a problem that existed even before we got married, and then it only got worse. It went from once every while there would be sexual interaction, and then eventually it became literally none.

When you’re not being physically intimate with your partner, you can’t be fully emotionally intimate either. There’s a lot of silence, and it was leading to resentment. Obviously, it’s never literally about [sex], it’s always about the emotions that go with it. I felt very shut out of my own relationship.

There were also things about it personality-wise that probably didn’t make us the best fit, but I don’t know that it would have led us to divorce, or at least not that soon. It was really because of all the problems with a lack of a sex life.

Did you try any type of counseling?

Yeah, the way that we started was that we were engaged and we had gone away to a wedding that was at this beautiful inn and very romantic. I brought the lingerie, did the whole thing, but he just couldn’t. We tried, and he just couldn’t. After that weekend, I was like, “Okay, we have to do something.”

I knew that he would not go straight to therapy. So I said how about we go to a specialist to see if there is anything physically going on, you know testosterone levels or whatever. He was fine, so that doctor referred us to a psychotherapist.

We started seeing her nine months before we got married, and we went to her pretty regularly, and what was good was she was giving us homework, like being more physical with each other and journaling. We saw her separately and together, and that seemed to be helping. But then, he got a job where he was going to be away for five months, and probably the main thing that I was scared of was that we were going to derail the progress we seemed to be making.

When he got back, we didn’t go back to our therapist for a while, but we completely backslid. We got married and a couple of months later, we tried to go back to her here and there, but we weren’t making much progress.

Then, in the fall of 2010, he fell into a very, very dangerous depression, which I had never seen before. I initially thought it was about me, but turned out it was depression itself. So he said, “I think I need to go back to Alyssa.” So he went on his own for a while, and she helped him pull out of it. But, once he was sort of getting back to being normal, I was like, “Alright, let’s try to go back to working on our sex life.”

He was not having it, and the therapist didn’t know what else to do, because he wasn’t really putting in the work anymore. I found a Jungian therapist who was a guy, which I thought might help, so we went to him separate and together for another year or so. The first time I used the word divorce was in a session with that therapist.

Based off your blog, it appears that your divorce was fairly amicable?

Yeah, the worst part, at least for me, was leading up to when I realized what was the inevitable. Once I made the decision to file, I’m not saying there still weren’t tears shed because there certainly were, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I had never signed on for a platonic marriage — that may work for other couples, and that’s great, but that’s not what I wanted.

He was in such shock because he was in such denial about how serious this problem was. When I told him I had seen a lawyer, which was after I had gone and stayed with a friend for a month and I had told him explicitly that I was out of ideas and I’m giving you space to figure things out, he still seemed shocked.

Then Hurricane Sandy hit while we were still living together, so that meant for a week we had no power, which was like two weeks after we filed for divorce. So that was awkward.

But because we ended up living together but in separate bedrooms for almost a year, which was how long it took our condo to sell, I think that really helped us transition to a friendship, as strange as that sounds.

We really gave each other space. We were both very mindful of not asking each other too many questions, like towards the end of the time we were living together, I started to go on dates. He’d see me leaving, and I’m clearly not going to the grocery store, and he’d just say, “Bye.”

I think being respectful of each other’s space helped, and now it’s been a year that we’ve lived apart. We’ll go a month and not communicate at all, and then I was reading a book the other night, and thought of him, so I sent him an email. Now, we have tentative plans to get together next month. It’s really nice actually.

How long did the divorce proceedings take, and how long after did you have to live together?

I came back from staying with a friend for a month, we’ll say that was September 1. So, then in September 2012 was when I first talked to a lawyer. In October 2012 is when I filed, and February 2013 is when it was final, which is also when we put the condo on the market. But the condo didn’t sell until August of 2013. Essentially, September 2013 is when he moved to his apartment and I moved to mine.

When the divorce was pending and you were still living together, how did you make that work?

I actually wrote a blog post about this in August 2013 because people were shocked that we lived together as long as we did. One thing is thank God for separate bedrooms. I don’t know what we would have done otherwise. But I really had to force myself to not think of him as my ex-husband, like I was trying to view him as a roommate and as a person that I care about, but that I couldn’t put the same expectations on him as when he was my husband.

For example, maybe you nag about the dishwasher when you’re married, but you don’t really nag your roommate about the dishwasher. It was just trying to view him a little bit differently.

We would talk about our day and that sort of thing, but we were really careful about things like not asking on a Friday night. I think respecting each other’s privacy, and you’re so used to when you’re married talking about everything, but you’re not married so you need to accept that.

I also just view it as I don’t have any other choice; I can’t afford to move, he can’t afford to move, so we just kind of have to do this. So, if we can make my life not horrible, can’t we do that? And I have to say, because we didn’t have betrayal, or lying or cheating anything like that made it a lot — not easier, but kind of — because I didn’t hate him and he didn’t hate me. That’s also a huge factor and I totally recognize that. If he had cheated on me, I think I would have just got in my savings account and drained it to get away because I feel like he would have just nauseated me.

I guess another thing is to not scapegoat on your ex for the fact the living situation is what it is. There were times that I would get so angry and frustrated that we still live together, but it’s not his fault that the condo hadn’t sold.

Also, this is my personality and we don’t have kids so I had the flexibility, but I definitely did my fair share of making the extra effort to go visit friends, go see my parents, that sort of thing. I mean, I have some friends who don’t even live far away, but I would be like “You know, we’re going out to dinner and we’re going to have some drinks anyway, do you mind if I just crash at your place?” People will always think, oh my God, stay as long as you want. I just tried to get out as much as I could.

How did the attorney help you through the process?

The first one I talked to, I didn’t end up using her. I did a lot more research, and once I understood what mediation was, I felt like that was really best for us. We decided together to get married, and to some degree, I wanted us to decide together to get a divorce.

I really hated the idea of games of telephone, where I say something to my lawyer, who says it to his lawyer, who says it to him, and who knows how much of it is going to get screwed up in the process. The team that we used was actually a lawyer who partnered with a licensed marital and family therapist, so every time we met with both of them. I think it was more just for my ex and me, as awful and awkward as it was, it was really good just being in the same room as every single decision was made.

The other thing I liked was serving the divorce papers. It nauseates me thinking about it, but I hated the idea of him getting served at work or whatever, so they arranged to have the other person served in the privacy of their office. It felt more dignified I guess; it felt more grown up.

Why did you decide to start your blog and how did it help?

I don’t even know what made me think of it, but there was such dread leading up to that day that we went to court, I just thought, “You know, maybe this is a chance for me to try to do more of my own reflecting and healing,” so I started it the night before we went to court. I just have to say that my blog helped me more than I ever could have imagined because I have written every single week, and between my blog , the comments on my blog and a corresponding Twitter account, I’ve found so many different resources out there.

What’s hard is that so many of these divorce resources are for couples with kids in particular or these really long marriages. What I experienced being married for only three years and not having children, that is my own pain just as a couple married 20 years with three kids is a different kind of pain.

So, through my blog, it helped me kind of work through some of my anger, some of my confusion. What was really cool, is I met through my blog and Twitter a couple of other people who got divorced for the exact same reason — young women who got divorced due to a serious lack of sex life. Anyone who knows why I got divorced says the same thing: “I’ve never heard of that.” You would think of like a couple in their 70s or you would think it was the wife who doesn’t want to be intimate.

The really cool thing with my blog is that it’s created this timeline in my healing and my growth if I look at a year ago where I was, or a year and a half ago. There’s even been a couple of time where I’ve been writing a blog post and I will literally say out loud “Ohhhh!” Like, I didn’t even know why something had me so pissed off or whatever.

Any other advice that has helped you move past this sort of stuff?

I don’t believe in regret, just me personally. I will admit that if I had a time machine, would I marry him again? No, I would not. But, for one thing, that doesn’t help anything. And for another, there were plenty of good things from my marriage and there are things for me to bring into my next relationship.

As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, I really recommend (probably for men especially) focusing on their wellness. So, whatever to get out their anger — running or kickboxing, anything— finding a healthy way to deal with their anger.

I also really recommend going to a therapist. I don’t go to mine much anymore, but I found a new therapist once I knew my marriage was over just to start fresh. I didn’t want to be going to the same therapist, and that was huge too.

I feel like running, walking, spinning and yoga were all parts that helped, along with my therapist and writing. I think whatever you can do to use it to be better for the future. I feel only focusing on the bad parts of your former spouse and former relationship, I don’t find that a way to help me grow.

If I can find the lesson that I learned or the good things about him… It’s like a small thing that I am now really carrying with me when I date, I really feel my ex-husband always felt like he had hit the jackpot with me. I never wondered if he wanted to be with me. I always felt like he was proud to be seen with me, that he felt I was a good person; I didn’t have to convince him.

Now, when I date and go out with someone and feel like I need to convince this guy to like me, I’m like, “Screw that.” I remember that’s not asking too much to be with someone that makes you feel like he’s happy you’re with him and he’s proud to be seen with you.

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