My boyfriend recently finalized his amicable divorce, but I am more wary than ever. What are the emotions one goes through after divorce and what sacrifices are required on my part? It's a little long - thanks in advance for reading.
posted by gardenbex to Human Relations (23 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend just finalized his divorce from his ex-wife. They have known each other close to 20 years: dated for 3 years, broke up and dated other people for 6 years, and got back in touch and married (lasted 10 years). They do not have children. The divorce is amicable - no cheating, lying, or huge drama, but by the looks of it, two people who respect each other but decided the marriage wasn’t working.
The reason for the divorce is that, while being good friends, they wanted different things from a relationship. In fact, he tells me that his ex is a good person and good teammate - dutiful and selfless and steady in crisis - but had zero emotion, no interest in maintaining a romantic/marital relationship, no needs for affection or intimacy, and generally wanted to be left alone. During a good 2/3 of the marriage, they lived on separate floors in the house, didn't go on vacation together, and generally lived like roomates. After campaigning for change and putting up with this arrangement for 6 years, he asked her for the final time whether she really desired to build a real relationship and make it work, or if she wanted to separate. She chose the latter.
He and I started dating several months later and, to date, have been together for 16 months. Initially I was hesitant to date him because I didn't want to be a rebound. However, I also recognize that people and circumstances vary, and while rebounds are statistically likely, sometimes you meet an exception. I believed that my boyfriend was an exception. He pursued me in a way that a man does when he is very interested in serious relationship, he was up front with me about his ex and his divorce, he took responsibility for his part in the divorce, he didn't smear his previous relationship (by the way, this is a huge one for me - can't stand people who smear someone they've professed to love once), constantly talks about and is excited about our future together, and generally make me feel very loved through words and actions.
So what's the problem? The divorce was just finalized and the process has stirred some emotions in him. I have not been married or divorced, so I can't really understand. I happened to see a note he had written her just a few hours after the divorce was finalized - an emotionally raw time, I guess - and it said that he really didn't want to divorce, but in the end it was the right thing to do because they were separated for so long and because he couldn't make her happy. He also says that even if he remarries, he wants her to remain in his life. He feels like she is a part of his family and love will always remain. He talks about sharing too much history for them not to be in each other's lives anymore and how he hopes that she feels the same way. He had verbally shared some of these sentiments with me - that love never truly dies, that the sadness of losing an old friend is strong, that he feels an obligation toward her if she needs something because she had been dutiful and selfless toward him in the past, that he is glad that their divorce doesn’t mean the end to knowing each other but it has evolved into a friendship, etc.
People say that even the most amicable divorce is always painful and that emotions run intense, but even so, this isn't an indication that the people divorcing want to reconcile. On one hand, I understand his sense of loss, but on another, I am stunned and hurt. How many people who are divorcing tell their ex that love will always remain? How many people who are divorcing tell their ex, who they don't share children with, that there's too much history and they want to remain in each other's lives? By the way, I don't think of myself as a very jealous person and don't mind them staying in touch once in a while and catching up, but "love always" seems a little much! I feel like confronting him about my feelings on this, but that doesn’t seem like a good tactic because the best way to enforce feelings is to make them forbidden and hidden. What should I do?
I am impressed with inputs given by MeFi - mature, thoughtful responses shaped by diverse life experiences. If you went through a divorce, please share some insight on how the hell I am supposed to interpret/deal with this. Thank you very much!