I now list my status as "It's complicated." It will be complicated for some time to come, but I already know the outcome.
>Steph and I decided, calmly, without tears, raised voices, or words spoken only to be regretted later, that we will end our 14-year marriage as soon as it is practically possible. Neither of us have been happy for some time, and what will ultimately constitute happiness in our eyes differs so radically that remaining together will ultimately breed only resentment.
I wish I had the answer to when this will come to pass. In 1975, the group Tavares released a song that said, "It only takes a minute, girl, to fall in love." That is true, but to fall out of love takes many years and, in many cases, a few thousand dollars. This will be an amicable divorce. After we sign the paperwork, I can see Steph and me going out to lunch together. We are not going to enrich lawyers, because we come to the table in full agreement regarding custody for Susie (Steph will retain full custody, but I will have very liberal visitation rights and will still have a voice in decisions that affect her life and well-being). There isn't that much joint marital property, since we don't co-own a home, boat, or vehicle.
During the next few months, we will be settling financial matters, as well as making decisions regarding health and insurance. We need to satisfactorily resolve these be for we set foot in the Clerk of Courts' office to ask for the divorce paperwork. No-fault divorce is the law of the land in all 50 states (except New York, but no-fault divorce will go into effect there next month), so we can end the marriage without any finger-pointing or negativity.
Indeed, no one is the villain here. I have long realized that I would make a terrible spouse for anyone. I married Steph because I held a glimmer of hope that maybe I was wrong about that, and I was shaken by the idea of spending the rest of my life wondering. However, 14 years of marriage has proven to me that I am a person who should not be partnered. I am also coming to wonder if partnered, not-partnered is hard-wired genetically, like being left- or right-handed. When Steph and I married, many of the guests whom I invited came to the ceremony with a "This I've gotta see!" attitude. When I made a visit to Cincinnati a month or two after my marriage, I stopped in a bar I used to frequent. My former across-the-street neighbor was tending bar, and he said, "Paul, you'll never believe this. The craziest rumor's been going around Clifton about you..." He stopped in mid-sentence, glanced at the ring on my left hand, and said, "Oh, Jesus! It's true."
Surely, I had no positive role models of marriage growing up. My parents were monsters, people who had no business marrying, and even less business parenting. I tried to take into consideration that not all marriages are like theirs, but they were so unavailable to me emotionally and spiritually that I learned to draw on my own resources, maybe to the point that I am either unwilling or unable to fully ask or receive that from anyone else.
The entries I post after this one will not all focus on the divorce. Both Steph and I are maintaining our lives and our interests. Steph is returning to the choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, singing at the 9:15 a.m. services. I will continue to habituate the Sporeprint Infoshop and the events that interest me when I see them posted on the Columbus DIY message board. We remain living together, although my office is now my bedroom. (I have a twin mattress on the floor, which I upend when I am not sleeping. Or at least I will upend it once I buckle down and clean this room--I've taken a page from Oscar Madison at his worst lately.)
While mustering the words to describe this turn of events, I went and pulled down my diary from the summer of 1996, the year we married. Scotch-taped inside one of the pages, after an entry a week before the wedding itself, was a paragraph I clipped from The Discoverer, First UU's newsletter. We had mailed about a hundred invitations already, but in case we missed anyone from the church, we submitted this to the newsletter:
We mailed out many wedding invitations, and people learned the date and time as soon as the next day, or a week to 10 days later, depending on the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service and how far away from Columbus they lived. But the news of the end of our marriage, because of the Internet, traveled to people we love at the speed of light. This afternoon, Steph and I sat down, each of us in front of a laptop, and wrote the following Google Document, which we emailed to friends in our address books:
Dear Friends and Family,
It is with some sadness and some relief that we share news that we are ending our marriage as soon as it is feasible to do so, most likely within the next 18 months. We will be sorting out some financial, health, and insurance matters before we even file for the divorce and expect THAT may take upwards of six months. In the meantime, we consider ourselves to be single, simply roommates who happen to be co-parenting.
We have decided that our priorities are Susie and our respective roads to happiness. That means there will be major changes ahead for all of us, but that we will try to keep things as level as possible for Su as we can, though, at some point, we will stop sharing the same home and that will mean huge changes in her life as well. Luckily, we are all resilient as hell and will get through this just fine.
Before you all start guessing at the whys and wherefores, we will tell you that no one here has done anything really wrong. Over many years together, we have grown apart and gone our separate ways, so much so that we now find our paths lead in opposite directions. If you want to know more specific details than that, you are welcome to ask. We will tell you whatever you want to know within the boundaries of our own abilities to know. We do, however, ask that you not question Susie about any of these matters. If she wants to talk to you, she will let you know and we would be glad she has reached out to someone. But, please let her be the one to open the discussion.
One thing we can tell you for sure is that our daughter will be in Steph’s fulltime custody throughout these months and into the future. Paul will remain her loving and devoted father with all the responsibilities and rights so accorded.
The divorce will be an amicable one. While the marriage may be ending, the friendship and deep respect we have for each other is intact, if not stronger, for having made this decision. We leave the marriage with no animosity toward each other. We do not feel that our many mutual friends need to “choose sides”. We will always be a part of each other’s lives. We do ask that everyone show Susie the support and love that she will need during this difficult time to come.
Peace to All and Blessed Be!
Steph & Paul