IN THE MID – 1990S I had an initial consultation with an eighty four year old man who wanted a divorce. One of my first questions was, “When were you married?” His answer was, “1941.” I then asked, “When did you first realize you were unhappy in your marriage?” His answer? “1942”!
Our conversation took place more than fifty years after he realized he was unhappy. “Why now?”, I inquired. He replied, “I woke up one morning and realized, I don’t have much time left. I want to see what it’s like to be happy.” How sad, I thought.
For me, this brief conversation brought clarity to the threshold question that someone contemplating divorce has to answer – should I get divorced? Life is short. We can never recoup time. We can waste it or even squander it. Or, we can make good use of it.
The decision about whether to divorce is usually not an easy one. Children, finances, and family, among many other factors, should
be considered with a complete understanding that you can never get tomorrow back. Once it becomes yesterday, it’s gone forever. Another factor to keep in mind is that, no matter how well – intended their advice and counsel, friends and relatives don’t live your life. They don’t live in your house, they aren’t married to your spouse, and they can never truly understand what it is like to walk in your shoes.
Sometimes a mental health professional or a member of the clergy can help you sort things out, but be aware that they do not walk in your shoes either. Only you know what it’s like to be you and to be married to your spouse. And, ultimately, only you can decide what’s best for you. Keep in mind, though, that it’s no crime to be happy and no virtue to be miserable.
Over the years several clients have described a feeling of liberation once the decision to divorce has been made, even
knowing that the path to divorce may be a bumpy one. Nonetheless, as one client described, making the decision felt like a cinder block was lifted off her chest, though she faced an uncertain economic future and a possible custody fight. For her, just making the decision to divorce gave her a new found energy to face these other serious issues. Before she was paralyzed by fear. Now she was energized to meet this challenge.
Whether to divorce is a personal, often gut wrenching, decision. It should not be made cavalierly, but only after an honest balancing of the pros and cons.
I often saw my eighty four year old client walking in Red Bank. His gait was like the shuffle you might expect of someone his age. He walked hunched over and each step seemed like it hurt. Two weeks after he got divorced, I saw him walking along Monmouth Street. This time he stood tall, his shoulders were back, and his stride was confident and strong. I guess he found out what it was like to be happy