Find Your Voice

Often during the process of divorce we feel beaten down and tired of the constant arguing and bickering over dividing up all of the “stuff” that we find ourselves acquiescing, just to find some peace. Others that thrive on drama and are coming from a place of resentment may do the exact opposite and fight over stupid things like who’s going to get the DVD collection that’s been collecting dust on the shelf for 10 years.

Personally, I didn’t have that experience because all I wanted was to keep the kids in the house and all the “stuff” didn’t really matter to either of us.  Of course my ex wanted me to sell it because he thought we couldn’t afford to keep it, but the alternative was trying to find a condo that fit three kids and a big dog that would cost just about the same as the mortgage.

I remember sitting in the mediator’s office one day because we had both agreed to try and keep it civil and have a “collaborative divorce” but he was so angry about me wanting to keep the house. He actually told the lawyer that he wanted a contingency that I could not have another man in the house.  The lawyer just laughed at him and said, “She could have an orgy in that house and you have no say in the matter.” My eyes widened and I looked at the lawyer in shock. I was a little taken back by that statement and offended by the analogy he used, so he quickly changed his tune and said that his point was that after the divorce he would have no say on how I lived my life and vice versa.  That just made my ex even more upset, so I reminded him that he knows damn well I would never have other men around our kids and that I’m not that kind of woman. He started to get a little belligerent and stormed out of the meeting. So much for collaboration!

After a while I was able to calm him down and reminded him that I would have to get my own lawyer if we couldn’t come to an agreement, so we went to another mediator.  By that time, I was exhausted and just wanted there to be peace, so I caved. Something I regret to this day.  I made half of what he made and although he was generous enough to give me 5 years of alimony that would help with the mortgage, I still got the short end of the stick.  I knew it would be a struggle to keep the house, but I just didn’t want to uproot the kids…they had been through enough already.

I agreed to taking on more of the debt, that I didn’t even know existed and I kept the house that was under water. Basically I screwed myself to have a “collaborative divorce” and keep our relationship cordial. He was a difficult man with a hot temper, but I knew how to keep him calm—I had mastered it all those years by stifling my voice and swallowing everything I wanted to say to him.  Until now…

It took me hitting rock bottom, losing my job, losing my house and not having him around to help support the kids, to find my voice.  I had been swallowing the truth about how I really felt and how overwhelmed I was for 5 frickin’ years. Until one day, last Fall he sent me a text from overseas telling me that I needed to come up with the mortgage payments and to take this seriously because it was impacting his credit.  I was LIVID!  I’m not taking this seriously??!! Are you fucking kidding me! I’m over here taking care of everything having a nervous breakdown and you have the nerve to tell me to take it seriously?? Mind you, he had just come back from an expensive vacation all over Europe with his new wife, while I’m barely making enough at my new job to buy groceries.

So, I found my voice and called him a selfish bastard and it felt SO good. I never wanted to be that person and I certainly didn’t want to sound like the bitter ex-wife, but this was affecting my kids and we were really struggling. I just couldn’t sit back and let him act like this wasn’t his responsibility.  All those years of keeping quiet, trying to play nice were over.  I had built up so much frustration and resentment that he gets to walk away and enjoy his new life with his new jaguar and fancy vacations not giving a shit about his kid’s well-being.  His response was predictable and he lashed out at me– he even had the audacity to say that “I don’t appreciate anything and he does so much for me and the kids,” but now all that is over because I stood up for myself.

The funny thing is he really believes that he’s done so much for me and the kids. But, everyone’s perspective is there to ease their conscious I suppose. Sure, he helped me out a few times with the car or fixing something at the house, but perhaps that was out of guilt because he knew I was doing everything on my own and he also knew he should have been giving me a hell of a lot more for child support after his big promotion. But, I wanted to keep the peace so I never said a word.

Now, trust me, I never wanted to use this blog to bash my ex-husband, I only wanted to speak my truth and use my story to help others going through the same pain and frustration. I don’t mean to rant or make my ex out to be a bad person, because he’s not. He’s doing the best he knows how and deep down I know he has a good heart. I shared this story with you to help others find their voice.

Not to start fights with your ex-spouse, but to tell you how important it is to speak your truth and express your pain.  If you don’t, it will manifest in other ways. You may become self-destructive, sick or act out towards others because of misdirected anger.  It may be directed towards your kids or your family. You may lose sleep, drink too much or overeat to try to mask your feelings (I’m certainly guilty of that). We can’t help the way we feel, but if we stuff it down it will make us either turn into a really negative person or really lose our shit.

Swallowing your pain will only create more pain for you and lead to depression or worse. I know some of you may want to have a good relationship with your ex, but is it a good relationship if you’re the one walking on eggshells not expressing what’s bothering you to avoid an argument? No, that’s a one sided manipulation and trust me you’re fooling yourself if you think that “everything is just fine”.  It’s not. It’s killing you inside and you need to find a way to let it out. Even if it means things might get a little messy.

Now, don’t do what I did and lash out calling him/her a selfish bastard. Sure, he deserved it, but that’s no way to voice yourself. I was at my breaking point. I had put up with his bullshit for my entire adult life. I just exploded because I was burning the wick at both ends and took on the entire responsibility by myself. I did it to myself because I was strong and independent, but when everything was crumbling beneath my feet, I had never felt so scared and alone in my entire life. I was broken.  I still am.

“You may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I’ll rise”   ~Maya Angelou

This is an excerpt from my favorite poem by Maya Angelou. It is a beautiful expression of resilience and strength. I carry it with me to remind me that I will always rise no matter what life has thrown at me and I will never let anyone stifle my voice ever again. Now, rise up and use your voice.

With Faith, Hope and Love

~Teresa

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