Kate Meyers: Joss is an artist who grew up in New York City and was married at 23. She has three children, ages 21, 19 and 16. Her marriage ended two years ago after 23 years. She and her new partner have been living together for a year, along with her 16-year-old son. Her two other children are in college.
momlogic: Why did you get divorced?
Joss: I realized that I married the wrong person and got married for the wrong reasons. He was the first guy that asked, and I said yes because I couldn't imagine that anyone else would ask. It seemed like the right thing to do. It took a lot of work for me to learn my value and have confidence in myself. We lived all over the world, and after we stopped traveling and raising children, it became clear to me that I had been infatuated with the idea of getting married but I was never in love.
ml: What was the hardest part of the divorce?
j: Telling the kids. We decided on the phone that we were definitely getting divorced. It had been a three- or four-month thing, talking about it. And this one day, he was upset with me on the phone and said, "Well, we should just get divorced." And I agreed, because I knew that's where it was going, anyway. We brought the kids together and he wanted me to tell them, since it came from me. The anticipation of telling them was brutal, but once I was talking, I felt confident in what I was saying. I kind of already had hinted to my daughter. My oldest was freaked out and left. My daughter was worried about me, and my youngest didn't say anything. The next day, I talked with them more, and they understood. But they weren't happy, to say the least.
ml: When did you know you were going to be OK?
j: Almost as soon as he moved out and I had the place to myself. I knew he was going to torture me in any way he could and make a complete drama out of it, but I always knew I was going to be OK.
ml: When did you know the kids were OK?
I'm still not sure the oldest is OK, though I don't think that's completely the divorce
. I think it might be a combination of things. After everything hit and calmed down, it took the others probably a year. My youngest went to therapy. It wasn't because of the divorce
, but it's helped him adjust in life.
ml: How did you work the split with the kids?
j: At first, my ex decided he couldn't handle it and left for six months. He would come back and take them to dinner or breakfast. After we dealt with the lawyers, he was supposed to have them for a week and then I would have them for two weeks. My oldest was in college at this point, so it didn't really affect him. And my daughter was 18 and she chose not to live with her dad. It was only my youngest, but as soon as our court case was over, it was never that two-week/one-week split. There's supposed to be a set time, but he comes on his schedule. He's working out-of-state and he comes once in a while and takes my son out, but the kids don't live with him.
ml: What have you learned from this whole experience?
Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you give your life up to take care of your husband and your children. I tell my daughter this all the time: Just make sure that, at any time, you can take care of yourself completely. Don't count on your spouse. Also, if at all possible, I would really, really, really
try to divorce
without lawyers. They double the price and it really isn't worth it. Finally, if you're not happy in a marriage
, give it a fair shake and see if you can fix it. But if you can't, get out quickly -- don't stick around for ten years thinking it's better for the kids. The longer you stay, the more complicated your life gets, and if you end up leaving anyway, you'll have lost ten years. I think I stayed ten years too long, at least. I accept the fact that I wasn't able to leave, that I didn't have the confidence. I didn't think I had that kind of power that I could walk away.
ml: What the best thing to come out of your divorce?
j: I now have the ability and confidence to make my own decisions. I used to have an idea about things, but he was so controlling that I would balk and everything became his choice. There are things that are difficult -- it's very difficult to find out how to do all these things to take care of my own life. I bought a car, I rented a house, I do my own taxes .... I got married at 23, and I had never done any of that. My ex was always in charge. Now it's very rewarding to take care of myself. The great thing for me is, I'm making decisions, big and little. I think there are a lot of wonderful things to come, many years of them. I know it was the right choice.