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Divorce Dialogues: 'The First Year Was Hell'

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Guest blogger Kate Meyers: William Roth is a communications entrepreneur. His first marriage lasted fourteen years. His children were 13 and 9 when he divorced. He's been happily remarried for nine years.

upset man
momlogic: Why did you get divorced?

William Roth: My grandfather was dying, and I went down to see him and had an epiphany that if I were to die, I would not be happy and I would look back at my life with regret. And that started me in a chain of thinking that led me to eventually realize that I had to do something. I didn't know what it was, and that led me on an internal journey. Divorce wasn't the first option. I thought maybe I should just take care of myself and do what I could to make myself happy, or maybe I should find love and friendship outside of the marriage. So I was thinking about that, and with all those possibilities, I ended up in therapy because it was confusing which one was the right path. I was thinking that I wasn't doing anything -- just stewing about it all the time. Like trying on different hats. Another option was [to] recommit myself and try harder, and I did try that. I hate saying this because it sounds so trite, but I had to try and know that I had tried everything I could to make it work. When that didn't have any results, then I knew it was time. The decision came at three in the morning. We were scheduled to go to couples therapy the next day. We were not strangers to therapy. I woke up and realized that it was a sham, and I knew that we were spending money and time to keep a marriage together that shouldn't be together. And she actually agreed with me. In some ways, I was fortunate I never had guilt, second thoughts, misgivings. I had the cleanest of hearts about the decision. I also had the epiphany, "All the things I'm not getting, she's not getting, either."

ml: What the hardest part about that decision?

WR: For me, it was telling my children, and what that was going to do to them. I went and talked to a child therapist ... before I made the decision. He said there's never a good time to do it, but so much depends on how you manage it. The therapist did warn me that my son would probably deal with the effects more immediately, and that my daughter, because she was not completely understanding, would suffer later on. That's exactly what happened, and it helped me keep my eyes open. We both had the kids in therapy for a year during the divorce, and that was helpful. Occasionally, I would to talk to the therapist as a parent about how to handle certain situations. The first year was hell. I feel badly for the pain that I caused my kids and the work they had to do. Sometimes it's still uncomfortable, because their mom does not speak to me.

ml: How did you feel about the divorce personally?

WR: I went from [living in] a beautiful showcase house to [living in] a little dump, and I thought it was paradise. Almost immediately [after] I moved out, I was so happy I was dancing to music by myself. I actually felt that happiness was going to be an option in my life for the first time, like I was in college again. That I was moving through the world exactly as I wanted to. When I moved out, I got so excited about myself again. I knew that it was the right decision for me.

ml: How did you work the co-parenting schedule?

WR: I had [the kids] every Wednesday night, every Monday night and every other weekend. I had them for breakfast and took them to school so I could see them every day. We wanted to give them continuity and I had always woken up with them, given them breakfast and taken them to school, so I did that for the next four or five years. Mostly, I wanted to reassure them that I wasn't going anywhere. Eventually, we went to a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule.

ml: What was the best thing to come out of the divorce?

WR: As my dad said to my [current] wife, many years later, "Thank you for getting my son back." I think you don't know how far you've come from yourself when you're in a bad relationship until you get yourself back and your life back and your happiness back. Plus, I got the most amazing woman I've ever known. And you know, [this] also sounds trite, but I think I got to know my kids better than when I was in the relationship [with their mother]. I had different responsibilities and roles that I had to learn [after the divorce], and it changed my life profoundly. We've had so many tough conversations about life and love that we never would have had before. And I feel really strongly that they're OK.

next: My Four Husbands
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