divorce weary

Not long after I got home from the hospital my lawyer’s secretary called me. I wasn’t sure why; things that are so obvious to Italians are sometimes not clear to me at all. Dutifully, I went to the appointment and as she ushered me into her office, she explained I was there to read and sign the final divorce agreement.

I read it over, and there weren’t too many surprises. I probably could have picked nits but I was tired and ready for it to be over. February had worn me down, and so had the winter months of infrequent, dull negotiations in which we trudged to a point where everyone had given up enough that an agreement could be reached. Besides, after my ex had been so helpful and generous while I was in the hospital, it seemed pretty tacky to drag the painful process out over something as trivial as what time he needs to have the kids home on a Sunday night and how often they are to talk with him on Skype.

My lawyer always says we are the easiest couple she has seen, which makes me wonder. If an easy divorce is this wearying, what must a difficult one be like?

Or does she say the same thing to everyone?

No matter, I signed. I was glad to be done, although we won’t officially be divorced until closer to the end of the year. It takes so long here: after three years of legal separation we became eligible to file for divorce. It is now close to four years since we split and we have a few more months to wait until a hearing is held, when a judge will ask us if we agree to the terms of the agreement, we say yes and go home and wait for the ruling, which should come no earlier than September.

In her office, my lawyer checked that I had initialled each page of the agreement, then she put it in a thick manilla folder on which someone had written our last names, mine and his, together, but separated by two backslashes //. I felt a little heavy in the chest when she closed the folder. Oh. So that’s it.

It is good that the process took so long. I think I might have had doubts or regrets about some of my choices if it hadn’t been so slow and tedious to get to where we are now. I had plenty of time to think things over, turn them this way and that, wonder, then feel the reality of the choice and see how it played out in my life, how it affected the boys, and then wait a little longer, just to be sure.

A friend of mine who does not have children told me she thought I was making a big mistake by having him around so often for holidays and other importants events for the kids. “You’re NOT a family!” she said. “You’re only confusing your children!”

I couldn’t see why she was so upset: my kids seem fine. Confused about what, anyway? She seemed more confused than we are.

Often the expectation is that what comes after love is hate, and that if a couple splits it is because they can’t stand each other anymore. But isn’t life more nuanced than that? Aren’t human beings more complex? It has been my experience that the end of a marriage is long and wearying, and divorce, if you have children, is not the end of your relationship. Until death do you part? HA! They should save that for the birth of your first child.

We are a family – not the one we’d had in mind when we met and fell in love, but a family nonetheless. I’d even argue that in some ways our separation has made us better parents. Whereas before, we saw the boys as these marvelous creatures we had made, now we see ourselves as the deeply flawed parents they inherited, which only makes us try harder to get it right. Neither of us is eager to mess up parenthood the way we did marriage.

That said, I am sick of this divorce. I am sick of thinking about it and I am sick of it being there in my life, like a big unpleasant lump I turn around and bump into. But then, I also kind of dread September when it will all be over. Because: and then what?


About Jennifer

I'm a freelance translator and American expat. I live in Northern Italy with my two young sons.
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9 Responses to divorce weary

  1. k_sam says:

    I know I said it before, but I can’t even imagine having a separation take so long. Already it was difficult for me to stay pacsed to Fabrice for 18 months after we split, until I legally had the right to stay in France of my own accord, and I didn’t even have to see him. Having it hang over me though was a constant reminder of what had had happened and the pain it had caused. But it’s true that the simplicity of unpacsing (ie. just sending a letter in to the court house) also seemed a bit unceremonious. I suppose when children are involved though, it just makes it that much more complicated because you have their lives and how things are going to affect them consider as well.

    • Jennifer says:

      The first few months were the hardest part. The 18 months you describe pacsed to Fabrice were at the beginning when it was all still very raw. It took me a long time to get to where I am now! And I have to remind myself to be civil sometimes, ha ha! I bet if you ran into Fabrice now, after being married and having moved on with your life, it would be much easier than it was a few years ago.

  2. I Say Oui says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Having been affected by separation in my family, it helps me to see how you’re working through things. I think it’s admirable how you are maintaining a relationship with your kids’ dad. How good for them to be able to spend time with both parents and see them act as mature adults. I hope the situation becomes less wearisome soon!

  3. Gil says:

    Thanks for writing this. I think that it is for the benefit of your sons to maintain a relationship with their father and his family. Especially, since you live in the same country and their father and his family have continued to be involved in their lives. I agree with you in that you divorced their father and not your ex’s family. Best of luck to you. You seem like a very strong woman and I’m sure you will make it work.

  4. Aunt Patti says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been working in family law for 15 years and can tell you from my experience that you did the right thing. I’ve seen first hand what fighting over the littlest things & bitterness does to people, and it most definitely hurts the kids the most. And, from your cousin’s experience, I wish there was more of a “cooling off” period here before couples can be officially divorced. Maybe the Italian time period is too long, but it’s way too short here. I guess there’s not a perfect length of time for anything like this!

  5. Sara says:

    We have some friends who went through a very amicable divorce about 7 years ago. We still do things with the parents and kids individually as well as everyone together and nobody has ever felt strange. It’s a breath of fresh air and the kids are really doing well. I totally agree with you – it seems your friend is the one who is confused about what is best for your children and it’s great to hear that you’re making it work.

  6. Meredith says:

    “…we saw the boys as these marvelous creatures we had made, now we see ourselves as the deeply flawed parents they inherited…” Yes, I can relate to this, just switch boys to girls…our girls are still pretty marvelous creatures, but we all have our imperfections and have to work hard trying to get it right.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Meredith! It is so good to hear from you. I hope you are doing well. Your girls must be so grown up by now, in high school and middle school!!!

      • Meredith says:

        Hi Jennifer! Yes N. is a freshman and E. is a junior…and she’s on her way towards you today. Her Italian class is going to Assise for a week and she will stay with her Italian correspondent’s family and go to highschool there for a week. I love class trips in Europe…lucky kids šŸ™‚ Will try and catch up more by email…hope you are feeling better and back out running šŸ™‚

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