Irreconcilable Differences

On the night before BlogHer, Sophia and I filled out the paperwork.  There were four forms to complete.   It was more complicated than I thought, forgetting for a moment that filing for divorce is a serious legal matter and not an episode of “The Marriage Ref.”  The moment was friendly, but tense, not unlike the times we attempted to complete the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle together.

Filing for divorce.   We peeked into my blog archives and discovered that we have been “separated” for six years, coming back and leaving each other more times than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.  It was time.

We enjoyed a quick nice laugh when we came across the options you could choose as the reason for the divorce –

A) Irreconsolible differences.

B) Reasons of insanity.

Yes, I want a divorce because my SPOUSE IS CRAZY!

The next day, I put my luggage in the car, ready to go to San Diego.  But before I left LA, I drove to the courthouse.  I stood in a long line outside the court, hanging with my peers, the gang members and rapists of the City of Los Angeles.  Apparently, getting a divorce puts you in the same line as an armed robber.    I got patted down by a burly police officer after going through the metal detective, proving that ending a marriage requires a symbolic ceremony as traditional as breaking the glass under the chuppah in the beginning.

The clerk at civil court clerk’s office was an androgynous woman with short blonde hair in the style of Annie Lenox, circa 1985.  Filing for divorce is as glamorous as going to CVS pharmacy to pick up some Q-tips.  I handed the clerk the forms and paid my $390.

The only setback was that I couldn’t hand in Sophia’s papers on the same day as I did mine.  She had to be “served” by a third party, much as they do on “Law and Order.” Oh yeah, and another $390.  You would think with such a high divorce rate in California, the state wouldn’t be bankrupt.

I left the court feeling good.   The process was only half completed, so the full impact of the action hadn’t yet hit.  Why worry? I wasn’t officially filed yet.  Or divorced.  If a meteor slammed into earth that day, I would die a married man.

I enjoyed BlogHer, only mentioning the filing for divorce with a few close friends.  It didn’t seem appropriate to make a public announcement during the Keynote Speech.

When I returned from San Diego, we asked a friend to “serve” Sophia, so the process would all be official.   It was felt rather silly, as if we were playing Charades.  So “legal.”   The legal divorce was less a concern than the emotional fallout.  We had gone through a lot during our marriage — happiness, sex, laughter, anger, stress, illness, and the death of three of our parents. Clearly there was a bond. We gave it a good shot — six years after the initial separation — but we had changed over the years.  We didn’t fit together anymore.   We had become brother and sister, not husband and wife. And that is no way to live your life.

On Monday morning, we had breakfast.   Sophia asked me to go to recycling center on the way back from the court, proving that a husband’s chores never end, even to the final moment.  There was a huge collection of soda and beer bottles sitting in the garage. My first instinct was to ask her why she didn’t do this herself, but I shut myself up.   Why go there?  It was the petty little snips that had done the most harm over the years.

“Sure,” I said to my wife, the person I shared so much with for so many years. “I’ll bring in the recycling stuff after I go to the court.”

I returned to court, waiting in line with a new set of gang-bangers.  The androgynous court clerk was absent, which made me sad.  I was hoping for the comfort of repetition.

The new clerk was a smiling black woman in a bright red dress. She smiled as she took Sophia’s response form and charged me another $390 dollars.

She stamped the form, and it was done.   I hoped for an uplifting good-bye, something like, “That’s it! Have a great rest of your life filled with love and happiness.”

But no.

“Next!” she announced.

I went to the car. I was feeling pretty good, even relieved.  I could now go on with the rest my life.   Even date other women!

It was time.

And then I threw up on the parking lot floor.

After that, I drove over to deliver the cans and bottles to the recycling center.

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74 Responses to Irreconcilable Differences

  1. I’m sorry that you are going through this. Sounds like two sensible, kind people who made a mature decision together, but that doesn’t take away all the pain. I hope your journey is smooth from here.

  2. Suebob says:

    Moving on is hard, no matter how you choose to do it. My ex & I dated as friends for a year and a half after I moved out. It was just…convenient. Then I started seeing someone else and he got very mad. Then we didn’t speak for 3 years. Now we have lunch about 3 times a year. Weird how we work things out.

    Hugs.

  3. The Muskrat says:

    Wow…well, I hope everything in the aftermath goes well and is a positive experience for you. You seemed happy in San Diego at least!

  4. Mir says:

    Oh, Neil. I’m sorry.

    I wouldn’t wish an acrimonious divorce on anyone, but you make me realize that major challenges and hating each other may be easier than the slow drifting apart, in some ways.

    Either way, it gets easier eventually. Be gentle with yourself until it does.

    • Neil says:

      I might agree with you. I think, in retrospect, it would have been better to have done this three years ago rather than stretching it out.

      • Adrienne says:

        Maybe, but there are also advantages to knowing for sure. I divorced in 1997 (Yes, I was 12.) and I’ve always been very grateful that, even though that last year-and-a-half was a nightmare, I stuck it out so that I knew for sure. The grieving is always difficult, but to compound it with doubt makes it so much worse.

        Here’s to healing, which hurts like a motherfucker at first but does get better eventually.

  5. Deborah says:

    I think the part that jumped out at me the most was your wise observation that it’s the little things, the petty snips over the years, that do the most damage. I hope I can hang on to that and remember it when I’m ready to lash out and take the easier road. Here’s hoping going forward that you’ll find that happiness you’re looking for. And that the CCTV cameras didn’t capture you vomiting–I wouldn’t put it past them to send you a ticket for that in the mail.

    Hugs to you.

  6. mmrilla says:

    The throwing up is part of it. I threw up when my now ex and I decided to separate, and on the day we filed for divorce (together–different country, different rules) I cried in the elevator to the courthouse. Even when it’s the right choice, it’s brutal.

    To new beginnings.

  7. I’m glad it has come to a conclusion. You have been separated for as long as I have known you. I’m looking forward to reading about Single Neil’s adventures. Oh, and seeing him in person the weekend of 10/21 when I am in NYC visiting Jen14221.

  8. Elisabeth Donato says:

    So sorry it would have to come to this, but I got the feeling way back when that this ending was inevitable. I have been separated from my husband for over 12 years now, and we are still not divorced (in fact, we file a joint Federal Income Tax Return!). It’s a bit surreal… I know that, some days, we’ll be divorced, and it will be a tough day, even after this long a separation.

  9. Ingrid says:

    Take care. Heal. Love again. I’m sorry that you had to go through this, but happy for you that it is over.

  10. wendy says:

    oh Neil,

    Always what I have admired about you, truth, humor and pain all wrapped up in comic book paper with a crooked little bow. This is a man to love.

  11. pia says:

    My ex threw up before the wedding. Should have been a sign. He’s one of my best friends now. I think some people are made to be forever friends not spouses
    I hope that you and Sophia are.

  12. slouchy says:

    You two are so much more mature than my own parents ever were at the time they divorced, and after. I guess it helps not to have had children, but still. If there is a right way to do this, then you two illustrate that way.

    I was so moved by this post.

  13. I’ve been going through a break-up for 6 months. still living together still trying at stuff. I don’t think I could make it 6 years. However, I will say when I divorced 20 years ago; I threw up too.

    I’m actually happy for you Neil, time to do something new.

  14. All Adither says:

    What a long road you two have been on together… it’s healthy that you’re both moving on, but not easy, I’m sure. Heres to exes who are good friends and do favors for each other like recycling bottles and cans.

  15. Briar says:

    I’m sorry, Neil.

  16. I never understood your relationship, but I hope this leads to the next great chapter of your life.

  17. magpie says:

    Good luck, Neil.

  18. Joe Crawford says:

    This brings me back to my own divorce those many (9 if I’m remembering right) years ago. The paperwork and courthouse stuff is so banal. It seems like there would be more fanfare or something.

    Kudos to you and Sofia for this brave and difficult step into new lives!

    I wish you and she only the best!

  19. Heather says:

    Life is never easy. I’m an expert at throwing up when there is bad news. I think I’ve puked at all the hospitals in town. And even after getting it out of my system, I still never feel quite “better.”

    Closure is tough. Because, even though it’s “over,” it’s never Really over.

    Hugs.

  20. lettergirl says:

    Oh friend, I am sorry. It reminds me of the feeling I had at the death of my grandmother, who had been sick so very long, and was not at all herself anymore. But death, when it came, still delivered a gut-punch. My heart is with you, as are my hopes for the hurt to gradually fade. Much love.

  21. Love to you and to her. Big deep breaths. xo

  22. SwanShadow says:

    So sorry to hear this rather final news, Neil.

    I hope both you and Sophia find happiness.

  23. Maven says:

    Here’s to new beginnings!

  24. V-Grrrl says:

    Good post, amigo. Good move, even if bittersweet. When you told me about this, you left out the part about throwing up in the parking lot. Here’s to new beginnings for you and Sophia.

  25. kenju says:

    I’m sorry, Neil, and I wish you both every happiness.

  26. LtripleR says:

    I can absolutely appreciate where you are coming from. Just this week, my papers were finally filed after almost a 3 year separation and almost 15 years of knowing each other. When a marriage ends it is incredibly sad (no matter what) and when you don’t hate or dislike that person, it makes it even worse to have to legally sever that relationship. How do you move on? When do you stop taking the stuff to the recycling bin…or in my case….not call them to come over and fix things or kill the spiders? (http://ltripler.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/whos-gonna-kill-the-spiders/ ) Thanks for sharing your story and as someone new to your blog, it was nice to see *I* wasn’t alone out there.

  27. alejna says:

    I was very moved by this, too. Best wishes to you and Sofia.

  28. erika says:

    i’ve never been married, but a major break up of any kind are hard. And yours has been so long and drawn out. There is something bittersweet about letting go.

  29. Lisa says:

    I wish you all the best in this new life chapter, Neil.

  30. thordora says:

    I think half the reason I haven’t filed yet is the throwing up in the parking lot part.

    Love, happy thoughts, all the best. And no more recycling.

  31. Danny says:

    It’s always sad no matter what the situation. But why so expensive? It seems to me that if you’re doing it all yourself and there are no “issues,” it should cost about $40 at the most.

  32. Megan says:

    I was always pulling for you two, but I’m glad it’s done and you can both move ahead with your lives. I hope you stay friends. xo

  33. Wishing you peace and clarity as you both head into your futures x

    I hope I get to meet you at BlogHer next year x

  34. BHJ says:

    Best last line ever, Neil. Hugs to you.

  35. René says:

    It probably won’t be the same coming from me, but:

    Have a great rest of your life filled with love and happiness.

    xo

  36. Tara Bradford says:

    Oh Neil; Oh Sophia, hugs to you both. You’ve been through so much together, I know this must be a wrench, even if it was time. Thinking of you both and hoping you go forward with joy and possibility. xx

  37. Juli says:

    Oh, N. I’m sad you threw up. I’m so so sorry. xx

  38. heather says:

    honoring everything that brought you to this point. here’s to next, friend.

  39. Stacey says:

    Hugs. I’m sure closure will be good for you both. I hope once all this is behind you, you and Sophia find happiness.

  40. Alexandra says:

    My eyes filled with tears with your last words here.

    So sad, and yet you somehow found a smile to give me after keynote.

    You were the first one to recognize me at the reception, and say, “nice job! You sounded like you’ve done this before.”

    I know you knew I hadn’t, but you were so kind.

    What a good man you are, Neil.

  41. Throwing up sounds about right.

  42. Tina says:

    Sorry to hear this, Neil. Glad you both are being grown ups about it, but it still stings like crazy.

    The good news? Divorce gives you a boundary for what *not to do. Just me? Must work, because I am going on 22 yrs for my second try at marriage.

  43. Roxanna says:

    Oh, Neil. I’m so sorry. I was rooting for you guys, but I wish you both bright new beginnings.

  44. Yuliya says:

    This was so hard to read and I am so sorry.
    The upside is you DID seem to enjoy yourself in San Diego and it was such a treat to meet you in person.

  45. Jack says:

    Here is to new beginnings.

  46. Neil, here’s to hoping that, for you, NEXT year’s BlogHer is not immediately preceded by momentous and difficult life events like divorce and death. You carried on admirably in spite of it all.

    My first husband and I divorced, and even though it was so clearly the right thing to do, I remenber crying and falling apart the first time our anniversary date came up after we were split.

    So since the clerk didn’t, let me tell you: Have a great rest of your life filled with love and happiness!

  47. Deer Baby says:

    All the best to you, Neil.

  48. Nance says:

    I was going to say that it would have been great if there would have been a Drive-Thru window for all of this, but then I got to the throwing up part. Vomiting in one’s car is The Worst. So…no, then. Onward, Neil. Be of good cheer.

  49. VDog says:

    Oh honey. So much strength & hugs to you.

    I hope you can find joy in the very near future.

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