the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

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.


  1. Nancy Davis Kho

    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

    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.


  3. The Muskrat

    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!

    • Neil

      Oh, and YOU have the coolest wife. Might start reading her blog more than yours.

  4. Mir

    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

      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

        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

    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.

    • Neil

      ha ha, that is so true. I did clean it up, though.

  6. mmrilla

    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. Peeved Michelle

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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. Chantel Williams

    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

    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

    I’m sorry, Neil.

  16. Amy in Philly

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

    • Tiff

      Me neither, and me also.

      The best to you Neil, and Sophia too. You both deserve happiness.

      • Amy in Philly

        Hopefully this definitive action will help you define your future.

  17. magpie

    Good luck, Neil.

  18. Joe Crawford

    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

    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.


  20. lettergirl

    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. sweetsalty kate

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

  22. SwanShadow

    So sorry to hear this rather final news, Neil.

    I hope both you and Sophia find happiness.

  23. Maven

    Here’s to new beginnings!

  24. V-Grrrl

    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

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

  26. LtripleR

    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? ( ) 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

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

  28. erika

    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

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

  30. thordora

    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

    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

    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. Karen (miscmum)

    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

    Best last line ever, Neil. Hugs to you.

  35. Maggie, dammit

    Oh, Neil.


  36. René

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

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


  37. Tara Bradford

    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

  38. Juli

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

  39. heather

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

  40. Stacey

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

  41. Alexandra

    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.

  42. just words on a page

    Throwing up sounds about right.

  43. Tina

    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.

  44. Roxanna

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

  45. Yuliya

    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.

  46. Jack

    Here is to new beginnings.

  47. Varda (SquashedMom)

    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!

  48. Deer Baby

    All the best to you, Neil.

  49. Nance

    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.

  50. VDog

    Oh honey. So much strength & hugs to you.

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

  51. anna ~ random handprints

    i like that you went to the recycling center, and that you did without complaint. i’d like to think that kind of civility would be the mark of every split. and clearly, some very good karma is coming your way.

  52. anymommy

    To sad endings and new beginnings. You and Sophia’s story has been a huge part of my blogging life. I wish beautiful things for you both.

  53. Sarah

    Neil, I want you to have a great rest of your life filled with love and happiness.

    Change is hard, even when it’s positive. Here’s to new beginnings.

  54. Angella

    I read this the other day and wasn’t sure what to say, because I can’t say “me too.”

    I can say that I think you’re fantastic and I hope you have nothing but love and good things in your life. 🙂


  55. Irish Gumbo

    This hit me where I live. Sorry it had to be that way, but change is the only way forward, as mundane as that sounds.

    Peace to you, my friend.

  56. Dana

    Best of luck, love and comfort to both of you.

  57. Rhea

    As hard as it is, it will allow you to move forward in your life. Sounds like you will continue to be friends, which is a wonderful thing.

  58. Linsey

    Best wishes to the both of you. I know exactly how this all feels and the idea of a relationships changing from that of a spouse to one more akin to siblings is…familiar. SO VERY.

  59. Luda

    This stuff is very interesting to me.

    Not the divorce itself, per se, and I’m not trivializing your experience. But the throwing up part. The physical reaction to stress part. Mentally you felt fine, relaxed, relieved. But physically? Not so much.

    It’s pretty crazy stuff.

  60. Memoirs of a Single Dad

    I think a ‘good’ divorce is one that’s mundane. I wish mine were more mundane. I remember my final hearing as well. My ears were ringing because all of the blood was rushing to my head. I didn’t hear a word the judge said to me. I just nodded and coughed *yes*.

    Best of luck to you, sir.

  61. L.A. Daddy

    Hell, I’m away from blogging for 3 years and I find about this now. I should go back to ignoring blogs again.

    Sorry to hear about this but glad you’ve got some closure.


  62. Tersh

    My dad divorced 3 times, but never once in a civil manner. This post was rather refreshing. Good to know it all doesn’t have to end up in an emotional mess and that the remaining unpleasantries can be left in a car park. Welcome to singledom 🙂

  63. Al_Pal

    Ooof. So sorry.

    Glad to have met you–hopefully next time you’ll be having an [even] better time than your emotional state afforded this year.

  64. Hannah Joy

    How very civilized your divorce was! Now you need to relearn how to be you as a whole rather than as half of a couple. It takes times so don’t be too hard on yourself. Thinking and feeling all that you are thinking and feeling is normal. One day though, you’ll look back and feel completely detached from that part of your life, as if it had happened to someone else. Be well and be happy. x

  65. Ella Slayne

    Hi – I just stumbled upon your blog and it feels a bit strange leaving a comment on such a personal post but I’m going to do it anyway because I just found it so compelling and I was really moved. So “thanks” – if that’s the right word! 🙂 Ella

  66. Suebob

    One of my favorite movie scenes ever is at the end of the Year of Living Dangerously, where Mel Gibson (back when he was cute and not a psycho) was leaving the country as it collapsed into chaos around him. It was practically a riot, yet the person at the counter still stamped the passports slowly, calmly. Even when the world is ending, paperwork must be processed.

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