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Joy’s Divorce Story

The year my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary is the same year I got divorced. The oldest of eight kids, I’d been married almost 20 years at the time to a musician and entertainer. We had three high-achieving kids, two dogs, two cats, and a big house in a good school district. My writing and consulting business (www.sayitwrite.net) provided for our family’s financial needs.

 On the outside, everything looked good. On the inside, though, each day felt like a slog through thick mud, dragging me down with every move.

No matter how hard we tried, the marriage didn’t seem to be working the way we’d hoped.

My husband had been a heavy drinker when we met, and though there were periods of sobriety, his drinking grew progressively worse. As the years went by, the feeling that I’d made a mistake or that we’d gone off track and couldn’t find our way back cropped up with increasing frequency.

In the last few years of the marriage, my husband was not pulling his weight financially, and I carried that responsibility as well. I grew increasingly frustrated and resentful.

A series of wake-up calls shook me from my weary resignation. 

 A car skidding out of control on a treacherous mountain pass slammed into me, and in the instant before impact, I let go of everything and surrendered to what would be. Miraculously, I survived relatively unscathed and filled with gratitude for the gift of life.

The accident shook my belief that things would be better someday—there might not be a tomorrow to live the life I wanted.

Now was the only time I had, and as I recovered from the accident, I began to take steps toward recovery of my spirit.

I’d moved to Virginia after college, following the man I met and married just a month after graduation. That marriage didn’t last long, but I stayed in the Washington, D.C.-area, building a 20-year management consulting career with Price Waterhouse and AMS (now CGI).

I met my long-time husband at church when I joined a music group he was directing. We dated for several years before marrying; I wanted to be sure this was “the one,” especially after what I saw as my previous failure.

Like most married couples, we had our ups and downs, especially after the children came. Some strains were common to most families with two working parents living in a large metropolitan area, such as juggling work and family time, dealing with lengthy commutes and finding reliable, high quality day care.

Others, like bed rest during two of my pregnancies and a job that required international travel, were particularly stressful. We decided a more relaxed environment would be good for us all and moved to Colorado.

Unfortunately, my husband, who had stopped drinking before our oldest child was born, began again.  Due to the change in business climate after September 11, I carried most of the financial burden along with the bulk of the household and child raising responsibilities.

I was trapped in a struggle between honoring my commitment to the marriage and the family and my increasing despair.

In the year prior to the car accident, a therapist had suggested that the alcoholism in our home might be a contributing factor to some of the children’s health issues, and that it was my responsibility as the mom to take appropriate action. Shocked out of denial, I still hesitated, trying to figure out what to do.

A scene at a restaurant was the turning point that finally led me to reach out for help. A counselor suggested a program for families and friends of alcoholics, and I began attending meetings. This proved to be a tremendous source of support over the next year as I struggled with whether or not to divorce.

As our 20th anniversary approached, however, so did clarity. I nervously took concrete steps toward divorce.

Once I broke the news to my ex-husband, things proceeded quickly and relatively smoothly, thanks to the efforts we both made to maintain civility and to be fair and equitable in the untangling of our lives.

Today I’m divorced and still the breadwinner mom with sole custody of my three teenagers. We live in Colorado where I continue to run my writing and consulting business.

I love the flexibility of working for myself while being of service to my clients, but it’s also a challenge, especially now that I’m a “single” mom. In many ways life is good; in other ways, things are harder than I expected, and I’m still learning and growing.

Even though the decision to divorce was painful, today I have a good relationship with my ex-husband. The kids communicate with him frequently, though his work keeps him on the road most of the time.

I’m still a work in process, but today I’m on the right track after years of trudging, and I have moments of joy and an abundance of love in my life.

In the pages of this blog I’ll share some of my experiences, lessons learned, and ongoing struggles, offering strength and hope to other divorced breadwinner moms. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.