This month, if all goes as planned, my divorce will be finalized. It’s going to cost me about $10,000, give or take a thousand.
I never expected to have to spend that much on this divorce. When we first agreed to separate, there were a few minutes where we spoke logically and soundly with each other about things like custody and visitation and separating our belongings. We talked about appropriate and reasonable amounts of money for child support and though we didn’t totally agree immediately, it seemed like we might be able to eventually. I felt hopeful that we could stay out of court and keep the costs, both financial and otherwise, to a minimum – as minimum as it gets in an event that rips your life apart.
Well about 5 minutes later, my husband rushed out to as many bars as he could find after supposedly being sober for about 20 months, and all bets of sound, logical, mutual agreements were off.
Divorce strips you of everything. Even though it was the healthier choice for me and my sons, and even though I have no doubts that this is the right decision, divorce by its very nature destroys people.
You lose your partner (assuming that’s what you had), your dreams, your sense of belonging, your sense of safety and trust-both in yourself and others, your direction, your purpose, your sanity, and your money. To name a few.
These past 5 years with my husband have been the most expensive years of my life.
When we first met, I was completing my undergrad degree. I was in the middle of a divorce from my first husband and though I was broke in real life; I’d gotten a small settlement from my divorce. My now almost ex-husband saw that as an opportunity and I quickly became his sugar mama.
He did it sneakily and I never really noticed that I was paying for so much. We’d go out and he’d say, “Can you just put this on your card?” And being the sick, lost, co-dependent little mess that I was, I agreed.
I wanted to meet him where he was. I wanted him to see that I was a caring, loving woman who had his back in hopes that he’d do the same for me. So I paid for things. I bought his alcohol. I took care of him. I bought his groceries. I cooked him food and bought him meals. I paid to take him places. I put gas in his car. I acted like his mom because his wasn’t really present.
After I graduated, I went to Graduate school immediately and that put us in a long distance relationship. I had student loans for grad school and I was working part-time. So I had a little bit of available money and rather than being smart with it, I used it to support myself and my boyfriend’s alcoholism.
I drove the 2 hour drive to see him every single weekend because he couldn’t carve out the time to make it up to me most of the time. I paid some of his bills when he couldn’t. I picked up all the bar tabs each weekend. I paid off one of his loans. And I paid for all my own expenses of living in DC…which was A LOT!
My loans that year paid for my school but they mostly paid for my boyfriend’s lifestyle. We blew through $40,000 of student loan money in 1 year.
Saying that all now makes me sick. I’m not asking for sympathy on those choices because they were dumb and very misguided. I get that. Nonetheless, they were expensive choices. Expensive choices I am still very much paying for.
As the years went on, things got even more expensive.
Marrying an alcoholic really sets you up for a lot of dirty duty. You’re the constant cleaner upper of all their poor decisions. You don’t have to be if you’re someone with boundaries and self-respect, but since at the time I was in a severe deficit of those things, I fell into the enabler trap hard-core. And it cost me everything.
I spent the next years feeling like I was just cleaning up someone else’s messes all the time and somehow being punished for it in my own life. He never seemed to have any consequences. It was always me. It still feels that way.
So between the loans and the credit card that everything got placed on-to include my own wedding ring which I bought for myself, along with his poor financial decisions and a period of constant buying, selling and trading of things like cars and guns behind my back, we racked up a pretty big financial debt.
Of course the debts weren’t all financial. In fact, the heaviest debts were the non-financial ones.
It’s the emotional debts that seemed to cost the most over the years.
The constant hits to my self-worth. The endless nights of worry and fear for whether or not my spouse would come home or if I’d get a phone call at 2 am saying something bad had happened. The fights that always ended in blame and manipulative twists to make everything my fault. The emotionally abusive comments and the daily striving to not step on the wrong hole of this land mine I lived in.
And bigger than all those things, it was my heart that was the most expensive. All my love, all my worth, all my effort, all my time. He had it all. But he didn’t really want any of it. So he used it up. He took it all and kept the useful parts to himself and threw the rest away.
I poured everything I had into him. And he took it all. 5 years and too many thousands to name, here I stand. Emotionally and financially bankrupt.
BUT, not entirely.
This relationship has cost me more than I ever imagined in my wildest nightmares. But it’s also given me more than I ever could have dreamed.
I spent a long time not understanding or seeing my value. I cheapened myself to match what I thought I deserved. And it cost me too much. But after all that I paid in, I realize now I am in no way walking away empty-handed.
It may have cost me nearly $100,000 or more to find it, but I finally know who I am. I finally know what I’m worth.
Knowing that I am enough and I am worthy is a priceless gift. So for that, every dime was worth it.