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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Divorce is a life-changer

Carole Townsend 

Carole Townsend 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is beginning a new blog called Food For Thought. It is available online at www.gwinnettdailypost.com/townsend.

Our children are at the ages during which they may very likely soon choose life partners. My husband and I are both divorced, and I’m grateful to say our blended family is healthy and happy 12 years into the union. But I have to be honest and say that I sincerely hope and pray that none of our four children ever has to endure the awful ordeal that is divorce.

A very wise man once told me that a man marries a woman hoping (and believing) she’ll never change, and a woman marries a man thinking (and believing), “Oh I can fix him. He’ll change.” And they both end up disappointed.

I have several girlfriends who are currently in various stages of the dissolution of their marriages. Some are just entering the choppy seas, some are floundering for their sanity and dignity in the middle of the ordeal, and some are just coming out on the other side, sadder, infinitely wiser, and wondering what on earth happened along the way.

I think a lot of our friends are now finding their children grown and are grasping for some sort of new purpose or meaning, or they’re looking for a spark of excitement they haven’t felt in a while. After all, raising children is an all-consuming, grueling, long-distance marathon. As one psychologist put it not too long ago, it’s like getting pecked to death by a chicken. Not very glamorous. When we near the finish line, or when we reach it, we sometimes get scared or think, “Now what?”

Different people deal with divorce in different ways, and I am truly fascinated to see how divorce has affected some of my friends at this “mid-life” stage of life. One has set about undergoing every cosmetic procedure under the sun because, as she frankly puts it, her husband left her “for his 12-year-old secretary.” Somehow, a complete makeover is helping my friend regain some of her dignity. I first noticed this when she and I met for coffee around Thanksgiving last year, and her sweaters fit more, um, snugly. Then around Christmas, her lips plumped and her chin tightened up. Now, her eyelids are so tight she looks like she’s perpetually surprised. I asked, and I have her permission to share these details.

I finally had to just come out and pop the question. “Are you having work done?” She confirmed that yes, if it can be lifted, tucked, tightened, plumped or extruded, she’s changing it. I asked her if she was making all these changes so that she’d feel more attractive to other men, and I thought her answer was profound. Yes, she wanted to be more attractive, but not to other men. For herself. And if it works, good for her. She and I can laugh about the Barbie-ish appearance she is assuming, but we laugh even more about the reaction she gets from — you guessed it — older married men.

I have other girlfriends who cope with this mid-life upheaval by leaning on anything from denial to alcohol to hate to shopping. Between attorney fees and 22 percent interest credit cards, they’ll likely never dig out of debt. The point is, whether you’re the spouse who wants the divorce or not, it’s tough. While I knew I had to divorce for many reasons, that did not make the decision or the fallout any easier to deal with.

I’m always amazed when I hear divorced couples say they’re still friends, or that their divorce was “amicable.” Why on earth wouldn’t you stay married then? Why put a friend through that nightmare? And if there are children involved, why put them through it? They have a very hard time understanding. But if it’s really possible, I’m glad.

Now I am obviously not one of those people who says that couples should never divorce. In instances of abuse of any kind, I don’t believe staying in the marriage helps spouses or children. In fact, I think it harms them further. In instances of infidelity, I know there are people who can get past that, but I’m not sure I could. Too many diseases out there, and trust is a hard thing to earn a second time. But if a couple just gets sick of each other, or if they’ve “grown apart,” I always like to believe that some work and counseling, maybe a couple of ego checks, can get things back on track. The alternative is so hard, and the only winners are the attorneys.

Incidentally, I am driving my reconstructed girlfriend home from another cosmetic procedure tomorrow. She’ll be the first to tell you that at this point, she looks like a quilt if she’s not wearing makeup and clothes. But I love her dearly, and I will drive her home from many more procedures, as many as it takes to make her feel like she’s OK again.

Women aren’t the only ones who feel the pain of divorce, of course. We have friends — men — who are completely lost without their former wives. Some wonder what they did wrong; others nurture hatred and revenge until it consumes them. There’s so much hurt and misunderstanding and fear that otherwise sane adults just have a terrible time figuring out how to cope.

Have you been through a divorce? Do you have advice or encouragement to share with readers?