The author kindly offered to waive her fee for this piece.
Ideally you should begin this process approximately ten years before you plan to get divorced by meeting the best person you have ever known and marrying them. If you plan to get divorced in less than ten years, don’t worry! Many have accomplished this work on an accelerated schedule.
Give and receive affection, accrue memories and experiences, come through struggles, share joys, have a child. Above all, make sure that at some point, things get really weird and you behave poorly. Resent as often as you are able. Misunderstand and be misunderstood. Try several couples’ therapists. Remember, they do not want to help you. They are on your spouse’s side and just want to change you in ways that feel inauthentic.
Move out then back in. It is a slough of desperate love and battery acid. Strange species live there. Just. . .just suffer and cause suffering. Just suffer and cause suffering. Move out then back in. Move out then back in. Misunderstand and be misunderstood. Just suffer and cause suffering.
There are pools of clear water when you are on the couch together and you are reading; some peace. Reading alongside, you are not a corroded robot slough snake; you are a person and a spouse. (Ok, a wife. Ok. Ok, ok ok ok. You’re Carrie, you’re my ex’s ex before we were exes. You’re me. This is about me though you didn’t hear it from me because I’m not one to gossip. Resume second person indicative/imperative.)
Read. Read read read read read. Read. Dickens is good, those tend to be long and engaging. Zola is good there’s A LOT of Zola that’ll buy you time. Stendhal. Pop science and history. Long old books. IMPORTANT CAVEAT no new fiction or memoir unless you want to remember you’re not a human OR a writer. No poetry it ends too soon and you have to think about it. God, no self-help. As if there were a self to help! As if.
If you are home, you are reading or crying. Read, cry, be somewhere else. Read, cry, be somewhere else. Read, cry, be somewhere else. Read, cry, be somewhere else. Read, cry, while crying ask
him your spouse to brunch, that’s a thing, right Ask him your spouse to do a thing that’s a thing. Brunch. He Your spouse does not want brunch, he your spouse wants a divorce. That’s also a thing. It has that but not much else in common with brunch. You have married someone worth marrying, remember, and there is love and you could try forever but there is a child, remember, and her the child’s own words are coming to her the child and mind is real and he your spouse says she your child should not have to think this is what love needs to look like, trying forever, reading, crying, being somewhere else. He’s Your spouse is right. You married someone worth marrying.
Freak THE FUCK OUT for three days and then be fine. It was coming. The grieving happened. Move in with your folks. They are good folks. They are a big help with childcare. Work. See friends. Get Tinder. See friends on Tinder. Delete Tinder. Get Tinder. Delete Tinder. (Whether or not one gets Tinder a third time is the focus of much cutting edge research and scholarship, but no definitive conclusion has been reached.)
Your therapist is puzzled. Frankly, she has never seen anyone cope with divorce with such perspective and even temper. You are intact amidst chaos.
Hey now, didn’t you like to read? Wouldn’t it be cozily decadent to read a nice chewy novel in your linen pajamas in your beautiful, azure room in while your sweet child sleeps a few feet away? Have you read Persuasion? You can’t remember. Why don’t you start with that.
It is an old hardcover copy. Open the cover, hear the canvas spine stretch and crack.
You are in a slough of desperate love and battery acid. You miss
him your spouse terribly. You miss him like he missed you when you were with him.
You miss the thing you were trying to resurrect—did resurrect?—when you read with him your spouse in the empty times. The thing. Gently abiding? A thing. Some thing.
Close the book. Maybe test it a few more times. Reading. Each time, the slough, the robot snake, the grief. Why bother. There is enough world out there without the world in those. You have real people. You love real people.
Get sick, eventually. It goes to your brain. It’s not supposed to stay there but what does anyone really know about brains? A lot, probably but you don’t know because you don’t read about it.
In any case, your brain does not know anything about brains. You wait baffled at the bottom of down escalators, trying to go up. You need to read a form and the letters barely make words and the words certainly don’t make sentences. You have to turn to the stranger behind you. “Can you read this to me?” You are able to grasp scraps of meaning in the sounds. You can sign this form.
Some time. Less sickness. Bits of brain start to settle where they will, mostly where they were before. Moving in space is still tricky, but you’ve always been clumsy; maybe you just notice it more now. Feelings are ok. Color comes back to your lips and fingertips. Your ex brings your
daughter child by for her the child’s days with you. His Your ex’s finger is cut and feeling appropriately friendly and tender you go to get something for it. A band-aid, some ointment. Returning it to the cabinet you idly read instructions on the band-aid box. You idly read. You read. read. read
Carrie Hill Wilner is a writer.