I’m not bitter. I’m just smarter.
I am by no means a bitter ex-wife to be. I’m happy and I’m at peace. I realized, about four months into this eight month fiasco (with no end in sight) that I simply married the wrong man. It’s ok. We make mistakes. We move on. Despite my zen attitude towards this divorce, there are some lessons I have learned during the course of my marriage that I would like to share with any woman (or man or woman and woman or man and man) who is about to get married. These are precious gems that I wish I would have known before the marriage and not the wedding.
Follow Your Gut Instincts
Make sure it feels right in your heart. A few months before I got married, my mother in law was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. She lived for two months. During that time, my (ex)husband was obviously upset and concerned and I know that people handle these crushing situations differently, but after I saw how he “treated” her, I had serious doubts. She needed 24 hour care. His sister ran off to Florida with a drug addict and his brother lived on the West Coast. My (ex)husband was the closest and first born child to this woman and he didn’t care for her at all. He had his brother fly 2,000 miles to be with her 24 hours a day 7 days a week. On the few days that his brother went home to visit his own wife, my (ex)husband) behaved as if taking care of his own dying mother was a burden. It worried me then, and once I was diagnosed with cancer and he (literally) fled the marriage, I see the connection. I’m not saying he wasn’t good to his mother while she was alive, but he wasn’t good to her when she was dying. I remember saying to him more than once that perhaps we should wait to get married since it was so close to his mother’s death, but he insisted. I should have listened to my gut. It’s an old saying, but the way a man treats his Mother is the way he’ll treat you, and that’s just what happened in my marriage. Diamonds and sapphires during the good times, divorce papers at the first thought that he might have to take care of me physically, that a sapphire bracelet wouldn’t make my cancer go away.
Honestly, he did me a favor. I was too scared to follow through with my own plans to divorce him back in 2010 when I suspected he was having an affair and once again, he hadn’t taken care of me when I needed him most (not cancer, something more personal). Looking back on it, I wish I did, but the longer we stay married the better off I’ll be financially, so as long as we’re separated, I’m good.
You don’t have to share everything. Please, fiancees, keep your own savings and checking accounts as well as joint accounts. You don’t have to keep them a secret, but you don’t have to share everything either. I am so happy that I bought some stock on my own back in 2010 for 65 bucks a share. That stock is now worth 200 bucks a share and I have a nice little chunk of change. I always kept my own checking account, not because I felt I had too, but because it was the first bank account I opened back in college and it was sentimental to me. Besides, you don’t want your spouse knowing EVERYTHING you do with your own cash. Yes, I wrote YOUR OWN CASH. I call it “Lipstick Money”. Does your significant other really need to know how much you decided to splurge on those pair of shoes? That belt? His anniversary gift? Does he need to know that you lent your sister a hundred bucks? NO! The answer is simple. NO! Not only will this give you a sense of independence, but a sense of security as well and if you DO happen to get divorced in New York State (the only divorce laws I’m familiar with…) you have to disclose all assets anyway, so it’s not really hiding anything. And honestly, if your spouse to be has a problem with you having your own “lipstick money,” maybe you need to think about why? Is it a control issue? A trust issue? Perhaps you need to assess this before it becomes something bigger. My own (ex)husband never had a problem with my “lipstick money”, but he did have a problem with my online shopping addiction and I had a problem with his going out to lunch every single day. I think, in the end, my lipstick and his lunch evened out.
PUT YOUR NAME ON EVERYTHING “JOINT”
While it’s a good idea to have your own cash, everything else should be in BOTH names. What I mean by “everything else” is the lease or deed to your home, all utility bills, car insurance, cable TV, health insurance (hell, all insurance!), and any vehicles that you use jointly. I made a huge mistake when I first moved into my marital residence of letting my (ex)husband take over all of the bills. In some ways, it was a relief. He wasn’t PAYING for all of the bills, but they were in his name. I just found out that my name is nowhere to be found on any of the past leases to this rent stabilized apartment in Park Slope proper, and my current lease ends on November 1st.(For those of you who aren’t familiar with rent stabilization, it’s a real estate law that put a cap on how much the landlord can increase your rent every one or two years depending on your lease.) Having a rent stabilized apartment in my neighborhood is the equivalent of winning the New York City housing jackpot. But now, because my name was never put on the lease, (I swear it was, when my daughter’s father comes to pick her up later on this afternoon, I’m going to search for some old paperwork) I’m screwed. My landlady, who is a sweetheart, has to draw up a new lease in my name which technically makes it a vacancy, which technically means she can raise the rent 20%–a vacancy rate according to the Rent Stabilization laws. Since he’s court ordered to pay all of the rent, utilities, telephone, internet car, and car insurance until our divorce is finalized, he had all of the marital residence bills switched over to his address. I’m in the dark about how much it costs to run this apartment and I need to know so I can create my budget once (but hopefully before) the divorce is finalized.
Don’t Snoop…But Keep Your Eyes Wide Open
If your spouse-to-be is always on the computer, addicted to social media, has an extra “work” phone or even an office line, keep your eyes open. I always had a feeling that my (ex)husband was staying up late at night on the computer either looking at porn (I’m not against porn at all, but an addiction to it could be a red flag…) or chatting it up with other women online. The couple of times that I DID snoop, I found some shady shit. One of his college friends on Facebook, whom I noticed always posted random Shakespeare quotes on his wall, actually requested my friendship on Facebook as well. It was to check me out. He went on a “work” trip to Atlantic City one weekend and I was reading a book on his Nook, which was connected to the internet and this chick actually wrote him a message “What’s going on in AC? Anything worth traveling for?” I responded to her message “This is J’s wife. He’s on a business trip. Why do you care?” A few days later he left his Facebook open AGAIN (he had a horrible habit of doing this, maybe he wanted to get caught?) and there is a message from this woman stating “Once your wife starts answering your messages, it’s time to part ways.” Then she “unfriended him.” Fuck her. One morning I looked through his text messages and found a conversation between him and the ex-girl friend who gave him the massage I wrote about in My Funny Divorce. They were still in close communication throughout our entire marriage and I do believe he is seeing her now, although she wants nothing to do with our daughter. She’s a gem. Really. There are so many experiences I had that made me go “Hmmmmmm…” Like the night he stayed out till 4 AM and while he slept off his hangover, I went through his pant pockets. I found a card for The Bushwick Motel. When I slapped him awake with the card in my hand, he said he was cleaning out his car and stuck it in his back pocket, that it was old. We had only been married 4 months. Even before we were married, I found a receipt for condoms on the floor of his apartment (we weren’t living together yet) from a drugstore in Queens. We live in Brooklyn. Again, they were for his friend Erik.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE RED FLAGS
When I decided I wanted to divorce him in 2010, it wasn’t only because he hadn’t taken care of me during a particularly rough period in my life, it was because i suspected he was having an affair with his assistant. It was early evening and our buzzer rang. It was his assistant’s husband. He wanted to “talk” to my (ex)husband. His reaction alone alarmed me. He didn’t want to answer the bell. The man kept ringing. I was bathing our daughter, and I didn’t want a fight in our home, but I couldn’t leave to see what the problem was either. Five minutes later he was back and shaking. Apparently, the assistant and her husband had an argument which ended in the assistant telling her husband she was having an affair. I asked “who is she having the affair with, and why is he coming here?” His response? “She told him that I introduced her to the man she was having an affair with.” Can somebody say Bullshit?? Two months later, I went divorce attorney and apartment hunting. I was going to leave. I had my “lipstick money” and my mother would loan me the rest. To make a long story short, I gave into his begging. He begged and begged and begged me to stay.
In the end, it works out better for me that he filed for divorce, because he left me just as I was diagnosed with cancer, is the monied spouse and I’m doing ok–financially, physically and emotionally. I even manage to get laid every once in a while.
So brides to be, this is my almost divorced advice to you. I don’t believe that all men are bad. I don’t think they all cheat or lie or steal. I’m just sharing my experience and the little wisdom I gained throughout this ongoing process.