What I’ve Learned (And What I’m Learning) A Year After My Divorce » VSB

Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Featured, Theory & Essay

What I’ve Learned (And What I’m Learning) A Year After My Divorce

Dustin Seibert

 

Seems that nearly everyone agrees that 2016 was a front-to-back wack-ass year for a lot of wack-ass reasons. For me, the year took a sharp-left shit-show turn in its very first seconds. Literally.

During an otherwise wonderful New Year’s Eve wedding with my family in Detroit, my wife and I descended into the worst fight we ever had. Which is saying a lot, because we got down.

The fight ended at dawn on January 1, with her leaving me asleep in my mama’s condo to take a flight back home to Chicago (we’d driven together). A little more than a week later, my marriage was effectively over after two and a half years.

The End came not as a result of the “Big Three” – no abuse, no money problems, and, to my knowledge, no physical or emotional affairs. The events that led to our dissolution, as is often the case, are related to problems we had since the beginning of the relationship and would take longer to explain than the space I have here.

Untangling lives is an inherently traumatic experience – like sorting through the remains of a fire to see what remains intact. To this day, I miss my father-in-law and my puppy more than anything else. But even as started over in the dead of a Chicago winter, I knew losing the love of my life wouldn’t ruin me so much as it would evoke some valuable lessons.

Indeed, I credit 2016 with bringing about a personal and professional awakening unlike any that I’ve had in my adult life: I’ve learned so much about myself from being single for the first time in my 30s. Last summer was one of the best I’ve had in years, as was this past holiday season with my friends and loved ones.

But, barring my sudden and unforeseen death from a bad case of DoingwhatthefuckIwantitis, I still have a lot to learn from my “conscious uncoupling,” especially as it pertains to future relationships. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. No regrets

When we almost broke up 15 months into the relationship, shortly after we moved in with each other, I was literally on my knees in tears, begging her not to leave.

This time around, my last-ditch attempts to save us were disingenuous – her rejection of them met with internal relief. Packing up and moving out in the weeks that followed was like a dog being let off his leash, one link at a time.

The expected sleepless nights and loneliness in the first month or so never obfuscated my belief that the parting was the right thing. But even as I look back and acknowledge the early warning signs in our union, I never for a split second regretted my decision to get married. We had some fantastic times together, and I wish for all married people the finest of what we had.

2. Fuck the opinion of others

Since failed relationships happen to damn near everyone, I’m impervious to being shamed by mine; it’s like being ashamed by passing gas. 

Most people have been respectful of my divorce, offering me solace (that I never truly needed) and suds (that I was always willing to take). Anything remotely approaching judgment has come not from people who are divorced or have been married for years, but from single people still hopped up on the happily-ever-after narrative of shitty Kate Hudson romantic comedies and the divorce-is-not-an-option mindset that conveniently ignores actual divorce statistics.

Marriage requires work and effort. But when shit falls apart like a house of cards, divorce is always an option. Don’t grow old stuck in a vortex of misery because you care what people will think.

3. Dating is different now

In my 20s, I was dating to find my would-be wife and babymoms. Now, it’s much different: I’m not looking to walk down the aisle again anytime soon, but while I’m still figuring what I do want out of future relationships, there’s liberation in not being encumbered by the path to the diamond ring. It allows for a more honest flow, and I’ve experienced the most refreshing candidness when date fellow divorcees.

There’s also a maturity and swagger that develops through living with and sharing one’s life with a woman. It manifests itself in an increased degree of patience, more deliberate use of words and – in my case – a heightened awareness of overall cleanliness (I’m still scared to leave my shavings in the sink and I live by my goddamn self).

She always said that if we ever broke up, I’d be better for the next woman than when she found me. She was right about that: my conditioning has been conditioned.

4. I’ll never again sacrifice who I am

No one’ll argue that compromise is a foundational component of successful relationships, and some would say marriage ups that ante. It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between good and bad compromise, but while you can be more mindful of scraping your plate in the trash or making sure your streaked-up draws actually land in the hamper, you can’t be less social, less introverted or extroverted; or less you at the behest of another.

I made sacrifices to my personality, privacy and writing in order to stay in my union because I loved her dearly. But I came to quietly resent her for it, and slowly rebel in a way that wasn’t conducive to our marriage. Marital counseling was only a temporary fix, because not even someone who’s paid $300 an hour has the magic fairy dust to change a nigga’s constitution.

5. Marriage is a-changin’

“My parents/grandparents have been together for 40 years and I’m looking for that.”

I’ve read some iteration of this in quite a few online dating profiles. Sounds adorable, but it doesn’t acknowledge that the connubial paradigm is rapidly shifting in America. For starters, women are no longer financially yoked to their husbands as they were generations ago, when they couldn’t reasonably divorce. Combine that with an overall more gender-progressive society, and women are far less likely to endure bullshit from their husbands just to stay married. This dynamic is especially pronounced in the black community.

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, the most enlightening book that I’ve read in my adult life, examines marriage and monogamy on an anthropological level. It explains that the first humans were egalitarian and non-monogamous, and that we really started worrying about what (and who) belongs to whom with the advent of agriculture a few thousand years ago.

Essentially, the reason we struggle through making it through decades with just one muthafucka day in and day out is because we’re literally not wired to do so. Just check the success rates.

I didn’t need a book to realize that far more people get married than are actually built for our societal expectations of marriage. Gassed up on a childhood worth of fairy tales and shitfest Kate Hudson romantic comedies, far too many people learn the lesson that this marriage shit ain’t checkers the hard (and expensive) way. But I strongly believe that it’s going to continue to evolve (or devolve, depending on your perspective) in successive generations.

6. Extended mourning is a waste of time

The week or two before I moved out was the very first time in the better part of five years that I actively avoided going home. One evening during that time, as I drove through southwest Chicago, I called my mother to ask her, “Why do you think I allowed this to happen?”

Reflections on my role in the end of the marriage persist to this day, driving me from time to time to seek counsel from my mother and closest friends. Perhaps my most present ongoing fear is how I would handle truly falling for another woman, or if that’s even possible right now.

That said, I’m well past the grief and mourning period of it all. I look at people who spend, say, a year “getting over” a two-year relationship like I do people who put sugar in their grits: with pure befuddlement. We both hit these streets relatively quickly: I found her on Tinder a month after I moved out, and had a nice laugh at the knowledge that she was moving on with her life.

It’s all a far cry from the vision I once had of us: white-haired, wrinkled and watching our grandkids frolic in the grass, still as in love as we were in the beginning. Indeed, I still love her, and I always will to some degree. But there’s placidity in the knowledge that everything ends and everyone dies. We just need to rock with the good times as long as we can.

I’m too young to permanently write off marriage. And I know my capacity for love wasn’t extinguished – I still get butterflies when I’m excited about a woman, and I realize there are few greater joys than loving a woman and having her love my stankin’ ass in return.  

But since walking down the aisle again sounds like the equivalent of shoving a knitting needle full of termites up my urethra right now, there’s probably a hell of a lot of time, learning and personal experiences separating me from shopping for another overpriced rock.

Which is fine, because there may be no better time to be single than one’s 30s. So say the stamps on my passport.

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Dustin Seibert

Dustin J. Seibert lifts heavy weights and plays all his video games on hard mode to find peace. He has a better ear for hip-hop than anyone else you know. He writes like the English language is going outta style because the steaks in his freezer are dependent on it.

  • kniambi

    This is definitely your passport season–what you said about the beginning relationship issues playing into the ending of the relationship resonated with me. The freedom from that cycle merits visa stamps.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      I’d love to hear a sample of what those issues could be. Usually they’re so idiosyncratic that they’re helpful to no-one

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        To generalize it, personality quirks that bother you in the beginning won’t get better with time. Have a real conversation with yourself as to whether you can stand it for decades to come. For instance, my wife has the inability to truly relax. I’m super lax about everything. Neither of us is going to change.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Quirk seems to be too nice of a word though.

          • L8Comer

            Idiosyncrasies?

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              Deep flaws that take years to uncover?

              • L8Comer

                I think that’s different than what Kas was talking about. Unless u think an inability to relax or the tendency to be overly relaxed are flaws. Some could think of that as a balance.

        • Annalise Keating

          “For instance, my wife has the inability to truly relax. I’m super lax about everything. Neither of us is going to change.”

          Isn’t this a good combination?

          • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

            Not as good as you would think. I drive her crazy because I can be spontaneous with making/changing plans. I get irritated because she can’t roll with the flow. Once I accepted that and acted accordingly it was fine.

      • Here’s an example. I’m very social. Mr. Man is not. This has been a problematic area for years. We are now at the point where we have to accept this about each other and stop hurting each other over it, or go our separate ways. The jury is still out.

        • L8Comer

          I’m not very social, but I wouldn’t mind being with someone who is bc for me, once I’m out I have a great time. I later feel drained (introvert personality) so I need to recoup my energy.

          But why is it hard to accept? is it that he won’t even go to work or family events with u? If that’s not too invasive a question.

          • It’s really rather a mess right now. Not an invasive question, just hard to answer. Like any LTR, it’s not just one thing. This is just a catalyst for other things.

            • L8Comer

              I understand. I hope you can sort it out, if that’s what you want. And that you can figure out what u want if u don’t already knows

          • Nicholas Peters

            In real life I’m quiet but I only date social women…it forces me to get out more.

            • L8Comer

              u get it. i like social men too. we could never be

        • miss t-lee

          I had a situation like this. It gets really old.

    • L8Comer

      My mom always says what annoys u about them now will become amplified in time so make sure u can deal with it

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        One of my female friends often said, the the same things they find attractive about me in the beginning are the same things they break up with me over later.

      • Its all fun and games until you’re under the same roof

      • miss t-lee

        I can believe this.
        It’s the reason I’ve never lived with anyone.

        • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

          Not gonna lie, even with my second marriage, I can remember coming home to our apartment one day, and literally thinking “wow, she is going to be here every day for the rest of my life”.

          • miss t-lee

            See. I’m sure about a while that changes though. Like the person always being there is a comfort. It would definitely take some getting used to.

      • cdj

        Is it Tim Burton and his wife that have separate homes near each other? That seems like a nice arrangement.

        • L8Comer

          It does work for some. I wanna be under one roof. Same room. But if we have money like that it would be nice to have a guest house or something Lolol

          • cdj

            An escape room!

  • Let a veteran get a word in.
    Childhood sweetheart.
    Dated since junior high.
    Grew apart, got grown, found each other again. We had a good ten year run off and on.
    This time, she showed up with a “ready made fam.
    El mistako? Never having the “talk” (whos in charge, what chores, etc.)
    After being around each other since we were babies – it was over in 5. Didn’t even get the 7 year itch.

    Disclaimer: At the time, getting married was one of the greatest events in my life.

    • MsCee

      As a single (never married) woman in her 20s I’m so here for all the gems about to get dropped on this here Monday

      • grownandsexy2

        Listen up! lol

      • After a year into the divorce, we started “dating ” AGAIN …until I came to my senses.

        • MsCee

          Oh lawd, sounds like a story that requires lots of brown liquor.

          • Nope.
            I just cut it short, because it hust felt dumb.

    • grownandsexy2

      Who was in charge? QTNA

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        Like you need to ask

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        Depends on the topic for us. And we had a ton of conversations about what was important to us when we were dating and prior to being engaged. As a result, no surprises once we got married (other than her not knowing just how messy I am).

        • grownandsexy2

          I don’t get the impression that a lot of people have this much needed conversation. Sometimes they don’t know what is important to them until they don’t have it. A former co-worker who was married said his wife wasn’t really touchy feely and he was. He didn’t realize just how much he missed it until he didn’t have it. And there he was trying to fill the void with me. lol

          • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

            We had the conversations and even did premarital counseling at my wife’s insistence. The only thing new that I took from counseling was a better way to have discussions. It’s been a godsend. The rest of it was helpful to my wife, but I didn’t need a counselor to tell me issues that we didn’t sync up on. It’s funny that we are happily married. We originally had difference of opinions on child rearing (she bent in my direction), religion (I bent in her direction), and finances (we don’t have joint accounts).

            • grownandsexy2

              Pre-marital counseling should be a requirement before getting married. There are a lot of churches who won’t marry members if you haven’t had gone through it. My niece attends a church where 10 couples were engaged to be married last year. They all went to counseling and none of them are getting married. At least for now. Things were discussed that they never given thought to.

              I worked with a woman who loved her church until they told her they wouldn’t marry her because she refused counseling. Everyone was trying to talk her out of getting married, mainly because she had only known the guy three months, and had the whole wedding planned and partially paid for. It was apparent to all she just wanted to be married. It never happened tho cause the guy called it off. (He found out who she really was). I consider him very lucky cause he dodged a bullet. I remember her saying, “somebody’s gonna marry me if it ain’t nobody but Larry* (Name has been changed). And you can only appreciate that statement if you knew Larry because Larry was gay.

      • Me…75/25

        • grownandsexy2

          Ok. Just checkin’

    • Sweet Potato Kai ?

      **scrolls looking for a Young Pop story. Bingo!!*

      • No spice today.
        I got nothing more to add, lol

  • cyanic

    I applaud you for leaving a toxic situation. Someone down the road may want to be with you without marriage obligations. And maybe you’re better off without a legal document over your head when you’re living with someone new romantically.

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      Sounds like we will be discussing the institution of marriage today.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        And yet somehow we didn’t.

  • BT

    Keep ya head up, Dustin.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    Do I read the comments as they come, or let the post marinate for an hour or two?

    • Other_guy13

      As they come…dive on in

      • BrothasKeeper

        Boody first, though.

        • Other_guy13

          You just gone belly flop in here….it’s not even May yet homie lol

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        It looks like a post for folks who don’t like him to gleefully cackle at his pain.

        The rest of us are waiting to carve up that juicy neckbone of marriage.

        War been the xy’s and xx’s, or dogpile everyone’s least favorite hip hop head?

        • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

          @ayotristan:disqus went in down below.

        • Quirlygirly

          He ain’t my favorite poster but I can’t gleefully laugh at his pain. I can be an a$$ sometimes but I have compassion and empathy

        • BT

          Yup

        • for some, yeah.

          it makes some males and females feel goooood. like comeuppance was finally achieved. #humans

        • Other_guy13

          True. I don’t think this is the time to pile on but….people gone people.

          • VSS gon VSS (on the follow up petty)

            VSB gon VSB (for the EPIC shade)

            *edited for clairity

            • Other_guy13

              Lord….is it THAT bad down-thread?

              • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

                Worse

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              I thought Tristan was a VSB?

              • edited for clarity….

                • Other_guy13

                  Ma’am

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      You won’t be able to catch up if you wait an hour. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to squeeze in lunch.

    • BT

      I’ma let it marinate. I have nothing to add and it’s a sad topic. So ima take this opportunity to finish up some projects early, and try to check back in on something less intrusive.

      I wish Dustin the absolute best tho.

  • BrothasKeeper

    This is all very introspective and poignant, and I think that point #4 can be applicable to any type of relationship, particularly this:

    “I made sacrifices to my personality, privacy and writing in order to stay in my union because I loved her dearly. But I came to quietly resent her for it, and slowly rebel in a way that wasn’t conducive to our marriage.”

    We rarely think about how much of ourselves we compromise consciously or unconsciously in order to preserve a union, like buying a $50,000 used car with 220k miles financing it for 25% APR for 72 months. “I just wanna ride,” you tell yourself, and in a similar fashion, we just wanna love and be loved, compatibility be damned. I’m certainly guilty in the past of altering myself in order to sustain a relationship, and naturally, I became resentful of my girlfriend, but I had no right to be, since I was the one being dishonest to her and to myself.

    Also, it’s cool that you’re able to accept that your ex-wife has moved on, but I’m unsure of how I would feel seeing my ex on Tinder a month after we parted ways, as well as quietly questioning my own motivation to be on the app. I’ve never been married, so I don’t know what the appropriate mourning period is after a divorce, because to me, marriage is the zenith of a relationship, and therefore more profound. Just curious.

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      Never been married, or never been divorced?

      • Mochasister

        Yeah, I caught that too.

      • BrothasKeeper

        Neither. Just LTR’s. But the relationship I’m in now makes ne forget about any other relationship I ever had, because it’s given me the opportunity to apply lessons learned from previous relationships to fomenting one with someone whom I truly love and loves me equally in return.

    • Other_guy13

      “like buying a $50,000 used car with 220k miles financing it for 25% APR for 72 months” http://gifsec.com/wp-content/uploads/GIF/2015/01/The-Fuck-Dafuq-Will-Smith-Fresh-Prince-Of-Bel-air-Wtf-Weird-GIF.gif

    • Other_guy13
      • L8Comer

        That’s just his wifey, not his wife (yet).

        • BrothasKeeper

          Right. She knows it’s coming, though. I call her Mrs. on here to indicate my level of commitment to her. She’s the Michelle to my Barry, the Weezy to my George, the Beau to my Dre.

          • L8Comer

            Yeah, I got that. It’s sweet ?

          • Mochasister

            I had you married already.

          • NonyaB?

            Oh! Well sheeeit, we going to Houston, soon y’all! *Invites self and all VSB to wedding* ?

            • BrothasKeeper

              Don’t play! I WILL put you all on the list!

  • kingpinenut

    Imma sit this one out….

    I’ll chime-in come 2018

    • not a WHOLE year?!

      Chile….

    • NonyaB?

      Hope you’re OK. Noticed your other comment recently but you deleted in the blink of an eye.

      • kingpinenut

        Reading a lot of Drs. Gottman work…. which helps tremendously.

        Thanks for the thoughts

      • Sweet Potato Kai ?

        Right, me too. Figured it was too painful. I get that.

    • miss t-lee

      Aw man. Hope you’re good, homie!

      • kingpinenut

        Thank e-cuz – life really is good

        • miss t-lee

          Bet.

    • Other_guy13

      Hope things are getting better King

      • kingpinenut

        Thanks OG…the learning alone is worth the price of admission ( no joke )

    • Lea Thrace

      sending vibes of peace your way sir.

      signed, A Bot. :-)

      • kingpinenut

        Thanks Lea – may your joints stay well oiled

        Where The Wiz at?

  • Kat

    I ain’t gonna lie when I saw who wrote it….I almost kept on about my day. Brotha comes across as a jerk on a good day. And I don’t like bad energy invading my space.

    All that to say. Be happy.

    That’s all I got.

    • Mochasister

      Ok, it’s not just me. Good to know.

      • grownandsexy2

        I held off.

    • MsCee

      Well dayum Kat, tell us how you really feel.

      • Kat

        It’s my year of speaking truth, I’m prepping for my 70’s…lol I don’t know him, so he shouldn’t be too offended.

        Popcorn anyone?

        • BrothasKeeper

          *holds out bowl*

        • LMNOP

          He devoted several hundred words to talking sht about Black women. Which would be bad enough if it was a drunken diatribe, but no he wrote, edited and published that sht. I’m the same way, I see his name and think a long, disapproving “hmmph.”

          • Kat

            Exactly. I don’t wish bad on the brotha but he ain’t in my vision.

    • miss t-lee

      I think a few of us feel that way.

    • NonyaB?

      ?Savage but #NoLies detected.

  • DoobieDoobieDoo

    Between “I came to quietly resent her for it, and slowly rebel in a way that wasn’t conducive to our marriage” and this gem — “Extended mourning is a waste of time” — it sounds like you need more counseling than momsandnem can provide.

  • Well this is scarily relevant. *sigh*

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      Sorry to hear that.

    • LMNOP

      Aw, sorry you’re going through something like this.

    • L8Comer

      Hugs ?

    • Val

      *eHUG*

    • NonyaB?

      {{{HUG}}} Sorry to hear it.

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