A Thank You Note to my Former Husband
While it’s tempting to just remember the bad parts of your marriage, especially when you’re in the middle of your divorce, it’s also important to remember what you learned from each other, and what you gave to each other when the marriage was good.
I’ve started reading the Modern Love column in the New York Times Style section. and it got me thinking about my former husband.
While things ended badly, as they so often do in the demise of a relationship, there’s also plenty to be thankful for.
I met Bill through a personal ad back when personal ads appeared in print. He, recently divorced, went to a Learning Annex class on how to meet new people, and the class homework was to do something you’d never think of doing to meet someone. So he answered a personal ad. Mine.
We were married 5 weeks later.
We spent the next 4 years having the time of our lives, renovating our broken down 1730 farmhouse, and growing up together. Our professional day jobs gave way to creativity with a good dose of mischief when the quitting bell rang.
So thank you, Bill, for teaching me how to use power tools. I never would’ve imagined installing electrical wiring, cedar shingling a roof, or stripping 200 years of shellac off of woodwork.
Thanks, too for teaching me it’s possible to cook without a cookbook. Your hot dog burritos were excellent, as was your ravioli pizza. And the night you wanted dessert and wowed our housemates with chocolate mousse from scratch was pretty amazing. We never had much money, but we always ate well, even if the ingredients were organ meats, freezer burned piecrust, instant mashed potatoes and leftover dip.
I’ll always be grateful that our lack of money never ruined anything. When the refrigerator bit the dust and we had to keep our food in the snow outside the backdoor, it seemed like an adventure, not a hardship. When our first Christmas gift to each other was $1500 in bounced check fees, we laughed and booked a wallpapering job to pay it back.
You taught me that no matter what other people are doing, you can be happy. Remember fastidious Donald, our moonlighting home decorating business’s biggest client? He could pick out a pinpoint of missed paint behind his armoire at 40 paces. “What happened to Donald’s plant? It looks dead,” I asked. “It probably smothered in Liquid Gold,” you responded as Donald asked us to re-do something else that didn’t need to be redone.
You taught me that everything is fixable, and everything has a solution. I learned that when you installed a new sink without turning off the water first. Measure once, cut twice, but it still works out, even if the bathroom turns into Dunns River Falls in the process.
So there were plenty of good times. I have a lot to be thankful for during those years.
Bill and I got divorced before I even knew what mediation was, but thanks to a sensible friend (thanks, Cliff) we resolved everything in a way that made sense to everyone. And things have worked out fine.
The fight where Bill said, “You’re never going to finish that book!” was exactly what it took to make me finish that book. Your Divorce Advisor was published by Simon & Schuster in 2001. And I followed that up with Making Divorce Work in 2010.
You taught me not to let anything stand in my way. Bill never let something small like not knowing how to play guitar stand in the way of him starting a band, and ultimately being invited to play in a Captain Beefheart festival in Europe. He now runs an annual art festival in New Haven. When he ran for mayor, and crashed the debates, the hostile incumbent complimented Bill on his speech, simultaneously appalled and mystified at his eloquence, Bill responded, “I’m crazy, not stupid.”
And when the newspaper called me for comment, while it was at first tempting to let fly with everything that had gone wrong between us (which is what the paper was after, I’m sure), I realized that the reason Bill was running for mayor is that he believed in local government as a voice for the people, and that the current administration wasn’t listening to its constituents, and that his campaign was meant to bring attention to that.
So even our post divorce has been pretty good. And Bill’s leaving the marriage allowed me to go on to have the marriage I was meant to have, and which has now lasted 14 years, over twice the length of my marriage to Bill. So even getting ditched was, in the end, a blessing.
Now it’s your turn to write your own thank you note.
Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.