A great article by my very talented friend Susanna Lee.
Relationships, The thought of a new relationship was a lot of things for me. It’s scary, creepy, awful, bad, painful… notice a theme? This was a transition I thought I’d never go through again. DATING!!??? Ugh! A new relationship with a new person? Blah! Now I have to learn someone elses crazy? I have to find someone who will put up with my crazy? This means I have to be nice to strangers again. Crap. Most importantly, what kind of relationship do I need?
Transition to: Reluctance –
I don’t need a relationship with ANYBODY!! After a divorce, many people get right back in to another relationship just because they think they should be in one. After spending over a third of their lives married, it’s what they know best. However, I was not in a hurry to get back out there. Everyone tells you their opinion though. “You need a girlfriend.” “You need to find someone.” “You need to get back out there.” Seems everyone knew more about what I needed than I did. At this point I am completely unsure of myself. Plus, as far as adult relationships go, I am not good at them. A healthy adult relationship…? Forget about it. I had a failed marriage, was barely talking to half my family, and there’s more than a few softball leagues out there that wants me dead. What I “need” is to get my shit together before I get in another relationship with anybody. The only relationship I need right now is with my therapist.
Transition to: Reverse:
I need a relationship with my Ex. I owe that to the family, don’t I? We should do whatever we can to keep it together for the kids, right? A year of therapy has opened my eyes to a lot of things. Maybe we can fix this. But, you can’t fix a broken marriage. You can reinvent it. It’s rare. It’s hard. We’re talking about breaking patterns that have been established for years. It’s tougher than breaking a bad habit. The real tough ones like smoking, drinking, watching porn. With those, it’s totally up to you. If you quit, that’s it. Cigarettes don’t chase you down a hallway. Liquor doesn’t force itself on you, Porn doesn’t just pop up in front of you… unless, you’ve been to so many website you’ve become a gold member and you get a direct IM from a porn star who knows you by name because you’ve been automatically added to a response list whenever you watch her videos over and over and over again… From what I’ve been told. With a marriage, it takes two people to do anything. You can make whatever decision you may want. But, if your partner isn’t on the same page, forget about it. Unfortunately, this was the case with my marriage.
I took me a long time to get over my ex, maybe two years. There’s a difference between staying together because of the kids, but doing the best you can to fix things because of the kids. The latter is a noble effort to do what’s right for the family. The previous is painful and uncomfortable for everyone, especially the kids. They are way smarter than you think. They know what’s going on. They are also learning to be adults by watching you. If your marriage is broken, and you spend the next twenty years miserable in a loveless relationship with someone you can’t stand, guess what? You’re daughter is gonna marry a schmuck. Enjoy the reunions, interventions with the grand kids, and don’t hold any unmarked packages for the in-laws.
Transition to: Reaching out
I need a relationship with someone new. It’s time. Meet someone. I’m getting back out there. What’s the best way? I’ve been married 15 years. Where are the kids meeting this day? Internet dating. Why not? It’s like shopping on E-Bay for a date. You can search through pics and bios. The best part is you know this is about dating. It’s a “dating” site. It’s the only reason anyone is on that site, right? RIGHT?? Why else would you be there?
I was always honest with my profile. Part of that was stating I was separated before the divorce was final. Many women won’t even talk to a guy who’s separated on those sites. They’re usually looking for one thing. (It is ridiculously harder for a woman to “find” the right guy on those sites. So I’ve heard from female friends who tell me all the guys just want to get laid… and male friends, who tell me how easy it is to get laid) However, I never had a problem talking to a woman who were separated. We had a lot in common. We had kids, were in a bad relationship, unhappy, depressed. I met quite a few women “on-line”. The internet gave as a chance to talk about it all. However, after a thousand text messages, e-mails and phone calls I realized people define “Separated” differently. Some are” He moved out. The divorce will be final not soon enough.” But there are a few that are more “He moved out. We’re re-evaluating things.”
So many people I met were in that last scenario. Internet dating, connecting on-line had become less of a place to meet people and more of a place for people in shitty relationships to try and get the attention they no longer get. It’s more support group therapy than dating. Looking back on it, that’s not a bad thing. Ending a marriage is a big decision. Our society has gotten to the point where we just accept divorce without even really trying to make it work. It’s a hard time for everyone. There was no dating or “hooking up”, It was mainly talking about how our lives have turned south and what we were going to do. The talk/conversation and connections I made helped me get through that time. I’d like to think that worked both ways. I don’t know. I no longer talk to any of those women. I know a couple of them went back to their husbands. Which is great. That’s what “separation” should be. A time to re-think it all. “Do we give it another chance or not?” I’m happy for all of them. I hope they are all happier than when I talked to them.
Some people define separation as “He’s home with the kids, I’m not”. At some point, it became hard to tell the difference between them all.
So much for internet dating.
Transition to: – Replacement:
I need a relationship similar the the one I had. I had gotten so used to being a family man; Volleyball games, PTA, volunteering…. I thought I could step right in to another relationship. I’m a good guy. Great father. I have a lot to offer. There has to be a single mom out there who would appreciate that. Maybe I can still have a family. You know the where I’m going with this. There’s a story, of a lovely lady, boys, hair of gold, curls, Marsha-Marsha-Marsha. I didn’t want to replace my kids, just add to them. My kids could play with her kids. We would be one big happy!! Wouldn’t we?
Is it right to do the “New” family thing with the kids? You’re basically forcing them in to this. Remember, their lives have been turned upside down too, and none of this is their fault. One minute Mom and Dad aren’t getting along, the next, Mommy is throwing Daddy’s stuff in the dumpster, setting it on fire and dating the nieghbor.
I didn’t know for sure if I wanted to be in a relationship with anyone. However, I did know the worst thing to do to my kids right now is to introduce someone else into their lives and have that fall apart. My kids or “her” kids. People get selfish during divorce. They forget the kids. They’ve already had enough crap dumped on them. I’m not dumping more.
Transition to: Really bad judgement
I need a relationship with everybody. Wait a minute, what am I doing?? After 15 years of marriage, I’M FREE!!! No one to answer to? I’M BANGING EVERYONE!!!! Mid life crisis time… It’s time for a lot of drinking, a lot of partying… Hell, I was single and back on the road? Hello LADIES!!! I was the cool divorced comic, and everybody knew it. At the time, I thought I was living the life. I thought I was the man!!!
I was pathetic.
Don’t get me wrong, there were quite a few great times during this stage. There were times this life was all I thought it would be. But, something was missing. I was unhappy, trying to fill the void with sex. Strings of one night stands, hook ups, getting drunk, acting like an idiot, hitting on people I just met, people I knew for years. It was really all about sex. Sometimes, there was great sex. Mostly, it was ackward sex, uninteresting sex, empty sex, or worse; bad sex.
You think “Any sex is great sex!!!??” Really…? Here’s an idea, after a bad day at work why don’t you meet me for a bad drink at this bad place I know. We can grab a bad steak, drink some bad Cabernet, get bad service, have a bad conversation, maybe take a walk through a bad neighborhood. Afterwards we’ll take a bad ride back to my, find a bad parking spot, go up to my bad apartment, have bad sex, get a bad nights sleep, and get up have a bad breakfast that gives you a bad stomach…? Sound intriguing? No? F%$k You Bad sex.
Transition To: Review
I need a relationship…? Okay, WTF, am I doing? Seriously, “What am I doing..?” One night stands, bad decisions, short relationships, internet dating, Tinder, Porn, strippers… I have covered pretty much every base trying to find happiness again. What is making this so hard…?!
Transition To: Relax
The pain, emptiness, and void comes from chasing what I thought I “had” or think I “need” to be happy. Believing I needed to find something, ANYTHING to be happy is a choice I’m making. I’ve spent my whole life believing I needed to be in a good, loving, adult relationship to be happy, when I actually need to be happy to be in a good, loving, adult relationship. Bottom line is; I need a relationship with myself.
I travel for work every week. I see my kids at least once a month. If they call, I drop everything and talk to them on the spot. Honestly, I’m not available for a relationship right now. I can’t give myself to someone and that wouldn’t be fair to them. Anyone I see or date knows that. If they want more and I can’t give it, we go our seperate ways. Sometimes we even stay really close friends. Either way, I don’t need the validation of another to feel good about myself. I accept who I am.
Will I live the rest of my life like this? I don’t know. Am I OK with being single? Yes. Yes I am. Will I ever get married again? I don’t know. I really don’t. Will I ever have kids again? I’m not sure. I am not 100% sure. Am I beating the answer your own question technique into the ground more than Dan Patrick? I believe I am. I believe so.
I’ve learned it is possible to be single, happy and have healthy adult relationships. You just have to be honest about what makes you happy. Not what you need to obtain to get happy. Honest with yourself and those around you. It really is the best policy. It helps avoid drama, tension, miscommunication..
….and bad sex.
I’ve always been very open on the stage. My act is about my life, the good and bad. In fact, I’ve discussed some of the worst moments of my life on a stage at one time or another. In the last several months, I’ve been writing, re-writing, reading, working on myself on a number of levels. I have reached a point in my life where I have never been so positive or optimistic. Why? Life for me has become more about acceptance than expectance. Old Lenny expected things, new Lenny has learned it’s better to accept things. The two but heads occasionally, but it has been an eye-opening journey. I’d like to try to make “Transition time…again” a semi-regular piece about this journey. No. 1 will be: Parenthood, No. 2 will be the multiple pages of stuff I wrote over the last year or so. Some will find its way in future pieces. Some will never been seen by humans…. EVER!!! No. 3 will be a combination of some of the stuff I’ve wrote to myself over the last year specifically about divorce. We will call this the final chapter on divorce. This one will be…
Transition to… Divorce
Divorce itself is a big transition. However, within that one big transition, are several small ones.
My wife filed for divorce. It kind of caught me off guard. Looking back I don’t know why it did. We were always fighting. Still, it wasn’t on my to-do list. I was a crying little bitch for most of the first year. I complete mess. I lost a lot of weight that year. A steady diet of scotch and cigarettes will do that to you. Oh, I looked great, but I felt like Oscar Madison and Keith Richards. What really made it tough was, this was not an “I want a divorce, end of story thing”. We’d go from hating each other, to hating to be without each other in a matter of hours. And every time she wanted me back, I ran back like a puppy. This went on for almost two years. It was the most confusing time of my life. We wanted to get back together; we didn’t want to get back together; each of us getting hurt over and over and over and over… A painful emotional rollercoaster neither one of us could get off. We couldn’t stop. We just kept asking for more. Like Kevin Bacon in “Animal House.” “Thank you sir, may I have another!?” Except we were paying lawyers.
—Interesting side note; I went through two divorce lawyers. I fired my first one. He was a moron. His name was Eli. The firm was “Claery and Green” Ooops can I say that? Will I get in trouble? Who cares? This is an actual conversation I had with my moron lawyer…
Moron lawyer: Hey, Larry you need to send us those docs we requested
Me: My name is Lenny!! Lenny Schmidt?? How many times do I have to tell you? And I sent the docs twice last month!!!!!
Moron lawyer: Sorry, my bad. We can’t seem to find them, so you are going to have to send them again, Louie.
Me: You are fired moron lawyer—
I went to therapy at least once a week during that first year. I read books like “The Power of Now.” and “The Sedona Method”. A learned I had to detach from the “pain body” and the “ego mind”. I used to lose it over the littlest thing; softball, poker, anything unexpected through me in to a tizzy. I was insane. I was caught up in my expectations. Some things don’t go as planned, when they don’t, accept it. Let it go. Don’t stay stuck in the past. Accept the changes in your life, learn from it, let it go and move forward. Otherwise, you identify yourself with the pain and anger from the past, and that feeds of itself. “BAM!!” Look at that!! I’M ALL ZEN AND SHIT Take that bitches. (Beating my chest and flippin’ you the bird… sideways) That’s the new Lenny I was talking about. Now, I am by no means enlightened, but I am present most of the time and on a much better path. I still have my moments. Old Lenny shows up occasionally. Usually when I play Madden, get on the 405, or the Bears lose.
The big question in my mind after all this personal growth is “Do we try to work it out?” “What’s right for the family?” “What’s right for the kids?” The hardest part is your not really fixing anything. What you’re doing is actually reinventing a relationship. Learn from the past, but don’t dwell in it. A healthy relationship accepts, learns, and moves forward. Can an unhealthy relationship of fifteen years be reinvented? Is it worth the risk? I thought it was. I moved back in after a year. I fully expected to work the whole thing out. We spent the next several weeks revisiting the past instead of reinventing the future. We just couldn’t get past so much stuff. We started fighting about the silliest stuff again. She would ask, “Why can’t we have a car like the “McDougal’s?”. I would answer “Cause I don’t pitch for the Dodgers.” She never liked that answer, and I never liked the McDougal’s. I moved back out nine weeks later.
It’s time for distribution of friends!! Yay!! Not all friends. We still have some mutual friends, mainly at our daughters’ old school. There were so many great people at that school. I honestly miss seeing them every day. Well, Some of them. A divorce is tough on everyone involved, friends included. There was a weird tension at every social event we were both at. Many people pick sides. It’s kind of like picking a softball team, but backwards. My Ex and I are captains, but the team picks us. Quite often you lose friends you never would have expected. Here’s the kicker, no one tells you. Nobody comes up to you and says “I’m on your team, bro” You have to figure it out. Sometimes it takes weeks. You find out you weren’t invited to a party, somebody stops calling you, maybe you get a dirty look. My favorite is just being ignored. Someone walks by and I say “Hey how’s it going?” – Nothing. Not even eye contact. They just keep walking… that person has chosen the other team. (Re; The McDougal’s)
Transition to: Divorce (End)
After 15 years of marriage, the final steps seem so cold. It’s a transaction really, and an expensive one at that. Mine was made even more expensive by two years of “Will we? Won’t We?” Moving out, buying stuff, moving back in, selling stuff, moving back out, buying stuff, numerous dates and gifts with my Ex where I completely over extended myself trying to win her back, hiring the moron lawyer, firing the moron lawyer, hiring a good lawyer, hashing it all out, coming to an agreement that kept the kids in L.A., now all we have to do is sign… WAIT!!! Another lawyer, some more changes, now the Ex wants to leave L.A, more paperwork, more money, more money, more paperwork.. Finally, DONE. At some point, you have to concede. Cut your losses. Lick your wounds. Hold your head up. Insert whatever other cliché you see fit. So, off to Chicago they went.
It has been suggested by some that I pussed out. “We always knew you would puss out”. That I just gave in and let the kids move to away without a fight because I didn’t care. If pussing out means sitting across from my (Good) lawyers accountant handing her credit card after credit card going “Put $1250 on that one. What’s left? Okay, put $3000 on that one. How bout now? Okay, $132.45 on that one. Where we at? How ‘bout I mow your lawn? Perform at your Christmas party? Can I interest you in one of my CD’s?…”, Then, yes, I indeed pussed out.
Transition to: Divorce (Acceptance)
When I started down the road to divorce, a friend told me “You’ll get past it. You’ll be happy when it’s over” I didn’t believe her. I was obsessed with giving my kids a better life. I grew up with an alcoholic father who died when I was 14; my mother/brothers/others in my family normally go 5-10 years without talking to each other. We’re a fun Irish bunch. However, I was determined not repeat the cycle. I wanted to be a family man. A husband, father, soccer dad, you know, the traditional family unit. I barely travelled when I was married. I wanted to be there for my kids. I wanted a “normal” life. Anything different wouldn’t be normal. Divorce would mean I had failed.
But, what is “normal”? A “normal” life is a state of mind. It’s what you “expect” to happen. It’s
all in your head. I thought I could never live alone again, now I love it. There’s a Bears flag hanging in my living room A BEARS FLAG, MAN!!!!!! I watched the Hawks game at 3 am IN STEREO. I read, travel, work-out way more than I ever did when I was married. Go out when I want, stay up if I want, cook onions in my house!! My Ex hated that. Sometimes I cook them for the hell of it. I’m still there for my kids. I’ve spent more time in Chicago over the last year than I have in the last 15 years. We talk almost every day. It usually goes like this, I call, Lily answers “Hi dad, wanna talk to Anna? Love you bye!” Then, she’s gone. I talk to Anna for 30-40 minutes. Lily’s not really an everyday phone person. A couple times a week though, that girl will talk for an hour. I’ll tell you something else, Facetime? To be able to see your kids and talk for hours at a time about their day, showing me art, school work, reading reports, how they re-arranged their room, rehearsing for the play, stuff they bought at the store, SNOW… I’ve spent endless hours watching my two daughters wrestle over who gets the phone first. Whether it’s normal, different, or expected, I know this; it’s not failure, it’s my life.
In a way, accepting the divorce was the easiest thing in the world. It’s amazing the relief of that simple notion can give your life. The release of pressure, that accepting changes you can’t control, and move on. I wasted so much time being miserable about losing the life I expected. I wasn’t able to live again until I learned to live the life I accepted.
That is something I never expected.