I can't remember where I saw it, but somewhere walking in the city, or perhaps on the Internet, I came across a sign for a law firm that called itself Joy Division, divorce attorneys. Underneath was inscribed, “Love will tear you apart.” So cleverly named, it made me to hum the song for which it was named after for days, and I began to ruminate over the lyrics. The first few lines of Love Will Tear Us Apart are:
When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low.
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won't grow.
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
The song, by the band Joy Division (not to be confused with the divorce attorneys) sums up much of the way my divorce felt, and continues to feel. There was certainly a fair share of resentment throughout my marriage, and a slow pulling apart. We fell into the same tired routine, had the same arguments, and never figured out a way to fix what was broken. Or maybe we just didn't try hard enough. We started out on different roads, each of us seeking something the other couldn't provide. I guess that's just the way it happens. I never thought it would all end in divorce, and I definitely never thought I would one day need an attorney. But when I received a document informing me that my ex, (who had since moved on)wanted to proceed with legal action, it became time to sever our lives once and for all. It started with a division of assets.
The Road to Division, and Divorce
I readily admit that I don't have many assets to speak of, and didn't see the point in hiring a divorce attorney. Fortunately for me, my sister is an attorney and did the paperwork for me, so that was the easy part. The hard part is considering what justice means when it comes to dividing what you and your ex acquired together over the years. In my eight year marriage, we had only acquired enough furniture together to fill an apartment, and a single used car. The division of physical things was much easier than the division of what had been a single, merged life into two distinct ones that would never intersect. The words joy division hold a deeper meaning than a band name or a playful title for a law firm. How can you divide joy? It is far easier to divide paintings and furniture, papers and money. Yet, we had divided joy, and it started long ago. In a marriage, people compromise, often to a point that things become skewed, and one partner's gain is much greater than what the other partner sacrificed. It isn't always clear at the time, but it is a major reason why couples grow apart, and build up resentment. And resentment is a straight route to division, and divorce.
When I was married, my husband and I made several major moves that were essential to his career. True, I enjoyed my time in those places, but it doesn't mean that they were always where I, as an individual with my own talents, interests, and desires, necessarily needed to be at the time. I believed that it was more important for him to achieve his goals first, but as those goals kept growing, and morphing into ever more demanding ones, I realized I wasn't just compromising anymore; I was losing little bits of joy, dividing them up and tossing them away, one by one. It's easy to do, as women, because we don't want to be demanding, or selfish. But maybe it really mattered to you more than he realized that you didn't get to take that trip, or film class, or even share something as simple as a bike ride. It is often in the little things that we lose ourselves, and then instead of having a complete and happy life, we feel fragmented, and incomplete. We are divided as individuals long before we divide as couples.
Dividing Your Assets, but Keeping Your Joy
Each state has its own set of laws concerning what is fair in the division of assets. Sometimes it means an equal division, and sometimes it is left up for the judge to determine, based on many complex factors that are best advised by an expert. I am no expert, but I do know that the most important asset you can walk away with after all the papers have been signed and properties divided, is your joy. Without it, a day will be just another set of hours to get through. All the things you wanted when you were married but sacrificed for love are in your reach, now. But you may miss out on them now too, if you don't feel whole. It takes time to get there, but whether or not you keep the house or the car or the antique rugs aren't going to matter to you ten years from now. What will matter is that you have joy, undivided.
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*Images Courtesy of Lily Atherton