Divorce as Combat

Not a new metaphor, right? The 1989 movie War of the Roses, based on a 1981 novel of the same name, summed it up nicely: everybody dies.

After 30 years, do I still need a spoiler alert? 😂

This has been the case with my own divorce. I’m still reluctant to talk about it, as it remains ongoing–after almost three years lol–but I think some general commentary is allowed. Certainly at this point I’m not too worried about pissing people off.

Broad strokes: a failed marriage. Almost doesn’t matter why. One side believed there was infidelity, still does. There wasn’t. There were assets: a business, a house. There were liabilities: back taxes, credit card debt. None of it was huge. All of it was manageable.

There was a plan… a pretty good plan, that would have kept the business operating, and the house occupied, and the lifestyle more or less in place.

But instead there was an eruption of destructive anger. A grab… it’s a temptation to call it a money-grab, except there was no money to be grabbed. Impoverishment. An endless cycle of destruction, culminating in bankruptcy and arrest warrants.

Not here to bitch about the outcome. It is what it is. But, looking back at three years of hell, it’s hard not to ask what I might have done differently. Why? Too late for me, maybe not so much for you.

I’m sure I will go very deep into this in the future. But for now, my fundamental message is this: divorce is combat!

There is nothing more heartbreaking than the notion of going toe-to-toe with someone you probably still love. It is an obscene idea. It is incredibly tempting to believe that nobody wants a fight, that all you need is a good plan and some space to sort things out.

You might be right. And if so, then you’ll be one of those divorced couples everybody else hates. You know: the ones who are still friends.

But becoming that couple takes not just one but two simultaneous winning lottery tickets:

  • There has to be enough trust left in the relationship to support your plan.
  • The lawyers on both sides need to be more concerned about the outcome for their respective clients than for themselves.

That’s a tall order, and it doesn’t happen often, not least I think because most marriages are simply more broken than that before this conversation becomes relevant.

Anyway, if either of those assumptions fail, then you are left with the standard horror story of divorce. And if you failed to take steps to protect yourself because you believed the pretty picture above applied to your situation, then you are in serious trouble, because while your spouse was loading her machine guns and squaring away her fields of fire, you were engaged in the divorce equivalent of polishing an overripe banana.

So here’s divorce lesson numero uno: Always assume there will be a fight. Plan for it. Hire a complete asshole as your lawyer. Set money aside to fund it. When the court orders you to open your wallet, do not comply unless it improves your position.

Literally nobody in this picture is on your side. Not your ex, not the the judge, and most definitely not your lawyer.

Accept that. Believe it. Come to terms with it, because it is the world you live in. And–take it from me–you ignore those truths at your peril.

I could have ended my divorce in a few months, with my business and my life intact, and my former family reasonably secure for long enough that I would have felt like I’d done my duty.

Instead: my business is long-gone, I just filed a bankruptcy, and I would be subject to arrest if I were to set foot in the state of Illinois. And, after almost three years of this, I’m not even divorced yet! My ex-wife has achieved retribution beyond her wildest dreams, which is doubly annoying as she is punishing me for crimes I never actually committed.

But that’s divorce. So protect yourselves, gents. Because nobody else will.

Tell me why I'm full of shit!