Divorce and FIRE: Kristen from Managing Midlife
Thank you for stopping by for another installment in my Divorce and FIRE series.
I have been thrilled with the support and comments shown by my readers to these individuals who have really opened up and shared with us a very traumatic time in their lives.
Every person who has submitted their story has told me that they were touched by the outpouring of comments.
I hope that this inspires others to continue this series by submitting their own tales of divorce.
So without further ado, I will leave you in the very capable hands of Kristen.
I am quite pleased to share my story with you and thank XRAYVSN for inviting me to share my story.
It’s an odd feeling to be sharing my story openly, even with excitement when not so long ago, I was the shame of the family and an outcast in my community.
Never mind that my younger brothers had divorced, twice apiece.
Never mind that my mother’s side of the family had several divorces in their family tree.
Not my parents though.
As the dutiful, honor-roll, obedient, oldest child, it was highly shameful that their perfectly molded daughter would divorce after 19 years of marriage.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start with how we met.
“Kevin” and I met through the Outdoor Adventure Club at the university where I was acquiring my master’s degree and he worked.
Kevin and his roommates invited several club members to a planning meeting and hot tub party at their house.
While I enjoy all things outdoors, I wasn’t into the alcohol and loud music type of party.
Neither was Kevin so we met in a quiet corner of the house and enjoyed appetizers and simple conversation.
We even soaked in the hot tub, turning pruny but enjoying the quiet companionship.
Before the party was over, he invited me on a date to the local hot springs.
Our first date was December 29, 1989.
Rather immediately, we became inseparable.
I enjoyed his company.
I felt comfortable with him.
I admired his goals and upbringing: he was born and raised to a ranching family and we shared a deep appreciation for the land.
Three months after our first date, we decided to move in together.
I became quite apprehensive when the house we planned to rent went up for sale.
After serious discussion, we decided to buy.
Even though I was a student, and Kevin and I were employed by the university, together we had enough income to reasonably manage a mortgage.
In addition to the mortgage, I still had my first student loan and he had a truck payment.
Neither of us had savings but we managed our money well.
All totaled, our debt was roughly $50,000 including the mortgage.
To my surprise, Kevin handed all the household finances over to me saying, “I don’t want to deal with money.
Just let me know what our expenses are and how we’re doing.”
I was amazed by his disinterest yet thrilled he trusted me.
I am excellent with money and had no concerns that our finances would manage well.
October 1990 we married.
I was 26; he was 29.
Before the month was out, I was pregnant.
Our daughter was born summer of 1991.
Our son was born 13 months later.
Soon after our son was born, his roommates visited.
Kevin recorded a video of me changing our son’s diaper as his friends look on.
One friend teased, “Why aren’t you changing the diaper, Kevin?”
Kevin replied, “I damaged my hand as a child and don’t have any feeling.
I’m afraid I’ll hurt them since I have no feeling.”
While I knew of the injury, I also knew it did not hold him back from farm work, carpentry, or detailed work at his job.
Maybe that should have been a warning sign.
As the children grew older, Kevin would observe from afar, playing with them briefly after work or on weekends.
Yet life as a young family continued on.
We lived modestly, reduced debt, and managed to save and travel every so often.
The only struggles we had were my lack of employment—it was quite difficult to find a specialized job in a small mountain west community.
The other difficulty was the constant threat of budget cuts that always threatened Kevin’s job.
Then my mother-in-law suffered a stroke and died in 1996, causing a sudden shift in our family dynamics.
Kevin worked longer hours, of which I attributed to the fear of budget cuts.
He became even more distant, rarely offering time and attention to me and the children.
When projects rolled in, the children and I knew it would be a rare opportunity that we would get any time with him.
One time when he came home from work, my children excitedly invited him to their school orchestra concert to which he replied, “Why would I want to go to anything as boring as a concert?”
Then Kevin lectured me to make sure the children and I made no demands from him after work.
Needless to say, we all cried secret tears that evening. And many evenings to come.
It took a lot of convincing to keep up my children’s interest in orchestra.
Meanwhile, as my children suffered from a lack of time with their dad, I suffered lack of attention from my husband.
The only closeness he accepted were nightly massages.
Following a stressful 6-month work project that required non-stop work days at over 12 hours/day, he and his department earned a nice bonus for the long hours.
While I wanted to suggest a family vacation to our favorite national park, I instead suggested Kevin treat himself to something special.
He bought a high-end digital camera.
He became an excellent photographer and I was his favorite subject.
I was thrilled!
He suddenly saw me again and I was getting attention.
Maybe this would spark our marriage, now seven years old.
But not quite.
He took an interest in nude photography.
When my modelling wasn’t enough, he turned online to pornography.
Almost immediately, the family dynamic shifted again.
He would return home from work, take dinner to the computer room where he’d watch pornography until bedtime.
And just as fast, the children and I became invisible again.
My attempts to get him involved with our children were useless.
Attempts to share some intimacy with him was met with accusations of being addicted to sex.
I even went so far to mark in a calendar when we last had sex.
When I next approached him—16 MONTHS LATER—he said, “See—this proves you’re addicted! Who else keeps track in a calendar?”
Through angry, shattered tears, I suggested counseling.
He refused, saying I was the one with the problem.
And I believed him.
His solution was to order me adult toys to manage the need on my own.
Deeply hurt by his actions, I would invite him to participate with me, which always resulted in the same accusations.
An unexpected twist occurred when he mentioned a fantasy where he would photograph me having sex with two other men.
I thought he had lost his mind and told him so.
He gave me a challenge to find someone, stating he needed something to spice up his sex life and that would do it.
Making a long story short, I found someone.
We had a very short affair.
I was ashamed of myself, and still am.
I hated myself for my actions and misguided attempts to resurrect my marriage.
I told Kevin my sin of which he reminded me I was the one with the problem.
He promised to forgive me for my “minor transgression” while I doubted I could ever forgive myself.
Yet the lifestyle continued—minus the affair.
Kevin maintained his work and porn schedule.
The children and I tried to adjust to a life without a husband and father.
He was there, but his involvement could be defined as a “generous roommate.”
We never wanted for anything—except him.
At age 10, my son came to me with the desire to go on a father-son Boy Scout camping trip.
I said GREAT, let’s go ask Dad.
He replied with, “No, Mom. He won’t go.”
We were heartbroken since we knew it to be true.
I offered to go in his place and my son said, “Forget it Mom. You already do too much as my mom. You can’t be my dad too.”
I approached Kevin with our son’s request and his reply was, “Why would I want to go on something as stupid as a father-son camp out? What a total waste of my time.”
Unfortunately, our son overheard.
I was infuriated.
With a tearful plea to my father AND the man I had the affair with, both offered to go in place of my son’s father.
The second turning point came a few years later when my daughter returned home from school.
I remember feeling somewhat happy, congratulating myself for not crying that day.
When my daughter arrived, she took one look at me and said, “Mom, I am sick and tired of seeing you fake it! You aren’t fooling me or my brother! When are you going to divorce Dad so we can all be happy again?”
A month later, I requested a divorce.
Kevin was devastated.
He cried for days.
He also told the children that I am divorcing them because I don’t love any of them anymore.
The children turned on me, calling me horrible names and blaming me for the divorce.
Kevin and the children spread the word throughout the community and I became the shame of our small town.
Additionally, when my parents received the news, my mother burst into tears saying, “What will people think of me? None of my children can maintain a marriage. I’ll be shamed for life!”
My mother even insisted I write a public letter to friends and family releasing her of all fault.
Meanwhile, Kevin whined that he couldn’t financially survive if we divorced and with the constant uncertainty at work, he may end up on the street.
My daughter, 18, had friends, a part-time job, and plans to go to the community college.
My son, 17, would be entering 12 grade.
There was no way I would drag him away from the school system he grew up in.
Additionally, they brutally told me they would go nowhere with their slutty mother.
I wasn’t bringing them anyway because I knew they would realize the truth soon enough.
I just knew I had to get out of state and far away.
I filed for divorce April 10, 2009 and it was final ten weeks later.
I paid $1500.
I would have been happy to walk away with what I brought to the marriage (which wasn’t much), but my attorney informed me what a bad idea this was.
Although I didn’t care, I ended up with the IRA valued at ~$180,000, a small pickup truck, our 20-foot RV, and $729/month.
Kevin got the house (paid off in full 2 years earlier), two other vehicles, the children, the cats, and the title of hero for putting up with me for 19 years.
I left the state and moved in with my cousin 1300 miles away.
For the next year, I received hate mail from “friends” and neighbors telling me what a pathetic person I was to leave my children behind.
My children refused to talk to me during that first year.
Interestingly, by 2011, my daughter started communicating with me again.
She complained about the society we lived in, her father’s neglect, his absence from home, and how he rarely talked to her or her brother.
By late 2011, she announced she was pregnant and that her father kicked her to the street.
She needed a place and asked if I would take her in.
Soon after she moved in with me, my daughter said, “I’m sorry I was so mean to you. (My brother) and I were angry because you left. I know now why you left.”
It took a while for me to build my business, but within 3 years I was able to contribute to my IRA again, now valued at $300,000+.
While I am still concerned about my financial independence, much of my comfort comes from knowing I am much happier now that I ever was during my marriage.
I have learned that money means nothing when you would rather give it all up on the hope to be happy again.
I must add that it took me 18 months to not cry every day and another year before I could laugh again.
Looking back, I wallowed in grief for too long but I have recovered emotionally, mentally, and somewhat financially.
I continue to build, save, and invest which is a very satisfying state of being.
I am in a new relationship and sometimes experience a bit of relationship PTSD [Post-traumatic Stress Disorder], but my new partner, also a divorcee, helps me through it.
We lived together for 6 years but I had a driving need to live alone and found my own apartment.
We now spend weekends together.
He has asked me to marry him but I have declined. Every time.
As for Kevin, he remarried in 2012.
I have no idea how his relationship and finances are going.
Kevin and our daughter have a poor relationship and our son is somewhat estranged from both of us.
Recently, my daughter informed me that a friend asked her to move back “home”.
My daughter’s reply, “Why would I do that? I have a life, a job, a daughter, and I’m getting my nursing degree. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Why would I move back to a place where that would all be taken away from me?”
Thank you XRAYVSN for allowing me to sharing my story. Like you, this brings up deep memories but it is healthy to release it all.
The road was rough, but the air has cleared and the sun is shining.
Thank you Kristen for opening up and sharing an incredibly powerful story of your divorce.
Even though we are both from wildly different cultural backgrounds it seems that we both had parents who were more concerned about their status in the community rather than taking a more supportive stance and helping their child in a time of great need.
I have read some of Kristen’s content on her blog and there are two powerful articles in particular that I encourage you to read at your leisure:
- Suddenly There’s Half: Financial Recovery After A Divorce
- Kristen coins the term “Gray Divorce,” for those divorcing after the age of 50
- Divorce: The Wake Up Call To Your Inner Self
If you, or someone you know, would like to submit a Divorce and FIRE story, I would love to hear from you.
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