There’s no darkness of night quite as inky as the darkness following a breakup.
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of excitement when I found out for sure that I was going to be divorcing my wife. The weeks between the separation and securing my own crib were defined by the fact that I felt like a dog tethered by a chain, yanking with my neck as I waited for my owner to return home to let me off.
Despite the ability to come and go as I please and to create a living space based on my personal aesthetic for the first time in my 30s, a divorce is still a divorce. I’ve never heard of an “easy” one.
After years of falling asleep next to the same body with the same scent in her hair and the same pattern to her breathing – and more recently knowing there was a punk-ass, snoring puppy at or near the foot of the bed – I didn’t even find comfort in my ability to stretch diagonally across the bed and hoard all the pillows. I didn’t sleep well at all the first couple weeks; my boss definitely hit me with one of those diplomatic “you okay, Dustin?” queries as I nodded off during useless meetings.
Of course, I ultimately moved past the immediate emotional residue of my divorce and settled into a single life unencumbered by it. But last fall, I woke up on a sunny weekend morning and realized that, for the first time in a while, I felt something missing. It took me a couple days to realize that…egads! I was lonesome!
It wasn’t that I didn’t have access to friends, family or women to date – for several years, I had someone who, more or less, was legally mandated to care about my ignorant, black-ass feelings. Considering how I’m basically living my best life – a better one than I was living when I was married in a myriad ways – I chalk that lonesomeness up as a by-product of the “evolution” of being single and keep it pushing.
A large contributor to my reticence in hopping back into another relationship is my desire to avoid being stuck in the ultimate lonesomeness: living and being with someone with whom you’re not getting along.
The majority of the four and a half years I lived with my wife were great. I wore the best parts of marriage – coming home to someone and being someone to come home to, a lovely extended family, having a helping hand for all of life’s obstacles – like a glove. But when the beef was really cooking, it was like none of that shit mattered.
That relationship was never more challenging than it was during the summer of 2015. Three significant things events at the top of the season: I returned to full-time office work for the first time in a while, we purchased a puppy and her mother was hospitalized for the better part of a month. As a schoolteacher who was off for the summer, she was the only one in the immediate family who had the freedom to be next to her mother consistently. And because she was one of those incredibly engaged dog moms who felt like she needed to devote borderline human-infant amounts of time to this creature, stress mounted. That I was no longer around to help her manage it during business hours ultimately became a strain on us both.
We beefed throughout the entire month of July – every time we put a Band-Aid on one fight, we ripped it off for another within days. Things hit their nadir near the end of the month when my sister was married; we were both in the wedding and had to drive to Detroit together for what ended up being the longest version of that drive in my 14 years of doing it. Just one huge ball of tension contained to a Japanese SUV rolling the fuck down Interstate 94. We had to establish the most uneasy truce since Nas and Jay-Z for the wedding itself.
I have never, in all my life, felt as lonely as I did during that period. When we returned to Chicago from the wedding, I told her I wanted to leave the crib. I didn’t want to get a divorce per se, but I wanted out. Existence in the house had become stifling – for the first time in my 30-plus years, I didn’t feel at home inside the four walls that I was paying to live in.
Ultimately, finances dictated I keep my ass put, which happens to a great many struggling couples (a boss told me a year later that the only reason she stayed in her 30-plus year marriage – which yielded children and grandchildren – is because they were too poor to break up). None of my immediate family lived in Chicago and I was too proud to ask my boys to crash with them. Oh, and there was also her pointed threat that, if I left, I wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to come back on my terms.
We chose instead to start marital counseling, and we lasted for another five months.
Whatever little lonesomeness that comes for my neck these days doesn’t come close in comparison to what was, to me, tantamount to imprisonment. I’d imagine many people in long-term marriages or cohabitations endure that feeling from time to time. But I also realize there are a great many people who accept that type of loneliness on a long-term basis – they can’t stand living with their partner, but they stay.
That’s basically a living death – one that many people endure not because of financial limitations, but because of some misguided sense of duty or obligation. Fuck all that….as far as we know, we all have just one crack at this stone bitch called life, and loneliness comes for all of us at some point when we’re not looking for it.
So why let it in to make itself at home?