A subtraction to celebrate- the math of divorce.

celebrating divorce
A subtraction to celebrate

In a world of mindfulness and gratitude we are mistaken to ignore the strength that it takes to take away. Sometimes things can’t be fixed by meditation and a green juice. The simple problem of parents plus kids equals a happy family might not last past first grade math.  A life of addition can easily change to one of subtraction. For some it leads to divorce for better and for worse.

I went out this weekend to celebrate a friend who has come out the other side of a divorce. At 24 years old my divorce was a simple exercise. It was more like a breakup with lawyer fees. We didn’t battle over time with kids , we didn’t dismantle a life of memories, or watch our vision of a future come tumbling down. Despite that I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own. I had a Iover the whole time I left my husband. Because of all of this I don’t really know what it feels like to let go and stand up for myself, by myself.

Most of what I know comes from observation and empathy.

I have watched several close friends go through financial fear and endless paperwork. I have heard their stories of how the person that was supposed to walk beside them in life instead tried to push them off the road to have it for themselves. From the outside it was easy to see that the divorce was the best outcome for everyone. From inside it was a different story. Through eyes blurred with tears, minds spinning with what-ifs, and ears assaulted by insults they had navigate a new path. A path that for some period of time would feel worse than the relationship they had been holding together. Extended family goes from support to threat, becoming reporters who gather evidence against you and spending time with your children doing and saying things you might never know. Houses you have built are cut into two, with each piece somehow less than half. Children need to be scheduled and soothed in when you have few literal or figurative resources. Like your house and your family, and your bank account  you feel less than half. This is all in an attempt to become whole.

It all starts with self-love. With one final and full realization that your relationship is making giving you too little…making you less of you. So it starts and ends with love and bravery…but in the middle it is a sucky muck.

As our group of forty somethings toasted our friend’s bravery and strength I could see in her eyes how that was only a fraction of the story. A long time after she started to end her marriage the painful process still held her in its grip. She was proud and excited, but more than that too. She had to give up on dreams, she had to move and move again, she had to muddle through paperwork and give less attention to a career that was even more important than before. She had been through a war of sorts, and a death too. When soldiers return they do not instantly feel at home. When someone dies mourners are not at peace the day after the funeral. When the paperwork of  a divorce is filed the exes are not instantly free. When the plusses and minuses of net worth and days of the week are all tallied up the problem is not yet solved.

After all of this effort they are at the beginning of something better, but they are alone. They might be a fraction of themselves and still the word alone finishes with the word one.

Soon they will be whole.


Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

24 thoughts on “A subtraction to celebrate- the math of divorce.”

  1. Every divorce is different and there are two sides to every story, but the one constant is lawyers suck monkey nuts! Throw in a good old fashioned custody battle and you better start living on ramen noodles because lawyers will take every freaking last dollar you have just to tell you “this is a good deal”, ok off soap box. Great post :).

    1. I know. To worry about money in the midst of all that shit is just doubly shitty. And the fact that your advocate is getting rich off of your misery is sucky beyond belief.

  2. I didn’t marry until I was 44…it’s not that I didn’t make mistakes in that time; I just didn’t marry them. Most of my friends have been through the emotional misery and financial battering of legal breakups, and I’m relieved to have avoided that. You write most eloquently about what it takes to regain (or gain for the first time) your footing after becoming unmoored. Learning that being alone isn’t the worst thing in the world is an invaluable lesson. Learning to be alone happily is a great lesson, too.

      1. And I am comforted, encouraged and beyond grateful. Thank you for giving me more strength than I ever thought I’d have.

  3. A two plus year process for my divorce and fighting all the way, not like Skipah over a child, but over money. (Mind you, we have a son together, but he was more concerned about the money.) But my math after that was 5 years without dating. Why? Who the hell wants to get into a relationship with anyone after 2 years like that? Certainly not me. And now my math includes a new husband that it took me over 3 years before I agreed to marry because I didn’t want to tie up my finances again. That’s what does math is for me.

  4. Excellent post! I have watched several friends go through this as well. I live away from them all though, so I’ve only been able to “feel” their pain through the phone. I can imagine the look as you described it so poignantly. It is a new beginning and a late start all in one but in short order it’ll be the best thing she’s every done for herself.

  5. Every one is a loser in an acrimonious divorce. Breaking up is hard enough without all the messy stuff. Your friend is blessed to be surrounded by you and other friends. To have love and empathy at this time is so important.

  6. I love everything about this article. Divorce was devastating for me, but the breakdown of my life and plans was essential to the rebuilding of something so much better. I have been through hell and for that reason, every day on the other side feels a little more like heaven. Thanks for another brilliant post!

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