What to expect when you’re divorcing

Jan 8, 2014 at 6:00 am

January is the most popular month for divorce — if you’re headed for splitsville, here’s a primer

You can exhale.

Publicly placed P.A. speakers have stopped blasting holiday music, which means you can silence your internal debate over which Christmas song you hate more, “Little Drummer Boy” or “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

People will stop making food with eggnog in it — thank God, because eggnog is disgusting, especially when you bite into what appears to be a perfectly normal cupcake and your mouth is assaulted by a glob that resembles something most girls prefer to swallow as quickly as possible.

The holidays are over, and for a certain segment of the population, something else is about to be over, too. According to eDivorcePapers.com by way of Huffington Post, more people file for divorce in January than any other time of the year. Perhaps the idea of permanently terminating a marriage is too much to deal with during the busy holiday season, so people wait for the fresh, stark dawn of a new year.

But, until then, baby it’s cold inside.

I filed for divorce in January 2012, and I still cringe when I think of that last Christmas. We’d already gone our separate ways for Thanksgiving; I enjoyed my first “orphan’s Thanksgiving” with friends, and he spent it with his family in Texas, who likely noticed my absence. What followed was nearly a month of scowling through Christmas carols, holiday movies, silent nights and separate bedrooms.

By Christmas Eve, we’d retreated to opposite ends of the battlefield, separated by multiple state lines. I elected to have an adventurous, exciting Christmas vacation, running around New York City as if I were in an episode of HBO’s “Girls,” with friends who were Jessas to a Hannah in crisis. I had my tarot cards read until I liked what they said, I drank most of the whiskey in Brooklyn, and I learned that one of my friends writes checks to her drug dealer in Connecticut. (I’m sure my soon-to-be ex was doing something much more Christmas-appropriate with his family.)

We regrouped in January for “mediation” — i.e., fighting over antique furniture, mortgages and dog custody — and eventually, we signed a treaty. War is over if you want it, indeed.

So, you know, I get it. Regardless of your situation, divorce is a drag, and it’s not cheap (which is probably another reason people wait until after the holidays to file). While I clearly shouldn’t be giving any kind of advice about marriage or relationships, I can tell you about a few of the things you can expect immediately upon your return to single status. And since many of divorce’s side dishes are rather unpleasant, let’s focus on the positive for now.

At first, you might be intimidated by icky household tasks you nagged your husband to do, like killing spiders or changing the filter on the AC unit. But when you do these things yourself, you’re reminded that you’re no damsel in distress. You don’t need anyone to do these things for you. (Actually, you never did, it’s just nice when you have someone else who can kill the spiders.) Hell, you can even mount your flatscreen TV on the wall without any help, right? No? Yeah, I couldn’t figure that out, either. Fortunately, you can borrow other people’s husbands or ask friends or nice neighbors to help with that kind of stuff. Or, maybe your TV is always going to be little crooked, like mine.

Reclaiming your social freedom is extremely liberating and damn fun. You don’t have to check in with your “other half” to see if “we’re” available. You can go to the movies you want to, the parties you want to, and the concerts you want to without the dead weight of a reluctant spouse who is whining because he’d rather be watching football. Oh, and if you don’t want to, you don’t have to watch football … ever again!

Reclaiming your sexual freedom is even more fun. You can date anyone you want, which is usually frowned upon in a traditional marriage. You can have sex with anyone you want! But be careful about how much you do that, or you probably won’t be invited to many dinner parties. (Or maybe you will. I don’t know your friends.)

Take it easy this year. Don’t freak out if you find yourself in some awkward social situations. Divorce is hard on mutual friends, too, so don’t take it personally if you’re not invited to all of those dinner parties. Don’t be afraid to go to stuff — like weddings — solo. It’s really not that scary, and if you’re lucky, they’ll seat you at the kids’ table, which is more entertaining than the dreaded singles’ table. (If a 7-year-old gets ahold of your number, he will message you from his iPad all day, every day. Cute.)

Most important, don’t be in a big rush to dive into another relationship, even if that was a factor in your divorce. Move too quickly and you’ll miss red flags. If you’re a serial monogamist or fall prey to codependency, get a dog, or maybe just a goldfish.

If there’s any way to make lemonade out of a shitty situation like a divorce, at least you’ve learned something. Because if we truly learn better from failure than success, and a divorce is a failed marriage … well, you’re already on the right path for 2014. Congratulations!