When we watched Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story our team identified with the film in different ways. At Phillips & Peters, we represent clients in some of the worst times of their lives. We’ve seen the pain and heartache that can come with a family transition. We also know there is hope on the other side. Two of our team members, Attorney Jennifer Worden and Paralegal Ashley Keil, have been through the struggles of divorce themselves. As they have both moved forward from that time they can now look back on their situations with different perspectives. Today Jen opens up about her divorce experience and shares her “Marriage Story”.
Q: How long were you married and with how many children?
J: We were married for 12 years. At the time of separation our son was 9. We each had a child from our previous marriages. His son was a teenager at the time and my daughter was 4. We were a blended family.
Q: Did you think it was “happily ever after”?
J: Yes, always. I thought he was “my person.” I thought this relationship, our marriage, and family were the end-all, be-all.
Q: When did you know it wasn’t going to be what you had hoped for?
J: We always had our ups and downs. It went in waves: up, down, up, down, but the downs were always followed by an up. At one point, I could sense a distance that just hadn’t been there before. We were drifting and I was suspicious of his drift, so I started snooping. And that’s when I knew.
Q: What did you do when you came to the difficult realization that your marriage was not going to survive?
J: I cried. I was angry. I cried some more. We tried couple’s therapy like Nicole and Charlie at the beginning of the movie but like Nicole, I was just so angry. He was not being truthful, and it turns out it was a waste of time. So, I got an attorney and filed. Don’t get me wrong: I think couple’s therapy can be very beneficial, but both parties must be in it wholeheartedly and genuinely. For my situation that wasn’t the case.
Q: What do you wish you had done differently?
J: Honestly, I wish I had tried harder to keep my marriage together. I wish I could have let go of the anger and been able to forgive. I wish I had recognized the drift earlier and address it before it became overwhelming. Being a stay at home mom was such a joy to me but putting my career on hold meant when we split, I had to start from scratch. I had no experience and my teaching certificate had lapsed in all that time.
Q: What advice do you have for those out there thinking about divorce or those who are already in the middle of one?
J: If you do not have children, it’s a business transaction. It’s “what assets and debts do we have and how do we split them?” If you do have children, always think about them and their best interests when making decisions. If you can think “what is in the best interest of my child(ren)?” with every move you make and doing what is in their best interest, you’re doing well and your children will do well.
I’ve seen many people try to hurt their spouse by telling the kids inappropriate things they have no business knowing. Sometimes parents try to keep the children from the other parent with no basis or reasoning other than being selfish and manipulative. Don’t be that parent. It’s more hurtful than you know. Unless your ex is a complete crap bag (read: sex offender, drug abuser, total neglecter), he or she deserves to have time with the kids too.
Finally, I would say it’s important to remember, “a man is not a plan.” Neither is a wife but I couldn’t think of a catchy rhyme for that. The point is, do not let your career and your ability to support yourself be lost in the “he’s supporting us” bliss. Because if a divorce becomes inevitable, you will be flailing and scared of the power of your spouse making all the money.
If you’re in the middle of your “Marriage Story” and need help navigating your way to a peaceful ending then consider calling Phillips & Peters to find your next step forward.