I am conducting a series of interviews about people who have or are going through divorce. In the coming months we will meet with each interviewee again and share with you how their lives and outlook has changed since our first interview with them. My hope is for every individual story to touch someone who is going through the journey of divorce so they may find a common thread that will help them take one step further into the light that awaits them.
Brian Connaughton: Brian is a 43 year old male advertising executive who lives in Maplewood, New Jersey. He has a 10 year old son who lives in another state with his mother. Brian flies every other weekend to visit his son and is learning to redefine the traditional role of being a father. He was married for 15 years and is in the final stages of a two-year ongoing divorce.
Agi Smith: What stage in the world of divorce are you in; denial, self-reflection, attack mode, acceptance and peace?
Brian Connaughton: I'm probably vacillating between all of them. Attack mode is slowly diminishing even though I am still pretty frustrated with a lot of aspects of it. I am not fully into the acceptance and peace place yet. The denial part has popped up in different places, not the denial of the divorce, that came early on. Some aspect of the judgment I am a little bit challenged with, maybe a little bit in denial with. I am coming to the point of acceptance, and man I hope some day I get to the peace part. I don't want to be defined by being a "divorced guy." I can't deny that it is a major part of my life, but hopefully it won't be a defining part of my life but rather a new definition of 'me' will evolve rather then me seeing myself through the lens of divorce.
AS: What have you found to be the most difficult part of divorce?
BC: There's the very tangible result of my son living 700 miles away from me. The emotional part of that is very difficult. I also think that the recalibration of my own expectation of being a father is vastly different. I thought I was going to be one kind of dad when my son was born and due to the court system I am now forced to be a different kind of dad. I'm trying to be Zen about it, we'll see. Additionally, the procedure of divorce is terrible. Nobody tells you when you get married and you sign the marriage certificate that it is really a 'contract.' We get married in places we consider to be holly, either a church, beach or a magnificent setting of some sort or sometimes at the court house steps. Perhaps we should always get married in the courthouse because marriage is a contract and in the back end it could go bad, and when it does people will potentially end up in the courthouse.
AS: Have any parts of divorce been unexpectedly easy?
BC: Yes. For me being single was unexpectedly easy and I think that is probably a testament to how appropriate the divorce was. The divorce is the official ending of the relationship, but by the time you get there the relationship is pretty much over. So being single was relatively easy. Not from a dating romantic way, because I didn't date, but I realized there was an immense tension in my life that now had a place and before it didn't. In some ways this was helpful for my son because he was in a house that had this fog of sorts and with the divorce there is outward aggression and tension but at least its outward. I've always been this believer that bad things grow in the dark when you don't talk about them and good things grow in the light when you do. The divorce was a great way for his mother and I to come out into the light.
AS: Do you believe in marriage?
BC: I do. I'm not sure I believe in the government's role in marriage but I do believe in marriage and two people coming together and committing themselves to each other. I remember signing my marriage license in the back of the church. At the time I didn't think about it as a contract, I was thinking about the service and the ceremony and the love I had for this woman. I don't know if the dissolution of a marriage should be left up to a judge who doesn't know the personalities and the people involved because it is such an emotional situation.
AS: Are you the same person today as the day you were married?
BC: Oh God no. (laughter) The core of me is the same but I am much more forgiving and less judgmental. I've got the wounds of somebody who has been through this challenge and that means when I see other people struggling I have a lot more empathy. It has made me a better person, certainly a more patient person. I've grown immensely internally and I feel I am a much better man.
AS: What is your 'funny' in this process?
BC: How the little things end up being important. I remember reading in court documents about one tiny memento a friend of mine had given me fifteen years ago and my wife happened to take it with her during her move out of state. I told my lawyers as a throw away, "I want to get that pink sculpture back." That statement ended up in the order of the court. Seeing that was so funny because it was such a small item and the judge ordered that little piece of crap to be returned to me.
AS: Name one element you miss about being married.
BC: I miss for my son the ease with which he could talk about his parents. Because when I hear him talk to his friends I hear his hesitation because there is a stigma when moms and dads are no longer together. He knows there is a tension between his mother and his father so that familial likeness that an intact family has is gone in his life. I miss that for him. For me, I don't miss much. I have to work a lot harder to be a dad and to be in his life. I don't mind that I just wish I had a little more help from his mother. My role as my son's dad requires a lot of work not just showing up every other weekend.
AS: What is your favorite part about being unmarried?
BC: There is a freedom that comes with divorce. I come home and it's just me. If I want to meet friends for a beer after work I have that ability or I can watch whatever I want on the TV or listen to my choice of music. I know that sounds small. One thing that disturbs me is that the house is quiet. When you have a child in the house there is a wonderful noise that comes with that. It's challenging to know when I come home it's just me and my son's fish.
AS: If you could do it all over again--your marriage--would you?
BC: Maybe. I certainly wouldn't have gotten married as young as I was. Even though I was 27 at the time I wasn't fully aware of who I was yet and I know that my son's mother wasn't either. Knowing who my son's mother is now, probably not.
AS: What is the 'take away' from your marriage?
BC: I'm pretty focused on my son, so, in my mind my marriage was a success because my son is in the world. Just because my marriage has ended doesn't mean it was a failure. I will always have a relationship with her because of this wonderful boy and I am going to do my best to honor him and what created him. My marriage helped create this wonderful little person. It didn't work out so great for his parents, but that's okay because we will move forward.
AS: Do you remember when you first fell in love?
BC: Yes. It was in high school and it was wonderful. She was a wonderful girl in St. Louis where I grew up. It was magical and we had a real closeness, and it was as high school love is, filled with passion. You become so emotionally intertwined with this person, as much as you possibly can be when your sixteen years old. You have that fire that burns and that is the fire that sustains you throughout your romantic life. But I don't know if it ever burns brighter then the first time you fall in love. You don't have the experience to shape it when you are young.
AS: Do you want love in your life again?
BC: Oh, absolutely, I need it. Absolutely. Romantically and otherwise.
If you believe you are a good candidate for us to interview for our Divorce Questionnaire, please email us a short paragraph letting us know why: firstname.lastname@example.org