Letting go

Adam Evenson talks about his long process of emotional separation.

My most acute need in the early stages of my divorce was to "understand" what had happened and what was happening. Her greatest need was to establish distance. The needs were incompatible. My efforts to talk, or to communicate through writing, all ended badly. She refused to talk about anything.

On the day that our divorce became final she wanted to have a champagne breakfast and invite all our friends. I declined. When the judge made his pronouncement and bid us go our separate ways, she approached me for a hug, and I walked past her without responding.

After 5 years of living separate lives, she said she wanted to explain how she had experienced the events following our separation. She said she wanted to apologise for some things and clear up some old stuff. I suggested that she should seek someone who might be interested in what she had to say about those things, because I no longer was.

I did not make the comment in spite. I just spoke my truth.

I am reminded of these two stories.


The old monk and his student came to a river. There had been rain in recent days and the river was high and swift.

There was a young woman standing by the bank of the river.

The old monk approached her and asked if she needed to cross. She said that she did. He picked her up and carried her across, with the novice monk following behind.

Leaving the woman, the two monks walked for some time in silence, but something was obviously troubling the young monk.

Finally, the old man asked him what was bothering him. The young man said that he was very confused. He had been told when he joined the order that he must never touch a woman, yet his much respected teacher had just carried a woman across a river.

The old man said: "So why don't you put her down now, I did so back by the river.


Two not very bright brothers living in Deliverance County were visited late one night by a female travelling saleswoman. The very attractive woman asked to stay the night.

During the night she visited each of them in his bed and taught them about sex. As part of the lesson she had said that since she did not want to become pregnant each man needed to wear a condom.

She left in the morning.

A year later the two brothers were sitting on the porch talking.

One said, "You remember that woman who was here about a year ago?"

"Yeah," said the other.

"You care if she get pregnant?"

"Nah," came the reply.

"Then I guess we can take these things off."

Although it's easy to laugh now, I remember how hard it was when I was in the early stages of separation and people tried to tell me that the intense feelings I was experiencing would pass in a couple of years.

I hated everyone who said that, partly because I did not think I could survive such intensity, and partly because I could not believe that the unpleasant feelings would ever diminish.

I felt so betrayed, sometimes unbearably lonely, often angry to the point of rage, frequently bitter and resentful, periodically deeply depressed.

I found it helped to record my thoughts and emotions in a journal, along with all the questions I thought my wife could answer and knew she would not.

I still have all the notebooks I wrote during that process. I dated everything. In the beginning I sometimes spent whole days writing in those books. The length and frequency of entries diminished over time.

Seven years on, I realise how much better my life is without her. I had been miserable for years with her, but I had a great deal of difficulty letting go of the promise I made when we exchanged personal vows on the night we conceived our first child: I had vowed to "work through everything; to find solutions which suited us both; to always be on the same side in any conflict. . ."

The realisation that we had reached a point which could not be worked through was a realisation of my limitations, and it was humbling.

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