Love in the Time of COVID-19




Zoom Divorce

My attorney had walked me through what the Zoom court date would look like. It was a scripted meeting, with the judge, a court recorder, both attorneys, my ex and me present. After seven months of negotiations and preparation, the date had arrived after which I would be a divorced 57-year-old woman, and a 30-year marriage would legally end.

I remember giving thought to what I would wear for the Zoom court date, after all, this was a significant day. Ironic, but I noticed similar feelings to the day I got married – I was nervous and felt uncertain regarding what the future held, and also hope and eagerness to live for myself, not as a wife. Yet I also felt tremendous loss, grief, anger, regret, and sadness. The loss of a 30-year marriage, a lifetime. Loss of all that I had anticipated and hoped for on my wedding day.

I chose to wear the orange dress and white jacket I had worn out to dinner on the last anniversary we celebrated together, our 28th. By then, things were already unravelling, and dinner that evening was tense.

I sat at my computer on the back porch of the apartment I was renting. Both kids were home for the summer, as COVID-19 was still raging.

The time for our court appointment was at 2:00PM on August 4, 2020. The six of us appeared on Zoom like boxes on the Match Game or Brady Bunch. I truly don’t remember all that was said, but someone called the meeting to order and confirmed the reason for the court date – divorce due to irreconcilable differences, the judge stated that she had reviewed the documents and that everything was in order, the attorneys said a few things, and we each, under oath, answered some questions. Then, the judge granted the divorce, “I hereby grant you the dissolution of marriage.” That was that – all in less than 20 minutes. The meeting ended. My attorney called me and told me she would follow up with notarized documents once she received them. The End. The end of our marriage, my dreams for what married life would be, the end of companionship and someone to grow old with. Granted, these things had long ended by then, but the dissolution of marriage still felt like a gut punch.

I sat a moment with the soft breeze flowing in the porch window, the trees swaying in the sunshine and felt a bit stunned; it was a beautiful day. My life had just changed enormously in the span of a few minutes. The Zoom court date was anticlimactic given everything that led up to it. I opened the door from the porch to the kitchen. My son was standing there fixing something to eat, and I said, Wow, that was quick. I’m now divorced. He gave me a hug, and I cried on his shoulder for a minute. I told him how sorry I was for how this has changed his life, its impact on him. And I told him how proud I was of how he's coped. I then called my daughter to the kitchen, and I told her, hugged her, and told her how amazed I was at her resilience under such intense stress the past few years.

After so many months of being consumed by arguments, separation, and divorce negotiations, it was over. My ex and I were now only connected by our responsibilities to care for our children and pay for their college educations.

I changed my clothes and have since donated the dress - I could never wear it again without remembering the divorce date or our last anniversary dinner. I then got in my car and drove to one of my favorite places along the lakefront path, and in a deliberate act, buried the small pieces of paper on which I had written the words of the emotions I intended to heal from and leave behind – anger, resentment, remorse, grief, inadequacy, and more. I then sat on a rock along the water’s edge and listened to the water and to the silence. I had cried so many tears over the previous months, and I don’t remember if any came that day. I do remember feeling both empty and calm. After about a half hour, I got up, brushed off my shorts and drove home.

Zoom Divorce is quick. Surreal but quick. Healing is not.

Taking the Plunge

I distinctly remember sitting in my friend’s steamed up car, soaking wet, where we took refuge after getting caught in a thunderstorm while running. Diane, Sippi said, you need to date a lot of men and have a lot of sex! I was approaching the online court date, via Zoom, to finalize my divorce. I had only been intimate with one man – my soon to be ex-husband – my entire life. The thought of dating, let alone sex, with someone I didn’t even know yet, truly terrified me. And, given that my marriage had been deteriorating for years before its final collapse, let’s just say that my sex life was in hibernation. I even thought at that time that sex wasn’t important to me – I could take it or leave it.

Let me back up a little to set the stage. My ex and I separated in the fall of 2018 as our son was preparing to move away and begin college and our daughter was entering a new high school (clearly, our family was experiencing a few significant stressors). We went through 10 months of marriage counseling to no avail. Getting my then spouse to attend counseling took 3 months, as he said he knew what needed to change (me), verbally abused me during this time to try to enlighten me, and he said a therapist couldn’t teach him anything; he was smarter than them all.

When I finally told him in January 2019 that if he wouldn’t attend counseling, I was going to file for divorce, he agreed to go with me. However, the only time he would interact with me was during counseling sessions. How could we earnestly try to repair our marriage if he wouldn’t interact with me and kept his life closed off, behind the curtain like in The Wizard of Oz? In hindsight, I realized that he had likely checked out of the marriage many months ago, and counseling may have been a box for him to check so he could say he had done all he could to save the marriage. I finally tapped out in early November 2019 and suggested we call it quits. We began the divorce process in January 2020. In March, COVID-19 erupted and thank God, rather than postpone proceeding until we were able to again meet in person, we agreed to work with our collaborative attorneys (collaborative divorce is an option if the couple can tolerate meeting with each other while attorneys are present) via Zoom.

At some point in 2020, Maggie, my therapist, asked me about dating. I said, yes, of course, but not online and not during COVID-19. I had seen a commercial on TV for a virtual FaceTime date and scoffed at it – that’s so stupid! But the more I thought about it, I realized it was perfect. What better way to screen men than in the comfort of my own home when I didn’t have to commit an afternoon or evening for coffee or dinner without an escape route. I could easily avoid an in-person meeting by hiding behind C0VID-19 – this was before the vaccine became readily available.

I’m 57 years old. I haven’t been on a date with anyone new since I began dating my ex when I was 22. The thought of dating ignited my flight response and made me want to run for the hills. While I may have wanted to put a toe back in the water and socialize, I felt like I was 16 years old again, with absolutely no dating experience and little confidence.

My life is full, and I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I have lots of friends, varied interests, a successful career, two wonderful college-aged children, and two rescue dogs. I do miss having someone special to share life with, and I miss being special to someone. I’m not looking to get married again, also not ruling it out, but I’d like to find someone to enjoy life with.

So, I took the plunge and signed up for and Silver Singles, a site for people over 50 (I can’t stand the name of that site, it sounds old.). It was so weird, this online dating world; I was nervous and unsure of myself. Once I “matched” with someone, how would I have a conversation with a complete stranger? What would we talk about? How would I decide if I wanted to talk to him again? How would I make sure I’m not talking to a creep?

Maggie had asked me what my deal breakers were. Identify 3-5 behaviors a man must demonstrate for me to continue dating him, and 3-5 things he must NOT do – deal breakers. These are things to watch for on the first three dates in order to cut loose before becoming too invested in a relationship that has red flags and warning whistles blaring. For me, a very easy one is smoking. I won’t date a smoker. Another is treating others with respect. Another is No Trumpsters. Believe it or not, it was difficult to come up with the rest of my deal breakers.

It was easier for me to define my dating rules – how I was going to approach dating. If I could stay true to these tenets, I felt that I would successfully navigate the murky waters. So, I keep the following guiding principles in mind:
  1. Have fun
  2. Be myself
  3. Be safe
  4. Learn something from every encounter (about myself, about dating, etc.)
  5. Have no regrets
  6. Don’t settle

So far, so good.