Eric Wolff’s Divorce Story

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    Eric Wolff opens the door to his car, climbs inside, and tosses his iPhone on the passenger seat. A Starbucks cup is still sitting in the cup holder. His wife, Melanie, left it there when she borrowed his car. Hers was in the shop, because she backed into another car in a parking lot.

    The sight of the cup makes him angry again. They’d had a fight and she seemed indifferent to the cost of the deductible and the inconvenience of using his car until hers was fixed. He had a business to run and thought she could have put up with the shop freebie, but she said it was small and ugly and he was tired of arguing.

    Next to the half-empty coffee cup there’s a receipt from one of Melanie’s shopping escapades. “How can a purse cost the same as a pair of skis?” Eric wonders. He knows it is a double-standard, especially considering his recent heli-skiing trips with the boys. The difference is that he worked relentlessly to pay for it all.

    He’s always been ambitious and a hard worker, but now his business is a sanctuary. Instead of fighting, he pours his energy into his work. He rarely sees his kids, because he’s working or they’re in bed when he gets home.

    Their once great marriage is more like a strained business partnership now. While he sits up and watches the news, Melanie heads to bed with a book. He knows she’s awake sometimes, but she pretends to sleep when he crawls into bed. Sometimes he sleeps on the sofa or in the spare room.

    When he talks to Melanie it is only out of necessity and brief and unemotional. She doesn’t complain about his absences anymore. Eric thinks she probably likes it when he is away now, but he worries about the number of empty wine bottles he finds in the garage when he gets back from his trips.

    He starts the car and the Rolling Stones come on. “I can’t get no satisfaction, ‘cause I try and I try and I try and I try…” He turns it up louder than normal. His emotions pour out into his Keith Richards’ air guitar solo at the red light. Traffic is heavy and he’s going to be late, even though he left early.

    Eric sighs and pulls into a parking lot alongside a low slung office building. He has been dreading this counseling session with Melanie. His gut tells him it would take a miracle to fix their marriage, but he loves his family and hopes they can make things work.

    He walks into the counselor’s office and sits down. Melanie is texting someone on her phone and doesn’t even say hello. Without looking up, she says, “You’re late.You’re supposed to sit in that chair,” pointing to the other seat only three feet away. Eric’s temperature rises. It’s obvious this isn’t going to go smoothly.

    The counselor greets Melanie and Eric when she walks in. Melanie immediately takes control of the session. She rages over Eric’s absences and his indifference to their marriage and their kids. Her face is flushed and her eyes flash as she recounts her struggles. He feels a mixture of guilt and satisfaction at seeing her finally show some emotion again. Still, he is concerned about how all of this is affecting the kids.

    Melanie announces that she hired a divorce lawyer earlier that day. He flinches, but then forces his attention back to the counselor’s voice. He is relieved Melanie wants a divorce because they have grown so far apart, but he’s also ticked off as her move makes him realize this was all a waste of time.

    It is the most logical step, but he resents that this somehow gives her the upper hand. Will he become a failed marriage statistic and one of those guys who’s ruined by his divorce? “How did we get to this point? I never thought this would be me,” Eric thought.

    Instead of heading back to the office, Eric heads to the mountain to clear his head. He throws in his earbuds and rides the lift like he’s done hundreds of times before. He considers texting his buddies from college with the news of his pending divorce, but stops. He looks at family pictures on his phone and his eyes well up with tears.

    He skis hard. He skis fast. As he hits each mogul, questions buried in his mind come to the surface.

    How will we break this to the kids? How will our families and friends react? Are Melanie and the kids going to stay in the house? How much is it going to cost to care for them? What about their college education and activities? Who will manage the money? Melanie has no money sense.

    Where am I going to live? How will we split our property? What about my dog? It has lived with the family for so long. What about my business? Can I protect it or will I have to start again?”

    Eric careens down the mountain, veers off the trail, and stops. He’s emotionally and physically drained. With tears streaming down his face he realizes everything is different now. For the first time in a very long time, he’s unsure of what to do and he’s a little scared. He quickly understands that he needs help if he is to create the future he wants for himself, his kids, and his business.