“I didn’t see that one coming” and other post breakup strange-isms

Posted By on Jan 31, 2014 |


This is a guest post by Carrie Schmeck.

Among the strange and unexpected of the newly divorced is the awkward vernacular of what just happened.

How do you casually throw it out there that your life just blew apart? How do you sidestep the value-charged statement that you are divorcing? What do you call the man who is still but isn’t quite your husband anymore? These are things I stumbled over for months—still stumble over some, depending on the time, place and to whom I speak.

In the earliest days, it was these:

1. I’m sooooooo sorry. 

This one came in degrees, measured by the horror in a person’s facial expression and the number of o’s on so. An expected response, I suppose. Divorce causes carnage. Everyone hurts to some degree. The kids. It’s ugly.

But despite the ugly, the break up was good for me. For a while I was almost euphoric from the empowerment of making my decision. So when I got this response, my head screamed, I’m not! But how could I say that without offering an appropriate explanation in a nanosecond? Casual acquaintances don’t want the story. Mutual friends don’t want details that might force them to swing to conclusions. They just want to express their sorrow.

The best I could do was, Thank you. It’s a healthy decision for me. 

2.  I didn’t see that one coming. 

To this I always wanted to say, Ya? I was that good at being dysfunctional. Instead, I would say, Not many did or something lame like that. It was often hard to hear, like they questioned whether the breakup was based on trivial matters—if we looked good, didn’t that mean we were? Mostly they were just shocked and baffled.

It is a good reminder, even for me, that the face presented to the world doesn’t always capture the battles hidden within.

3. Aren’t you so-and-so’s wife?

Uh, sort of? Not really anymore… I think I scandalized more than one person with this. One poor guy about tripped over himself as he backed up sputtering, Oh! Hey. I’m sorry. I don’t know anything. I didn’t mean to get involved… Another instance where other-peoples’-messes—in this case, mine—serve as repellant. I didn’t expect him to get involved and I didn’t think being honest made him so. I felt like he all of a sudden feared I would launch into down-and-out divorcee mode and clearly, he wanted no part. I don’t know that there is another way to respond except straight ahead. We have to allow others to respond the way they do and understand it isn’t us, it’s their discomfort with emotion.

4. My… uh…soon-to-be, not quite ex/former spouse person?

Tricky indeed were the months of limbo between just separated and divorced. I never landed on a perfect fit but I kept and keep one rule—if my kids are near, I refer to him as my kids’ dad. 

Personally, I don’t care for the term, my ex. I’m still not comfortable saying his name (this is a process and I’m not there yet) so I usually end up with my former spouse, which sounds affected but it’s the best I’ve got for now.

How about you? Have you been through these awkward moments? How do you refer to your former/ex/not-quite-spouse-anymore?

Carrie Schmeck is a marketing content and features writer from Redding, CA. Her work has appeared in USATodayCollege,  NextStepU, QSR, Clubhouse and Enjoy magazine. After being married nearly 27 years, she is rediscovering life on her own, enjoying her three (plus one and a half) kids and racking up miles with close friends on her road bike.