I am child-free. This made my divorce somewhat easier, as there is nothing tying me to my ex. My friend Tony, who went through a divorce around the same time I did, has two kids—and the battle between him and his ex is like something from House Bolton on Game of Thrones.
I thought that because I had a child-free divorce, I wouldn’t have to ever see my ex wife again.
We don’t really hear too much about divorce amongst the child-free. On television shows and movies, divorce always breaks apart a family of four. We watch to see how the two parents will navigate the breakup minefield, and if the split will negatively affect poor little Billy and Peggy Sue. The child-free divorce has less drama—or so we think. Mine sure had drama, a lot of which was caused by my reaction to her divorce decision. Like a lot of the men currently reading this article, I never thought it would happen to me; and when it did, I was not a happy camper.
Cut to three years later. Hardly a thought about my ex (save the occasional nightmare where I’m married to her again). She faded more and more into the background: a 14 year-long footnote in The Life and Times of John Prindle. My day to day was going swimmingly… until she showed up again like a wart on my thumb.
As a child-free couple, I thought I could go the rest of my life without seeing her. Or, only seeing her in the distance, once in a blue moon, since we live in the same city. I work in a tall, glass building in the heart of downtown Portland. For the last two years, my office has been a safe space that I truly enjoy. My coworkers are great. The building has that hip and trendy industrial vibe. They even have free beer and kombucha on tap after 3pm! A good chunk of the building is a co-working space with many different companies occupying offices on three floors. And guess whose company just moved into the building? That’s right—my lovely ex-wife’s.
I thought it had to be some kind of mistake when I saw her standing on the office stairs, staring at her smartphone with a dumb look on her face. The co-working company rents out conference rooms to random firms on an hourly basis, so I told myself that’s all it was: the company she worked for had rented out a room for the day… then she’d be gone. Only later in the day did I find out that she’d be here for good.
I fretted about it a lot that first night. What were the odds? There are a million and one shared office spaces in Portland; why in the hell did her company have to pick this one? It felt like a violation. My former safe and fun office space had been ruined. Day after day, I would have to bump into her on the stairs, at the beer tap, and at any number of the social events that are thrown here by the owners of the shared office space company. It felt unfair, until I really thought about it.
Who cares if she’s here in the building? She’s a stranger to me now. I’ve seen and heard her in the distance a few times, and my reaction surprised me. No feelings of lost love, no nervousness, no revulsion. Nothing. It’s as if she doesn’t exist. I’m sure our paths will cross in the workplace countless times in the future, but, unlike my friends with kids, I can blissfully ignore her like the meaningless footnote she is.
My articles for this website tend to be more personal than most—but that’s what I’m good at. I can’t offer a lot of expert advice on how to survive your divorce. I’m not a licensed psychologist. I haven’t written any self-help books. All I can do is share my post-divorce experiences and hope that someone reading them can relate. I never thought I’d be forced to see my ex every day at work, but that’s just how the cookie crumbled—and, like everything else I’ve had to endure during and after my divorce, it’s just another learning experience; the universe saying, “Hey, Prindle! How about this? Can you handle it?”
Yes, universe—I can. The truth is, I can handle a whole lot more than I ever thought I could.