Monday, September 27, 2010

An Unexpected Consequence of Divorce

Losing friends after a divorce happens a lot. People often take sides. Friends feel greater allegiance to one person or the other and cannot imagine remaining close to both spouses, an unfortunate situation. There is another consequence that usually is not on the radar during divorce proceedings. Favorite places can get lost in the shuffle.

Both spouses vacationed in a special place, like Wellfleet, while children were small. They watched their kids play in the waves or dig into a plate of French fries at Lobster Hut, faces rosy with sunburn from having spent an extra hour in the sun. They did the bunny hop together at the Wednesday square dance, or enjoyed ice cream at Just Desserts. Then, divorce deprives one partner of a coveted Outer Cape vacation spot, be it a rental, a home, or a house owned by in-laws.

"I used to come to Wellfleet a lot," a Boston-area doctor told me. There was a pause, pregnant with emotion. "When I was married to my former wife. Now, Wellfleet is her territory."

I’m paraphrasing, but that was the point he was making. This man misses Wellfleet but doesn’t come anymore because his wife got the house after the divorce. He no longer feels welcome or comfortable.

Sometimes Sven tells me about missing an island off the coast of Sweden, where his family would spend a month in the summer when his children were small. Sometimes he and his ex skied over in winter, with the kids on sledges. There were no cars. Everyone rode bikes. He misses going fishing with his father-in-law. "It’s horribly sad, really, but I’m not going to cry over that now," Sven said yesterday.

People do not talk about this type of loss much, but it must happen here more than you might expect. I’m quite sure people think about it anyway, because in novels set on Cape Cod, often divorce is an integral part of the plot.

What makes me write about losing Wellfleet? Over the weekend my ex visited our daughters in Boston. He has not been to Wellfleet in over 20 years and has no intention of coming back. Sometimes I wonder if he ever misses this beautiful place. Do you have friends who have been in this situation?