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Simply Solo Spotlight: A Nail in the Coffin

April 5, 2011

Today’s Simply Solo Spotlight  is written by Mark Petruska from Mark My Words. This is Mark’s second guest post on Simply Solo (remember the very funny Tale of the Tattooed Grandma?). For this post, he took on the more serious subject matter of his divorce. I love this piece and hope you enjoy it too. I think we can all empathize with what Mark has been through. And be sure to check out his blog – I laugh out loud every time I read it!  

Quick shameless plug: Do you have a story to tell? Advice to offer? Did you just have literally the worst date of your life and you must write about it? I’d love to have you as the next Simply Solo Spotlight! Contact me at:

A Nail in the Coffin

There’s a scene in When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan’s character calls Billy Crystal’s one night, crying inconsolably. Sally begs Harry to come over because she has just learned that her ex, Joe, is getting married. Harry rushes over to comfort her, one thing leads to another, and…well, it’s not about the sex so much as Harry’s surprise when he learns that Sally is upset over the impending nuptials. All along, she has professed to be “over” Joe, yet when she discovers he’s replacing her with somebody else through a legal ceremony, she breaks down.

Great movie, and as far as romantic comedies go, one of the few that truly appeals to me. I can relate to so much of what is happening in the film, right down to Harry’s infamous declaration that men and women cannot be friends because the sex always gets in the way. I have to reluctantly agree with him on that point in most cases. However, I’m not here to open up that can of worms, but rather to discuss the scene I mentioned above. Because I recently had a similar experience of my own.

I won’t go into all the sordid details of my marriage, but if you were reading the condensed version in Reader’s Digest it would go something like this: MEX (Mark’s EX, a/k/a high school sweetheart and wife of 14 years) slims down after years of struggling with her weight and, displaying a newfound confidence, hooks up with a coworker; Mark finds out, marriage ends. It’s a sad but not uncommon story. Could we have worked things out? Maybe, but at the time there was too much anger, and besides, we had both drifted apart over the years. Her infidelity provided an excuse to start fresh.

Our divorce was finalized in 2006, just a few days before Christmas. Ho-ho-ho, indeed. I missed MEX occasionally, but for the most part embraced my newfound bachelorhood. We had met when we were 17, so I had never really had an opportunity to be single before. It was a whole new world to me – a fun one, full of adventure (and, admittedly, a little scary at times). I was too busy enjoying myself to grieve much over my lost marriage.

And then, earlier this year, I received a jolt. It came in the form of a text from my son, who was at his mother’s house that week (we share custody of the kids equally, splitting weeks). MEX is getting married tomorrow!

This wasn’t exactly earth-shattering news. She and her boyfriend (the coworker she had shacked up with) had been living together for a while, and she’d had a ring on her finger for a couple of years. But their wedding date got pushed back many times, and there were continuous reports of trouble in paradise, so nobody believed their marriage was ever going to happen. In that regard, I was surprised – not only by the fact that it was actually taking place, but also by the suddenness of it all. And by my reaction to the news: I had my own Sally Albright moment. I didn’t break down in tears, but – for the first time since our marriage ended – I actually felt a sense of loss that was both deep and painful. Though I knew we’d never get together again – nor did I have any desire to – the fact that we couldn’t just made it all seem so final, the nail in the coffin that relegated our union to something truly buried six feet under.

I mourned that weekend. I couldn’t help but picture the MEX that I fell in love with way back when A Flock Of Seagulls were all the rage. Her expressive eyes filled with love for the boy she called “puppy;” her supple lips that I loved to kiss; her distinct laugh. My mind picked through a treasure trove of happy memories: a romantic walk on the beach where I drew a heart in the sand; stepping across the threshold of our first-ever apartment; my proposal tucked inside a fortune cookie; a promise to love ‘til death do us part’; the look on her face when she announced she was pregnant with our first child; the feeling in my heart when the news sank in…

I never cried, but the fact is, it hurt. Even though our marriage was irretrievably broken and I was, for the most part, happy and content, I still felt a strange sense of nostalgic remorse that weekend. We are two very different people, and divorce was the right choice for us both. I never regret the severing of our union. Yet, for all the pain and suffering of that last fateful year together, we did build a pretty good life, and to have it all go up and smoke will always be a bitter pill to swallow. I was naïve and thought she’d by mine forever. Turns out she wasn’t, and I think that will always sting a little. More than anything else, I was surprised by how hard I took the news. I didn’t think I was capable of feeling much emotion toward her, one way or another. I think it was good that I did. Cathartic, even.

Within a few days, I was fine. Everything feels normal again, and I no longer grieve over the fact that she has remarried. It’s as though I were reading a book and stuck on the last page. Now the chapter has officially ended, and I can shove that story back in the dusty old bookshelf where it belongs. Still, it’s nice to know that – for one brief, shining moment – I recalled all that was good about Us, and I felt again the power of a love that had long ago gone dormant. It validates our relationship. We were Real, once upon a time. And with memories to draw upon, a part of Us will always be real.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. 2NewBeginnings permalink
    April 5, 2011 9:40 am

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I’m going through a divorce right now and all of the bitter feelings, hurt, feelings of thanking God I have a new start, etc that’s what I’m going through now. To think that one day I will be healed enough to be able to see and appreciate the positive parts as well, very encouraging.

    • April 5, 2011 12:40 pm

      When the divorce was fresh in my mind, I never thought the day would come where I would actually look back with fondness on our marriage…but it did. That old saying, “time heals all wounds,” proves true, it turns out.

  2. April 5, 2011 10:21 am

    Dude. This is powerfully written. It is a brave thing to admit to those feelings, and you should be really proud you did. Chapter closed, on to the next great story!

    • April 5, 2011 12:41 pm

      Thanks, Tori. I debated for a long time whether or not to write this. It’s not the type of story I’d ever post on my blog, so I’m thankful that Catherine had the perfect home for it.

  3. thepenisdoctor permalink
    April 5, 2011 11:14 am

    Dear Mark. Let me first congratulate you on having the patience of staying with a fat chick. I’m sitting here sipping an intoxicating Hennessy Cognac Ellipse (it’s $4,700 a bottle), smoking my pipe prepared with the tobacco I brought back from the Peruvian jungle and reading your post with incredulity. Now when I said congratulations I was obviously being sarcastic. I am not even going to berate you for sleepwalking most of your life. Thank God you’re divorced and alive! No you need to start smelling the flowers around you and I suggest starting with this lovely daisy, Miss Catherine….the blog owner who is obviously very taken with you. Contact me if you need help. It will be our secret. I must go for now. I have a plane to catch…

    • April 5, 2011 12:44 pm

      LOL…I don’t know what to make of your comment, penis doctor. (Never thought I’d type a sentence like that, either). “Thank God you’re divorced and alive!” – I definitely agree with that. I feel a little bit like Lester Burnham from American Beauty. And Miss Catherine is a lovely daisy, but one growing approximately 3000 miles from my back yard.

  4. April 5, 2011 11:58 am

    Mark. Thank you for that account from, what was, a very personal moment in your life. On one level or another we can all relate to your ‘nail in the coffin’. At least one thing where we understand the reality of the situation but there is still the possibility of something. Then without warning the door is slammed shut and the dead-bolt is engaged.

    Shocking? Yes. But as you put it in a few days you were fine.

    I take this as a reminder that sometimes we don’t have to wait for life to give us “closure”. Sometimes it simply provides the nail but it’s our job to hammer it down.

    Good show sir. And glad you’re able to take the good from it all.

    • April 5, 2011 12:46 pm

      Thank you, Matthew. I think if her wedding had been planned and plotted for a year in advance, with a date and rehearsal dinners and all the traditional trappings that come with marriage, I’d have been better prepared for it. But they decided on a lark to go through with the ceremony, and it was done in their living room. That just made the whole experience that much more bizarre and out-of-left-field.

  5. April 5, 2011 2:25 pm

    Beautiful post. I identify so much what your words and I echo what Matthew said.

    My engagement ended about 5 months ago, and the hurt/anger/bitterness did not really sink in until I had that nail in the coffin moment, about 3 months ago. You seem at a much better place than I am, and I very much respect your outlook. I hope this post rubs off on me in some way 🙂

    • April 5, 2011 6:02 pm

      To be fair, I’ve had a lot longer to deal with the idea of things being irretrievably over – more than 4 years, to be exact. So it’s natural that we’d be in different places. But you’ll get there, KD!

  6. April 6, 2011 7:02 am

    I truly believe that regardless of how you “feel” about your Ex, the moment of his/her remarriage is one that inspires some serious soul-searching. I also believe that when a marriage ends in betrayal, and the Ex ends up with the “other” person in your marriage (as was my case, and yours it sounds like, Mark), it may inspire some even deeper soul searching. Or at least a desire to have a few mojitos. Or a wild weekend romp. Or both. 😉

    For me, I did not grieve my relationship with my Ex that day as much as the idea that my children were participating in their first wedding — of their dad. To another woman. Who represented, in a very real way, the destruction of my family. That broke my heart, all over again.

    Even more heartbreaking was prior to the wedding, the “wedding website” that my Ex and his betrothed created to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. It include pix of my children under their respective roles of ring bearer and flower girl, with the words, “Our beautiful daughter” and “Our eldest son.” Can you say, “Ouch”?

    So I guess the message is this: There is a positive side to a lack of notice (and thus, lack of website featuring your children as “their” children). But watching an Ex through this process represents very real pain/healing nonetheless, regardless of time to adjust.

    Just another rite of passage along that crazy road named “Divorce.”

    Great post! 🙂

    • April 6, 2011 11:48 am

      Thanks, Mikalee. I know from reading your blog we’ve got a lot in common (minus the batshit craziness you’re having to put up with on your end). You’re absolutely right about both the mojitos and the wild weekend romp. Unfortunately, I only did one of those things, and it wasn’t the one I most wanted. 😉

      Having their stepfather refer to them as “his” children in any way, shape or form would drive me nuts. I applaud you for maintaining your sanity through it all.

  7. April 6, 2011 7:06 am

    Could def relate to this!

  8. April 8, 2011 4:03 am

    Alright the story was a sad one but not uncommon . Mark’s ex should not have betrayed Mark her hubby then,after being married for 14 years , that’s simply gross! Good to know that Mark was never too resentful for the divorce.
    Forever Mate?
    Do you have a partner who is forever with you?

    • April 10, 2011 2:32 am

      Life’s too short to hold onto resentment – and besides, it really was for the best. My life has changed in innumerable ways since we parted. Some bad, but mostly good. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today had we stayed together, and while that version of me would have been spared the pain of my loss, it would have been an incomplete version.

  9. Megan permalink
    April 8, 2011 8:46 am

    I read blogs to get a different perspective than my own. This blog has always helped me with that, but this post seems even more relevant. As someone who is dating a divorced man, I have no clue what goes on in his head when it comes to the previous life that he had. I don’t ask much since a. it isn’t really my business, b. he’ll share if he wants/needs to. I know he is still dealing with this…because as you have written about here, it is something a divorced person will always deal with in different ways as time goes on.

    This story is a good reminder that the past can creep in when you least expect it, and it is a good idea to communicate your thoughts and feelings with an outlet. Not only will it help you, but it will also help your loved ones figure out how to support you.

    • April 10, 2011 2:28 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Megan. Everybody reacts differently, but I’m sure you’re right – in some way, your man is dealing with feelings relating to his divorce. Time will heal the wounds, but they’ll never completely go away. Best of luck to you both!

  10. April 8, 2011 3:00 pm

    This was so touching and real and poignant. That feeling of loss DESPITE you knowing it was for the best seems to show its face in even the smallest, most short-term of relationships with me. That’s the kicker about life. It’s this journey of bittersweet reality and sometimes you’ve got to just feel it to heal it.

    Thank you for your honest sharing. It’s amazing how one writer can truly affect and inspire another.

    • April 10, 2011 2:30 am

      Thank you for your kind words. “You’ve got to feel it to heal it” – I like that (AND it has the bonus of rhyming!). I think I’ve felt some sense of loss in every relationship that has ended, but none hit home like when my ex remarried. That’s the kind of loss that really cuts to the bone, even when you think you’re over it completely.

  11. ACommenttoMake permalink
    April 11, 2011 9:53 pm

    I have had tears stuck in my eyes all day today, for various reasons….they were waiting for the ok to be released.

    It came in me reading this post.

    I always imagine how difficult it must be for people who divorce (I broke off my engagement almost a year ago)…It’s funny how no matter how RIGHT something is, it can still hurt. And, I appreciated your perspective. I have struggled lately with my ex having a new person in his life…and clearly treating her the way he had forgotten how to treat me. He was my high school sweetheart, and Im still young and have time to find my forever. In the meantime, Ive found an incredible catch that comes over like Harry and holds me when Im crying over the stupid ex….I can never thank him enough for understanding that Im still healing, and somewhat broken.

    I am eager to reach the point where I dont keep rereading the last chapter…and where, I can, as you say…but the book back on the dusty shelf where it belongs.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • April 13, 2011 4:03 pm

      I can relate. MEX and I were high school sweethearts. I sometimes think people have such a romantic notion of that concept that it’s even harder on them when high school sweethearts break up.

      You will find your forever, and while you may still occasionally think of your ex, in the long run you’ll be happier – I promise.


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