Hi again Notsonaivenow,
When you’re in the midst of this, often you fail to look at the situation logically. Your heart (or whatever amalgamation of the ephemeral you call that side) is still thinking of "how life should be" and trying to save it. The fantasy of "how it should be" is the pull reeling you back into your complacent state. The logical side is screaming at you the other way; trying to get you to perceive your reality as it exists. This is what Cooley noted.
What do we want in these golden years? I haven’t reached them, but I know many that have. Perhaps legacy, or looking back on a "life well lived." Maybe it’s the ending of the story we write in our heads – and ending already written. Legacy is a valuable thing, and as we approach advanced age it seems to be a huge driving force in actions. (At least, that’s what I’ve seen.)
As a doctor, you’ve touched thousands of lives – mostly for the better I am assuming. You’ve cured ailments and given people new leases on life. That’s a legacy. How you’ve been in your son’s life… that’s a legacy.
And, yet, (understandably) most of worth you’re placing on "legacy" or the value in your life is viewed with your WW as a central character. At least, I suspect that’s why you’re holding onto this.
In generations past it was common for spouses to separate and lead separate lives, all while keeping the marriage. Because, frankly, marriage as an institution was valuable no matter how horrible it was between two people.
And this is because, historically, marriage was more about societal order and property than it was about love, by and large. This has changed (likely, predominately for the better).
Until about fifty years ago, you had to actually PROVE that someone broke their vows in some way to have a judge agree to divorce the couple. This could be abandonment, abuse and infidelity. You had to prove to a judge that the other party had done something so egregious that the marriage had to be ended. It was a societal investment in marriage.
Now… marriage is about "love" in our common understanding. That feeling of love can vanish over the course of a long marriage. Love can be fleeting. Love can be between multiple people. This is the message of the current times. Once that "love" is gone a judge can split the assets and let everyone go their separate ways.
My guess is that you value your marriage more than your spouse for different reasons based on your prior posts.
Your spouse values the resources, your permissive attitude and the social capital (my guess). You value your spouse for beauty, legacy, routine and social capital as well. (This may be harsh, but it’s a prediction.).
You likely won’t get to a point where you know WHY YOU want this marriage to work for some time.
But, since I only chime in when I see someone in a dangerous position… here’s a few danger points that COULD happen:
"You broke our agreement to talk to each other BEFORE we talked to lawyers!" = "I wanted advanced warning so I could file first, protect assets and get out in front of the narrative for our social circle and family."
"Let’s get away for two weeks somewhere else to really hash this out – somewhere far away from here." = "I might want you out of the house and out of pocket and distracted while my lawyers get the ball rolling without you knowing. I want to put a pause on this because your filing is catching me off guard. Maybe I can accuse you of abuse or something while on vacation in another state."
"I really want the marriage to work, and all it would take is you being a drill instructor with our son." = "I want to keep you on the line and give you a hoop to jump through to buy time. I want to make this your fault, and that’s the best card I have – calling you a bad parent. Your parenting style is why I need to have sex with other people… I swear. And if you just take, say, six months to fix it [while I am getting ready to file] maybe, MAYBE, I would come back and be your fantasy wife. Yeah, that sounds real."
One of the best lines on here I read came from a dude relating what his lawyer told him after he found his wife in an affair.
Client: "She says she doesn’t want a divorce."
Lawyer: "Yes, she does. She’s going to string this along until the cause of the divorce isn’t her affair… maybe a year or two from now."
Right now, your WW is living as a divorced woman while offloading the child care onto you. Maybe it’s payback. Maybe is subconscious resentment.
What I can tell you, whatever it is, it’s extremely dishonest. She’s gaslighting you by dangling a carrot of what you want, while at the same time showing you what she really wants. Trust what you see, not what she says.
And, what do you see? A woman who wants to be divorced but is afraid of what it will mean for the business, the money, her lifestyle and her status in the community. And, she’s probably scared for no reason. First, she will probably get enough to live on just fine based on assets. Second, no one in her social circle will care too much, and my guess is that you haven’t been the most active in it anyway.
So what’s the holdup logistically? She can’t make the business run without your participation and she is scared of retirement. If you divorce, then the business goes up and she knows she can’t get child support out of you since your kid is an adult. She also wants YOU taking care of the kid now (possible burnout like Bigger said). If you divorce, then maybe she fears it falls back on her. She won’t have any more ability to earn, whereas you can. She might get nominal alimony.
I’d discuss this with your attorney, but consider broaching selling the business. Then, after the dust settles you can go back to work for a few years and make up a better nest egg.
Right now, it’s just logistics. She divorced you more than two years ago. She just didn’t tell you, specifically, that she did. She just demonstrated she did. Now, it’s just about how to end the contract.
In short – I’d file. I’d be the one to file. You can take it back, annul a divorce in some states or wait out the process. But, at least take that step. Also, don’t tell her you’re filing; just have her served. Maybe play along with the "maybe we should go on this trip" angle to buy your lawyer time to get the paperwork done.
This won’t come as a shock to her – she’s just buying time now to make sure her plan is hatched correctly.
Finally, protect yourself. I’ve been around the block enough times to see false allegations of domestic violence and abuse. This – while maybe not – seems like it’s ripe for her to play that card if she’s cornered.
All the best, and good luck.
*** DON’T TAKE THIS AS LEGAL ADVICE, TALK TO A LAWYER IN YOUR JURISDICTION***