Tag Archives: Divorce

And there will come a day….

…when you are standing at your kitchen sink, hand washing some dishes that you could have put into the dishwasher, but the light plastic containers fly around in there so badly that its pretty much not worth it. As you lightly scrub at the assorted ziploc containers, absently noting that the number of lids does not match the number of containers, (and why is that, and where in the fuck do they all end UP anyway?) you will think that this might be a good time to open and rinse the new set of containers you got from your ex-husband.

………………..

He handed them to you the other day, in his living room. He jumped up from a conversation saying, “Hey, that reminds me, I bought you a ‘present’!” He comes back with a new set of Rubbermaid containers. A couple of weeks ago, your daughter overheard you bemoaning the fact that all the containers you use to pack lunches were suddenly gone, and she completely threw her beloved Daddy under the bus, saying they were all at his house. And yes, after 3 years of sharing your children, a lot of objects have traveled between houses, some staying in the home from which they did not originate. Obscuring boundaries, lines of demarcation you thought were very important to establish.

The need to erect these borders even informed your choice of boyfriend, after the split. The man you chose to be with post-break up did not like one bit of the time you spent with your ex-husband. Publicly, he would congratulate you on what a great job you and the ex were doing, being amicable. But what bothered him, what inflamed his insecurities, was the undeniable inkling that it wasn’t a “job” for you and your ex to be amicable. But amiability just served to confuse, and at first you welcomed the voice that silently whispered to you to stay away from your ex, that he was bad, and the only way to move on was to cut him off completely,like a tumour.

You knew that wasn’t right, though. This ex of yours, who you grew up with, went through emotional distances with, had given up hating and resenting, and just felt a mixture of understanding and forgiveness and occasional disinterest and overall like for, you needed to be able to experience all of that.

That boyfriend didn’t last.

And as you sat there with your “present” in your lap, laughing, saying you hope the ex knows you don’t actually think he stole your containers, and he assures you he doesn’t, just saw them on sale and thought you could probably use them is all, you look over at The Boyfriend. The one who gets it, got it from the start. He understood completely the crazy,complex place your ex holds in your life. The father of your children, an old friend, a guy with whom you and your boyfriend will go on what are essentially double dates with him and his extremely quality girlfriend because you are all awesome and all like each other quite a little bit.

………………..

The containers are rolling around in the sink and you find yourself grinning. At all the good in your life, how this is not how you planned it, how 3 years and change post marital break up, you still have a sense of whiplash at how much things went off track. And how delicious a place “off track” really is. The Boyfriend comes up behind you, wraps his arms around your waist, you have about 5 seconds to enjoy it before a kid NEEDS something.

It’s beautiful.

And your only regret is that you couldn’t have shown this to yourself 3 years ago. Seeing this would have made things so much easier. You know it might not, probably won’t, always be like this.

And you know you appreciate it even more for the soap-bubble fragility of it all.

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Because I Didn’t Know What to Say This Morning

Dear Friend,

We’ve known each other for 20 years. I’ve known you since you were a gangly teenager with a goofy smile and a wonderfully warped sense of humor. (If I’m telling all the tales, and I don’t even know if you remember this, through a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings, you were the first boy to see me completely nekkid. To your credit, you did not gawk. Nicely done). Through the mixed miracle that is the Internet, we’ve seen pictures of each others lives on the book of faces, you’ve kicked my ass at words with friends, I’ve appreciated your comments on my blog. And then, this morning, the Internet brought me your message. A message sent out to a select group of people, tastefully announcing that you and your wife are getting separated.

After I got over my mild jealousy that you’d figured out such a great way to get the word out (when it happened to me, I had no idea how to let people know. The papers won’t publish un-wedding announcements…), I found it just a little bit tough to breathe.

I lose my breath every time I hear it. I have been hearing it a lot, these days. There’s something about this age we’ve all achieved, all us 30-40-ish folks. It seems like some of us are all “Oh HELL no, I refuse to let the time I have left be miserable/unfulfilling/painful/unproductive/etc., etc.”

It’s happening quite a bit. And I’m shocked that it still shocks me.

But it does.

And once the shock subsides, I go into some Momma Bear/Divorce Fairy mode. I want to bring the person into my living room and make them tea and give them a nice quilt to curl up with and close the curtains so they can feel comfortable crying the Ugly Cry. And I want to tell them all the stuff I learned. So here, all I can think of at this moment, is thecompletely unsolicited advice I can muster.

1. Cry. Cry a lot. And don’t freak out when the crying starts at uncomfortable and awkward times/places. People understand. And you need to do it. Don’t deny the ugly hurt. It’s happening, and pretending it’s not will only make things worse. You’re a dude, so I don’t know that this will translate for you, but the whole separation thing felt like childbirth to me. I kept feeling like I could go around the contractions. At a point, I realized I had to stop skirting them, face them, go through them. Same thing with the emotional pain. Go ahead and mourn. You might feel like there’s been a death. There has.

2. Go to mediation. The government provides a free/cheap service. It was invaluable for us. It made us talk. Having a stranger in the room made us act like the best possible people we could be. And it let us map out how our lives would work during this crazy-ass, upside down time. Kind of like triage.

3. I know you want to handle this maturely. But when things can’t stay civil (and believe me, it is really, really hard to talk about things like money and kids without thinking “I used to love you, and do stuff with you, and we had so many awesome inside jokes, and you want to haggle over the fucking lawn-mower???”), don’t sweat it too hard. It’s not a straight line. There can/probably will be setbacks.

Having said that….

4. Keep your eyes on the prize. Picture how you want your family to work a year, 5 years, 10 years from now. And act accordingly. What helped for me was looking at a divorced couple I knew, who came to their son’s school plays together, and still talked and laughed, and even though in the beginning I never thought I’d get there, having role models helped.

5. The co-parenting was harder than I thought it would be. At first, I didn’t know why. I honestly believed that even though my ex and I didn’t love each other, we could parent with no problems. And when that didn’t happen, I was a bit mystified. We parent together wonderfully now, and I went back to when I first felt that way, to figure out what had been wrong. The turning point, for me, happened during a discussion about money. There was a moment when things got incredibly heated. I was as stressed as I’d ever been(which was saying a lot). And then my ex looked at me, and used a phrase I hadn’t heard him say since back when we’d been young, and this person who’d become a complete stranger to me since the day we separated? Well, all of a sudden, I could see him again.

I had been trying to parent with a stranger. And who can trust a stranger?

Which leads to

6. It gets better.

Time, in and of itself, does most of the work for you. It puts distance between you and the ugliness. It dulls the pointy memories. It makes you realize you’re still breathing, and this thing hasn’t ended you.

In my case, it made my life so much better. I was pouring ridiculous amounts of time and energy into something that turned around and sucked all that energy right back out of me, and then some. When it ended, I put that energy into other things. Figuring out who the hell adult-me is. Being a waaay better parent. And being excited about life. Probably for the first time, ever.

All of this might apply to you. None of it might apply to you. I don’t know. But it’s what I have to give you. Plus my number, which you have, never hesitate to use it.

Virtual hugs and mega-good thoughts,

Ginny