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Part One

March 1, 2010

Two years ago last month, my ex-husband and I separated.

The whole thing still seems impossible, even surreal–looking back, I have no idea how we managed. I was not thinking cogently and I daresay we were incredibly, unbelievably lucky–as ghastly as it was, we did come out of it, for the most part, with all of our f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s intact. I have forgotten many of the specifics; in an attempt to remind myself of the proper chronology I began reading old emails and my journal, but had to stop. Even though my emails and journal were self-censored at the time (my ex-husband was reading them, or trying to) they are too upsetting to revisit right now. I have to squint a little, or glance at the whole experience sideways, like Perseus slaying the Gorgon. At any rate, here begins my cockeyed view of what happened to us, of what we did; may it be read by someone else presently staring down the barrel of divorce.

If I may be so pompous as to offer a single platitude, the most important thing to cling to is flexibility. There is no one-size-fits-all way to end a marriage, any more than there is a single way to fall in love, to raise your children, to mourn the dead, to worship whatever deity you choose. There is only crossing your fingers while trying to cause the least damage overall, hoping to preserve whatever shards of decency you manage to pluck from the ruins.

The true beginning of the very end came when my ex-husband, who had read my journal a few months prior and determined that I was, in fact, in love with someone else, demanded to know why the odometer on my car showed I had driven an extra thirty miles that day. After weeks–no, months–no, two entire years (if you count the fictive affair, to which my ex-husband reacted as if it were a real one) of having my phone policed, my email checked, my physical whereabouts monitored, and every word out of my mouth picked over for clues, I snapped. I told my ex-husband that the marriage was over, that I was taking up residence in the guest room, and that we needed to figure out what came next.

What came next was a nightmare, though what had come before was arguably worse. Although I had wanted to separate shortly after he read my journal and the truth came out, he begged me to stay for a few more months, for him, for me, for the children. The psychiatrist we were both seeing at that point (separately–my ex-husband and I agreed we would rather be boiled in oil than attend “couples therapy”) ordered me to stick it out through the holidays. Watch your drinking, she advised; watch his. She said she was concerned he might try to kill himself. I never quite believed her–I still don’t–but maybe I was too close to judge. Nearly everyone I spoke to agreed with the psychiatrist, including my very own mother, who added that she also worried he might kill ME. I didn’t believe her, either, though apparently he told her, in a tearful conversation, that he wished I would get hit by a bus. Which isn’t quite the same as killing someone, and by the time I heard about it, I’d been wishing he’d get hit by a bus for months. It didn’t seem like anything to get all worked up about.

However, one does not want to make the mistake of pooh-poohing sage counsel and ending up with–or becoming–a corpse. And let us consider the facts: my ex-husband’s father drank himself to death at 37, and there are numerous male suicides on both sides of his family, including one hideous wife/child/husband murder/suicide. So I spent Christmas and New Year’s with him at my mother-in-law’s house across the country. She knew what was going on, and kept pressing theater tickets on us, offering to take the kids off our hands. My ex-husband was in rare form, showering me with gifts and attention, asking, every five seconds, “See, is this so bad? This isn’t so bad, is it?” At night, after he finally drifted off in a miasma of alcohol fumes, I slithered out of bed to sit up late in the living room, trying to knit my older son a scarf in his school colors, and finish a humorous (!) essay for an anthology. The scarf was a mess of tangles; I turned the essay in six months late.

He drove us past our old house, the house we’d sold before moving East, and I couldn’t look at it, had to stare out the passenger window gulping back sobs, eyes burning with unshed tears. “Remember how you loved it there?” he said softly. “Remember how happy we were?” I couldn’t answer, couldn’t speak. Yes, I do. Yes, we were. Yes.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. MEP permalink
    March 1, 2010 5:02 pm

    Great post. My own marriage and divorce were loaded with similar incidents. It is so hard to relive not only the divorce, but the marriage, to separate the lessons worth learning from the stuff that is just damage. Sometimes I wonder how I lived through all of it without losing my mind.

  2. March 3, 2010 12:42 am

    I still don’t know how I — we — are still standing.

    You write beautifully.

  3. Katie permalink
    March 4, 2010 9:36 pm

    Yes, I snapped too from all the monitoring with my fictitious affairs. The reading of emails, texts, the demands not to see people, the accusations. And here I was trying to run a business from home as a lawyer, look after 2 kids (one with needs) and survive each day. He even kept phone numbers of all the suspects and checked our telephone account. Eventually, I decided that if he thought that way then heck I might as well….I didn’t but came close to it. I eventually checked out the day he hired a car and followed me all day. Then came the separate bedrooms and begging to stay…please. After all the put downs, criticisms, suspicions, controlling and threats to leave me it was amazing how upset he was when I left him.

  4. MEP permalink
    March 8, 2010 10:29 am

    Katie — I was accused on the daily of trying to look nice for someone at work, interrogated constantly about who I talked to at work and about what, forbidden from going out to lunch even with female coworkers because “some guy they know might sit down with you,” told repeatedly he would kill me if I cheated — and when I DID finally cheat and leave him for another man, he acted completely blindsided and said, “In a million years, I never thought you would do this.” That’s weird, since you obsessed over it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I was also begged to stay even after I had defiled myself (his words), and have since been told my cheating caused him to have “trust issues.” Okay.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      March 8, 2010 6:12 pm

      This is..well, let’s just say we must have been married to a certain type. The whole thing is frighteningly parallel. I’m massively relieved, in a way, to know that it was an archetype–does that make sense?

  5. MEP permalink
    March 10, 2010 1:13 pm

    Yes, a certain type. An emotionally abusive type. When I first read the below link, I wept. This was my life for 13 years. This is what I left, to protect my daughter from seeing.

    http://eqi.org/eabuse1.htm

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  1. Don’t go home again | Irretrievably Broken

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