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Though, come to think of it, what happened to Lear wasn’t so great

July 13, 2010

Friends, I’m floundering.

Last Thursday night my kids spent the night with their father in his new house, the cottage formerly known as Dream. On Friday morning, I walked my boyfriend’s younger daughter to day camp at my son’s school. (She and her sister joined us for the week. It was great. Four children eat as much as a Roman legion, and it was very hot, and bedtime some nights felt like a game of whack-a-mole, but everyone was a good sport and it surprised me how easy it was, how much fun we had, and how much closer the kids became. “I’m really going to miss you guys,” my older son said, completely unselfconsciously, as we were loading the girls’ stuff in the car. Remind me to sacrifice a goat to whichever god or goddess is in charge of integrated-post-divorce-child-to-child-relationships.)

So there my boyfriend’s nine-year-old daughter and I were, idly chatting as we walked down my ex-husband’s new street on the way to camp. At her suggestion, we knocked on the cottage door. My younger son, who was putting on his shoes and had seen us coming, threw the door open wide and ushered us proudly inside. It looked–how shall I put this? It looked wonderful. Even though there were boxes here and there, and a mattress leaning up against one of the walls, it smelled good, and was air-conditioned, and beautifully clean, and charming, and bright. The floors shone. All my ex-husband’s cadged furniture looked perfect. There were already rows and rows of books in the built-in bookcases on either side of the fireplace–books! Beautiful books! In the bookcase! Just like I’d always imagined there would be!

I kept my cool, of course. I praised the bookcases, and my ex-husband beamed. Meanwhile, the kids scampered excitedly through the house. The bunk beds, they informed me, would go here. This was the dining room. Down these steps was the basement, which even had room for a ping-pong table! They led me upstairs to the attic, which, to my dismay, was much bigger than I remembered. They showed me the deck, the flowerbeds, the stream. My boyfriend’s daughter loved the place; my ex-husband stood around proudly in the background. And then everyone had to go, because they were all going to be late for camp.

I walked the three blocks back to my house alone, struggling to compose myself. My throat was so tight it was difficult to breathe. Snap the fuck out of it, I muttered, walking faster. What on earth is the matter with you?

A long time ago, one of the first blogs I ever followed was written by a young woman desperate first to conceive, and then to adopt, a baby. She set up a room for the child she so earnestly wanted, complete with a crib, a changing table, a mobile, clothes precisely folded in drawers, dresses hanging in the closet. She posted pictures of baby outfits, and of the crib bedding she bought. She named the baby, and gave her a nickname, though the baby was purely theoretical at that point. And then, one day, an old friend of hers who happened to have a baby was coming to visit, and the blogger in question freaked out.

Friends with babies, when you want a baby more than anything, are (of course) incredibly difficult to cope with. But the blogger wasn’t worried so much about seeing her friend with her baby, nor about meeting the baby herself. She was consumed with one thought only: She didn’t want her friend’s baby to sleep in her baby’s crib. She thought it terribly insensitive that her friend might even suggest such a thing. Didn’t her friend know how difficult this was? Shouldn’t she just know to bring a porta-crib? Was she, the blogger, going to be put in the terrible position of having to confront her pain by bringing it up with her oblivious friend, who seemed to be assuming her baby would sleep in the empty nursery when she visited? Didn’t we, her readers, agree that her baby should be the first one to sleep in her crib, on her specially purchased sheets? She worried and worried, and wrote about it again and again on her blog. And the comments poured in.

Good for you, some comments said. You have suffered so, and only the most callous friend would ever dream of letting her baby sleep in your baby’s crib. Perhaps you should suggest that your friend and her baby spend the night in a hotel. You deserve for your baby to be the very first to sleep in the special bed you’ve carefully picked out just for her. You’re entitled to your feelings. They’re valid. We understand your pain, which is sacred, and very, very real.

Other commenters were, frankly, aghast. My god, what the fuck is your problem? they said, in one slightly mitigated form or another. What difference does it make whether a baby sleeps in your crib? Why would your friend even consider anything different? If you had a baby, and you went to a house with an empty crib, wouldn’t you assume it was all right for your baby to sleep there? Might not letting your dear friend’s baby sleep in your future baby’s crib even bring good karma? Might it not bond you to your friend, or even to her baby, to show generosity of spirit? Don’t you realize that you have become fixated on something symbolic that has nothing to do either with your long and painful road toward adoption, nor with the comfort and care of the baby you will eventually bring home?

The argument raged in her comments section, which (if I remember correctly) the blogger soon closed. A short time afterward, she password-protected her blog. I must confess, though I never posted anything (as a Not Infertile, I never feel I have the right to weigh in on controversial topics) that I found myself aligned more closely with the second group of commenters. But that isn’t really the point. The point, I think, is that this poor blogger was so unhappy and so confused about her unhappiness that she’d completely missed the significance of–well, of nearly everything. I don’t think she was proud of her reaction. I don’t believe she wanted to behave in a way that made half her readers attack her. I think she was addled by grief, and her fixation on her baby’s empty crib was beyond rational thought, not to mention beyond her control. There ought to be a psychological term (perhaps there is, and I just don’t know it) for a symbol that becomes more-than-symbol; something tangible to which we attach all our inchoate longings and frustrations and sadnesses. Reification? I should have paid more attention in my graduate literary theory seminars, since literary theory seems to borrow a good deal of terminology from psychology. So, reification: making something real. We need to affix our angst to objects, whether they be cribs or cottages.

I was a wreck yesterday, a petty, sniveling wreck. I had to go to the cottage twice to retrieve objects the children needed for sports and swimming, and the place looked even more adorable than it had last week. Meanwhile, my consoling-windows friend copped that she and her husband visited my ex over the weekend for a drink, and she allowed that yes, the cottage was, and will ever be, simply divine. She said, “It’s kind of amazing that he ended up with exactly what you wanted–what you and I both want, really–a charming little place instead of these big sprawling family monstrosities we currently inhabit.” Amazing, yes, and infuriating, yes, and on the other hand such good news that he’s moving on and adjusting to life without me, and what, if I may be so bold, the fuck is my problem? What does the cottage symbolize? Why am I unable to get over it?

I am soliciting answers from you, clever readers. I need to set my wretchedly shriveled psyche right again. I despise feeling this way, and I also despise myself for feeling this way. “You don’t think you have the right to be happy, you’ve got to find a way to allow yourself to feel better,” a wise editor friend of mine has said, over and over, and I think she’s dead wrong. I absolutely think I have the right to be happy, god damn it all to hell. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s me. Okay? I have no qualms about sucking up more than my share of happiness. In fact, I think the problem may be the opposite–given the events of the past few years, I don’t think I have the right to be UNhappy. Who left her husband and insisted she stay in the marital house? Who took a machete to her marriage, hacking her way out with no regard for the feelings and needs of others? Who got what she wanted? Me, that’s who.

A couple of years back, an old friend of mine found herself accidentally pregnant with her third child. It was a terrible time for her to have a baby, and her husband did not want another child. But she did. “I feel as if I have completely lost the right to say anything,” she told me one evening when she was exhausted from working full time, being in her first trimester, and taking care of their other two young children. “I can’t say I’m tired, or that I feel sick. I don’t dare ask for help from him, because if I admit that I’m overwhelmed I’m admitting I can’t handle the pregnancy. I have to overcompensate constantly, no matter what–I have to pretend everything’s not only fine, but better than fine.”

I’m not as hard on myself as all that, I don’t think. And the stakes are very different. But it troubles me immensely that I can’t precisely identify the source of my fury. Losing the cottage is part of it, of course, and being stuck in a house I don’t want to live in or pay for or maintain is also part of it. However, having my ex-husband be happy isn’t a very big part of it, because I promise you, I honestly want him to be happy. Think about it–if he’s happy, then I am off the fucking hook. If I did not ruin his life, I don’t have to feel guilty. I don’t have to let him come take books and socks from my house. Sure, I’d prefer it if he were happy somewhere ELSE, but let us not split hairs. All in all, an ex-husband’s happiness is the best thing that can happen to a divorcée.

So why on earth am I so upset?

My wise editor friend sent this, in an email written yesterday: It’s facile and shallow, I know, but my brother and I developed a mantra years ago: “Thinking is the root of all evil.” Also, when one of us was brooding about something, the other one would quote Lear: “That way madness lies. Let me shun that. No more of that.”

It’s a good mantra, a great mantra. But I am not sure it’s working. I need more ideas, more advice, more pointed analysis and critiques. I refuse to waste any more time fretting about this particular issue.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2010 1:15 pm

    You were the one that wanted to move on in terms of ending the marriage (totally think that was the right call from what little I know) and yet you’re stuck (after a fashion) in the marital house. You found paradise and you wound up (sort of) serving it on a plate to him and, even worse, you now have to visit him in paradise every freaking day to pick up forgotten articles or because you want to set the right example for a little girl so you knock instead of just going to camp. You moved on inside but you haven’t been able to move on outside, mostly because of things that are out of your control, and I think it has to be intensely frustrating, and rightfully so, to see the person who was so reluctant to move on be able to do so effortlessly.

    How’s that? Analytical enough for you?

  2. Bethany permalink
    July 13, 2010 1:20 pm

    Since you asked for advice and comments, I will leave one, though this is not so much advice as a general meandering thought. As a bit of backstory, I am going through a divorce as well — my husband unexpectedly got up and left in the middle of dinner a few months ago, and filed for divorce two weeks later. I think you could perhaps be fixated on the cottage because it was meant to represent the next phase of your life — a new page, a new chapter, and of course, the leaving behind of the old albatross of a house, with all its memories, both good and bad. Not getting that cottage may feel a little bit like not being able to turn that page; and not only that, but your ex-husband taking the cottage may make it feel as if you are not actually free from the marriage. That even though you’ve separated, gone through the divorce, moved on with your life, here he STILL is, preventing you from being as happy as you know you could be, if only.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      July 13, 2010 4:52 pm

      I can’t believe your husband got up and left in the middle of DINNER, by the way. Sheesh.

      • Bethany permalink
        July 14, 2010 12:02 am

        Tell me about it! If you ever feel the need to kvetch with someone, feel free to email me.

  3. July 13, 2010 1:21 pm

    I think you need to give yourself permission to be UNhappy. You’re going through a period of hard change, even if the end results will be better. You’re allowed to be miserable during the transition. The cottage is a solid reason to be unhappy. It’s giving you a focus for the feelings you’d have anyway. I’d say just let yourself feel it.

    In travels with Charley, John Steinbeck says something along the lines of “the things that are passing may not be worth missing, but i mourn their passage anyway.” Maybe that’s where you are?

    I haven’t been reading your blog all that long, though, so maybe I’m all wet.

  4. July 13, 2010 1:25 pm

    I think the thing that causes us more stress than anything else is not just feeling the feelings we have over things — having to cover up, or defer, or deny, or reify (as you point out).

    So what would happen if you just let yourself grieve over this, just got all sloppy about it (at least not in front of your ex) if that’s your way? Because the grief will pass sooner or later and you’ll be able to get on with it then.

  5. Elizabeth_K permalink
    July 13, 2010 2:00 pm

    Hmm. I’m not going through a divorce, but I am the child of one. I think it would be hard — impossible? — not to resent your ex for moving into your dream house. Honestly, I don’t know how your head hasn’t just exploded. Keep pretending, for your kids’ sake, and in privacy, lose it over and over again. It is CRAZY. Being divorced does NOT mean he gets everything you ever wanted, even if you did leave. I think you are feeling exactly … well, right. It’s how it would feel, to have what you describe happen, happen. I’m sorry.

  6. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 13, 2010 3:36 pm

    All of you who have commented so far have made me feel much, much better. Thank you, thank you. More specific thank you’s coming soon (I have been somehow nervous about commenting on comments–I think I thought you weren’t supposed to, somehow, but the fact is I often want to write back, and so, from now on, I will.)

    But I looked up the whole quote, and it’s awfully good. Reminds me why King Lear is my favorite. Here:


    Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm

    Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;

    But where the greater malady is fix’d,

    The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’ldst shun a bear;

    But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,

    Thou’ldst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s free,

    The body’s delicate: the tempest in my mind

    Doth from my senses take all feeling else

    Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!

    Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand

    For lifting food to’t? But I will punish home:

    No, I will weep no more. In such a night

    To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.

    In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!

    Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,–

    O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;

    No more of that.

  7. July 13, 2010 3:43 pm

    Maybe the fact that he has fallen so very much on his feet is part of it. You were the one who instigate the split so part of you might secretly feel that you should get to have the closest to the perfect life/home/whatever rather than him (whilst wanting him to get on with his own life in a happy fashion as well). The cottage seems to represents all the new life you wanted and he has just snuck in and took this symbol from under your nose. It’s unsurprising that you are cross about it. In my view it’s fine to feel that way. I can see that it feels a bit petty and possibly unjust to be resentful of him taking the place given that the divorce was your idea but so what – you feel what you feel. Wallow in it for a bit in private and then move on.

  8. July 13, 2010 3:52 pm

    I’ve never been in a situation quite like yours, but I feel like I get it anyway. It really is kind of reasonable to pin the whirlwind of crazy feelings on something tangible… it almost seems like it would be a relief to be able to focus like that.

    One suggestion that might help (or at least that might help me in your shoes): What if you stopped calling it “the cottage”?

    It’s such a sweet word that conjures up a perfect little image in your mind. If you started calling it “my ex’s house” or, if that’s too rough, “the smaller house” or something — maybe that would take a little of the magic away?

  9. SarahB permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:00 pm

    When I lived in Las Vegas, a place I only lived in to be with my husband and only reached a “tolerance” affection level for, I could hardly stand it when my friends talked about going to farmers markets. I instinctively thought “b****” every time one of them mentioned it. And that was often, as my friends and I all love farmers markets. It was irrational, I’m not proud of it, but it never stopped the two years we were there.

    Just to say you’re not alone.

  10. SarahB permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:06 pm

    After reading the other comments, what else might be a symbol of moving on? You’ve talked about re-doing parts of the house, changing where your bedroom is…I always change my hair cut drastically to denote change (usually with a move). I realize it’s hard to find something comparable to a house.

    Also, echoing others, you have every right to be furious with your ex for taking the cottage. That would take a long time to get over.

  11. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 13, 2010 4:14 pm

    Kizz: Totally. But effortlessly, with my help, which makes me feel not only pissed off, but a sucker.

    Bethany: God, you’re right! He’s still in my way! That’s what’s so vexing!

    Alanna: You’re not all wet at all, and I love that quote.

    Jim: Or shunning. Because then you go mad in the rain.

    Elizabeth K: Don’t kid yourself, my head explodes. Daily.

    Betty M.: Private wallowing is key.

    g. APARTMENT! I tried it, but it didn’t take.

    Sarah B. Fucking farmer’s markets. Selling organic kale and shit. Pfft!

  12. Beth permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:21 pm

    I just wanted to chime in and say I totally get it. I remember so clearly how I felt when we were buying our first home. The process is so excruciating and full of emotion. Putting in a contract, the waiting, the counteroffer, the counter counter offer. The WAITING with no control over when the phone would ring. As more time goes by the more that house becomes THE HOUSE. I remember when my husband said that our request to have the dead tree removed from the backyeard was a “dealbreaker.” A DEALBREAKER??? I almost came out of my skin and wanted to offer more than asking price and he is talking about a few limbs being a DEALBREAKER?? For you, the cottage was your “first house,” in your new, divorced life. And to watch this perfect house sit there while you wait for someone to put an offer on your house. And then for the ex to take it out from under you – OMG, I totally GET IT. My only advice is something I read from another blogger – “time passes.” In time, your pain will lessen.

  13. Cathy permalink
    July 13, 2010 4:30 pm

    Here’s an easy answer: I think the technical term you’re fishing for is “fetish.”

    I don’t have answers to the harder questions, though maybe Freud would? I’m more of a cognitive-behavioral therapy girl, though, so it seems to me that your friend is on a potentially helpful track: right now the cottage triggers a chain of thoughts that lead inevitably to impotent rage, so maybe it’s time to cut off the chain when it starts. You can always go back to it if you miss it. You could, of course, ask your husband to trade — I guess he’d probably say no, and maybe it would be unpleasant, but at least you’d know you tried? Or, if that is clearly an impossible idea, then you go back to cutting off the chain of thoughts at the start. Or a new mantra: at least my house isn’t a blasted heath?

  14. July 13, 2010 5:41 pm

    I have no psychological advice, but as an architect I have some design advice: make your home feel like a cottage. If it’s too large, shut off some rooms you don’t need or want to clean, organize, etc. Build some built-in bookcases. Just focus on the rooms you use most and work on bringing down the scale in just those rooms. Plants. Paint. Decorations. Check out websites like Apartment Therapy that heavily feature small spaces, and try to get that feel into your house.
    …Oh that came out pathetic. It sounded good in my head. Sorry.

  15. July 13, 2010 8:39 pm

    I’m a fan of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Which rarely applies exactly accurately to whatever situation at hand, especially since generally I’m an optimist, but still, somehow, it makes me feel better. Things change. And change again. I love the idea of making your big house into a small house. I wonder if I could make my small house into a big house?

  16. Celeste permalink
    July 13, 2010 10:18 pm

    I think it’s because you feel he got the upper hand, period. That’s never a good feeling, no matter how you try to rationalize it.

  17. hmm. permalink
    July 13, 2010 10:35 pm

    I’m thinking part of the problem is that you have helped him along every step of the way. What would he have found on his own? But also I would guess that you thought staying in the big house would be airy and breezy, and it turned into realty nightmare. Plus he’s been invading it, not treating it as though it’s *your* house. So you imagine a new version of things: a place that’s yours, and different. But then it turns out you are stuck in realty-land and he’s the one with the try-it-on-and-feel-the-newness rental sequence. Do you remember why you thought you wanted to stay in the house? Did any of that survive the realty wringer?

    Then — one other thing — I think the tiny house is probably as good an emblem as anything else could be (and better than anything living) for the fact that things might just still hurt underneath it all… if you’ve moved on and he’s moved on, what was there holding you together when you were together? For how long had it been “irretrievably broken” before you said so? Ouch. One has to rewrite the stories… or perhaps one can just be furious at the tinyhouse for a while. And take great joy in other things, like gifts from the goddess of integrated-post-divorce-child-to-child-relationships.

  18. minoti permalink
    July 13, 2010 10:42 pm

    sorry you have to go through this. and it’s not even one of those things that will go away in a few weeks or months.
    perhaps it’s time to get yourself some fancy bookshelves (i get the sense books are your most prized possessions) and some high heels, and some perfume!
    don’t feel bad for feeling this way; in time you will get used to it i suppose. i don’t know what i’m trying to say here … even to myself i’m not making any sense.

  19. Anne permalink
    July 14, 2010 12:36 am

    Not divorced, but I have a “new home lust” story to share:

    Last year, we put our house on the market (we were expecting a baby and wanted more room). Our realtor counseled us NOT to look online for new homes until we were under contract. Alas, my husband did not follow that advice, and found his dream home. We nicknamed it the Playboy Mansion, because it had been built in the 1960s with all 1960s bling, 3,000+ feet of it (basement steam room and wet bar; smoked mirrors in the front hall; fireplace in the master bedroom)–but hadn’t been updated since. It was a foreclosure, which put it in our price range, but my GOD the work it would have entailed: replacing the windows, alone, would have cost over twenty grand.

    How was this house unsuitable? Let me count the ways: Needed all new carpet, all new painting, all new windows, a new front door. Had sagging ceilings in the master bedroom and leaks in the basement. Had an outdoor in-ground pool (um, hello, baby-killer?) that, even if we kept it up, could only have been used for 4 months of the year. The kitchen was hideous. It was a corner lot with a huge amount of lawn (hardly worth mentioning, but my husband is not exactly in love with yard work even with our current small lot). There were probably other things wrong with it too, but since we didn’t get it inspected, I’ll never know.

    Anyhoo. My husband, who is usually a thoughtful and rational man, went absolutely apeshit over this house. He visited it several times, often inviting friends to view it with him. One day, he went in without scheduling a showing first (the front door was broken, and therefore open, but I believe that was he was doing could have easily netted him a misdemeanor for trespassing). He looked at the listing multiple times a day. He cajoled a co-worker/friend to agree to BUY the house for us and then wait until we sold our house, at which point we would buy it from him.

    Fortunately(for me), the house was already under contract when my husband first saw it, and the sale ultimately went through.

    This is all an extremely long-winded way of saying that I understand the hold real estate can have over people: the places we live are often close to our core notions of ourselves, our personalities, and our principles. You are right in that we do “reify” them, but rest assured, I think this is a very basic part of the human condition, and therefore you have a LOT of company.

  20. n dolan permalink
    July 14, 2010 10:58 am

    I would lose my mind. To have him take your cottage is devastating, and no amount of rational thought is going to make it better. Time heals all wounds? Or at least that is what I count on these days.

  21. July 14, 2010 11:16 am

    I’ve never been divorced, but I have been on both sides of a break up – the one who instigated the break up and the one who was dumped and for me, being the one who instigated the break up was much harder. I wondered if I did the right thing, I questioned my reasons, I worried that I was a heartless bitch for being irritated by small things like an ex’s insomnia. In short, giving myself the permission to choose to reject the person, the relationship, the happily ever after was excruciatingly difficult. Being dumped, however, was much easier – sure, more painful in some ways, self doubt, wondering what was wrong with me, grief etc etc – but ultimately I had not chosen this situation, it had been thrust on me. It was my discomfort at being the one who had made the choice added to all the crappiness that goes with a break up that made it worse.

    And then when bad things happened, when I didn’t get something I wanted, I took that as a sign that I had made the wrong choice, in fact, how dare I even think I had the right to make this choice, that I was being shown the error of my ways, that because I made the wrong choice I would never, ever get what I wanted again. I would give things a huge amount of importance and use it to validate my choice – If I got this job, it would mean moving on was the right thing to do or if this paper got published it would be the universe telling me I was allowed to choose – I was never conscious of this until I didn’t get what I wanted and I would have a reaction that was completely out of proportion with the situation.

    Maybe something like this is going on with you? Or maybe I’m just crazier than a loon. But you made the right choice and more importantly, you had the right to make that choice. You will find your cottage, and that cottage will be so you and so fitting for who you are now and your life after marriage, that it will be completely and totally impossible for your ex to even think of co-opting it, much less move into it.

  22. Ama permalink
    July 14, 2010 1:01 pm

    This post resonated with me, so much that it took me a few days to respond. I am in the middle of a divorce, one that I instigated and also have a cottage that I can’t let go of.

    I grew up with a family cottage that my grandfather owned and was shared between my Dad and his sister. For a variety of reasons the cottage was “sold” by my grandfather to my Aunt and as a result the place that we shared was now theirs. It was the place I was going to take my children too every summer and be surrounded by family and suddenly I had to ask permission to visit for a weekend with approval only granted if it was convenient (i.e. they weren’t using it). It felt (and still does) like a knife threw my heart whenever I think about it.

    The sale happened before I met my ex and he knew from Day 1 that my job and career and life would be structured in such a way so that I could purchase my own cottage for onthe same lake. It would be a place that I could hand down to my own children. Ten years later I have no cottage, no children, no husband, I live in a city I hate, with debt resulting from purchases and decisions I opposed. Between the debt, the single income and the alimony I will likely be paying the cottage has slipped so far away its as good as gone. So for me the cottage was an integral part of the future I wanted for myself and all the bitterness and rage I still have surrounding my ex and my separation gets funnelled into the fact that I feel like along with making the past few years miserable he stole my future too.

    I am still in the wandering and lost part of my separation trying to figure out what I want. I don’t know what my next step is let alone how I would get there. It sounds like the Cottage was your next step and your ex essentially stole it and made it his.

  23. Lisame permalink
    July 14, 2010 2:32 pm

    Before I read the comments of others, I wish to point out how happy your opening was. You wrote “their father” not “my ex husband” for what I believe is the first time. Such growth!

    It pleased me. You are becoming more and more a whole person. Unfortunately, when we become whole we break harder.

  24. July 14, 2010 5:22 pm

    Of course you are upset. You were the one who was miserable in the marriage. So you got out. You imagined a whole new life for yourself – lighter and freer and better…and part of that vision of your post-divorce life was a new space. A space without all that fucking emotional baggage. And where are you? Stuck with all that fucking baggage. You are in the same space where your marriage ended. Despite him being gone, his essence is still there – hell, a lot of the time HE is still there! And you are slogging through that energy daily. You try to put a fresh new face on it – redecorating, getting chickens, working in the garden, but the reality is….you are in the same space, and YOU WERE THE ONE WHO WANTED OUT OF THAT SPACE. It’s really unfair, and heartbreaking, and tearing your hair and your clothes in mourning is acceptable. Fuck being the bigger person. You deserve to wallow for a bit.

    I think you are going to need to accept that until you sell your house, you are stuck there. Go ahead and wallow…..wallow until you are getting tired of wallowing. Then just suck it up and know that somewhere down the line, a space like the cottage is waiting for you. I would expect that that particular space will no longer work for you though – as you become familiar with him being there, it will become his space, and I don’t expect you would ever want to move into a place that you associate with him. Be patient, bide your time, look at alternative solutions to your own house (could you rent it out and be able to break even?)….eventually you will be out of it, and eventually you will be in your own beautiful, wonderful space. But it’s going to suck until you get there.

  25. July 14, 2010 7:02 pm

    I read that Infertile/Adoption blog too! It was an agonizing situation for her. And as you may know, she now has both her adorable adopted daughter, and an adorable biological daughter as well. “This too shall pass” is what I take away from her experience, and your angst and anger at your ex-husband’s usurping of your Dream Home will pass too.

    But while it’s your present, I’d agree with a previous poster that the Dream Home is a representation of your future life. Moving into that home, jettisoning the old family house with it’s old and stale associations and dreams, represented moving forward into your new life, your new self. Having your ex move into your Dream Home right in front of you is just like him holding you back, keeping you tied to your old life, while he gets to move on! I get angry on your behalf when I frame it that way!

    And as other posters have suggested, you may just have to be angry, grieve the loss of this perfect place.

  26. July 14, 2010 7:28 pm

    I think it’s really shitty that he snaked the cottage out from under you and I think you have every right to be angry and sad and all sorts of ugly feelings. Maybe you just need to let those feelings run their course.

    I would say more but I have two small children having major meltdowns, so that will have to suffice for now.

  27. July 15, 2010 1:15 am

    You’ve gotten so many thoughtful comments here. I don’t have much to add, other than something more general that I’ve tried to keep in mind over my last few months/years of marital trauma. It is one definition of happiness that I’ve heard: Happiness is when your reality exceeds your expectations. Your expectations of your new life in your new cottage were shattered when your ex swiped the place. Accept the unhappiness because your reality did not even come close to your expectations.

    I’ve found that I most often get in funks when I think about what others expect of me or what I “should” be doing/having/accomplishing. Get rid of those silly expectations!! (is what I tell myself)

    Also, another useful quote I have taped next to my computer:
    (not as applicable but still a good one)

    “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.”

    All my best to you!

  28. MEP permalink
    July 15, 2010 4:52 pm

    I love that you used a blogger you read but did not necessarily agree with to illustrate your point here. I totally get it and I often use other peoples’ reactions to their own lives as a way to figure out my life.

    Anyway, I could possibly be projecting but it seems like, here you shrank yourself and lessened your own happiness to make him happy all those years you were married, and now long after the clean cut-off point where all that is supposed to stop (divorce), you are still handing your happiness up to him on a silver platter, and he is still effortlessly sucking you dry, just by being his oblivious self. He not only took your happiness in the past, now he’s stealing it going forward as well.

  29. karen permalink
    July 15, 2010 9:35 pm

    You seem to have a lot going for you–a lot of blessings, if you will.

    Maybe the losing of your cottage house dream is a life lesson for you. Maybe you’re meant to learn something from not only losing it, but losing it to the one person you once shared dreams with that are now lost due to your wanting something different for your life.

    I always try to figure out what it is I’m supposed to learn from the events of my life because I believe there are reasons WHY for everything.

  30. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    July 16, 2010 12:06 pm

    You guys are all so amazing, I’m positively giddy. I wasn’t thrilled w/ the respond-to-comments-in-one-comment thing I tried above–I still need to figure out how best to do this, because I DO want to respond, not least because I want to thank you all. I have read and reread everything you have written and all I can say is you’re much smarter than I am. It’s a million degrees again and the children are sweaty and fretful, so we are headed to submerge ourselves in the neighborhood pool, so the thoughtful response and pointed thanks you all deserve will have to wait. For now, to repeat myself: Thank you. So much. Because of you, I now have nerves of steel. Hurrah!

  31. Twangy permalink
    July 18, 2010 4:36 pm

    Ah, but, being stuck in your old house, when you were SO utterly sick and tired of it and ready to move out/on, even as you deal with the realisation that the maddening aspect of your relationship with your ex-husband is till death do you part (or at least until the children are – I dunno – middle-aged?) – when surely you must have hoped THAT fire was out, and he wouldn’t have the power to infuriate you anymore, would be enough to wreck the head of a bona fide saint.

    But things move on, they do, don’t they? Times shift, feelings change. Keep on. It’ll get better. You won’t be stuck in perpetuity, I swear.

    Sometimes when I am feeling similarly peeved, I force myself to apply gratitude vigorously, until it sort of sticks. Work in process, obviously. SIGH.

  32. July 19, 2010 11:08 am

    Here is my take on this. I think that this is about “acceptance”. You have not accepted the situation and so it is causing you pain. Acceptance is not condoning or even liking the situation, just realizing that the situation is.


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