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September 17, 2012

Back-to-school is a lie. A fib. It’s nonsense. The last two weeks have made the non-stop kid tending that is summer feel like…well, like a vacation, which I suppose is the point. Still, this year–the year I thought I’d be skipping off into a lovely productive morning every day once the kids clambered aboard their shared bus–has turned out to be the biggest shock to my routine since childbirth.

My older son made varsity soccer, which is grand in theory, but in practice involves the kind of time commitment (from both parents and players) that I, in my youthful naiveté, assumed was unique to Olympic aspirants and their overambitious progenitors. He’s on student council, and he’s a peer mentor (or something like that) to a whole homeroom of incoming freshmen, which meant he had to be around, and mentoring, quite a bit during the first ten days of school. Like an idiot, I hadn’t taken any of this into account.

My younger son doesn’t have any real special academic or social requirements, save his once-weekly local soccer games and their once or twice weekly practices. Oh, and piano lessons, also once a week, except when there’s an extra one to make up, like there was last week. And his eye-doctor appointment, which ate up an entire beautiful afternoon and involved, as everything else does, extra driving galore. And orientation, the bonus of a new school. Back and forth and back and forth we go, every single day, sometimes two or three times. I’ve filled the gas tank twice in ten days, which does not come cheap. Oh, and both kids had to get their annual checkups and their shots, and so forth, at the vet. Pediatrician, I mean. So there went another gorgeous afternoon, wasted in an over-air-conditioned, fluorescently-lit waiting room.

I forgot to mention the open house, and the two showings, one of which I forgot. Good news: I didn’t waste time cleaning. Bad news: potential buyers were treated to a sink full of dishes, bathroom squalor (including unflushed toilets, to my everlasting shame. We’re green! We used to live in California! If it’s yellow, let it mellow! Oh, god) and underpants all over the floor. They, uh, weren’t interested in the house.

I’m typing this on a borrowed computer. Mine, as I said, bit the dust; a replacement is en route, and I am poorer than ever. (“Oh, Mercury’s in retrograde!” a mystical friend of mine said, meaning to be helpful. “That explains the car. And the computer. Machines don’t like it when Mercury is in retrograde.”)

To top it off, I have been smoldering with rage at my ex-husband, who richly deserves it, and how the blood does seethe. There were several small things, then a bigger thing that took several days to come to a head, then an outraged outburst (mine) and a fake apology (his, of the “I’m sorry…sorry YOU’RE such a BITCH” type) and then a lingering pissy flow of minor resentments, which continue even as I type. I’m tired. Fighting takes energy; not fighting takes a different kind of energy, and I’ve come to the end of my reserves of both. What’s interesting is that the last shreds of respect I had for him seem to have nearly vanished. This is more upsetting than the rancor of an ongoing disagreement; somehow, I realize, I really, really want to like my ex-husband. To feel that he is a decent human being, even if he’s not my particular type any more, would be a powerful thing, and would help ease the sting of what I suppose is normal post-divorce bickering.

I wonder if he knows, or cares, what I think of him. Recent actions would seem to suggest he does not; as my mother pointed out, he seems happy to take advantage of my disinclination to fight over smallish concerns, and does not seem to waste a lot of time and energy worrying about how to make our relationship run (or appear to run) smoothly. He wants what he wants, both from me and from the children, and he regards it as his due to be accommodated. It’s hard to do business with someone who does not care if you’re pissed off or upset or inconvenienced. It doesn’t leave you with a lot to stand on. What must it be like not to care, really not care in the slightest, what people think of you?  I suppose the point is that you cease to “be” an asshole the moment you really become one. My ex-husband does not have a single friend left. It shocks me, but it does not surprise me. And he seems content, so who am I to judge?

So, we drift ever further apart, and I waste too much time analyzing our relationship. I wish I could be free from him forever, and I suppose someday when the children leave home I will be. Six–no, seven–years ago our marriage began its unfixable fray. Five years ago we were still pretending we might decide to stay together, and four years ago we were legally separated, only weeks away from divorce. Four years is a long time, and I’m awfully happy to be here. Still, I wonder what I’ll think when I look back at this particular fall–say, four or five years from now. “What a fool I was, still to care what he thought of me,” I may well say. Or, perhaps, “Oh, god, remember when I still wasted time worrying about what kind of person he was?”

One thing is certain: every conflict, every month and year that passes, makes my marriage more and more difficult to fathom. (Eighteen years of living together. Fourteen years of marriage. Two children. And it feels as if it happened to someone else.) Modern divorce would have you believe that there’s a complacent end point, the distant, benevolent shores of shared custody and cooperation, where enlightened co-parents end up if they stay calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath. These days, I tend to doubt it. And even if it’s possible, I don’t want a friendship, going forward. I want no future that involves my ex-husband, whose limits as a human being continue to amaze me; I knew him well when we were married, and I know him even better now. If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Celeste permalink
    September 17, 2012 2:36 pm

    Well why on earth WOULD you feel good towards someone who treats you so disrespectfully? I sympathize, though. I think this is a pretty normal place to be on your path. While it won’t matter so much one day, it matters today and I am sorry that you are going through it.

  2. September 17, 2012 2:50 pm

    I hear you on both counts. Our back to school has been very busy as well, my head is spinning with all of the paperwork and legwork (and car journeys) involved. Oh, and writing cheques like there’s no tomorrow…
    As for ‘staying friends’: I guess you always want the father of your children to be better than he actually is, so he has the ability to disappoint you in ways great and small, like perhaps no one else can.

  3. September 17, 2012 3:39 pm

    I have good friend whose divorce will be final in a matter of weeks, and she says the moments they get along are almost worse than the moments that they don’t, because then she has doubts. When he’s a jerk there are regrets, but no doubts.

    I can’t relate directly to a marriage that has gone sour, but I do know what it’s like when someone close to you reveals him or herself to be not what you believed, and it’s horrible and painful. I play unfriendly conversations out in my mind more frequently than is probably healthy. Some things are hard to let go of, even when you want to with all your heart.

  4. September 17, 2012 3:47 pm

    Holy hell, woman, I feel as though you reached into my brain and stole my thoughts and put them down here. “It’s hard to do business with someone who does not care if you’re pissed off or upset or inconvenienced.” This line especially resonated with me, because that is EXACTLY how my life goes in dealing with my ex.

    Sometimes I think the divorce is harder than the bad marriage. At times, it is.

  5. September 17, 2012 3:48 pm

    Word, word, WORD! I am still adjusting to my new role as “The Driver” as my son embarks in his HS career way-across-town…
    & once again I fully relate to your ex-husband woes as I contemplate (in my case) how I was EVER so young & foolish as to think this would ever work out??!!?? After all, I got a glimpse into the man’s true nature when we had been married a little over a year!
    “He wants what he wants, both from me and from the children, and he regards it as his due to be accommodated. It’s hard to do business with someone who does not care if you’re pissed off or upset or inconvenienced.”
    It’s amazing that MY ex’s lack of regard both for me & our son can still shock & dismay me – honestly, not for ME so much as for our son, whom he professes to “love”. (Just sayin’ it don’t make it so) It is so pervasive that it was even MORE shocking when Ex behaved somewhat-decently at last week’s FB game, thanking me kindly for a small packet of school photos I gave him (of course, She Who Shall Not Be Named was not present).
    Like you, I wouldn’t do it all again, given the chance – which makes my heart ache in regards to my son, but unfortunately it’s God’s honest truth.
    Self-preservation always wins out.

  6. Laura permalink
    September 18, 2012 10:03 am

    I am already feeling this same ebb and flow of emotion and he’s not even my ex yet. One day I think I want to remain friendly with him. Other days I realize he is *not* my friend. If I met him in the coffeeshop today, I would certainly give a kind smile and WALK AWAY. The warning signs were there 15, 16, 17 yrs ago. Sad.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 18, 2012 1:16 pm

      I find myself wanting to rewrite history on the one hand, so that the split feels inevitable, and I can feel justified. On the other hand, that implies I wasted so many years, so I recoil. (And I still know I loved him then.) It’s very odd….

  7. Beccha permalink
    September 18, 2012 10:50 am

    I swear your posts keep me afloat and make me feel like I’m not losing my mind…..

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 18, 2012 1:14 pm

      You’re not losing your mind, I promise. I thought I was, too, and I didn’t. Courage! (and thank you…)

  8. Therese permalink
    September 18, 2012 12:19 pm

    What I am still wrangling with — and granted, I’m only in the beginning of our divorce proceedings — is how I ever could’ve loved my soon-to-be-ex the way I did at one time, and for so many years — and I do believe I loved him the way a wife loves her husband — and now I don’t even really like him. But how is that possible? It’s like I was another person? Or he was? I don’t know, it’s — like you said — energy consuming, all of it.

    Said all that to say I’ve been lapping up this blog like it’s water and air and pretty much everything you write resonates with me in ways that I haven’t felt the likes of in probably decades. . .

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 18, 2012 1:13 pm

      Thank you, I’m so glad if any of this helps. I know exactly what you mean. I used to love mine, too. It’s a mystery…

  9. Anne permalink
    September 18, 2012 5:35 pm

    The thing is (wait for it, major earth-shaking revelation coming here) that people change over time. Although we like to think we are the same people we were when we met our spouses–we’re not. The challenge of staying married is finding someone who will change in ways, over the years, that complement the ways in which YOU change. A big part of finding someone like this is dumb luck. Another part is work. Yet another part is waiting to get married until your 30s, because in our culture, currently, that is when people stop changing at quite so rapid a rate. (If you look at divorce statistics, people who marry before age 25 have a WAY higher chance of getting divorced than those that wait until their 30s).

  10. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    September 19, 2012 7:52 am

    Totally true, all of it. (I got married too young.) I changed, he changed. When you start as young as we did (living together since we were 21/22) you tend to just assume you’re growing up together, which is part of the problem. What frustrates me is the feeling that he just stagnates in a little pile without someone to prod him into making an effort, any effort. He’s path-of-least-resistance man. (But there you go! When we were married, he was a willing sidekick.)

  11. hydrogeek permalink
    September 19, 2012 9:37 am

    Wow. That one line, “He wants what he wants, both from me and from the children, and he regards it as his due to be accommodated.” just sums it all up for me. Narcissist maybe? I think my continued investment in my ex is because I really want him to be the best DAD he can be, even though I want nothing to do with him. Unfortunately, I’m dealing not only with the above attitude, but an alcoholic as well, so I’m most concerned with my children staying alive when they are with him. Thankfully, drunks don’t remember scheduled visitation very often. Unfortunately, the courts move SLOWLY, and the burden of proof is on me. I also am to the end of my energy reserves and it feels like this will just. never. end.

  12. September 19, 2012 1:42 pm

    Have you read What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)? It’s both heavy and light, and the end of this post, regarding your marriage and divorce and relationship with your ex, remind me so much of it. It’s amazing how much time (and experience) change us, and change our relationships.

  13. September 21, 2012 10:35 pm

    I can only imagine what it must be like to have an ex, let alone an ex that you can barely tolerate.

    That said, just think, if you had it to do all over again and didn’t say yes, you wouldn’t have those life-sucking–I mean life-saving–cherubs to fill your days and nights with… 😉

  14. October 15, 2012 5:34 pm

    I have to say (catching up after a month away) that it is hard to read this post. My wife (I’m gay) finally admitted after a summer of therapy that she wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship anymore, that she doesn’t love me anymore. And I just can’t understand it, because I still love her, and it isn’t like either of us has changed drastically in the last 10 years. I don’t get how someone can just stop loving someone else, can’t seem to remember all that went into the love and kids and home. And I don’t get how I’m supposed to stop loving her. I do wonder if your perspective would be different if it had been your husband who’d had the change of heart.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      October 15, 2012 6:07 pm

      I think about this all the time, all the time. I have no answers for you, for which I’m sorry. I don’t understand it and yes, I have thought many many times how unfair and baffling it is for the one who is left behind. I don’t know what to say, at all. I apologize for causing you pain. Keep in mind that this is several years after the separation, this particular post, however. Things do change after you part…you do feel differently, the love you felt once and were so sure of does fade, or at least change. And the things you do to each other, the unkind and thoughtless things after the separation (I am not pointing the finger only at my ex) do change your relationship. That’s the gift, I get. You get mad, and then you are not so sad any more. I wish I could say more to help. I wish I had the answer for you. I don’t understand how love ends, either. I truly don’t. And I think all the time that I don’t know how on earth I could have stayed upright if I’d had heartbreak as well as all the sadness of leaving.

      I’m so sorry.

      • October 15, 2012 6:22 pm

        Oh, thank you for responding. I’m sorry if I came off as accusatory above (as I reread I see a harsh tone – realize it is born of, as you say, heartbreak). Yes, I’m heartbroken. And living together at least for close to another year, as job things sort out (I’m the academic one in this relationship, on the market).

        Your comment about not being able to leave the house so resonated with me – financially it makes no sense to have one of us move out, and my wife refuses to be the one who moves out which drives me bonkers since she is the one precipitating the split, and I can’t – I just can’t, not yet – be the one who leaves. Even for my own sanity. At least not yet, not when it seems like the one thing I have left is time with my kids (they are very young, under 6), and I cannot give that up even when it means walking around the house heartbroken every day. My wife, you see, disconnected (without telling me) just over a year ago, so she’s had rather longer to adapt.

        I have read your journal for a long time, and never imagined it being me. And of course now I realize (as I did at the time, truly) how foolish we all are even to be thankful for where we are at a particular moment, because it can all change.

        • irretrievablybroken permalink*
          October 15, 2012 6:51 pm

          I’m going to respond below, not as part of the chain, because WordPress nests the comments all funny…

  15. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    October 15, 2012 7:00 pm

    So have you ever thought about the solution they call “birdnesting”? Where you rent an apartment and you both switch off staying home with the kids? That removes, in a way, the stigma of one of you “abandoning” the household. It’s a ghastly and temporary solution, and it is really really hard (I wrote about it some on the Babble blog, ages ago, and I realize I don’t even know if those posts are up any more.) We did it for about five months, if memory serves. It means you end up sharing two spaces with your formerly beloved, which is twice as hard in many ways. (I got a lock for my door right away. He did not like that at all.) It means you have to cross paths a lot, which is horribly painful. It means, however, that you get some inkling of what you are eventually asking your children to do–go back and forth, keep track of things, feel unsettled, perhaps, and long for one solid place–which I didn’t realize till later. I don’t know. There is simply no good way to end a relationship with someone you loved. There really isn’t.
    If it helps, if it can possibly help, know that I did not simply turn my love for my children’s father, for the person I loved for years and years and years, off like a faucet. There were moments I missed him so badly I doubled over in pain, literally, for a very long time after we separated. It is so hard. And I think he was blindsided, and it had been so clear to me that I had been unhappy (and I had been telling him so) for so long. The problem–and for this I blame myself–is that it is never so clear or so precisely delineated. One minute I would swear it was over–to him and to myself–and then I would suddenly feel that this whole thing was a nightmare, that splitting up was simply not possible, that there was no way we could go forward separately. I will not pretend that I had as hard a time as he did. I cannot possibly claim that. But don’t go back and make the whole past you shared into a lie. It isn’t a lie. I loved my husband wholeheartedly for many many years. Love is like friendship–sometimes it ends, it changes, it turns into something else. But when that happens, the love and friendship that existed once is not a lie. I promise.

    • October 15, 2012 8:24 pm

      Hah, I rejected the birdnesting idea because of your blogging about it! My wife suggested it and I told her it had a name, which I learned here. I’m really uninterested in sharing TWO spaces with her (plus, financially, it isn’t in my best interest right now). This is all a bit complicated by her thinking that I’d be keen on staying married for the kids – co-parenting and living together as roomates while I went off and had affairs or something to get an emotional relationship elsewhere – and being unwilling to continue sharing our life on those terms.

      Although, if we end up moving for my job I could imagine renting a big enough house so that we could have a better setup with separate spaces, for at least awhile. Honestly, I’d love to live next door to each other someday. There is something reassuring about the idea of the kids being able to run back and forth easily, if needed, but still having my own house. Anyway, this is all very new (6 weeks) so it is very much an emotional rollercoaster at the moment.

      • irretrievablybroken permalink*
        October 15, 2012 8:58 pm

        It was rather awful–birdnesting–but it did seem to ease the sting for the kids.
        Hang in there. You are at the beginning. It will be awful for a long time, I’m not sugarcoating anything, but it will get better. Please email me if you like. I wish there were some way I could help.

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