Sunday, June 5, 2011
The “buddy” question… How to be your child’s parent when you are allotted limited time with them is the million-dollar question. While it is more important to me than ever to have a warm loving relationship with Child, I fully intend to be a parent while enjoying every second we get together. The balance between permissive/enabling “Buddy” and role model/teaching/loving “Parent” will be a constant struggle in the years to come. I intend to be a parent, but the easy route will always be there. Better to be conscious of the issue than to close the eyes and walk the easy path.
Am I divorced in my mind or am I long gone… No excuses, I am not moving back. I went for the trial separation for two reasons. (1) Because Wife asked that we view this as a trial and not a permanent step, and I will walk a mile barefoot through broken glass to accommodate her if it means easing the pain-to-come for Child; and (2) I have learned through hard experience that not all decisions taken in the heat of emotion are decisions that stand up to scrutiny over time, and as such, the trial separation serves as a cooling off period in which I can test the assumptions and evaluate things with the perspective of distance. However, as time has gone by, I am more certain than ever that the marriage is over. I have scheduled another appointment with my divorce lawyer, this time to move into the formal separation process. Meeting with Lawyer is on Tuesday, next steps to be documented as we craft the end game strategy.
Wife dating on Saturday nights… Yes that will a fun one to deal with. Child care will be taken care of in the way it is done now – either me, one of the grandmothers, or the baby sitter will be with Child. I am not looking forward to having my nose rubbed in this though. What am I going to do when she says goodbye and starts dating for real? No idea other than deal with it as I have had to deal with lots of other unpleasant things in my life. Then go out and get drunk.
Busy week and progress is being made. Two major events this week and lots of musing. Visited with the Divorce Lawyer in the middle of the week. Had a serious conversation with Wife, that she instigated, about the future where we both approached the discussion like rational adults. And for the first time in months I feel like at some point in my life I may be able to really smile again.
To summarize the situation, Child still does not know about the split, I spend every Saturday and Sunday at home, sleeping over on Saturday night (awkward!), and visit for dinner one night per week. The rest of the week I live at the apartment a couple of towns away and pretend to be on business trips when talking with Child on the phone. All the fiction is done at the request of Wife, but truth be told there is value in it to me, which has been proven out this week. I had hoped that by agreeing to live this fiction for a while, Wife may be able to see things for how they really are, which is what finally happened. More on this in a bit.
Visited Divorce Lawyer earlier this week who smells my money like a piranha smells a bleeding cow in the water. His advice – file right away, you lose financially by waiting, time-is-a-wasting, and oh by the way, there is a $10,000 retainer and total fees will be between $25k and $35k unless things get really ugly and then sky is the limit. And 2x when adding Wife’s lawyer to the mix. OUCH. And to add to the pain, when filing for divorce, Lawyer tells me that I have to come up with reasons for the divorce when I file. Given our situation, I will have to petition based on “Excessive Cruelty”, which means I will have to chronicle a half dozen or so examples from our relationship when Wife acted outrageously and then let Lawyer insert them into the filings so he can create a narrative arc. Though I have no interest in being married to Wife for even another minute, I don’t harbor any particular animus towards her and frankly this part of the process turns my stomach. Kind of makes me feel scummy to have to chronicle things that should stay in the marriage (or in an anonymous blog!) but not go into legal briefs which become part of the public record (Jack Ryan learned the hard way that these filings don’t stay private). But this is the crazy law of our state and I have no choice but to comply.
Wife has been asking to have a conversation with me for a couple of days and finally this afternoon we were able to carve out a half hour when child was watching TV and there were no other distractions. The entire conversation was respectful, rational and calm, though many tears were shed and much emotion expressed. She opened by telling me that the current situation was untenable and not sustainable, and then said that is was becoming clear to her that I am not showing any signs of coming back or that the marriage can be fixed. She then asked me how I would set things up if it were all up to me. I told her that I agreed, it is unlikely that the marriage could be saved and if it was up to me I would buy a two or three bedroom apartment within one or two miles of home, have a close and loving relationship with Child and a friendly and amicable relationship with ex-Wife. After a lot of talk about us, and some trust building around our approach to money and other family assets, we then started talking about lawyers and the costs associated with divorce. We reached a decision that we would look into mediated divorce, a lower cost and lower stress approach to divorce that has been growing in popularity particularly among people who are committed to going through the process in a way that is designed to minimize pain on the children and maximize respect for the needs of each of the adults involved. I have done some reading about this and will look into it in greater depth this week.
Prior to the conversation with Wife, I had already set an appointment with a real estate broker to look at apartments to buy (under advice of counsel). After the conversation I went to look at real estate and saw some nice places that would fit in my budget. Called my mother, had a nice dinner with her, talked at length about the situation. And for the first time in months, I see a way to get to the other side of this process and find a way to smile again. I hope that happens soon.
“What would have been the one thing that could have convinced you to stay?”
To summarize the answer – If Wife had remained more or less the woman I married and not turned into a stranger after Child was born the marriage would still be alive and well. I loved that woman, wanted to spend my life with her. Everything she represented herself to be turned out to be the opposite of the reality when the chips were on the table and it was time to start living out the rest of our lives. I dislike the Stranger and miss my Wife. But Stranger was given the opportunity many times to change back to Wife and it never happened.
On a happier note, Happy Halloween! I had a great weekend with Child, out to costume parties, both of us dressed up, enjoying the Indian Summer weather and the leaves falling and the beauty of fall but most of all each others company. Trick-or-treated together until we almost dropped, then home to inspect the loot. Played some chess earlier today, went for a long walk together this morning ending at our favorite pizza joint. It would have been absolutely bucolic except that every few hours I had to bump into Wife. The good news is that I can see how the future will play out and parts of it look nice.
Wife and I had another talk about trying to keep things amicable. We are both still committed to making it work but we will see when it comes time to dividing the assets. But an encouraging sign today when she emailed me information on an apartment for sale. She seems invested in the process.
I have a date on Thursday night. Keep your fingers crossed.
We finally did it. Broke the news to Child. Sunday morning, sat Child down on the coach next to the favorite stuffed animal, and broke the news. The second worst day of my life, only bested (?) by the day my father died from an aggressive cancer at the ripe old age of 54, and a day that I am sure that will live in Childs memory in fine detail for decades to come.
Wife and I had scripted what we were going to say, with Wife wanting to do most of the talking. There was no finger pointing, expressed anger, talk of falling out of love; rather it was of the “daddy is going to be living in another apartment and we are going to be a different kind of family from now on” type of speech, all of which was refined by input from several specialists in family separation issues.
In the past few months, Child has developed a less than totally charming habit of expressing intense frustration by making a short animal like grunt when confronted with a confounding situation. Late morning, we ask Child to sit with us on the coach, Wife starts with the telling. Tears start streaming down her face and Child rolls face down into a pillow, grunting louder and louder, almost screaming but with an intense animal like sound, legs kicking wildly with Wife as the target, clearly an effort to make the words start coming. I see the image in my minds eye several times a day and my stomach drops each time the memory kicks.
Finally the telling stops, no questions from child, many assertions of love are made to Child by both parents, and then Wife asks Child about playing with some toys. I volunteer to play trains, and Child jumps off the coach, heads to the train tracks where we then spend a very busy hour disassembling and reassembling a complex set of tracks. Spend the rest of the day doing typical father-child activities, some bike riding, etc. Towards the end of the day, I tell Child I will be leaving soon, before dinner, and Child asks where I am going. My response was to ask whether Child remembered the conversation earlier that day, and after the affirmative response, I tell Child that I am going to my apartment and will be back in the morning to have breakfast with Child. I visit again on Wednesday night for dinner and will back on Saturday. The repeat visits certainly help me and I think are good for Child.
Now for the interesting part. Child starts processing the new horrible information and starts making connections. Asks Wife “Do you think Daddy was traveling so much lately to get us used to this?” Wow.
On Monday Child decides to write a book, dictated in a very precise manner to Wife and illustrated by Child called “The Daddy Separated Family Book by __” which consisted of a dozen pages of heartbreak and ending with several illustrated pages showing my apartment building next to the house with people representing each family person in the appropriate places. Wife told me that the making of this book, a time consuming project, was cathartic to Child and has allowed for the opening of a floodgate of questions. Child has asked and I have promised to give a tour of my apartment on Saturday. Child has asked whether we can still ride the train to work together and have office visits like we typically do several times per year (the answer of course yes). Child wants to know if I will get a dog or cat (the answer is no and is met with disappointment). Child explicitly expressing gratitude that teachers at school were told so that extra hugs could be asked for when needed. The new reality is being figured out; the boundaries of the new playing field are being determined.
Of course, now it is out in the open. When people at the school know, have to figure the whole community will know soon enough. Which is a relief on many levels, now I can stop sneaking around, lying to everybody I know, and start living my life.
Monday morning woke up exhausted and feeling like I was coming down with a cold. Spent the day feeling bedraggled. Towards the end of the day, cleaned out the calendar for the next couple of days, left early, got to the apartment and went to bed without setting the alarm clock. Woke up 9.5 hours later feeling like a human being.
Next step, starting the formal process of divorce. We are going to try to do a mediated divorce with minimal involvement by lawyers. We want the same things, agree on most major issues, and are both acting rationally. Why spend all that money and emotional capital if we can get through this in a civil and amicable manner? Even got an email from Wife, the text of which is as follows:
“Just a note to tell you how much I appreciate your integrity and respect during this horrible time. As hard as it is, I do know that it could be a lot worse. I am grateful to you for acting so responsibly. And I do think that you are a great dad.”
For the record and to be fair, Wife is devastated, weepy all the time, not sleeping and not eating. But as bad as this is for all of us, it could be a lot lot worse. We are going to make it.
A remarkable thing happened about a week ago. Like a veil lifting from my eyes, the depression that had been laying on me for the past four years lifted. Just like that, the gray wet blanket that had been lying on my head was gone. What is left? Feelings of deep sadness and fatigue mostly, but also an ability to feel much more keenly than had been allowed to me over the past several years. The business I started with a partner five years ago has been doing well, remarkably so in some areas, but I have had no joy from seeing the results of my hard labor. Why? The depression sucked the life out of everything. And what caused this funk? Being with Wife.
The sadness is much sharper now. I felt myself seizing up with tears the other day, all from thinking about the end of the marriage. Not because I was missing Wife or anything, just from the fact of the ending. This was the first time I had felt this particular emotion in any kind of intensity. In a perverse way, the sharpness of it felt good.
And I am tired. I try to sleep as much as possible, clearing the morning calendar on weekdays, frequently not getting to work until ten, but I am just beat. It is going to take time to recharge the emotional batteries. I would love to go somewhere warm for a while and roast on a beach, but I don’t want to go by myself. And I don’t want to miss any time with Child right now.
BUT, and this is a big but, I am also feeling good about things. Starting to enjoy the fact of the professional success. Enjoying time spent with daughter. Enjoyed the long walk in the woods last Sunday. Enjoying the fact that I can feel sad.
Went to see the Therapist last Tuesday night and she basically tossed me out. I had started with her when Wife and I split just before Labor Day. The goal wasn’t deep Freudian analysis, rather just to help me through this period, learn things about myself, help me develop some tools so I can be better in future relationships, and help me get out from under the grinding depression.
She thought that I had gotten to a better place, and in that last session, I was wondering why I was there. The net of it all was that the Therapist was very helpful for which I am grateful, and best of all, intuitively knew when it was time for me to fly on my own.
On other fronts, Wife and I will meet with a Divorce Mediator right after Thanksgiving. So far, we are moving along, though there have been a lot of tears from Wife, particularly when she has to deal with the fact that I signed a contract to buy an apartment. But we are moving on, and so far, continuing to deal amicably and with respect.
A portion of a telephone conversation with Wife earlier today:
Wife: “I don’t want this to happen.” (this being divorce)
Me: “Let’s look at it realistically. Our marriage is broken.”
W: “I don’t agree. It has lots of problems but others have worse and they stick it out”.
M: “C’mon. We haven’t slept in the same bedroom for a year and a half. I tell that to people and to my therapist and they are shocked.”
W: “I tell that to my friends and they are jealous.”
M: “We barely had sex once a month! This is not normal”
W: “Other’s have worse and they keep trying.”
M: “Well I feel sorry for them”
Is it just me? This is crazy. Why would anybody want to stay in a marriage when their spouse has moved out of the marital bedroom and sex has basically ended? I am 41, not 81. It is not normal to stop having sex this soon. I just don’t understand why she thinks the situation was preferable to what the future offers, which is being on your own, with at least the potential to find somebody that is a better match.
Well it has been a long time and maybe I will pick it up again. Stopped because blogging about the day to day grind became a grind in itself; the hoped for relief from writing just disappeared and in itself turned into yet another required task at a time when there was too many tasks and not enough smiles.
But life has taken a very pleasant turn. Settled into an apartment I bought in January. Getting furnished, getting settled, really enjoying being on my own. Child is doing great, better than could have been expected. Been seeing a nice lady for the past few months. All in all, no need to blog because the days were full and progress is being made.
But, I hope to pick it up again, fill in the blanks, tell the tale, which is not finished but it looks like it has potential for a happy ending.
The only question of course is why didn’t I do this sooner? - Anonymous