About seven months ago…
Chi-guy and I were in my hotel room, on the bed, fully clothed. He said, “I just don’t understand what about her life could be better now… without me.”
I was a good six months ahead of Chi-guy’s divorce timeline. And I’d had time to process my feelings and make decisions before asking my ex to move out. (One of my girlfriends, a therapist, has often told me, “Grief does not give credit for time served.” Some days I’m pretty sure she’s right.)
I thought about Chi-guy’s question for a long time, and here’s what I think based on my experience of being a single mother and homeowner: Life is certainly not easier or necessarily better now that I’m single parenting in addition to all the other responsibilities and obligations I’ve been managing, for the most part, alone. I can’t just call and say I’ll be home late because I’m going to join some colleagues for happy hour. I can’t just stay late at the office because I need to put in some extra time at work. It’s much more difficult to make plans. I basically have every other weekend “off.” I drop my children off at the bus stop, and pick them up from child care after work, losing 30 – 60 minutes of work productivity per day in the process. I’ve got to cook a balanced meal every night. I have to shovel snow, mow the lawn, take out garbage and sort recycling.
But the exhaustion I feel in trying to meet these constant, everyday demands is offset by no longer managing the emotional drain of living in an unfulfilling relationship. I was lonelier in my marriage than I am single. Living with someone who would not (or could not) demonstrate love or commitment (at least not in a way that met my minimum requirements) provided constant reinforcement for every insecurity I’ve ever had. While this forced me to grow and heal in many ways, it would have been more life affirming to have chosen a more supportive partner.
And when I realized that, even if I did all the counseling and emotional work I need to fix myself, my spouse still wasn’t going to change anything about himself, I gave myself permission to admit failure.