Tag Archives: divorce

mad, now sad

I’ve shared that I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of six to eight weeks feeling sheer, murderous rage… No, I didn’t hurt anybody, and I’ve moved on: Now I’m sad. Not depressed…but genuinely, deeply sad.

I credit all this to my ex who passed (or committed suicide, one sip at a time, depending on how you look at it) six months ago and the relationship that blossomed and disappeared all within two months of that…and then my workload doubled, my child got a concussion and my last remaining grandparent died, yada yada yada. This is life; I get it… but could the shit storm of it end for a few months, please?! All I’m asking is for a brief reprieve of ease, abundance, and good times — or a lotto win — to heal, to get beyond thinking about Lee every. single. day. Biggest mindfuck of my life! And biggest heartbreak.

As grateful as I am for a rich and rewarding life, my feelings are swaying me harder than they have ever before. I am able to get up and exercise, coach and manage others, move forward in life, behave as though everything is normal…and yet I ache. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this much…or allowed myself to. And it sucks! Is every breakup worse than the one before?

The ridiculous thing is, I’ve been — off and on, when I’m feeling most emotionally healthy and balanced — meeting new people. I’m of two minds about this:  One is in no way am I emotionally in a place where I should be looking to start a relationship. Two is that no other cure beats getting back on that horse. Ugh. What strangeness it is to feel so broken and, at a macro level, so incredibly ready to find my life mate!

As my therapist would say, “hold the tension.”

Here’s the deal (in case the universe is listening — please tell me you saw the Bill Nye / Amy Schumer video about the universe!):  I’ve made my peace with being a single woman — I’ve learned to love single life, to live independently, to enjoy rich relationships with my children and girlfriends…and I. AM. SO. DONE. I want partnership. I’ve wanted partnership. I’ve stopped looking in the wrong places. I’ve stopped getting distracted by the latest bright, shiny object. I’ve found the balance between too many filters and not enough. I’m ready.

And I’m premenstrual. And, you’ll be glad to know, I’m starting grief counseling (along with my children) in two weeks.

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what would you do if…

Many of my friends have asked what I would do if Lee wanted to come back into my life, something he’s alluded to.

To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know how I might respond if he called me tomorrow, or in three months or in a year. You’d think it would be easy to say:

Buzz off, douchebag!

But rarely is life so black and white. As my girlfriend and I surmised, you can’t go back and you can’t not go back.

You can’t go back because he bid adieu to a fantastic relationship via text, with nothing nearing a sufficient explanation. And then, when communication was — by reasonable person standards — called for, he ignored and delayed. And that, too, was hurtful.

And yet, when there is such a rare and unique connection which seems not to have run its course, it’s unimaginable to not try again. Certainly trust would need to be rebuilt, the pace would need to be slowed, serious consideration given up front to long-term wants and desires. I’m not certain Lee had ever even thought about what he might want post divorce.

Here’s what scared me most when Lee left:  Smart people are uniquely capable of being incredibly screwed up. If he decided that something about us was wrong; he would be able to create whatever reasoning or justification he needed as evidence to back it up. Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what he needed to do to be able to walk away.

Another thing that I’ve frequently witnessed among men is that, after going through the harrowing, emotionally-intense process of divorce, they decide they never want to marry again. Many eventually do marry again; but I won’t be the woman compromising my own desires to be in a relationship with someone who says in the beginning that commitment is off the table.

Finally, the man who wants to be with me also must want to be a full-time parent to my children. For someone whose children are grown or who has a 50-50 custody arrangement, stepping into such a role may not appeal. 

As I shared all this with my therapist a few weeks back, she stated what should have been obvious:

You can never go back. You can only go forward. So if Lee comes back into your life someday, it won’t be ‘going back;’ it will be a new beginning.

So it’s a crapshoot. If Lee ever decides he wants to be back in my life, I know him well enough to know that he’ll work for it aggressively; he’ll have back-up plans and back-ups to his back-up plan to ensure our paths cross. And I’ll respond based on how I feel at the time.

Right now, I still think about him every day. Guess I’m not over it yet.


I have my theories…

I mentioned earlier that men and women reacted very differently to the story of Lee suddenly taking leave of our very happy relationship. It was mostly my male friends, who so adamantly wanted an explanation for me, who wanted to speculate…

Did he go to the doctor and get some sort of terminal diagnosis?

It seems people like to come up with outlandish reasons to explain why others do things that don’t make sense to them. It’s as though they need to match a dramatic act with something equally or more dramatic.

In talking with a close girlfriend, who was once a therapist, plus my actual therapist, we pieced together some clues that might just make some sense of what happened:

Lee spoke to his adult daughter two days before he sent me that awful, heart-wrenching text. He was going to ask her to join us on our California trip…

I was once a young woman with a divorced father. He would regale me with tales of women he flirted with, especially if they were younger. And I didn’t hesitate to let him know that I had zero interest in a step mother, especially if she came with even more dreaded younger step siblings.

Why would Lee’s daughter respond any differently? Perhaps she’s a bigger person than I was at her age. Perhaps she’s not.

So here’s her father, not yet divorced from her mother, asking her to come to California for a vacation where she’ll get to spend time with him…and his new girlfriend…and her two children. It doesn’t sound good, does it? It may have even been upsetting. Then imagine she talks to her mother…

The next day, Lee sent that weird text about his personal business, at the end of which he asked, “is that ok babe?” …which not only gave me a super-weird vibe, but also made it seem like this was unplanned. (Not that it would have mattered to me either way, because I didn’t expect to spend every evening with him, nor did I concern myself with his whereabouts.)

So perhaps it was a meeting with the lawyers during which his soon-to-be-ex unleashed her displeasure at how he was behaving, particularly in relation to their children (very upsetting!), then vowing to use her twenty-plus years of subject matter expertise on him to inflict as much pain and make the proceedings as drawn out as possible…

What is a man to do? Especially when he realizes that his ex is at least partially right as it relates to their children, grown or not. And that, while all along he’s been trying to play nice, he’s unintentionally sabotaged himself by being too free with his current happiness.

The next morning, he sent the text that left me shocked and bewildered.

Perhaps his ex is an emotionally unstable, vindictive bitch. Perhaps she has every reason to be angry. Perhaps she is a kind and decent human who is only looking out for the children. Perhaps she had her heart broken. Perhaps Lee is the villain of this story.

I’m only speculating here, and certainly not offering excuses for Lee’s or anyone else’s bad behavior. It just seemed fitting to close out this chapter by acknowledging that there may be a plausible explanation for what seemed so incredibly crazy from my perspective and those of my friends…

Still. It doesn’t change the fact that my heart is broken.


closing the chapter

A great deal has transpired since I learned that my ex and father of my children had passed. Finally, six weeks later, a lovely memorial was held in his honor. Family and friends talked about his humor, his great looks and his incredible talent. And his depression and alcoholism.

It was a great turnout. Many people came from every aspect of his life — former co-workers, former neighbors, all of it…

I was grateful for the turnout and support and the kind things they said about him. I was grateful they didn’t shy from away from his disease and mental health. I was grateful my children were completely included in every aspect of the weekend while my ex’s extended family was in town.

Aside from that…

I was hurt. And I was pissed!

My children were schlepped away by relatives for an entire day to participate in family events. Allusions were made around calling me to join for a group activity or meal later. But the only contact I got was to pick up the children after dinner.

I understand that I am not really a member of the family anymore. I get that not everyone was happy when I kicked my ex out. But I am the mother of the only two minors involved, and no one was there to look out for their interests, to set context.

As an example, my daughter came home and told me about “one of daddy’s friends” who she didn’t know, who’d spent time chatting her up and giving her a hug. This felt weird and awkward to her. The man was her uncle. Maybe begin with some basic introductions, folks…think about setting context and what that might mean for my children, the only surviving / remaining minors.

There was another party with them at the cemetery — my ex’s first wife and the mother of my children’s half-siblings. It struck me as strange that she’d want to be there, but I’m not here to judge anyone’s grief. Yet again, my children found it awkward and no one was there to set context. When they came home and told me about it, I told them to always be grateful to be surrounded by so much love.

I began to understand what had happened when a former step son, the one with who I’m closest, told me he’d been looking through his father’s belongings for photos and videos and it was all documentation of our life together. Apparently he’d expected to find a complete retrospective of his father’s life, including his own childhood, even though I’d told him that all the photo and video assets were “ours.” The only way you’d have known I was ever involved in the family was as a mother of the children and in the slideshow my stepson put together, in which I was over-represented to a degree that I found amusing.

Anyway, I hadn’t expected things to go any certain way. Certainly I’d hoped to spend more time with the family — my former in laws, nieces and nephew, and step children. But they were not in charge of how things went and, if their loyalties were anywhere but with their mother and closer relatives, it would only cause more strain. Still, as I’ve said, I would have liked to believe that there would be greater consideration for my children, who will likely not suffer any long-term damage from the experience…at least nothing they can’t work through with a therapist.

All along, I carried myself with composure and grace. And then I got sick — too sick to move — for three days. I’m better now. And, for better or worse, this chapter is closed.


everything is better and worse all at once

I could hardly wait for spring break to come:  I was going to drop my children off at their father’s for the weekend, spend a morning with the friend in hospice I told you about (Tom), enjoy a pedicure, pack and get ready for our trip west…and then sunshine!

I didn’t hear from the children’s father on Friday. My daughter volunteered at the popcorn stand in the bingo hall at the local church fish fry. My son and I met some friends there for dinner.

Saturday morning, I was nearly sick with anxiety as I drove to hospice to see Tom…I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But he had been texting and asked for a latte, so I stopped to get us coffee and treats. I walked quietly into the room where he was sleeping and, as he woke, he recognized me immediately. We sipped our lattes and nibbled on muffins while he asked me about my children, life and work. He enthusiastically empathized with my parenting stories, saying “Oh, I know!” as though he’d raised a half-dozen himself (he is childless). Not long after he’d excused himself to clean up, a skiing buddy stopped by…and then a friend from high school…and then some family members. His room was like Grand Central. And I was both uplifted and comforted, knowing that he was surrounded by love and laughter — and that he was still very much able to enjoy reliving his many adventures.

Then, having connected with my ex, I dropped the children off that afternoon for an overnight with him. Minutes later, my daughter called, upset:  there was dried blood splattered all over the kitchen. I drove back and went in. His place was messier than usual; he seemed a little more disheveled than usual…but he convincingly argued that everything was fine, that he had merely fallen down, that he would clean up. My daughter was overly tired after a sleepover. He urged her to take a nap and me to go about my day. I left again. My daughter called less than an hour later, hysterical: her father had fallen and hit his head, she had called 911 and the paramedics were there. I rushed back to collect and comfort my children, then called my ex’s eldest and met him at the ER.

Sunday we visited the hospital again, as my ex couldn’t maintain his balance, seemed disoriented and showed signs of a brain injury. Aside from visiting, there was nothing more I could do:  no one would share details of his injury or treatment with me, the non-family. I cornered a compassionate nurse and told her of his sudden, steep decline over the past few months and the symptoms I’d observed. It was a terrifying blur, and I felt helpless and heartbroken.

And the next day, I took my children on our best vacation yet! We stayed with my ex’s son, played with my children’s new niece, lay by the pool, ran on the beach, ate sushi with my ex’s daughter — and the children loved their time with their half-siblings. I am perhaps all too conscious that these former step children of mine don’t have to be so welcoming as to invite me into their lives and homes, yet they are — if not familial exactly — then warm and generous in ways that continue to surprise me. And they love my children, their younger siblings. The time we spent together as a sort of family was an unexpected blessing and I am comforted to know that this family culture, not my ex’s disease nor his slow, one-sip-at-a-time suicide, will be their family legacy.

I have begun settling into the notion that I am now a full-time single parent, with no likely reprieve nor partnership in parenting on the horizon. This may be the new normal. It is heartbreaking and wrenching to grasp that he is no longer the fun-loving father he once was, much less the man I once loved. I am at a loss for how to make sense of all this to my children. I don’t write this to elicit pity or sympathy; I state it as fact. Facing their father’s coming death, whether imminent or prolonged, is no easy feat. Imagine! This is the man I once loved.

Acceptance and peace for these new circumstances is slowly dawning. I have purpose; I know clearly my true north. I will raise these children to be compassionate, loving, functional adults. And I will not do it entirely alone, as I see how their older siblings rally around and love them. And my family and friends, too. Regardless what happens to their father, regardless of what he is doing to himself, they will be raised in a loving, stable home.


assessing the current situation

I mentioned that book about attachment awhile back, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned. Diving in:

Self-assessment:  Avoidant at the macro level; anxious on the micro. Keep in mind that this is a comprehensive review of past relationships, and not completely reflective of where I am in this moment. Still, I can see that I have to be very careful about the messages I’m sending, because the minute some new guy is really into me, I have a tendency to turn around and run. If he’s glomming on so quickly, he must be desperate or needy or something (I guess I must be thinking).

Of course I’m completely attracted to avoidant men, because I find them exciting and duh! it doesn’t take a genius to connect that attachment avoidant types might take it upon themselves to start companies, travel a lot and have fascinating interests. They generally introduce me to new bands or music which, in retrospect, I can easily put into the category of “anthems of the attachment avoidant.” But I like music. I am a total sucker for this kind of shit.

So when I find a guy who interests me and show it, he wants to turn around and run. And then my anxious behaviors kick in which really scare him away.

Current state:  All that said, I’ve matured and evened out a lot and I’m ready for genuine intimacy with the right partner. I don’t believe there’s only one possibility out there. I don’t expect someone to read my mind. I’m ready to work on it with a man who makes it worthwhile to work on it. I’m perfectly comfortable expressing to someone that I want and need to move slowly, that I want and need to develop a friendship first. It’s true that I have moments of wanting to turn around and run, and it’s also true that I’m a big enough girl to own my stuff and communicate through those times.

I seriously doubt that I will ever draw an attachment avoidant to me again, because I suspect he’ll immediately sense that my energy is not right for him. Either that, or I’ll be much more able to recognize quickly that he’s unwilling and unable to meet my emotional needs, so I’ll dismiss him much more quickly.

Meanwhile, I’m catching myself before I dismiss men for petty reasons and I’m opening myself to the possibility that someone who drives a car I don’t like or who lives in a suburb I don’t want to live in could still be a great guy. (Sure, he’ll have to buy a new car and move at some point — lol.)

Will I ever find the genuine intimacy I seek? I have to believe I will. It’s still going to take me a bit of work to open myself to a different set of possibilities about what will make me happy for the long-term, but I’m getting there.


the process of being married

Earlier today on Huffington Post, I ran across an excerpt of You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce by Dana Adam Shapiro. The title of the article delivered what it was expected to, which was not of particular interest to me. That is, until I came across this gem:

“Ninety percent of the secret to being married is the commitment to the process of being married. Whatever comes your way — problems with sex, problems with money, whatever — it’s essential that you’re both committed to working out a solution where both people are represented, where the well-being of the other person is just as — if not more important — than your own. It’s an easy thing to say ideologically, but it’s really, really hard to do…”

For those of you who’ve been there — or are there — I’d love to know your thoughts on this. I, for one, completely agree. Commitment is easy, in the sense that it’s easy to commit…in that moment, when one is (or, more accurately, two are) in love. To remain actively committed — the process, as Ms. Shapiro describes it — is the challenging part. Or, as another friend put it, commitment is easy, marriage is hard.

Can marriage really be reduced to such simple colloquialisms? Since its demise, I’ve certainly reduced mine to a few simplistic phrases. I suspect we all tire of trying to explain away what didn’t work in our relationships. I only hope to one day find someone who inspires me to do the work, to commit to the process, so that I have no reason to explain away another.