Tag Archives: ex husband

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.

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holding tension

My ex died of alcohol-related causes. Maybe it was his hemoglobin, maybe his heart stopped, could have been too much blood lost from internal bleeding. Doesn’t really matter; it’s not a mystery how he got there.

So now comes the work of contextualizing this for my children, ensuring they know they’re not alone in this experience, giving them a narrative and providing the resources they need to move forward. And the context part of it may be hardest of all to do…

For my children’s sake, I assert that their father died of a disease. Indeed, he was very sick. And yet, it is difficult not to also see that he was on a path, a path that appeared deliberate and premeditated. While on this path, he was given many opportunities to accept help, to leverage the multitude of resources available to him. He chose not to. When alcoholism  / addiction takes hold, what appear to be choices are not real choices. Addiction lies — and it took his life.

Thus, I must ensure my children do not go through what I went through:  believing that I somehow wasn’t enough, that their father continued to choose a bottle over me.


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.


not my finest moment

My daughter is a highly social creature and is often a sought-after playmate. (She’s ten, and I mean all of that in the most innocent and child-appropriate way possible, for any of you readers new to this site.) For any of you experienced parents, you know what a child is like when she returns home from a sleep-over, and my daughter was no exception this past weekend:  she was crabby and belligerent, pouty and generally unpleasant to be around.

After about the fifth, “why can’t we have a nicer house?” or “I wish we could turn our basement into a rec room like theirs,” I lost my cool. And I broke a cardinal rule:  I sandbagged my ex, threw him right under the proverbial bus. Why? Because I’d lost patience, I was sick of hearing about it and, truth be told, I was feeling many of the same resentful sentiments. That’s right — I caught the “lack bug.”

So my poor children got an earful of what they probably didn’t need to hear — that I’d never expected to be a sole provider; that, if their father had been a decent spouse and earner, we’d have a nicer home and so on and so forth. It wasn’t pretty. Nor was it appropriate. I’m not proud. In fact, I feel a bit ashamed about the whole thing.

Later I apologized and told them that he’s always been a loving father and has many excellent qualities, which is why I fell for him in the first place yada yada yada…

And then we went back to the basics of not comparing ourselves to others, being grateful for the awesome little family that we have and living well with the resources at hand. Which, as it turns out, was a pretty ingenious strategy, because my daughter immediately started cleaning up the messy little spots around the house and enlisted her brother to do the same. Because living well means living in a tidier space, obviously…or taking a little more pride in our home…

Whatever it was, it was contagious, and we were all energized to spiff up the place a bit. And then I think we all felt a little better after that.

As for me, I know succumbing to the residual resentment and blame of my failed marriage is no way to parent, nor is it any way to live. (In my defense, can I at least claim PMS?) So I’ve recommitted to living well regardless of resources; to taking responsibility for my choices, my family and my home; for rejoicing in and being grateful for the abundance in my (our) lives; and for living as the best woman / mother / mate I can be.


to hell in a handbasket

Mostly I’ve been feeling great lately — confident and optimistic — so it’s been frustrating for the past couple of days to full stuck in the mud, overwhelmed…as though this place is going to hell in a handbasket.

Yesterday, I came home to towels and sand everywhere and a messy kitchen (thank you, nanny!). Naturally, as I tried to clean up, the disposal crapped out. Suddenly, I felt completely overwhelmed…both tactically and financially! I don’t have the time to accomplish all I need to, nor the resources to hire it done. I’m paying for a car and a new roof for the house and the garage, full-time summer childcare, I’m trying to find a way to take the children on a road trip, and I just don’t need any more stuff to go wrong right now. Between working full-time and parenting full-time and scheduling the oil changes and dentist appointments and haircuts and planning a vacation and the weather, when in the hell am I going to cut the grass, much less fix something I don’t know how to fix?!

I hate feeling this way…and, worse, I hate myself for allowing myself to feel this way!

It is at this point (in my self-pity) that I realize that there is a part of me, deep inside, that resists trying to solve this problem. I simply expect a man to come along and fix it. That’s what my father always did. And that was certainly a part of what I expected of my mate…who is no longer my mate, of my own volition. I am a run-of-the-mill, Disney-variety damsel in distress, a caricature! (Enter more self-loathing…) It was not always entirely this way…I was all about diving in to ownership (in every sense of the word) when I bought my first condo…

I am nothing if not resourceful, I tell myself, so I reach out…My social networks tell me to try hitting the reset button on the bottom of my disposal and, if that doesn’t work, get an allen wrench and try to give it a crank to see if it gets unstuck. Reset fails. There are several sets of allen wrenches in the basement, I’m certain, yet I can’t find a single one, much less an entire one of those handy-dandy sets I know I’ve seen down there before. And I do mean plural…my father has seen to that.

And now, though I asked him to leave, this is when the anger and resentment at my ex percolates back up:  I am alone without my male rescuer. The basement is a complete mess, and he just left it that way. I can’t find anything! I don’t know what he’s left here or what he’s taken with him. I blame him for allowing the children to take over the “workshop.” I blame him for the disposal not working. I blame him for my being in this completely overwhelming project of a fixer-upper house…this was the house he wanted above all others, while I wanted to keep looking. There, I said it. Clearly, despite efforts to that end, I have not yet purged all of the baggage of “us,” and I have not entirely accepted full responsibility for my life. I am a victim. (Ewww…that feels so gross!)

Yes, the self-pity came on strong. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and say, “I can’t do this!” And then, maybe, through releasing the fear, doubt and hopelessness out into the atmosphere, it would dissipate and the fearless woman in me would prevail…

As I happens, I made a healthy dinner, got a start on the lawn, a helpful neighbor fixed my disposal and I gave the roofer a final check for his work, which will be complete tomorrow. And, while I can’t be entirely sure that check won’t bounce, my outlook is so much sunnier now!


“I lost 200 pounds and got a raise!”

A girlfriend of mine is fond of saying this about her divorce. No, she didn’t actually lose weight (her ex weighed 200 pounds) and she didn’t actually get a raise (she just stopped having to support her “handyman” ex).

It strikes me as hilarious that, when she makes this joke to men, they look at her incredulously, as though her fit, petite frame might have ever been so overweight. It always takes them a bit to figure out that it’s a joke…about her divorce / ex.

I guess I could say the same thing, except my ex was probably closer to 170. But it felt more like losing an anchor to me — something that once seemed to be a balance for my airiness — stability. And releasing it was letting go of the negativity and weightiness that seemed to be pulling me down.

Today a girlfriend gave me another tip:  imagine the thread that still connects you, the one you won’t let go…then, visualize getting out your scissors and cut it. Watch the thread, the connection fall away as you release this past relationship.

What language or analogies have you used for a relationship that has ended? What tools or techniques have helped you let go?


redefining responsibility

I was a solid step parent. I loved my wasband’s children, who were into their late teens and early adulthood during our relationship. Both of their parents were conflict and difficult topic averse, so I had many of the “difficult conversations” with them — we talked about sex, drugs, relationships and more. But where I really excelled in this role was not getting sucked into the shit and actually seeing and pointing out the dysfunction in my ex’s family.

Here’s what would happen:  someone from the outside, maybe a distant cousin, would attack my then partner. His children would then launch into two behaviors:

  • Protect their mother
  • Defend their father

Let me comment on these:  No child is ever responsible for protecting or defending either of their parents. I don’t care whether my stepchildren were already late teens or in early adulthood. The only time this behavior may be necessary is when the parents are compromised or infirm, through age, disease or mental disorders. But children often carve out roles in the family based on birth order, socialization or other circumstances, and end up contributing to the dysfunction rather than mitigating it. And then they carry these dysfunctional responses with them into adulthood, as many of us have.

The truly important thing here, and one that many of us overlook, is the way we respond to attacks or bad behavior:

Think of the word “responsible”  — it’s true meaning is “ability to respond.” So what are we responding to? The words or the behavior? Sometimes the ability to respond means knowing which of these to respond to. Often, rather than jumping in to a frenzy of verbal warfare (responding to the words), it’s best to simply say, “That was mean. I don’t appreciate you attacking my family. It’s none of your business” or “Ouch; that hurt!” (responding to the behavior).

Years after my own parents’ divorce, my father used to call me and, during every conversation, he would bring up my mother with some snide or sarcastic remark like, “Your mother called to tell you she loves you.” However true it may have been that my mother was, at this time, reserved and relatively inattentive, I eventually had to ask my father to stop bringing her up in conversation and that I would have my own relationship with my mother, thank you very much.

My mother, for her part, called and visited frequently while going through her own divorce. Again, I listened and empathized…but, after I’d heard her repeating the same feelings and questions (e.g. “why?”) several times, I reflected back to her that she was allowing her mind to dwell in these thoughts — much like a broken record skips back and plays the same part of a song over and over (for those of you who remember turntables and vinyl, anyway). I suggested she talk to a therapist and, while I didn’t hear from her again for a few weeks immediately following my pointed recommendation, our relationship is now more open than ever.

So today I ask you to think about the relationships in your life and what type of responsibility you have in them. How able are you to respond? Are you responding to words or behaviors? How well do you navigate which to use when?

I’d love to hear your thoughts or stories.