In a perfect world, after the arduous task of accepting that my husband was never coming back, I would file for divorce and leap into autonomy with grace and courage.
Alas, I did not construct my life in a way that makes the above scenario very plausible.
My story is not unique in that I met my husband young, I demoted myself to second fiddle (yes that is my responsibility), I became his right hand woman and upon having children, I became the primary caregiver and home-maker. This afforded him the ability to have a highly skilled assistant/partner at all times and it also afforded him the ability to have a sustainable relationship with his children while working crazy hours, traveling and pursuing his passions.
My story is unique in that once he declared that he was leaving our marriage he embarked on a wild creative Hollywood-style adventure that kept him out of town and out of any meaningful co-parenting partnership we may have otherwise established. And, even when in town, his career and lifestyle take priority over all else.
I have a great admiration for him in many ways. Not only has he managed to pay the bills, he has evolved as an artist and discovered and cultivated new talents. Indeed, when I met him over 17 years ago, I was attracted to his impulsiveness, his courage when it came to saying yes to opportunities even when he lacked know how (he’d figure it out). Even when he was scared shitless he’d deliver. These remarkable traits served him well back when we were young with not much at stake. And they continued to serve him.
But, his “success” is the fleeting, “Hollywood” kind. The “month to month” kind. The always waiting for the “big payoff” kind. The “how important you think you are is dispraportionate to how important you actually are” kind.
Whereas I have felt financially unstable throughout our marriage being dependent on a big dreamer, I have felt ten times as unstable since we separated.
Here is where my soul renting comes in. I really should divorce my ex. I should have divorced him years ago. I believe in living in alignment with one’s values and I do not believe in open marriage (for me). I believe my marriage was meaningful and that by staying married my ex and I have desecrated something sacred. For a long time after our split, I stayed married with the hope of reconciling. But once I realized that my ex was never going to truly come back to me and our family, I began to work toward acceptance. It almost did me in. I stayed put physically. I kept my kids in their home, in their neighborhood, in their school. I changed nothing that I wasn’t forced to so that the only change they had to acclimate to was having their dad gone (which was huge enough).
I have spent the better part of my time repairing myself, caring for my children and preparing for divorce and the next chapter of my life. And the ex has continued to support us financially. He has alluded to pulling the plug, he has been patriarchal and demeaning at times, he has continued to expect me to fulfill “wifely” duties like minding his business and we are still enmeshed. For the bulk of the past few years, he would reside at our home when he was in town for brief stints and I would sleep elsewhere but last summer we ended that untenable arrangement. The bottom line though is that neither of us has been inclined to change this paradigm and deal with the unknowns of what will come next.
I would like to clarify, I am a fiercely independent woman by nature. If not for my responsibility to provide for my kids, I’d have filed for divorce, taken the bare minimum, moved into a single apartment and worked my way up.
But, I live in an expensive city where I can’t even begin to scratch up enough income to support three people AND be the kind of mother I believe my kids need and deserve.
I know women who have moved out on a dime, with children in tow, put pedal to the metal and done it all. It is a life I respect, admire and to be honest, have little desire to emulate. I have seen children lose the stability and presence of their primary caregiver just as their families are deconstructing. I have seen women leave their children all together for long stretches of time to build careers and compete with younger men and women who have twelve hours a day to put in. I have also seen men and women who sacrificed all of their time with their children to establish careers that many years later evaporated, leaving them broke.
I do not romanticize what it entails to do it all and have it all.
On the one hand, I feel I am holding up my end working part time and raising our kids. On the other hand, I am ashamed. Ashamed that I am still dependent on this man who left us. Ashamed that I am not manifesting enough income and opportunity to claim my own life and autonomy. My primary value of providing a sense of stability and reliability for my children has superseded my close second value of integrity.
But integrity is gaining in…
I am raising two beautiful boys and I see the fruits of my labor paying off in my relationship with them and in their relationships with others and the world. I am nearly finished wading through seventeen years of tangible things that the ex left behind. I have gone back to school to chip away at a degree. I have begun to acquire freelance work. Things are looking up.
Mediation and divorce come next and I uh, “look forward” to writing about that experience…
I have rented out my soul for a worthy cause but I intend to get it back!
I hope you can work past the shame of expecting the father of your children to provide for his kids. 😦 that makes me sad for you. There’s no shame in it. Especially given you are doing nearly all of the parenting. That’s a lot for anyone to manage, let alone also balancing the financial aspects. Once you start the actual divorce process, you’re going to have to fight to continue receiving support from him. Likely you’ll have to fight hard. Which means you’ll have to let go of shame to be able to do so. I’m saying prayers you’ll be able to get there. Much respect for the life you’re building for yourself and your children.
Thanks for your kind words. I want to clarify, that my predominant feeling is pride in what I have managed to accomplish over the past few years. But here on my blog I try to be as honest as possible and the truth is that sometimes I feel ashamed and sometimes I feel stuck and sometimes I feel like a sell out because I am choosing relative financial stability over what I consider the more virtuous choice- to draw a clear distinction between “married” and “divorced” for myself and for my kids. Any time fear is driving decisions, there are consequences. And fear has driven me to stay put and take what I can get. One could also say I’m being smart and realistic and getting my ducks in a row. Like every situation, there are many ways to look at it. I’m really overall okay with receiving support. Sometimes I just wish I could make it on my own without it.
Thanks again for contributing. Soon, I will be blogging about my journey through mediation and divorce and I hope you’ll stick around for that. I know it will be challenging and I love getting feedback here.
I think I realized all that. And I harbor no ill will towards you doing what you are doing. There’s no right or wrong way to handle this. There’s just what you’re doing today. And then tomorrow. And then the next day. As long as it’s right for you, your kids, it’s right. It always makes me sad when people feel shame. It’s such an non-productive emotion. We all deal with it, but it still makes me sad. That’s all I wanted to say.
If you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. And if you ever want to connect off the comments, feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I’ve been through the whole divorce thing. I’m happy to lend a listening ear or offer advice. Much luck!
One more thing, check out this blog, and if you can, her book. It’s a great resource for emotional health during divorce.
Lessons from the end of a marriage: http://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com/
Thanks for your comments and your contact info. and the book suggestion. 🙂
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