Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 23, 2009

Let’s Be Practical

When Penny and I broke up in 1996-97 (we were dating at the time; not yet married), we lived maybe four blocks apart. We got back together, and after a couple of weeks, Penny suggested she move in with me.

It was the logical thing to do. I was committed to marrying her (we were “engaged to be engaged”), her lease was about to expire, and it would save us money. My apartment was big enough.

And I suggested it might be a bit soon, that it might not be a good idea. While *I* was committed, she still didn’t act as if she was. We were back together… but when I made any sexual advances, she would reply that she wasn’t ready yet. It was too soon. If it was too soon to have sex again, I thought, then wasn’t it too soon to live together as a couple?

Then there was the fact that a certain shithead was still living in the downstairs apartment of my house. (Said shithead had made a compelling case that he would be a better boyfriend than I, and he wooed Penny away from me, but she eventually returned to me. Supposedly.)

Oh yes, my friends, my life was a country song back then.

But, well, Penny was practical, and it all made sense, and I was committed, wasn’t I? So she moved in.

[Yes. I should have been committed.]

When we saw our first couples counselor last year, at the very first session we had together, the counselor asked when the trouble began. Penny said it was probably then: when we moved in together at Penny’s suggestion, even though I had said it might be too soon.

Now, here we are at the close of 2009. Our financial situation is rather bleak, and our marriage is little more than a business relationship (with co-parenting mixed in). I have decided that I am no longer interested in remaining in a loveless marriage, and have tried to resolve the loveless aspect of it in vain. A couple of commenters have posed the question: why not divorce, but continue to live as roommates, keeping the house and stuff as shared property for the benefit of the kids?

Staying as roommates does have the benefit of being practical… from a strictly financial standpoint. For the short term. This is what I didn’t quite process those many years ago when we first lived together: the word “practical” can be applied to more than one aspect of a situation. Yes, it would be financially practical. For the short term.

But getting a divorce on paper without actually divorcing our lives would pretty much keep me in the situation I’m in now: having all of the disadvantages of being married and all of the disadvantages of being single, with none of the advantages of either.

First of all, I do not want to know a damn thing about Penny dating anyone else. I just would not want to know it. I can’t imagine she would want to know anything about me dating anyone else. Now, how’s that going to work out if we remain housemates?

Dating without the kids being in some way involved (or, at the very least, aware) also becomes problematic. As does the notion of bringing someone home. In fact, when you get right down to it, what does it tell a prospective date when I say, “I still live with the mother of my children. But it’s okay. We’re not married any more.”

And it’s not like I’d be getting any action from Penny.

Then there’s the financial entanglements. In fact, this is one of the major bones of contention. Penny and I have different attitudes about money; differences that have led her to admit that she doesn’t respect me (and, I’m coming to realize… I don’t respect her approach, either. At all. More on that another time, perhaps.) Remaining in a housemate situation does nothing to address that disparity, nor the respect issue.

And the fact of the matter is, I don’t want my money situation tied to hers any longer. I don’t want to be on the hook for her debts, and neither do I want her to be involved in the debts I incur. I don’t like her debts, and I don’t like her having any say over mine.

As another commenter brought up, there’s also the issue of how we role model for our kids, and I think it’s a biggie. I grew up in a household where my parents sometimes fought, but they always showed affection for each other. Terms of endearment. Hugs. Kisses. They liked each other. That’s the kind of thing I need for my kids to see: a healthy, loving relationship.

I’m already seeing respect and affection issues in our two oldest, and I’m not entirely convinced it’s because of their ages.

There’s certainly the possibility that for practical considerations, we will have to consider remaining in one household for longer than I prefer. But the point is that I’m setting goals in an effort to be clear that it’s a temporary situation.

The point is to be clear that as soon as it’s practical, I need to get on with my life.

And if it’s not practical soon, I need to work harder to make it practical. It’s not about rushing headlong into divorce regardless of the consequences. It’s about being mindful, and heading off those consequences sooner rather than later.



  1. You say it yourself: “AS SOON AS IT’S PRACTICAL”

    No one here is about to force you to remain with Penny any longer than necessary, for we can see that would not be a good thing for anyone in your family. You are letting your understandable separation desires get ahead of your current economic reality. So unless you can afford to create two households and provide for the extra expenses of shuttling your kids between them, I suggest focusing on how you make that necessity a reality and how to cope with Penny until then.

  2. It’s not going to be easy no matter when it happens. That’s reality. And I think we know I speak from experience. I went through about six months when we were ‘separated’ but not separate. Dating was a challenge. Stress was at an all time high. And when he finally left, as much as I wanted it, reality set in and I was a mess, but it passed. And I’m better now than I ever was. There are no truly smooth transitions, only transitions. You can do this. I believe in you.

  3. Practical has to be the main focus. As much as we want to rush right on you can’t follow anyone elses timeline but your own. Your timeline may not be fast enough either but in the end you’ll be grateful you took your time especially financially wise.

  4. Remember that you only have one life and it is really short. You need to move on and get the most out of what you want for yourself. I gaurantee you that when you see what a loving healthy relationship can be like, you will wonder why you wasted so many years contemplating what to do.
    I speak from experience.

  5. Interesting to see two comments of women who speak from experience here. I too speak from experience, but I’m in the throes of the loss from divorce (even though it was what I wanted.) My situation sounds a lot like yours, except for our genders – and that I had an affair which motivated me to finally get out when it was way past time to go. I have to say that every emotion I have had has been a surprise, and it’s been awful, but I wouldn’t go back. I just hope that those who say it gets better speak for my future, and yours as well.

  6. SIGH. I hear your frustration, but at the same time I hear sorrow and sadness. One of the saddest aspects of reading this is hearing how much you still love Penny. In stating that you don’t want to know about her dating, I think you admit that this would hurt you the most. I imagine her having a physical relationship with anyone would tear you up in some pretty unimaginable ways. It’s the key reason you can’t continue in the marriage. I understand that completely. You haven’t yet accepted that this has NOTHING to do with you. It appears that Penny married you under some fraudulent circumstances; that she was unwilling or incapable of following the vows she undertook.

    I do appreciate the irony that has come from doing that which is practical. It got you into this “problem” and you don’t want it keeping you there. However, I think that, while you work out the logistics of who lives where and how it is funded, you need to separate NOW.

    Since you and Penny have a very decent business relationship, this separation can be spelled out as a business decision. Obviously you give up sleeping in the same room (yes, I know. You avoid going to bed and you have insomnia so you’re really not sleeping together). You both agree not to date at all until you are living in separate quarters (maybe it will inspire Penny to solve this problem). You agree to tell the kids. You set a time-line for finding resources to set up 2 households. You start collecting household items from friends/Good Will so that this becomes a reality.

    I worry that your focus on THE NEXT STAGE is in reference to dating/relationships only. There is so much more to focus on. You are NOT out of this relationship yet. And, truth be told, you NEVER will be. She will be a part of your life for a very long time (next 20 years or so). For right now, you should be PRACTICAL and work on your issues. Whatever comes next will not happen without goals, plans, income, and support. Line those up and you can worry about the next step when it becomes PRACTICAL to do so.

  7. Hi, all.

    FWIW, I’m not happy with this post. Like most of my posts, I wrote it in the wee hours of the morning, but I was a little more stressed and pressed for time with this one. I don’t like the flow. I had other things I wanted to say, and I feel like this came off heavy-handed.

    I need you all to know that I sincerely appreciate your comments, both the supportive ones and the “have you considered this?” ones and the “have you tried everything to save your marriage?” ones. Please… keep them coming. They’ve all given me a lot to think about.

    That’s the thing about this post (which was in response to TaedN’s and ToppHogg’s comments on the River In Egypt entry) — it was me thinking out loud about the idea of staying as roommates with Penny, and it wasn’t meant as a lashing out at the suggestion. Rather, it was meant to be an exploration of the pros and the cons. Somehow, the pros never made it in before I clicked “Publish.”

    Feeling a bit raw today, my friends. More later. But thank you for your ideas and your support. It’s all much needed, and much appreciated.

    Oh, and Seasweetie… I hope so, too.

    To paraphrase another fellow blogger: being a grown-up… feh.

  8. Listen, I know I’m late on this one but there is no way in hell I would date you if you still lived with your X. And I’m not even picky! So yeah, move out and get some nookie. Quick!

  9. Actually, I think this post is one of your best. It’s honest and gets to the heart of the matter. You’re just “thinking out loud”. And, isn’t that the whole point of this?

    Anyway….I agree that you need to get away from Penny and find your own living quarters as soon as possible.
    Your mental outlook will immensely improve, as soon as you can wake up each morning and face “your own life” as opposed to the dismal life you’ve created with Penny.

    Is there anyone you know who might need a roommate?

  10. I am undergoing divorce, and this is what I wrote on my blog today:

    If victory is certain, then even a coward can fight. But the real brave is the one who still dares to fight when his defeat is certain.

    My best wishes are with you.

  11. As a “child” (now adult) of parents who had an almost identical situation and stayed “married” because of all the same reasons, and now only recently seperated but can’t seem to get it through their heads for divorce, I urge you to be brave enough to move ahead and as you have mention have a normal relationship with whomever is in your future. I know everyone’s life is different, every situation unique. However given that their long drawn out situation has actually caused more damage all around, I hope you follow your heart.

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