Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | January 22, 2010

Time to Do the Work

When you first start a relationship, the default option is to revert to being single.

What happens if you don’t put energy into wooing; if you don’t try to be the best date you can be; if you don’t try to be attentive and beautiful and, well, the best version of yourself? If you don’t put in that energy, and if the object of your affection doesn’t put in that energy, then the relationship is likely going to fail. If you don’t call him/her, and he/she doesn’t call you, what’s the default option?

There’s no relationship.

When you’re married and living together, the default option is to remain married.

After all, what happens if you don’t put the energy into being the best version of yourself; if you don’t call, and he/she doesn’t call? It doesn’t matter, you still live in the same house. The mortgage bill is still in both of your names. If you don’t put in the energy, you’re still… there. Together. Married.

Breaking up takes a great deal of energy. So much effort. I think we grasp this intuitively, which may be part of the reason why so many initiate the break-up by trying to get a huge lever on themselves to help force things along: they have an affair, or they utter certain unforgivable words, or they storm out of the house. These actions can serve as a lever to help accelerate the break-up — or, at the very least, encourage the spouse to contribute some energy of their own — but they do so at the expense of causing more damage than might have been desired, as well.

For the sake of our kids, our peace of mind, and salvaging what we can of our financial house, Penny and I have not been employing any large levers to the break-up. In fact, I dare say we’ve been applying so little effort to splitting up that we are stuck in the default option. At the end of the day… we’re still here.

We’ve had The Talk. We’ve come to a general agreement about how we would like the divorce to look, at least in big picture terms. But having done that, we’ve gone no further. We’ve been spending our energy elsewhere; on looking for work, or going through the motions with our floundering business, or taking care of the kids. Penny goes to immediately to bed as soon as the kids are down. I don’t get up until just-in-time to shower and take the kids to school. In short, we never see each other, and when we talk, it’s about the kids or about the business. (And, usually, it’s on the phone.)

There are some deadlines looming on the horizon that will eventually force our hands. The potential foreclosure on our house, for example, or the sale / dismantling of our business. But I don’t want to wait that long. I don’t want to wait.

Yet, I also don’t seem to have the energy to do what needs to be done.

So, this is my pep talk to myself. My reminder to myself. I need to continue to proceed gently but firmly down the path we’ve already set. Because until I do, the default option is to stay stuck.

Reader/commenter “Santaslil” suggested in a comment on an earlier post that Penny and I set aside time once every week to hammer out the details of the divorce. I think that’s a good idea. I think we need to start that this weekend.

I’ve conquered my fear (for the most part) of break-up. Now it’s time to do the work.



  1. I know it’s scary. And I know it’s not going to get easier for a long time. And I know there are so many changes that are going to take place.

    You can do this. I’m not going to lie and tell you that you’ve already been through the worst of it. Discussing is the easy part. The doing is where your gut really starts to clench. BUt again I say…you can do this.

    Thinking of you…

  2. I’ve known for a long time I’m unhappy with my location and my job. I’ve got thoughts. Some I’ve even worked out into full blown plans. But, like you, I don’t seem to have the energy to take the steps to do what I need to to. I’m just floating along waiting for life to happen. I keep realizing this over and over and I take tiny steps for a week or so and then I’m right back where I started again.

  3. My friend just ended her relationship with her bf with whom she’s been with for 8 years.
    She said she’s the happiest she’s been in a long time.
    I guess it can be kind of like an anchor…you keep holding on because you want it so badly to work, but at the same time you don’t realize you’re just drowning.
    I think you being able to let go has allowed you to breathe better.
    : )

  4. Limbo sucks. (Not the game where you shimmy under the bar, but the state of in-betweenedness.)

    One advantage you have here is that you don’t appear to have doubts about what you’re doing. (At least not as you present it on this blog.) You’re not agonizing over whether this is the right decision or not. A lot of people get stuck in this process because they second-guess the decision. You know what the end result will be– what it has to be. Your challenge is just getting from here to there.

    Maybe you could make a list of all the steps you need to take? I’m a big list-maker, and it often helps to motivate me.

    Good luck! You have a rough time ahead of you, but you also have lots of support and you know things will look a lot better on the other side.

  5. People so often say that divorce is the easy out. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Staying in a bad marriage is easy, that’s why so many people do it. Leaving, packing it up, figuring it out, ending it, starting over, that’s the hard work.

  6. I could be wrong, but it seems to me your fear is only about finances and the kids. It’ll work itself out.

    Happy men do better in business and as fathers. As soon as you get out from under Penny (so to speak) you’ll have opportunites to meet other, more passionate and loving women, and you’ll be a much happier man, no?

  7. I’m going a bit against the flow here, but it looks to me that everything you cite as taking up your time are all items that need your attention. The house, the business, the kids – they all need your time and effort just like going for the actual divorce itself. They are all details that need resolution. The fact that you and Penny are only talking on the phone is actually a good thing, for that means that you won’t waste your time dealing with being proximate to each other when you don’t want to be. You can maintain an artificial distance and still deal with your issues.

    It’s always a good idea to assess where you are, but don’t belittle things just because you don’t have the final decree in hand. That will come. Maintain your perspective.

  8. Again, I know nothing about marriage or divorce. I do, however, know about schedules and gantt charts and milestones and project management. Perhaps think about this from the business perspective for a moment. That maybe sounds a touch mercenary but it might help you get over the inertia and provide some momentum.

    From the single girl’s perspective, they weren’t called the Mossy Stones…

  9. Wow, so true, every word of what you say. The limbo in between is the weirdest part. The still living in the same house was tough for me too, as we had to for a month or so. Awkwardness, strain, nobody wanted to address the ginormous elephant in the room – divorce – or discuss divorce proceedings. Pete was surprised when I got a lawyer…he thought we’d just use his lawyer! It was sort of funny, in a weird but sad way. Of course I’d get my own lawyer! But I think it was more the fact that I was also moving this forward, even though it wasn’t my decision…but I digress…the whole limbo part is weird, until you actually are knee deep in the divorce process, and then it almost starts flowing a little easier. If that makes any sense. At least for me.

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