Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | August 18, 2010

The Things We Fear Most

It’s been a rough couple of weeks since last I posted here. One week featured seventeen hours of paid overtime at my “day” job. While still maintaining a second job. And keeping the books for the business I share with my soon-to-be-ex-wife. And going to physical therapy for my knee. And putting the kids to bed at night. And so on, and so on.

And while I’ve known that I am well advised to get moving on the divorce front, I’ve simply been too busy, too tired, and not sufficiently motivated. I spoke in my previous post about that problem.

So let me tell you what happened this past weekend.

Saturday morning, I went in to write some checks and balance the books for the business Penny and I share. The business had been doing well this year, for the most part, and seemed on track for recovery until June. The month of June sucked wind, and our business took a dramatic hit. July was… okay-ish. Now, we’ve hit the mid-point for August, and it was (and is) looking very, very grim for the business. Usually at this time of year, the business grows. At present, we’re on track to have another June. And that would mean money flowing out away from us and into the business. As I may have commented here before, I have let Penny know that at that point, the business is no longer viable and I’ll need to start selling it off for parts.

On my drive homeward, I passed by one of those street corner guys who is dancing and holding a huge sign/arrow pointing at an apartment complex, advertising lease specials. Okay, I thought. I’ll bite. I detoured to the apartment complex.

Alas, no, they did not have any apartments suitable for me and my three boys (I’m looking for a three-bedroom, which are apparently in high demand here), but I should look at such-and-such up the street. So I headed up to such-and-such apartments up the street. They did have what I’m looking for. I took a tour of one of their “apartment homes.” My phone rang. Penny. I didn’t answer it, as this would be an awkward time to take that call.

Another apartment complex up the street. I figured this would be my last tour before going home. Penny texted me:

“Where r u”

Hmmm. How to answer that one? I finally decided to come clean: “At [apartment complex]. Will call as soon as done with quick tour.”

This particular place distressed me for a number of reasons, but I also felt the time pressure of getting back to take care of the kids. I wrapped up the tour and phoned Penny from the parking lot.

I could hear kids playing in the background, and assumed they’d gone to a park. But, no. “We’re at Seattle Center.”

Now, I realize I haven’t elaborated before, but Penny and I live in the suburbs; we do not live in Seattle proper. It’s about a half-hour drive from our house to Seattle Center — that’s where the children’s museum and science museum and the Space Needle are located. I was surprised to hear that they had gone into Seattle.

“Well, that was the plan,” she told me. “It’s a hot day; the plan was to go somewhere with air conditioning.”

A good plan, except… she hadn’t told me about it.

“Well, I stopped by the office on the way in, but you weren’t there and you didn’t answer your cell phone when I called.”

Let me pause here to mention, by the way, that I always take her calls, and she rarely takes mine. This has long been a point of contention. And it’s a small grievance in the grand scheme of things — her not wanting to have a married relationship with me being a somewhat bigger deal. But, still. I fail to answer my cell phone, she doesn’t leave a message, and instead she takes the kids, contrary to what I’d expected to be the plan (that I would be doing something with the kids that afternoon, whether with or without her.)

I told her I’d left for home by the time she stopped by, and her call happened while I was looking at an apartment. We spoke briefly about the relative merits of the different apartments I’d looked at. The relative merits… and the differences in price. This led me to bring up the financial situation at the business:

“[The Company] is not doing well this month.”

It was like throwing a switch. All of a sudden, she was yelling at me:

“Thanks! Thanks for making me feel bad! That business is the only shot I have! I have no other options!”

This was not the place or time for this conversation, but I started to get angry, myself. “Have you sent your resume to [my friend who asked her for it]?” Oh, there were so many other things I wanted to yell about. Like, how this isn’t about making her feel bad, it’s about stemming the financial bleeding. Like, how I didn’t want to work myself to death at my current gig just to see that money siphoned out by the black hole of a business we were wrapped up in. Like, how she did have options, and why can’t she see that? But as necessary as it was (and is) for us to deal with the state of our business, this wasn’t the time. Not over the phone. And not yelling.

After a few quick exchanges that accomplished nothing on either side, I stopped. I let her cool off. I turned the conversation back to “the plan.”

“When were you planning to come home?”

“I figure the museums close in an hour or so, and then the kids will want to play in the fountain. Figure another hour.”

We said our goodbyes, but not before I heard the kids, and I realized that they were right next to her during the brief outburst.

I was mad. I was mad about this “plan” to go to Seattle that I was apparently supposed to participate in, but hadn’t been told about. I was mad that she took a mention of the business’s finances as a personal attack. I was mad that she was mad. I was mad that I was mad.

I drove to my favorite terryaki joint to get my favorite spicy garlic terryaki meal, but I was too mad to go in and buy it.

 Then I drove mad to the super market to buy something to cook myself — something I rarely get to do these days — but I was too mad to seriously contemplate buying something to cook.

So I drove empty-handed (and mad) back home. Heated up some left-overs. Thought about going to a movie I’ve been wanting to see at the theater (Inception), since this seemed like a rare, golden opportunity to do so. But I was too mad. So I threw in one of those movies that Penny had bought for me on sale from Target (Terminator: Salvation). Stuff blowing up. I cranked up the stereo. Stuff blowing up loud. The movie was better than I expected. The leftovers were okay. But I was still mad.

It was getting late. I texted Penny. “What are your plans?”

She phoned right back. “The kids are playing in the fountain. We’ll head home as soon as they’re done.”

“You need me to thaw anything for dinner?”

“They’ve just had a snack. They’ll probably be a little hungry when we get back, but not for a full dinner.”

Fine. I figured I had an hour or so. I was still mad. Too mad to blog. Too mad to catch up on e-mail. Too mad to do my free-lance work. I threw in an old James Bond movie. (The World is Not Enough) Wow, did that movie suck. Which made me mad.

But since Penny and the kids were going to be home any moment, I felt no urgency to do anything else with my time.

By the time the movie ended, it was… 9:30pm. Dark. I turned on some lights in the house. The garage door opened and Penny pulled her car into the driveway.

And that was my Saturday.

Now, here’s why I’ve mentioned all that. It’s to tell you this:

* I realize that I need to start dealing with the unpleasant subjects head-on. And soon. Otherwise, this situation is just going to deteriorate, and an amicable parting will be less likely, not more likely.

* I realize that I have to stop going with the flow. I have to start making plans of my own. And communicating them. I am enabling this situation… and I am enabling Penny.

* I am behaving as if our marriage is still a going concern, even though I know it is done.

* Penny is behaving as if our marriage is still a going concern, even though she doesn’t want it.

I woke up this morning (Tuesday) with this thought: while I know we have many competing fears that keep us where we are when we know we need to act, Penny’s biggest fear is tied up in being financially responsible for herself. I’m not saying she has no fears about being alone or losing friends or the like, but simply that the number one concern for her regarding this divorce is about money. Where is the money going to come from, if not from me (or from the business we share)?

And I know I’ve commented many times on this blog about my own fears. I had to hurdle over a huge pile of them just to confront Penny in the first place about the state of our marriage. So, I should be past them now, right? Right?

No, obviously, I’m not. So, what am I afraid of? What’s my biggest fear that is holding me back?

It’s hard for me to admit, because it seems so… weak. So… pathetic.

Could it be that the fear I’m dealing with here is… fear of being the bad guy? Is that really what this all comes down to?

I’m thinking that maybe it is.

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Responses

  1. OH, Rain, sorry it suck so bad right now. Know that I’m thinking of you. It will get better. The apartment peeking was a nice first step. And don’t worry so much about being the bad guy. Just keep doing the right thing…

    Big hugs!

  2. Ouch! Passive-aggressive strikes again. Perhaps your concern about not being the bad guy is valid. From what I’ve read, it’s been part of your “feminist” up-bringing. You’ve sacrificed a lot of what you would have wanted in life working to create a partnership with your wife. Yet, we know by now, that you had a bait and switch situation. You’re supposed to be BOTH the feminist husband who does 50%+ around the house and with the kids, while also being the 1950s husband who fully financially supports the wife and kids without making too many demands. Add to that the societal assumption that men are jerks and work to screw over the wives and kids in divorce, and you probably have some hard-core cognitive dissonance going on.

    That said, be the bad guy. Put yourself and your kids first. If she can’t provide for them and you can, take primary custody. My concern for you is that you’re doing all of this and you’ll end up paying both child support and spousal support. I don’t think Penny wants to work… EVER. I think being a mom is her excuse, yet she seems to want out of that as soon as you arrive. Maybe that’s just the way it’s been painted. Or maybe it’s true.

    Sigh…Seriously, be the bad guy and get things moving. You’re just putting off the inevitable, not the avoidable. You can still be decent and cordial, but you can’t be sacrificing.

    I’m so very sorry for your situation if it plays the way it looks to me.

  3. You were ANGRY not MAD. Sheesh.

  4. Ugh. when you told me your Saturday sucked, you weren’t kidding. That DOES suck, but one thing that’s good to come out of it – realizing the things you are doing could be enabling and you are bending too much. Your fears of being the bad guy are warranted, as I would probably feel the same, but even if you become the bad guy, let’s just say you are the nicest, most genuine bad guy I know. So go on, be bad, you can do it, cuz you still won’t *really* be the bad guy. How’s that for a semi-pep talk?

  5. No matter the relationship, someone is always afraid of being the bad guy. I’m afraid it’s usually the ones who are most concerned about being the bad guy that end up used and abused. There will usually be a bad guy. And it usually isn’t the person who is worried about it. From where I sit, you’re doing just fine.

  6. As someone once told me while I was going through my divorce, “Every story needs an asshole.”

    So you’re the asshole in Penny’s divorce. There’s nothing you can do about it. So take care of yourself and your kids. That doesn’t mean you can’t be civil and mature when you deal with her– in order to facilitate your exit– but don’t bend over backwards to accommodate her. Remember, that’s why you’re getting divorced.

    BTW, Penny is the asshole in this blog.

    • LOL gotta give it to Snark, the last line of this comment is priceless, and er, true.

      • I agree wholeheartedly, Jolene.

  7. I love these realizations. Yes. Exactly.

    I think you were angry because you realized that it’s time to face those fears.

    I think you were angry because you think you have to be the bad guy.

    But I have a question for you. Why is going through with this divorce from a marriage that is deteriorating… making YOU a bad guy?

    Why does being the one with the balls to initiate the change, a change that will take all of you out of a tense situation and unhappiness, make you the bad guy?

    Doesn’t that, in fact, make you the GOOD guy? The strong guy? The one who is taking the hits for the team?

  8. You’re not going to be the bad guy, you’re going to be the one who takes his life into his own hands and makes himself and his children HAPPY.

    Penny has been miserable all these years. I wonder how much longer she’d have gone? It’s sad, really.

    Not much else to say, you already know what you’ve got to do. 😉

  9. Everyone hates being the bad guy. We don’t want to make others feel bad; we don’t want to control others. I don’t know if that is your real fear or not, but at least you’re questioning and seeking.

  10. sigh. yep. i’m the bad guy in my divorce as well. it’s a rotten place to be, and the other side wastes no time in driving that point home time after time after time. i’m often responsible for his emotional destruction, i’m told. i’m to blame because i’m happier than he is. his life sucks and it’s all my fault. it’s awful.

    but you know what? i can’t change anything about his opinion of me. i know that i’m doing what’s right for me. i know that i have to do what’s right for me, and i can’t fix him. all i can do is let him yell and listen. that’s my penance for being the bad guy. and if that’s the price of my future happiness, so be it.

  11. I think the main line you threw out here was acting like your marriage is still an ongoing concern. I had a big problem with that. While things get drug out you feel as if you are always fighting and tip toeing. So it feels like it is for the sake of saving something. Hell, I still catch myself telling him “reason #239847 on why we can’t stay married”
    You are getting there but those damn emotions get in the way so often. But that doesn’t make you a bad guy. I think at the end of the day you care more than you/she realizes. If you didn’t you could have walked out the door along time ago.

  12. I don’t have a lot to add to the comments above, for they collectively say what I would have. The point I do want to raise involves your tactics and not your strategy.

    You mentioning the poor economic condition of the business was timed VERY badly. It strikes me as a counter-attack you launched for her taking the kids to Center without notifying you (she could have texted you after you didn’t answer the phone. That’s how my extended family handles such things). I understand you being angry, but you reacted instead of responded. A response by definition involves considered action, while a reaction can be something as simple as a thrown punch (or a discussion change to a sensitive topic). It costs you emotional energy and opens you up to yet another argument. Have you not had enough of these yet?

    In the future, anything which involves your business failing and being sold off should be discussed face to face, no matter how hard that is going to be. You pick a time when the kids aren’t clamoring for attention, and when there are no other pressing matters pending. Have all of your facts ready, and stock up on patience, for your report about Penny’s income complaint indicates that she has yet to deal with this reality in an meaningful way. I think Suzanne’s observation is dead on as to why I believe this.

    Keep us posted a little more frequently if you can, even if only a short note. Things are reaching a critical point and none of us wants to see your situation get out of control.

    • I agree!

      I’m betting that you were in fact, “mad”, long before you threw Penny that grenade. You’d just realized the business was failing, “for the last time”… and that you will now have to take action there (as opposed to continuing to “hope” that it will get better next month), and you were looking at apartments, the last of which was undesireable. The changes were in your face, and they didn’t feel so warm and fuzzy. And it was all compounded by the fact that Penny made a decision not to include you in a family outing (retaliation for you not being available to her when she wanted you to be…that will teach you! lol)

      That wasn’t just a miscommunication, the way I see it. The war has already begun, and you have two options:
      1) Get your ass in gear and finish it quickly
      2) Stay mad while Penny re-loads

      You’re not the bad guy; you’re the mad guy. A losing position, if ever there was one.

  13. …where to begin.

    Yes are being such a nice guy, and nice won’t help the situation here, not anymore. You would simply be ignoring the reality that you are dealing with one of the most unpleasant and stressful situations of modern American life. Divorce.

    A nice guy seeks to please others because well he likes being liked. Nothing more prescient than this comment to show the sad state of affairs of your relationship than this:

    “Let me pause here to mention, by the way, that I always take her calls, and she rarely takes mine. This has long been a point of contention. And it’s a small grievance in the grand scheme of things — her not wanting to have a married relationship with me being a somewhat bigger deal. But, still. I fail to answer my cell phone, she doesn’t leave a message, and instead she takes the kids, contrary to what I’d expected to be the plan (that I would be doing something with the kids that afternoon, whether with or without her.)” – INRIS

    You can go ahead INRIS and pretend that this is about the phone call. Except it isn’t.

    There is nothing wrong with someone in a marriage (or any other relationship) for speaking their mind, being themselves, asking for space, or having a life of their own. This IS healthy.

    What is not healthy is to pretend that you will be joined at the hip, and that that makes an unbeatable team. Nature sets us up in pairs male / female with different perceptions and needs so we can complement each other in our “mated” life. If the Wife/husband surrenders its role to the other, you have just surrendered half your chances of success. Two brains, two hearts think / feel better than one.

    The notion that the individual self ends when you marry someone is just a widely accepted fallacy. Together you create that third entity the relationship, the marriage that is just as important as either of you.

    When the contract of a relationship is purely based on selfish needy individual wants and it fails to evolve into the mutually shared goals of a relationship you end up where Penny and You are now. This is why you feel so asphyxiated.

    You feel you have been giving so much, and gotten so little. What would Penny think? You simply don’t know, do you?

    When someone feels they are giving up too much, or they feel they are not getting their fare share, well they are compromising, settling, getting less than what they deserve.

    This could have happened as your marriage devolved into what it is, or it could have started when, as you’ve written in other posts, she settled for you when she married you. [an interesting choice of words, but this is how you describe it]

    You are dealing then with a lifetime, as far as your marriage is concerned, of preconceived notions you had for the other. The facade has come down, and the marriage was not what you pretended it to be.

    …So your little spat on the phone was a milestone for either one of you. Good for you two! There is nothing more heartening than clearheaded unambiguous messages. You could have taking it one step further by making it clear that next time you’d love to be informed of such plans ahead of time, and Penny could have told you that she wanted to be more involved in the preservation of her future business…or you could have requested this.

    The genie is out of the bottle and I say keep him out there.

    There will be far more difficult and complex situations that will arise during the divorce and you will have to be committed to forge ahead regardless of temper tantrums, colds, bad days, or just plain stubbornness.

    Your marriage may have failed, by now; but the divorce is the preamble to the rest of your lives.
    You get one chance to get it right.

    My advice is to shed this nice guy syndrome and start speaking out for what you want, for what is fair for you as an individual, as a father as a man.

    Penny ought to get what is rightfully hers as a mother, as a woman, and as the mother of your children.

    You either do this or a judge will decide for you. Hint: the more you two decide, the happier you two and you kids will be!

    Congratulations and I wish you and Penny have more of this confrontations or heart-to-hearts [well it was a beginning!]. It is best to have them face-to-face, and whatever happens you INRIS remain in control. You no longer can rely on her for comfort or making you feel good. After all her marriage is also unraveling, and she does care in her very own way.

  14. You are absolutely not the bad guy for moving this forward. It takes a lot of courage to leap into the unknown but you WILL find your way and when you do, you’ll look back and wonder why it took you so long.

    So, believe in yourself, try not to let the emotion cloud your path and take it one step at a time.

  15. dude. you’ve got it backwards. you *already are* the bad guy. you’ve been the bad guy for years. getting out isn’t being the bad guy, it’s getting out from under this bad guy reputation you’ve been carrying for years.

    maybe it isn’t time yet for an apartment or an attorney, but i think it’s *high* freakin’ time that Penny keeps her own books or hires a bookkeeper.

    if Penny’s biggest concern is financial, then let her worry about the business and the books and how to make ends meet. she’s going to have to take over at some point.

    also, it bears pointing out that if you wait until her business goes under to divorce her, she’s gonna get your whole damn paycheck to feed your babies.

    time to get on the ball, hon. it isn’t going to get any easier to take that next step. it’s only going to get harder. how much longer are you going to wear your bad guy hat before you hang it on the hook (for the next guy) and walk out the door?

    there’s a pretty lady waiting somewhere with a cape and a letter for your chest. wouldn’t you rather be her hero than continue to be Penny’s bad guy?

  16. I’m going to try and bring a *little* levity to this situation, when you “hurdle over a huge pile” of your fears, just be sure to take care of your knee. You don’t need another round of surgery. 🙂

    And remember, there are still many good things in your life – namely your boys, who no matter what, are always going to be your sons and wonderful additions to this world. I hope you were able to spend a ton of time with them on Sunday and were able to enjoy the rest of your weekend.


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