Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 1, 2010

Second Thoughts…

“Then again we
could be foolish
not to quit while
we’re ahead…”
— Juan Peron, expressing second thoughts (Evita)

Sometimes I think, “You know, we don’t have to go down this particular path. There are other options.” Earlier today (well, yesterday… whatever day Tuesday was), I was working on my version of a parenting plan to bring to mediation tomorrow (er, later today… whatever day Wednesday is). The fact of the matter is, whatever situation we arrive at with regard to splitting custody, it’s going to be hard work for both of us to coordinate schedules; not just each other’s, but each of our children’s, as well. I mean, on my days, how will I handle three different activities for three different boys? How will Penny?

When I first began to acknowledge that our marriage would never be anything more than a business relationship, I started seeking the counsel of friends who I know had been there. One such friend had arrived at an interesting solution: they sold the family home and bought a duplex, with one half for him and one half for her. This is extremely convenient for their child, and it makes scheduling drop-offs and pick-ups much less of a hassle.

They also never actually divorced — their state has punitive alimony/child-support laws, so instead, the father continues to work and pay the bills (and oversee the spending), the mother (who refuses to work) continues to take care of the day-to-day details for the child, but the parents ostensibly live separately. So far, this arrangement has worked swimmingly for the child. And for the time being, it’s working fine for the parents, for the most part. Like Penny and me, my friend’s wife has made it clear that their relationship will never be anything more than platonic, and she hates to travel (whereas he not only loves to travel, it’s an essential part of what he does), and she hates his friends and the network he keeps.

That said, the wife also, for the first couple of years, got into shouting matches with him whenever he’d bring a woman over to “his” place, and clearly resented the fact that he chose to live a non-celibate life.

While Penny and I were still in counselling with the first couples counselor (the one who suggested we imagine what a divorce would be like), I mentioned this among other scenarios. I didn’t propose it as a viable option — I don’t like it, for a number of reasons — but it was interesting to hear Penny’s take on it. I should mention, she is also friends with this fellow.

Penny didn’t think that idea could ever work for us. She would want more distance; same neighborhood, maybe, but not the same house. She expressed concern over reactions one of us might have when the other started actively dating. She did not make it clear whose reactions she was concerned about, and I didn’t ask. It’s possible she was more concerned about my reactions when she started dating, but I don’t know. She doesn’t like duplexes. And so on.

But really, sometimes I think: do we have to get divorced? If we stay married, the money situation remains what it is: under our joint control, rather than subject to some arbitrary arrangement where the only way to change it, if it doesn’t work for us, is through the courts. The parenting situation remains what it would be anyway: a joint effort. But, scheduling remains easier because we have each other available as resources.

If we stayed married, there would be no lawyers fees. No court fees. No third parties imposing their will on our arrangements. If one of us gets sick, there’s somebody at hand to pick up the slack. [I’m sick right now. Penny was sick a couple of days ago. This is not a trivial advantage.]

Sometimes I think it would just be easier to drop the whole divorce thing.

Then, I remember.

I remember that she and I don’t agree on financial priorities, and neither of us like the compromises we’ve arrived at.

I remember that I don’t want to model a loveless marriage for my children. [I also don’t want to model what my friend is modeling; a loveless marriage coupled with a series of flings — er, non-committed relationships.]

I remember the beating my self-confidence has taken over the years in this platonic marriage, and that I won’t be able to repair it as long as I remain in it.

I remember that my friends whose parents divorced after they (my friends) had left home were more devastated — for life — than my friends whose parents divorced while they were kids.

I remember that I don’t like the compromises we’ve made for scheduling, either. Sure, it’s easier to make certain the kids are attended to, but there’s no ‘me’ time which I so desperately need. I no longer get time to write, go to events, hang out with friends and neighbors, or even go to exercise classes (like martial arts) without a major guilt-trip being thrown on me.

I remember that I hate my life as it is, and nothing good can come from keeping it the way it is.

I remember that I want to have a chance at a loving relationship. And as long as I remain tethered to Penny in a shell of a marriage, I can’t really offer all of myself to a loving relationship. And if I can’t do that, then how can I expect to find and build such a relationship?

I remember that that’s not who I want to be. I want to be a strong man, a whole man, a confident man who is capable of offering all of myself, should I find the right woman to share myself with. I also want to model being a strong, whole, confident man to my boys. They need this every bit as much as, if not more than, someone to drive them to gymnastics. 

I remember all of the other compromises. I remember that I want to get back involved in politics; that I want to resume my writing career; that I want to travel; that I want to go out and learn and explore and feel and act. I remember that I don’t like being emotionally numb. That I don’t like being a homebody. That I don’t like feeling isolated from my friends and neighbors.

The second thoughts keep nagging at me. The second thoughts never really go away. Remembering these things doesn’t put an end to them. But I need to keep reminding myself, because they matter.

As much as I don’t want to divorce, the alternatives are less healthy for me. And for my children. How odd that doing the right thing is, in fact, doing what we’ve grown up to believe is the wrong thing.

“Don’t think I don’t think like you,
I often get those nightmares too,
They always take some
swallowing.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to keep momentum
if it’s you that you are
following….”
–Evita, in response (Evita)

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Responses

  1. It is a brutal and wrenching decision you have that is layed before you. Either brings suffering and the torment of the ramifications.

    Think fully each path, stay strong to your deepest beliefs and choose what you feel will be correct for both you and your family in the long course of life ahead.

    My prayers are with you.

  2. Your emotions are completely understandable and common. It’s very easy to begin to feel overwhelmed with emotion as the finality of the situations comes into clearer focus. Obstacles may come along the path, which may warrant us to stop and ask ourselves “is this a sign”? “Maybe I should rethink this?”

    Moving into a new life through divorce, is obviously one that MOST do not come to lightly. It seems that you have weighed the options in your situation. The underlying issues of your present relationship remain, only to be masked by good intentions which usually never truly come to fruition by what I call “delaying the inevitable.

    And as far as your friend and the duplex, I don’t know their situation but I can only imagine that over time what once was working out may come back to severely haunt them. I can imagine upteen scenarios where that wouldn’t be a good idea.

    All the best.

  3. I, too, know a couple who have remained married, but live different lives. When the husband’s father died, the wife flew in from Seattle, took over the husband’s home, arranged the funeral, etc. His girlfriend FLIPPED OUT. However, both the husband and wife said, “Well, we’re married. What did you expect?”

    Essentially the wife banished the girlfriend for a week and the husband let her. After all, she was the wife. While the girlfriend is still angry, she has come to terms with it. But, get this, she’s still hoping he’ll divorce his wife to marry her. Nothing says I don’t have to commit to a relationship quite like “I’m already married.”

    If you want the life you say you want, you have to take the risk. If security and status quo are more important, then by all means stay.

  4. You’re right, sometimes when you lay it out there, it *does* seem easier to just stay married…but the list of the cons to the pros far outweighs that. the short-term (relatively speaking) pains to get the long-term gains are what will get you though. Yeah, the financial part sucks, being broke sucks, but once you get past the crap, you’ll be able to start anew, and find the love that you so deserve. Hang in there, get ‘er done, and look forward to all 2011 (and beyond) have to offer! Hang in there, and feel better!!

  5. it is hard. wrenching. painful. doubt creeps in. there’s no way around it.

    but i’ll tell you something: the clouds part, and life after the severance of these ties is just so, so nice. you’ll get through this. you know it in your heart; it shows in your writing. one foot in front of the other.

    we’re all rooting for you.

  6. I’ve dated several men who had amicable divorces and live close enough to the ex-wife (same neighborhood, or within a couple of miles) that scheduling is a little easier. Also, they live on the same school bus route, so the child gets on the same bus every time, just a different stop. Seems to work out well, especially with partial custody.

    I also have a friend who is dating a man that still lives with his wife. I have never….NEVER…felt okay about that (even before all my BS). For one thing, what if he’s lying about the whole “We’re separated and we sleep in different rooms and we’re only living there because of the kids/finances/logistics” scenario? For another thing – How Freaking Awkward would that be? First, you can never go to his house, you can never spend time with or get to know the kids, and, regardless of anything else, you are The Other Woman, because he is still married. (I never date men who list themselves as “currently separated” online, because IMO they are still married, regardless of anything else, and I, personally, don’t want to be involved in all of the divorce issues). Besides, the wife can always turn around and use that in the divorce, when it does go through – that the husband had a girl on the side who knew he was married. (In NC, we still have a law that the wife can sue the other woman for “alienation of affection.” I want NO part of THAT!!)

    What if you did meet the woman of your dreams? She probably would have her head on straight enough to know better than to date a married man, even if it’s “technically.”

    Regardless of all the issues that come along with it, I think you’re doing the right thing.

  7. Change is hard. PERIOD. It’s going to be hard on you, Penny and the kids. It’s good that you’ve written down all that you strive to be… as a man and a parent and a partner to someone else. Keep these things in the forefront because there will be lots of times that you’ll forget. Old habits (and that’s what this relationship has become) die hard. But the only way, as cliche as it sounds, to grab hold of something else is to let go of what’s currently in your grip.

    My ex has been telling me for 4 years that he’d like to move into our neighborhood as opposed to where he is, a half hour across town. He tells me how much he wants to help out and be there when I’m sick or just to pick up the kids from school, etc. I like that thought. My problem is that he’s been saying it for FOUR years and nothing has changed yet.

    Please follow through. Just sayin.

    One step at a time. You got this. Remember to breathe.

  8. I went through a lot of these back and forth thoughts. It seemed like we could come up with a thousand ways around the problem instead of trudging right through it. It will be worth it. Keep that list handy of WHY you need to do this. You CAN do this. In the shit of shit you CAN do it.

  9. INRIS, I am going through this same situation right now. It was a heart-wrenching decision to leave my husband and start divorce proceedings because I felt so much guilt about what I was doing to our children. I am a child of divorced parents but they waited until I was in college to split and it destroyed me for a very long time. I knew in my heart that splitting now while my children are young was the best decision. I tried to live in a loveless marriage, for 10 years. But is that fair to the kids, or to me? They have no idea what a loving relationship is and I do not want them to end up like I did. So, yes, leaving sucks. Living in a duplex and leaving behind all the luxuries sucks. Not being with my kids everyday really sucks! But on the flip side, I have never been happier. I feel true joy when I drive up to “my” place. I am so excited for my future. My children are doing great after just 7 weeks and I feel like such a better, more focused mother. So go with your instincts and know that the sacrifices you make now will only bring you true happiness in the end. And no regrets. Hang in there. We’re all right here cheering you on!

  10. I know this is difficult. I remember. And it never ends. Even after the divorce, it’s never really over.

    Take comfort, however small, in knowing that there are many who care about you.

  11. Love your last sentence: How odd that doing the right thing is, in fact, doing what we’ve grown up to believe is the wrong thing.

    I think divorce is made harder because it is so ingrained in us that it is wrong.

    On a practical note, if you and Penny stay living close by there is no reason why you can’t share transportation duties for the kids even when it isn’t your parenting time. My ex and I did that. It meant the kids’ activities stayed the same which we both agreed was important and he got the opportunity to see the kids more frequently than he would otherwise. We agreed also that we use each other rather than babysitters.

    Don’t get trapped into a box of how “things” normally work – try to be creative and think about what arrangement would work for you, Penny and the kids.

    Thinking of you,

  12. I think it’s typical at some point to stop and wonder if what you’re doing is the right thing, and to maybe even think about different options that might be available. In the end, all you can do is what is best for you…and chances are, that’s going to look quite different from what someone else would do.

    **hugs**

  13. Be strong, friend. 🙂 Thinking about you and hoping you feel better soon, too. (A little birdie told my facebook you were sick.) 🙂

  14. First, get well soon!

    Second, I know you are doing the right thing, because I have never met a man who was happier staying in a loveless mariage, without great sex, passion and love. And you know I interview men for a living. Even the ones who still loved and wanted their wives, but weren’t “getting any” once she decided to divorce, end up much happier. And relieved. All of them.

    It might be easier for you if this was all Penny’s decision. (Then again, in a way, it was…) Of course, reading your entry, I can see that you realized you are doing the right thing FOR SURE by the time you finished writing. :o)

  15. Oh…another thing the men tell me is that when the kids are young enough, they just think it’s normal for Mom and Dad to live separately at some point. A lot of their friends have a similar situation. It’s almost a non-event.

    But, as others have already pointed out, getting “the phone call” when you’re away at college can be really upsetting.

  16. I’m getting to this party late, so I’ll begin with my thoughts before I read the others’ comments.

    Since you like song lyrics, “Regrets, I’ve had a few…” You know the rest, especially how it ends: “…I did it MY WAY.”

    Just review what you’ve written. You effectively shoot down all of your “druthers” with logical examination. Therefore, your mind is working correctly. What you have to be working on is the emotional side of all of this. Those effects have been shunted off to the side while you deal with legalities and finances. These “necessities” are the reasons I kept telling you to find some time for yourself during all of this.

    A telling sign that you are at times wallowing in self-pity: think about your comments in this post where you state that you wouldn’t be able to do/ can’t continue to do/ want to do, but…, and then in your mind change the expresser of these comments to one of your sons. How would you The Parent deal with those complaints right now? In a way, you have to deal as an adult with that juvenile side of yourself that feeds on emotional satisfaction. It’s starving and needs attention. You wouldn’t let your sons go hungry, so don’t neglect your emotional side. For some reason, that reading you posted by your late friend Gabe comes to mind. Maybe it’s worth a reviewing?

    I’m going to read the other comments now.

    There is a lot of wisdom expressed above, but a lot of it doesn’t quite fit the immediate topic. They are for later when the split has finally happened. Suzanne is the one on target this time. Her comments are right in line with your post, and apply nicely to your current dilemma.

    I can’t say with any certainty that divorcing while the kids are young is any better than when they are older, but I can’t see waiting unnecessarily. I once had a girlfriend whose parents did divorce, but they remained living under the same roof. Looking back, I can see that the divorce was mostly a legal one despite having separate rooms, but it still seemed odd to me at the time. It also made their daughter very emotionally manipulative and “clingy”. Another friend of mine had met up with her just a couple of years ago, and they got together for a very brief period. She had been divorced twice, and apparently had a couple of other relationships that didn’t last either. Her kids were various ages, which is about all I know about them. My other friend left her VERY QUICKLY for another woman, so I suspect that my ex-girlfriend hadn’t changed very much in all those years. She was still no prize.

    To sum up: question all you want, but don’t let your emotions take over. The Titanic didn’t hit the iceberg because no one knew it was there, but because the owner wanted a little ego boost to brag about at the club.

  17. It feels like damned if you do and damned if you don’t when you think of the kids. God, that sucks. Good luck.


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