Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 7, 2010

The End of the Mexican Stand-off

Yes, I like metaphors. Haven’t you noticed?

Today’s metaphor is brought to you by way of a movie cliché: the Mexican Stand-off, in which our heroes have locked themselves into a dangerous impasse. The gunslingers stand, weapons drawn and aimed at each other. Neither will shoot, for fear that the adversary’s dying reflex will produce a deadly return shot. Neither will set down their weapon, again for fear of being shot. Neither can back away, for that means giving up all the gold they had fought for. The stakes are high.

Once Penny and I had The Talk, and decided that it was time to divorce, we immediately ran into an impasse. It seemed impossible to find one end of the thread or the other that we could pull on to begin disentangling ourselves. Given that, like the gunslingers in their Mexican Standoff, we both had shared goals (the welfare of the children, etc.), we had to move very carefully so as not to destroy or abdicate our goals, but also so as not to set off each other and destroy ourselves in the process.

Who moves out first? Well, that partially depends upon an agreement on where we are going. How do we decide where? That partially depends upon our financial situation. How do we resolve our financial situation? That partially depends upon the disposition of the business, other assets, other liabilities, and the house. How do we figure out what to do about the house? That partially depends upon who moves out first.

And so on.

In fact, it has all been so much more complicated than that. The timing of everything seemed to hinge upon the timing of everything else, and we could never seem to find the one starting point that didn’t rely upon resolving something else first. Add to that Penny not actively participating in the divorce process any more than she participated in the marriage (considerably less, in fact), and my hesitance to push her forward down this road, and our impasse has been nearly perfect gridlock.

A few weeks ago, we received notice from the bank that holds the first mortgage on our house that they were commencing foreclosure, and they had set a preliminary auction date a few months away. A friend of mine who is familiar with the workings of foreclosure offered suggestions on forestalling this turn of events. Instead, whether wisely or not, I chose to let this play out. The bank is moving forward on its threat; let that set the timing upon which the rest of this mess can be based.

Now, it doesn’t matter that Penny agrees to look at apartments — she has to actually do it. This home we built and live in will not be ours much longer, and she and I both need new places to live. Now, to the extent that our geographic locations matter to each other, we have to make decisions and act on them; it’s not enough to get bogged down in what-ifs and oughtta bes.

She started looking. Old theories fell apart in the face of new realities. We picked a more appropriate neighborhood. A house I’d been looking at for months has been coming down in price; it fits both my and our criteria perfectly. I made an offer on renting it for myself, while she considers nearby options.

After looking at an option that she decided to make an offer on, she and I briefly talked one morning about us both making our respective offers. There was that pause, that moment of recognition, where it was obvious we both knew what was up: this is it.

This is really it.

And it felt like we should acknowledge the moment. It felt like one of us should say what needed to be said, to mark the crossing of this threshold (much like answering the question “is there any hope for reconciliation?” was a threshold). And I not only refused to do it, I kinda moved along quickly to get my stuff and get on my way to work. I didn’t dwell on the moment, even as much as the moment seemed to demand it.

There have been some changes in our plan of attack since that morning; she has made her offer on that one property, but has decided to pursue a few others that might be a better fit. I’m still in negotiations on mine, but I expect that all to be resolved within a day or two.

I realize it’s kind of a cheap trick, but I think I may have managed to break this stalemate — without anyone getting shot so far! — by allowing the Big Bad Bank to play the role of the heavy. Yes, it means I’ve come to terms with giving up the house. But if that’s what it takes to move forward with my life, then let’s get on with it.

It could well be that by this time tomorrow, I’ll know my new address, and be able to start moving in next week.



  1. An interesting development! I note a kind of necessary detachment forming in you, in that losing the house isn’t such a major emotional trauma that you get stopped in your tracks. I see this as an acceptance of the situation and that’s a good thing.

    Penny on the other hand, is still avoiding reality. Finding a place to live, and yet continuing the search, isn’t filling me with a whole lot of confidence that she isn’t heading for an emotional crash. She’s still avoiding taking necessary action on her own behalf.

    Because you have kids, you might want to have a backup plan in case Penny does crash and burn. Can you keep the kids full-time in your new place should that prove necessary? Is there room to do so? It wouldn’t be very convenient, but can you take on those full-time child care issues without causing more problems, like with your job?

    Hopefully, Penny wakes up and acts like an adult, and all of this won’t be necessary. She just doesn’t inspire confidence in me that she will.

  2. I know that none of this is easy. All I can do, really, is just tell you to hang in there, with the knowledge that it WILL get better with time and distance.


  3. Good for you, and well played. I’m proud of you for taking the leap. Good luck & let us know if you need anything (that we can actually help with!).

  4. I hope you get that new place, keep me posted okay?!!

  5. Damn, this is huge for you guys. I’m wtih Topphogg, the detachment on the house is good for you. Time to move out and on. I hope thenew place comes through without any problems.

  6. Do the kids know?!

  7. The moment of no return…I remember that very moment too, when my ex told me his move date was Dec 1, 2008, and in less than two weeks, we were officially separated and moving towards divorce. To me, that was the moment, moreso than the short sale, and filing the paperwork and all that, it was that moment. It’s a hard moment but it’s also one of clarity, and I hope you have the clarity you need and it gives you hope that your time to shine is coming. I know it! (almost) congrats in order?!

  8. I’ve read a lot of your backstory, and this is certainly a large development. Truthfully, many of your posts remind me of my parents’ marriage, which they finally ended when I was 20. They also lost their house and were living in a sexless, loveless world for many many years (sad that I know that about my parents, but I was old enough to see what was going on.)

    My mom has been much happier in the post divorce years living in her apartment, and she came to terms with losing the house and starting over just as I know that you will. There is no price on peace of mind: it is invaluable.

    On the contrary, your predicament makes me realize how easy it was to separate from my husband (not emotionally, but technically and physically) without children or other complications. I gave him the house to avoid a short sale and he can pay for it on his own, so that worked for us. The only thing I left behind was my dog, which was extremely upsetting, but in the big picture was for the best.

    I give you a great deal of credit for handling all of this as well as you have. You have a lot on your plate and a very messy situation, and when all is said and done your children will be better off seeing mom and dad happy again further down the road. My mother stayed with my dad, in large part, for us, and she realizes now that was a mistake and sent the wrong message to us. In fact, she think that my own inability to leave my soon to be ex husband was because of the lessons I learned in childhood, so there’s proof for you. It’s hard now, but you are doing the right thing for all involved.

  9. WOW!

    It really is sort of like finding a thread to pull and then everything comes unraveled. Guess it took the bank to loosen that thread, eh?

    Hope it brings you some relief. And peace.

  10. ooh. here’s hoping that this is the big step that sets the rest of the closure in motion. one step at a time.

  11. From your posts last December to now, I’d say you’ve made significant progress. You should be proud. Within a few months we will be reading about your love life (I hope…) and I, for one, can’t WAIT for that part.
    You’re such a great writer, I am expecting some juicy stories…LOL

  12. I think you absolutely made the right decision. Having the bank be the bad guy in this scenario goes a long way to making your life much easier and helping to move on with the process of moving into the next phase of your life.

    I too remember that moment of “this is it”. All of this work, all of this effort, down the effing drain. Oh well, looking back 6 years it was the best decision that could have been made and I’ve made the most of it.

    You will too.

  13. Dread Pirate Roberts: Well if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse.
    Vizzini: I’m afraid so. I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.
    Dread Pirate Roberts: You’re that smart?
    Vizzini: Let me put it this way: have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
    Dread Pirate Roberts: Yes.
    Vizzini: Morons.

    Sorry. I read the word “impasse” in your post, and my mind went there. But I’m sure you’ll appreciate it. 😉

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