Let me see if I’ve got this right.
When we met my ex-y was living in a rental house (really living with her boyfriend at the time, but I didn’t know this until later). She had a great job, and seemed to be making plenty of money. (Or should I say, money didn’t seem to be an issue in her life.)
At that same time, I was living in a pretty swanky condo downtown (thanks mostly to my father’s estate) and working full-time at my own consulting and marketing business. (Pretty much what I’m doing now.)
When we began talking mating and offspring we both agreed on a couple of things:
- Mom should get to spend more time in the early years with the babies
- Mom would probably have to work part-time, eventually, since we wanted to live in a really nice neighborhood
- Dad would work full-time and do whatever it takes to make #1 and #2 happen
- We were in this equally, equitably.
- We made a great team together.
For the most part, we were growing our family to plan, when 9-11 happened and changed the world for all of us.
In our little universe, which consisted of a one-year-old son, we had some cushion. But the fall of so many of our norms was hard to recover from. (I guess I’ve also shied away from telling the longer story of my depression… Hmm.)
So here’s what happened to me, personally.
- My long-time client transitioned all of their business to a new company the August before 9-11.
- In my rebuilding plans I had scored several new clients, both real estate developers. The day after 9-11 all of my income, 100% of it, froze. My income went to zero.
- My mental wheels began to come off about nine months in, though I did manage to land a few new clients in the new post 9-11 era.
- Finally, with the upcoming birth of my daughter becoming more and more medically complicated, I snapped. Something broke inside of me, and I no longer assumed that things were going to be okay. I broke down.
This breakdown took the form of me turning down a very stressful, but lucrative opportunity that my then-wife had helped secure. And I didn’t back out very gracefully. I freaked out of it. “I can’t do it. I can’t give them the presentation.”
Over the course of the next several years, my emotional sobriety was mixed. I had good months, good runs at work, and then I would go pop and drop back into the pit of despair. The good news is my pre-marital condo sold for a very nice nest egg. The bad news is, while this was taking place, we were burning through that nest egg at a pretty alarming rate.
Here’s where things got a little weird. And here’s where the money part of my marriage really came into question for me.
While we had agreed that Mom would get to stay at home with the kiddos as much as possible, I began to see how dependant we had become on MY income. Rather than beginning the process of collaborative work search, WE had somehow both become overly focused on me and my ability to earn enough for our new family of four.
Now, I’m not blaming her for this perspective. But it got a little absurd. And the depth of it, with 20-20 reviewing capabilities, goes deeper than I realised while I was married.
Okay, so back to pre-marital imbalance. I’m a home owner with some money in the bank. She is not. No worries, we’re in this for the long haul.
The thing that really became obvious, wasn’t obvious until she decided she wanted a divorce.
About six months before the shit hit the fan, the financial shit was still hitting the fan. As we were struggling to make a couple of mortgage payments, I ended up selling 10k of my music equipment to make ends meet. We were stressed out to the max about money. And “I thought” both of us were working together to find work to support our family.
Maybe she was having a mid-life crisis at that moment. But in this very cash-starved moment in our history together, she was thinking about going into a new field. Okay. And she was casting around for what to do next. Fine.
Thankfully, the Thanksgiving before our divorce, I got an amazing job offer that started up immediately. We were saved. Kind of.
As I began that path of “hi honey, I’m home” fatherhood again, and she was still “searching” something was different. The money was not enough. She was still extremely angry. And really seemed to be directing that anger at me. When the change happened from stress and anxiety to actual focused anger at me, as the problem, I don’t know. But it was palpable. She woke up angry.
Maybe she was mad that she was still having to look for a job at all. I don’t know. I tried asking, but it was fruitless. She was just angry. And when she got angry, she also closed off 100% of the intimacy. I guess that’s natural. You can’t really make love to someone if you’re angry with them. But months would go by, and I’d be the only one seemly noticing that we were not having sex. Like EVER.
So, she was mad. Woke up mad. Went to bed mad. Just mad.
Eventually this got me a bit angry back and I started looking at the dynamics of our relationship. Here I was working the “good job” again, providing the money and insurance for her to continue her search for meaning in work, and things were not getting any less stressful between us. What the fuck?
As we moved through the holidays and through January, my job continued to be stressful, and her work search continued to be fruitless. And while the idea of coming home to a happy family and a meal on the stove was kinda cliché, I was hoping for some of the fruits of my labor to be affection.
In February I began voicing my dissatisfaction with the status quo. And while I was primarily talking about our physical closeness and her obvious anger and angry outbursts at me, I was also talking about something more fundamental. In all this angry venting at me, I was beginning to get angry back. I started asking about her job prospects. I started asking about sex. I started asking about dinner when I got home.
And we were having to get our taxes together around this time. And I pushed the final hunting and gathering of the documents on her. I, after all, was working a job that was beginning to kick my ass more than I liked. But I was gung-ho, and we were doing soooo much better, financially.
Then a mini-crisis happened, just in this fragile time, as I’m beginning to stand up for what I needed. I got fired. A wrongful termination suit was brought against my former friend, because I was fired for someone else’s mistake, clear as day. But it broke the final ounce of trust and hope for my ex-y. SHE WAS DONE.
I was not done, I was certain this break would provide a pivot point for us to get back on even footing. For us to finally broach in therapy what was happening in our sexual relationship. But I was the only willing party, at that point. She was finished.
Then two amazing things happened in rapid succession. 1. She found a job. (Like magic.) and 2. She showed me the tax return documents for the previous year, and she actually had a negative contribution to the family budget for the year.
The YEAR that we were struggling, the YEAR that I sold two guitars I’d owned for 15+ years to make our mortgage payment, the YEAR that she was mad at my about 90% of the time, was the YEAR that she lost money?
How amazing that the minute she decided she wanted a divorce, her motivation for finding work changed dramatically. Or maybe it was just the marketplace. You tell me.
Anyway, in the divorce, while I chose not to fight about any of the money, I think she came out pretty well. She’s got the house. She’s got the child support income. (When I get caught back up.) And she’s got the kids a large percentage of the time.
I wonder if she’s still mad at me. Or if, now, she’s found something else to be angry about.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff pages
- Losing Everything In Divorce; Learning to Carry On
- On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money
- The Close of Business Between Us
- Winning the Battle, Losing the War
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)