She was living with another man when we started having lunches. She started dating me before telling me or him of the other person. Along the way, that summer, she shut down our relationship so she could go “finish up” with him. She called me about six weeks later.
That opening volley should have been a red flag. But I was smitten. She was/is very pretty. I was very lonely. We hooked up soon after she moved out and she moved in with me in a matter of weeks. She made a very sensible move. She let go of the man who was unlikely to ever give her a child, something she had desperately begun to think about, and she found a man of means who was also ready for kids. Bingo.
There were a couple of wrinkles in her fantasy, however. 1. I did not make enough money to support a stay-at-home mom in the neighborhood we were committed to raising our children. 2. I suffered from occasional bouts of depression. She did too, but that’s another story all together.
So there we were, heading towards kids with some drastic changes to make. I was playing in a band, working for myself, and living in a condo that was paid for but not big enough to raise a family. What she needed was for me to get a real job, quit the band, and buy a house that could support our desired 2 kids in the neighborhood with the good schools. I caught the vision to. And so that’s what we did. I quit the band, got a full-time job, and we moved from my condo to a house in the “good schools” neighborhood. Of course we were 5 – 6 years ahead of needing those good schools, but hey, we were kids, we were in love, we were becoming parents.
So time goes along for a bit, we have two kids, a boy and then a girl, and we start having the frictions that married-with-children couples do. And a lot of that trouble had to do with money. I didn’t really think of it at the time, because we had decided to have her stay home with the kids as much as possible, while I continued the “big job” pursuit. While things went okay, the job market after 9-11 was awful. Our boat was taking on water. We spent most of the cash from the sale of the condo, and we were down to bare bones on our mortgage and house repairs.
It was about this time, and for some of those reasons, that I started a major slide into overwhelm, otherwise known as major depression. Not only was I responsible for an entire little family now, and a house payment, I also had lost my self-employment opportunity when the real estate market shut down after 9-11. Everybody had it hard, I get that, but somehow we didn’t join together as a team. Somehow we grew apart and the plan was for me to work, and work harder at finding work, and for her to … Well, we weren’t really sure what she was going to do. She didn’t know what she “wanted” to do, so I was committed to letting her fish around and figure it out. Meanwhile, our finances are swirling down the drain. But I never was one for being a stickler around money.
About the time things got really hard, she began to take lunches with a co-worker from a new group she was consulting with. Of course, I had no idea she was doing lunch with anyone. I stumbled upon a series of emails between them one afternoon while I was de-spamming our communal computer. BOOM. I was punched in the dick. She was revealing her deepest secrets, her concerns for my depression, her loneliness, and even her own inner struggles about being married to someone with depression.
I remember she came home with the kids and tried to talk to me about the evening plans. I was almost incoherent. It might have been easy to chalk that up to my struggles with depression, but this was different. Somewhere along the way she had taken out our personal love story and begun sharing it with another man. She was introducing him to the free coffee at our neighborhood library. She was doing lunches with a younger man just when her actual man needed her the most.
She came clean at this point. Not at doing anything wrong, but in acknowledging how this behavior might hurt me. She agreed to never do it again, and to end the “relationship” with this other man. But the damage had been done. She’d broken our sacred trust. And I am not sure if I ever felt 100% secure in my relationship after that. When sex went on hiatus, I remember wondering if she were seeing another man on the side, this time with physical comforts as well as mental comforts. I don’t think that was ever the case, but I’m not 100% sure.
Once the infidelity happens, even if it’s only emotional, the trust suffers. The odd thing, however, is how she made our “trust” an issue that I was mostly responsible for damaging. The “trust” issues seemed to all be about me. Not us? Our therapy sessions were less than productive as we searched for answers to MY depression and MY trust issues. She was the “okay” one.
Today, it’s easier to see how the entire relationship had been based on half-truths and omissions. I don’t have any regrets, at this point, because I look at our kids and I know we did the best we could. The best we could, however was less than 100% from her. At the moment when your partner is suffering and in need of your comfort, that is not the time to begin a “friendship” with a new person from work. A woman, maybe, but a handsome man?
I have learned a lot about trust and honesty in my life. My first and second marriages have taught me many things. I know that I will not tolerate infidelity, emotional or physical, and that TRUST is an issue that is shared. We had a trust issue in our marriage. While she was actually out doing something untrustworthy, I was the one being attacked. Perhaps the attack was the only defense she could come up with, for the way she was feeling inside.
She knew the moment I spoke of it, that afternoon when I found the email, that she had betrayed me. She never fully apologized for it. She said she wouldn’t do it again. That was as good as it ever got between us. I think that fracture is what led me towards divorce once it was offered. While I fought against the divorce, when I saw what I was up against, I gave in and complied. I guess I did the same thing at the beginning of our relationship when I first heard about the other man she was living with.
Things would be very different in my life had I walked away. I did not.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff
- Kids, I Did Not Choose to Leave You Alone In the Divorce
- Why Fathers Give Up After Divorce
- You May Think I’m the Enemy, But You’re Misguided
- I May Never Reach Serenity with my Ex-Wife
- When You’re Trying to CoParent with a Narcissist
image: bathroomismine, creative commons usage
My marriage was fine as long as I was prepared to sacrifice my health and time with the kids to work. If I brought home the big paycheck all was somewhat jolly. Maybe not always for me, but the mom and kids seemed to enjoy it. And then I got laid off and asked for a moment to contemplate the future. I mean, the nice fat corporate job, that had stressed me out to the max and gotten me a lot fatter in the process, had also given me a silver parachute. 6 months, full pay and benefits. Seemed like a great plan.
And I remember the lunch date I had with my then-wife during the first weeks of my sabbatical when she came unglued at my idea. She calmly pointed out that is simply wasn’t that much money. My severance wasn’t going to last us very long. She obviously didn’t like the direction my thinking was going. And to be fair, with two kids, a nice house, nice cars… She had a point.
But the point that she failed to fess up to at the time, she really didn’t want to re-enter the workforce full-time. Ever. I don’t know this to be true. And the poetic justice of the divorce has mitigated those ideas, but she really got mad at me over lunch for not taking her concerns as seriously as she took them. Somehow, I was being immature, reckless, and self-centered in wanted to recalculate the work/life balance. And yes, my discussion would need to involve her plans for returning to work full-time as well.
It seemed, back then, that we were actually pretty close to achieving a more balanced and fair split of the financial obligations of the lifestyle we had chosen. Our kids were in 3rd and 5th grade, so they were less dependent on our extreme focus 24/7. It felt, to me, like things were in a position to lighten up for us. And this was a good time, while we (I say we, but she’d been maxing out at about 20 hours a week at that point) weren’t quite so strapped for cash, to look at what we wanted to create for our family over the next 5 – 10 years while they finished up school.
But I don’t think that’s the discussion she wanted to have. She wanted to know what my plans were for providing for the family. I was saying “we” she was saying “you.” Hmm. I guess we were at an impasse of some sort. I didn’t know it then, but we were crossing over a threshold. We took the issue into our couples counselor. We worked on things. We struggled. We tried to listen to each other. We tried to see eye to eye. Meanwhile, the severance, while paying the bills was being burned twice as fast, because she had lost her job at the first of the year too.
Yes, things were intense. But they were manageable. And in my optimistic way I was certain we were in a position to plan and strategize about “our” work plan rather than just “my” work plan. We tried.
I kept looking for work and interviewing at other big corporate jobs. And I put my all into the process. Of course, the layoff that culled 50% of my team was caused by the major economic collapse of 2009. No body was eager to hire high-level marketing staff. At least none of the jobs I was hearing about and applying for. Still we had my severance, and they were going to pay me 50% of my 2009 bonus as well. That bought us another month.
But I wasn’t saying the things she wanted to hear. And she wasn’t hearing me either. I wasn’t taking things seriously enough and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her career. We floundered as a couple. We began to experience breakdowns in communication and trust.
She recounted the pivotal lunch in therapy as me completely disregarding her concerns about money. Somehow I could not hear her.
I recounted the same exact lunch as “we both expressed our ideas about the future and while I wanted to discuss changes, she wanted action and me to stabilize our future, immediately.” It wasn’t that easy. And the threadbare trust in our relationship began to break down. Even as I was feeling hopeful and collaborative, she was feeling scared and angry. We limped along, but the sparks between us were more angry than inspirational.
And that’s when our sex life fell off a cliff as well. So as a man, I was in a real double bind. I not only had my self-esteem all mixed up after being laid off and having a ton of unproductive interviews. I was also getting shut out of the bedroom and the emotional closeness that comes from being intimate. So both of my anchors were gone. I was floundering, but I was doing it mostly alone, with an angry partner who kept saying I wasn’t listening to her. She began to express how mad she was at me. And during this time she even blurted out how she didn’t really love me any more.
I suppose I had two choices. 1. Completely withdraw my demand of a recalibration of our future and just hit the “whatever works” job search and get the job and shut the hell up to see if that made things better; or 2. stand strong in my conviction that I was not willing to simply go back to the factory in support of my white picket fence and semi-supportive wife. I was not willing to go back into the cube farm without a fight.
And so we fought. Meanwhile the money ran out and things went up another step on the urgency and alarm scale.
Looking back as clearly as I can, I suppose at this time, after she had gotten laid off from her job as well she really was soul-searching in the same way I was. What were we going to be as a family? Who was going to provide the money and who was going to provide the nurturing? How would we split the obligations and parenting and chores? But the kicker for me, the thing I still struggle with as I try and reconcile this period in my marriage: for that entire year, from January to December 2010, my wife actually spent more money on her consulting “business” than she made.
When I try and imagine what was going through her mind the only thing I can come up with is
- She was determined for me to return to the high-paying job that would allow her the same flexibility she had enjoyed while the kids were younger.
- She was searching for her bliss. She didn’t want to continue the string of unsuccessful jobs that had not taken her further up the job satisfaction ladder.
- In all her fears and worry about money it was easier to focus on me and my work search than to pay attention to her own financial contribution.
- Since she was the “accounting” partner it, even as it was clear we were heading into crisis mode, she doubled down on me and my job search, rather than doing what she wanted me to do, and “take whatever” so that we could catch up on the bills.
- Maybe she was using the leverage of the economic collapse to force me back into the big corporate job so she wouldn’t have to figure out how she was going to contribute financially.
No matter which of my assumptions are true, the actions she took are now fact and not projection or mind-reading. In March of the following year, she decided she’d had enough and she made some decisions to leave the marriage and break up our family. No more “for better or worse,” she was going to greener pastures must exist somewhere else. I was devastated. Even as I was angry and frustrated at the current state of affairs, I was also beginning to express my anger at being emotionally isolated. And I try to let her off the hook most of the time, by owning my part of the anger and frustration in our marriage. But I was in the marriage to WIN and STAY. She decided to LEAVE.
I can’t take any of it back. And I can’t even gloat at how much she is having to work now, because it’s not how I wanted it to go. This moment, today, is not how it should’ve gone, in my mind. We should’ve come to a balanced plan where we BOTH hunted and landed good paying jobs, WE stabilized our financial situation, and WE made commitments to re-energize and re-invest energy in our marriage.
Had we collaborated instead of separated, today we’d be looking at much better economic times. All the money that has gone into two homes could have gone into the bank. She would be working a lot less today had we stayed together. But somewhere along the way, she lost the trust that I was a worthy collaborator.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- What An Angry or Distant Divorced Parent Looks Like
- The Fk You That Keeps On Giving
- The Crushing Impact of Emotional Infidelity on My Marriage
- When Did Our Halos Lose Their Sparkle? A Marriage Comes Apart
- I Was a Happily Married Man, and Now I’m Not: Tiny Hints of Doom
image: angry face, transformer 18, creative commons usage
I’ve got my largest two week consulting check coming in, ever. Problem is, it should’ve arrived on Saturday. AND my car stopped running properly on Saturday. AND my ex-y asked for “timing” advice last night. And my client said, “We will get it in the mail this week, sorry we were on Spring Break.”
There is no doubt that cash flow problems hit us all. And I will also admit that I am not very good at mapping bills and expenses to income, especially when things get tight. And sometimes they get so tight…
So the drama between the ex-y and I continues. Except the drama on her side is really for show, for frustration, for antagonism. No, I take that back. She’s not even interested in upsetting me. She would get no benefit from that. But she is not required to take my situation into consideration, nor does she. I’d use the word narcistic, if it weren’t a bad word. Self-centered would probably fit more appropriately.
The part I don’t get, when her wants and desires become the priority in her life, over, let’s say, our kids lives. Let me give a few examples.
Within a month of our divorce being finalized, she was sleeping with a plumber who’d worked on her house. Not that there’s anything wrong with plumbers, but this one had rebound, revenge, self-centered written all over it. A friend told me about it. I was furious. Oops, my bad. I was supposed to be detaching. And of course she had tightened down her chastity belt so tight, I guess her sexual needs could not be contained. All I can say about the plumber was, thank goodness we’d put a 6-month chill clause in our divorce decree, before either of us could introduce a significant other to the kids. I asked her, “What example is he going to set for our kids?” Again, nothing against plumbers, but as the next pseudo-father of my kids, I was aiming a little higher. I understand it’s not my decision, but I have some hopes that he will be a creatively intellectual individual that my kids will admire and aspire to be more like. Again, I never met the man with the dragon tattoo. He may very well have been the Michael Angelo of plumbing.
Another misqueue in my opinion (a problem with that right there, I really don’t have a right to an opinion) was all the times I’d check-in with my kids on a weekend and they’d have a babysitter. Again, I don’t even pretend to imagine the different experience of the world and making a living, between men and women, but it certainly wasn’t sexual companionship she was looking for. She was in the immediate hunt for my replacement as a provider. She was panicked about being alone. (Part of the reason I didn’t want the house, too many ghosts around if the kids weren’t there.) But deeper, I’m guessing, was her fear of not being able to make it alone.
Again, I am speaking about something I know nothing about. I know about money woes. I know about companionship. But I also know that MY healing comes from time alone, feeling the feelings, and working things out. First with myself. Then with another person. She was aggressively trying to fill my spot before she really had to do the work of understanding why it was empty.
So I paid a few weeks late on last months child support, and she made a big deal about how much she needs the money, how dependent she is on my support checks. But it’s bullshit. It’s the clear and present danger in HER mind, but she’s only thinking about herself.
Let’s see: 1. she’s got a house that is worth at least 100k more than her mortgage; 2. she’s got over 25k in retirement accounts; 3. she’s got me paying almost all of her mortgage every month. Where is the money crisis in that?
I think of Bill Hader’s drama queen character. The kids and I watched a couple SNL skits last night before bed. And in this one, Hader played a fireman who was still not over a relationship that had ended over nine years ago. He simply screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
It was a fitting metaphor for my ex-y’s behavior.
1. She knew I was struggling to get last month’s payment to her; 2. She’s working on her own budget for the week/month/year; 3. Like a bill collector, she’s asking when is she getting the next payment and “how can we set this up so it doesn’t affect me and the kids each month?”
Good question, that last one. I’m thinking this is the answer: “Get the fk off my ass for $1600. You are NOT in crisis. You are connecting your emotional vulnerability to the payments from me. They are NOT the same thing. You have plenty of money. I am paying as best I can. Saying “thank you so much” and the bringing the enforcer ask right after is not caring, it’s manipulative. Unfortunately it’s also transparent.
I won’t answer her with this vitriol. It would do no good.
So as I do with the mortgage demands that start coming in the day after the payment is due, I ignore them. She is a detail and a bill collector. She does not have feelings, nor should she need to, about me and my money. It’s just business.
And fk that. I’m a person. I’m also worthy of respect. And before you hammer me about “when is the next check coming in?” please check your balance sheet and know that YOU ARE OKAY. You’re security and joy does not depend on my money. Never did. And I will support you as long as the law demands it and the kids are in school. I am 100% committed to that.
Let’s not forget that she started threatening turning the process over to the Texas Attorney General’s office and Child Support Division a few months ago. She’s just working to get me with the program. Not a very compassionate approach, but I’m not part of her drama unless she can make me part of it.
But this week, when the check comes in. I’m going to pay last months mortgage payment. And a few other bills that have significant weight. Yours no longer carries that priority. And your drama-infused demands no longer have the power to affect me. (To be honest, they still can rile me up. This post is an example.) I will pay you, as I have for 2.5 years. We’ve got approximately 8 to go. And if you continue to scream “oh my god” in your emails to me, I’ll just start putting you in the spam folder with Wells Fargo. They are going to get their money too. Everybody is going to get their money.
Now we need to relax and pay attention to the things that are more important than paying bills or finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s time to wake the kids over here and get them ready for school. And that’s an activity worth my priority and attention. Your self-imagined money crisis, is not.
The Off Parent
- 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)