It appears that I am getting a divorce.
My husband and I have struggled – well, we have struggled – our entire eleven year marriage. We’ve had a lot to deal with: court problems with my first husband, lost jobs, financial struggles, blended family issues, in-law issues.
Not health issues. We’ve been blessed that way. And we’ve been blessed with two daughters who are seven and ten years old now.
But it has been a rough ride. And we have been on ‘the edge of the cliff’ just about our entire marriage. And it seems as much as the both of us have been determined not to fall off the cliff for such good reasons: we cannot financially afford a divorce, we both love our children so much and do not want to ‘split’ them, we’re both ‘good people’ at heart. It’s hard enough trying to raise four children (two sons from my first marriage) with just the two of us. How do you do it on your own?
All these good reasons, but yet both of us keep slipping towards that cliff, grabbing the ankle of the other one, and it appears, we are going over.
Day by day. Minute by minute. Breathe. I remind myself.
My husband’s mother died in March. He is grieving. In typical male fashion, he does not acknowledge he is grieving. He does not give himself space and time for this, he just marches on, even faster and more determined.
He has this idea in his head that we must leave Illinois due to the economy: that it will solve all of our problems.
You cannot outrun your problems. Wanted or not, they come with you in your suitcase.
I told my husband that this weekend was rough for me. My oldest is going back to college. We have been in this house ten years, and it is the last year before everything changes. I acknowledge that.
My husband wanted to put the house on the market in March and then get a rental until my second oldest graduates high school in May of 2021.
We have a ‘patchwork’ family. We don’t really ‘work’ all of us together, but my sons have ‘space’ in the house: a basement bedroom and a converted shed in the backyard. And so I see them, coming in with their friends and going out with their friends. A sentence here. A sentence there. I chat with their friends. A ten minute conversation with them when I am really lucky. This is my relationship with them. It is not optimum. But it is enough. Enough to know that they are okay. And that is what all of us mothers need to know about our children, right?
Well, now my husband has asked me to give that up. And he berates me for having a hard time with that. My one son goes to college in Milwaukee. The other does not yet know where he will go, but he knows it will not be where we are moving. He hates the heat. He will ‘never, ever’ live there, he repeatedly tells me.
Ow. Pain. Breathe. Keep breathing. Children leave, I tell myself. They grow up. They have their own lives. They go on.
But I always wanted to be a safe place they could come and check in at every once in awhile. They will not know this new place. They will have no friends there. They will barely come.
This is not the end of the world. I know that. I can live through it. I can visit them. I can handle this.
But it is hard.
Breathe. Day by day. Step by step. I can do this.
I have a better ‘arsenal’ these days. I can handle things better when the stress hits. Like last night.
For some reason, on the day my son is leaving to go back to college, my husband decides to pack up his own things in order to prepare our house to go on the market. Loudly. I am not sure if it would be better if he were whistling while he worked, but he most definitely is not whistling. He’s sighing and huffing and puffing and an occasional under his breath swear word.
I am doing my best to ignore him, but my chest is starting to hurt.
I get up and ask him why must he do that now? I remind him it is a difficult day for me with my son leaving to go back to college, knowing that next year, things will be a lot different.
He is combative back towards me. His head hurts. He does not physically feel well. He is only doing one box. I am being childish.
My chest hurts more now. I jump in the car and drive to the river in our neighborhood.
Breathe. Deeply. This too shall pass.
I feel better, and I return. But I do not feel like dealing with him. I can read his mood. I ignore him and walk upstairs to the bath. I take a beautiful bath, music on, Epsom salt and am feeling much better.
Then he appears.
I tell him I do not wish to discuss things right now, but apparently, that is not an option.
What is my problem? Why am I acting so childish? It’s just one box. I really need to get it over it because he cannot have me acting this way every time he does something to get ready to move.
Acting what way I wonder to myself. Meditating? Calming myself down? Taking a bath?
I ignore him and again tell him I do not wish to discuss this now and in front of our daughters. But he is in full steam ahead mode.
So my ten year old fights with him. This breaks my heart. She screams at him in an out of control manner that she cannot take this anymore, that all she wants is a normal family where parents do not fight all the time, that how can she take the stress of living like this all the time.
He is broke,too. I can tell. He says ‘maybe this is what we should do, the divorce.’ ‘I cannot take it anymore either’, he says. He is crying loudly.
My daughter emotionally tells him, ‘yes, dad, maybe it is what you should do.’ She tells him sounding far wiser than her years, ‘it will be okay. God has a plan. And things cannot go on this way.’
Things cannot go on this way.
I cannot stop either of them. I just sit and observe the massive amounts of pain.
He throws bombs at me: “You are doing the same thing you did your first marriage. The children will hate you for it. Your sons do not want you to get a divorce. [My oldest] has told me he will not speak to you if you get a divorce.” He lobs them, one after another. Over and over, trying desperately to hit a mark, a sore spot, get a reaction — alleviate some of his pain.
But they cannot touch me.
I have done my work. I do not need someone else’s validation to know what is my truth.
I do not need someone else’s validation to know my truth.
I am scared.
My whole life all I wanted was ‘family’ and to be ‘taken care of’.
My whole life, all life has been pushing me towards … is this.
Stand up, child. You are okay.
When the dust finally settles, and I am trying to get my daughters to sleep, my ten year old is quietly, persistently crying.
She has earlier told her dad that everything will be okay, but she does not know that for sure. Now she needs someone else to tell her that.
I stroke her hair. I hug her. I tell her that everything will be fine. It will work out fine.
I reassure her what I do not know.
I think to myself that I desperately want someone to do this for me.
But that is not an option at the moment.
I suppose that is the job of a parent and of a leader.
I think back to a Gathering that I went to where a dear friend of mine spoke of knowing when it is time to ‘go’, to do what you know you must, to find your courage and leap into the unknown.
I see her in my mind talking about jumping and the not knowing.
How at the last moment your wings will unfurl, and you will fly.
A Friend of FAR, is a mom, a writer, and an active participant in women’s circles and women’s spirituality. She has previously written for Feminism and Religion (FAR), but has requested anonymity for this post for the sake of her family’s privacy during this sensitive time. We are grateful she has willingly shared some of her experiences during this transition time with the wider FAR readership. Thank you, friend!
8 thoughts on “I’m Going Over the Cliff: How About You? by A Friend of FAR”
Dear friend, dear friend, let me tell you how I feel:
For a variety of reasons I have been watching a lot of Judge Judy on Youtube. One of the things she makes clearest is that especially when they are young–and as she would say your boys “are not cooked” and won’t be for a while–your children should be the most important relationship in your life. From what you share, it sounds like your husband wants you to put him first, the girls second, you next (maybe), and the boys last. This is not right. Period. If this cannot change, please do not sacrifice your boys.
I understand that being a single mother of 4 will not be easy. But you will all find your way if you remember that your children must come first.
All good wishes to you,
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Dear dear friend….I am so glad you wrote this and told us what is happening…I WANT to know; we in this space HEAR you; we SEE you in this space, and what I see is a woman functioning well and thinking complexly and astutely about profoundly difficult issues. You handled the intense situation with your husband’s belligerent, self-centered behavior, when he was unable to be present for you, so well!! Wow! You really can breathe and center yourself…you wrote many times about the pain you felt and relayed those emotions to him–he did not mirror or respond in any appropriate way but, instead, sought your attention through his self-focused, even hostile, behavior (banging boxes, swearing, ignoring your feelings (and the children’s), criticizing/verbally abusing you, and complaining of his headache). Your body told you it was all wrong (the chest pains)…I am glad you listened to your body! You took care of yourself so beautifully, and then cared for your daughter as well….your mothering is amazing, and that is what will hold you up as you move away from this draining situation…as you move with that love that obviously is bubbling up within you, it will grow. As you reach out to allow others to feed and nourish that love, your courage will grow also. I hope here at FAR, we will be the FEAST that carries you forward in the first challenging weeks and months of your separation…we are FOR YOU, Friend….we BELIEVE IN you….we TRUST in your wisdom…Thank you so much for reaching out to us, which is the balm that keeps all of us going [community], and helping us see ourselves in your courage, fears, and struggle…Keep the Faith!!
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Deeply moving post written by a woman who is able to stand in the truth of who she is, and where she is. I applaud this effort… your parenting ability… and your ability to act on your body’s truth. Radical life changes leave us on an edge that is very scary – I believe the very worst part is just where you are standing now.
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I am sorry that your husband is bullying you and trying to force you to do what he wants (sell the house and move) and not what you and your children need. You do not have to move, nor can he sell the house without your consent. What he is doing is abusive and terrorizing you to get his own way. I wish you strength and may support surge up around you. You don’t deserve this behavior.
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Dear strong woman, as I like to address you , as I don’t your name, and that’s quite okay. We all are not therapists in the way to give you advice, yet we are all women who do know what feels right and this is strengths we carry, to know what feels right. You have the most compassion for your children, while your husband appears to have other goals in his mind, by any way I don’t need to judge him at all. He carries his own bag of fear, as you do, your both fears might stem from different life experiences, but besides that it appears to me that you have your heart together for what is right. Just follow your heart, it will guide you in the right directions. It’s all the power we women have within us , it is THIS LIFE FORCE that we are granted to use. Sending you much love , as I always say ” Minds together” from Cornelia
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Dear “Friend”, wow, what a hard place to be in! I am glad you have your inner tools to support yourself. You will figure out what to do. Twice I have left a realtionship with a man (first time, husband [our daughter was 2 y.o.]; secone time, long-term boyfriend) and was terrified both times. It was enormously painful and I didn’t know how I would survive, and the first time, support me and my daughter. But the thing is, I did leave, and I did survie and thrive both times. Divine grace or the Universe or Whatever, along with my strength, faith ,and determination, helped me find a way and find the recources I needed. I was never on the street, we were never hungry, we were never alone without friends. For this I am immensely grateful. I tell you this because I hope it gives you hope and courage. Take care of yourself and your children, and let your husband find his way. If it helps, give him over to God or the Universe, or Who/Whatver. I wish you well and safe travels in your life’s journey.
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You got this. It will be a painful, bumpy road, but you will make it. I ended a twenty year marriage a year and a half ago. I worry every day whether our 15yo son is okay. The truth is, he’s fine. And so am I. You know your truth. Your daughter knows your truth. You are ready for this. Sending peace to you.
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I agree with Carolyn, you got this. And you know what you need do to. You are ready and your children as too. Sending prayers, lots of love and be sure to nurture yourself as well as your kids.
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