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!