After thirteen years filled with marital strife, I recently moved out. For financial and logistical reasons, we are staying married, focusing on our two children and have put into place a ‘3-3-3’ schedule.
Three days, our daughters are with me. Three days, they are with him. And three days, we are all together at our old home.
I believe that it is a great transitionary plan as it is making the adjustment for our daughters easier, but it is not always the easiest on me.
I call him my Dos Equis as yes, he is husband number two. Perhaps I am a slow learner, but I believe I have been ‘on path’.
Dos Equis wanted us to all go on vacation together, and so we recently drove to Destin, Florida. He feels that our relationship is ‘normal’ and that I have perniciously turned off some essential switch withholding my wifely duties and my support for him.
But it is not normal.
Although I would suppose that far too many of you can relate.
Towards the beginning of our vacation, I had this glimpse of gratitude for the beautiful ocean and how much fun my daughters had playing in it our first day here.
I even thanked him for the vacation in front of them as I feel that it is important for them to see us nice to each other and all that.
And then the sand started getting everywhere: in all the crevices, literally and metaphorically speaking.
I went to change my swimsuit the first day, and as I took it off, I deposited a large pile of sand on the hotel carpet.
My nine year old giggled hysterically that I had ‘birthed’ sand. ‘Mom, you squatted, and the sand came down.’
Of course, she wanted to add some to which Dos Equis started yelling how very angry the maids would be at us for getting sand everywhere.
That is what it is like being with him, trying to avoid all these people being ‘angry with us’ if we do not do things the right and the prescribed way. This is not common courtesy. I have common courtesy. I did not intend to drop the sand on the hotel floor, and I am doing my best not to get anymore on the floor, but I also am not making a huge deal of it.
The second night, we went out to eat at a very large and crowded Crab Shack on the beach. Even though he frequently berates the girls for their table manners, his are horrific. He’s eating crab and it’s noisy, messy with pieces flying everywhere, picking things out of his teeth, butter up and down his arms, loud, smacking noises and chewing.
The waitress had brought us some wet napkins for clean up but then accidentally picked them up from the table. ‘Why would she do that?’ he snarls.
It is often like he is two different people: the smiling, laughing person the waitress sees, overdone, forced and fake and then this angry, demanding, critical, fearful monster that I see.
‘Dad, she didn’t do it on purpose.’
Even a twelve year old sees that.
He gets up from the table, holding his dripping, buttery arms out with food smeared across his face, ‘well, this won’t do’, he proclaims.
I point to the stack of napkins on the table, but he tells me they will not work, and he goes charging after the waitress.
Since our bill is taken care of and we are otherwise done, I tell him that I am leaving. My twelve year old follows.
It is a busy place, so halfway down the boardwalk from the faraway spot that we parked, my daughter and I turn around and look to make sure we see her sister.
We do. Instead of taking the long ramp, she has taken the stairs and is neck and neck with Dos Equis coming down the ramp.
Only he doesn’t see her, so unbeknownst to my older daughter and I who have turned around and kept walking, he gets concerned as to the younger daughter’s whereabouts. He looks over the railing but misses her.
He returns to the restaurant and frantically tells them in a panic that his nine year old girl is missing. They start a search.
My older daughter and I are now at the car, a good quarter mile from the restaurant. We can see her sister playing by the beach railing not too far from us.
** Content Warning – Description of aggressive berating follows** I wonder where Dos Equis is, but then he comes barreling towards our nine year old, screaming at her, grabbing her roughly by the arm and yelling that she must stay by him at all times.
This is not one yell, but goes on for a good five minutes where he screams that in a busy public place like this, he ‘has seen it happen’ (we are speaking about a video in a Walmart that made the media rounds) where ‘right in front of people’, someone chloroformed a young girl to kidnap her. ** End Content Warning **
I will give him that perhaps this is true: that perhaps a nine year old girl should not wander off from her parents in a crowded public place.
But what I will not give him is that screaming, losing your temper, and implanting unnecessary extreme fear is the correct course of action.
Children are so impressionable: a video shown in class, a chance remark. They have their influence. Even if you do not see the effects, they remember.
So a quiet, calm discussion about sticking with your adults and what to do if a stranger approaches you would be quite reasonable.
But instead, this ends the way so many of our outings end: Dos Equis screaming and one of us crying.
My daughter’s crying does not last long, and soon, she is back to normal, but I wonder what lasting effect it will have?
Before the tempest blows over, I tell him in the car that he is overreacting and that he should not be screaming.
He turns on me. More so than before, after I have moved out and into my own home, he comes after me. He says that he is now ‘calling me out’ and no longer giving me a ‘free pass’.
He compares me to his mother saying I fall way short and calls me a bad mother. He says I am passive aggressive and borderline personality disorder. He is vicious and verbally aggressive. None of this is true, so it does not bother me but again, I wonder what affects this has on my daughters.
And of course, none of this is new, he has said the same things before many times over the years so it has affected all of my children including my sons from my first marriage who no longer live with me.
Not to say that first husband was any better. He used to say that I was the ‘circus’ and cut me down repeatedly to them.
As I am on this vacation, I am thinking back to all the other vacations with my two husbands over the years.
Great in theory: hotels, beaches, Europe, private airplanes, incredible cities.
Painful in reality. I wonder how very commonplace this is. What we do not see behind the façade.
And now that I am going some places on my own with my children, I see the difference, what a real vacation looks like. Conversation. Relaxation. Observation.
The difference is startling.
On this current vacation, there is not much conversation going on. As sixty year olds are wont to do, he is going deaf. So most times, he will not hear what you are saying. Which of course, does not stop him from interrupting most every conversation that I am having with my daughters to demand to know what we are speaking of.
Again, not just literally but metaphorically, he does not listen. He cuts you off. He gives you his opinion. He calls you an idiot either outright or by his actions.
So we sit in silence while he makes these inane comments again and again.
And I think of all the money he is spending on this vacation: $377 a night for a plain jane Marriott Courtyard far from the beach. Sitting in traffic. Waiting ninety minutes for tables.
Is this fun? They are building and building and building here in Destin, Florida. And the people are coming and coming and coming.
$400 boat rides. $100 waterparks. I wonder at the money everyone has to afford this. And what a waste: of plastic and floats and water bottles and excess.
To go sit on a beach to hear the music blaring from the person two feet away from you: the overpriced kid activities and then the overpriced adult drinks needed to endure those activities.
My home that he signed the mortgage for is old. It has been taken good care of, but it smells very musty, and the smell is bothering me.
I told him that I am going to have the ducts cleaned.
‘With what money,’ he says? I don’t have the money for that.
Neither do I. Not yet.
And so, ‘I make do’. As so many do the world over. And I still have it lucky. I know that. I count my blessings regardless, even without a washer and dryer, with four plates and three coffee cups, with Amazon furniture I have put together bolt by bolt or the estate sales I frequent and with all the myriad number of things that really suck about my new old house, I am still so very and deeply grateful for the peace, calm and joy that I find there and am able to give my daughters.
And meanwhile, I watch him spend $2000 plus on this.
His money. His choice. I am along for the ride: the overpaid and crappy nanny in his eyes.
I am so very tired from this vacation, and I realize this has been every vacation I have ever done with both of my husbands.
I am a people watcher, and I observe.
I have always watched the couples that obviously care for each other, who are kind and tender towards each other and their children.
I always knew my husbands were not that way, but I also believed I held responsibility as well. I was not ‘enough’. Not pretty enough. Not skinny enough. Not good enough.
I look back in time and pictures, and I now know this is not true. I was beautiful. I was kind. I was funny and lively and spirited. Resourceful.
Now I am old. I am grouchy and opinionated. I lack patience. I look at pictures, and I see my father. I see my overweight brother. I wonder who that person is.
But I have been trying this new exercise on this vacation especially after Dos Equis demeans, criticizes or yells at me. First, I walk away. We most always have the power to walk away.
And then I ask myself, ‘what if you just believed, that even though you are now getting old and you see it in past pictures but not now, what if you wipe that slate clean and believe anyhow that you are beautiful, that you are worthy, that you are cherished and held and protected.’
And I sit on that feeling. I let it soak into every cell of my body.
Yes. I know that is true. Moving on. I am.
Truly, it is a new day.
"If a [wo]man wishes to be sure of the road she is traveling on, then she must close her eyes and walk in the dark." San Juan de la Cruz
Caryn MacGrandle is the creator of the divine feminine app where for the past seven years, she and others have been adding Circles, events and resources from all over the world. You can find the free app on Itunes, Google Play and on its website theDivineFeminineApp.com. One can locate Circles and events by you and virtual as well as read the news listing to find items such as regularly posted FAR articles. Use ‘FARCode’ from the website to get access to full details on resources and profiles.