It's been almost a year now. It wasn't my idea. On Halloween night, 2007, my partner of over 14 years and husband of more than 12 informed me that he wanted to separate. I knew we had our problems, that neither of us was what anyone could call "happy," that our difficulties had increased markedly in the past few years. But I just didn't consider divorce to be an option. My parents have remained married, happily from all accounts, for better or for worse, since June 9, 1962. I expected the same from my marriage. Bob and I had always said we would stay together no matter what. We had two kids we both adored, one with special needs. We needed each other to get through the days and weeks, sharing parenting so we could both work and scrape together a living in New York City. During those moments when things got particularly tense and the subject of splitting came up, we quickly dismissed the idea, mainly because of the kids.
So now it was on the table, and I had no choice. He wanted to separate for "at least six months," then revisit the marriage. Meanwhile, we would work with a mediator on a separation agreement. He slept on the couch or stayed at a relative's until December, after Bobby's birthday party, when he moved into a shared apartment a few blocks away. It wasn't until January that I realized that he didn't really want a trial separation and faced the fact that my marriage was over.
The past year has been one of the more difficult of my life so far. The hurt and confusion behind this post from last November was only the beginning. I've weathered countless emotional storms and found myself blindsided again and again by feelings I thought I had already been through, dealt with, put behind me. I've learned that grief, as so many of you must know, is not a linear process. You don't progress through Kubler-Ross's stages steadily and in an orderly fashion--anger, guilt, even denial cycle back often when you least expect it.
Now, though, nearly a year later, I can honestly say that it is very likely our lives--all of our lives, the kids' included--may very well be better for this decision. In the intervening months I have had many opportunities to mull over our relationship and see the signs that I had ignored all along, the issues I thought I was willing to compromise on but deep down allowed to fester into anger, bad humor, ultimately contributing to depression and other stresses in my life.
What I feel best about now is the fact that, no matter how stormy or venomous or uncontrollable my emotions seemed, I never allowed them to push me into decisions that would be less than ideal for my children. As the title of this blog implies, I am no saint, and I made mistakes, acting out, venting within earshot of the kids when I felt I couldn't avoid it. There were times that I actually hated their father, I couldn't stand the sight of him in the cramped two-bedroom apartment that had been "ours" but was now mine, where for logistical reasons he took care of the kids most of the time. The boundaries were blurred, and I wanted clarity.
I couldn't imagine parenting these wonderful and challenging little people on my own, but working with their dad now that we were no longer life partners seemed equally impossible. Friends suggested I give up on mediation and get a lawyer who would help me get what I "deserved." Family members urged me to get full custody, even move away from New York. But I knew how much that would hurt our children, and although I wanted nothing to do with him anymore, I got through it and somehow put up with it (albeit often kicking and screaming) for their sake. I honestly don't know how, since I'm not exactly the martyr type, but it has gradually gotten easier, and now things seem much less fraught.
Now that we are within striking distance of closing the marriage chapter of our lives, I can appreciate the good things about the man I married. Bob is a wonderful father. The kids adore him. He is also a good friend, and now that I have started to recover from the heartbreak his choice has caused, I can see the possibility of a future that includes my children, a parenting partner, and perhaps even new relationships that are happier and more functional. The marriage is broken, but the family goes on and--I think, I hope--thrives.