July fourth weekend was the moment it hit me that my marriage to Caroline is really over.
Up to then, I positioned our split as “taking a break”. My standard explanation has been that “we dirfted”.
When our youngest daughter, Lexi, a rising junior at a Big Ten university, left for college, our only distractions were a Labrador and a Lab mutt. It didn’t take long for us to realize we were in trouble.
Couples therapy was a crash and burn which I’ll save for another time. A few months ago we agreed my moving out was the only way to find a path back to reconciliation. There was no ‘event,’ no betrayal. There has never been a moment either of us said, “I can’t stand to be in the same room with you, much less married to you.
The optimism I initially felt for reconciliation has ebbed. Why?
- Excitement/anticipation over not feeling lonely.
- Realizing I could survive changing from a “we” to a “me”.
- Better understanding of my needs. For a long time, Caroline has been the primary bread-winner and I didn’t feel I was entitled to needs.
- More objectivity. I had a tough time acknowledging Caroline has flaws because she was sacrificing so much to provide for our family. I think she also feels her contributions provide a free pass from taking responsibility in our break-up.
Back to the Fourth…
For many years, we’ve spent the Fourth with three or four other couples at our vacation home. These are friends Caroline’s had since law school, along with significant others and spouses. The point is, I’ve been friends with them since before Caroline and I married.
This was the first time, Caroline hosted the extended weekend by herself. I hung out in DC. Had dinner one night with one of Caroline’s sisters and her family. Spent the actual Fourth in Annapolis with one of my oldest friends, which was nice. Other than that, I was pretty much alone the rest of the weekend.
What was upsetting, and telling for me was that Caroline didn’t reach out to me once. If she had texted me and said, “hey, hope you’re okay. It is strange with you not here.” Or, “everyone sends their love.” Something acknowledging, that despite our split being tough on both of us, I was the one sitting alone in my apartment while her life went on as usual.
When we actually did trade texts on Monday, after I gave in and texted her “how’s it going?” She replied by listing all the problems at the house. Pool sweep broken. Garden a mess, etc.
I guess it was her way of saying there are weeds in her bed of roses. It was then I realized Caroline:
- Doesn’t care about me, or…
- Doesn’t have a clue to my needs
Neither possibility is particularly pleasant. If she doesn’t understand my needs, and feels our reconciliation is on my shoulders, there’s not much I can do to make this work.
I feel like I’ve been working my ass off trying to be a better me. And I know it is paying off. But I can’t change Caroline. And Caroline doesn’t feel she needs to change.
So there you have it. Independence Day. And for the first time I realized my marriage is really over.
(A generic Fourth of July photo for your viewing pleasure.)