Caroline, my ex-wife and I, after 28 years of marriage, are dividing up a shared material life into two individual lives.
The different emotions competing for my attention are overwhelming.
Mostly, I am mindful not to impair rebuilding my relationship with our three daughters. The prospect of Caroline and I co-parenting a house divided is hard enough. I won’t allow a layer of toxic resentment make this new phase worse.
A big aspect of the process is the shame I feel over my work situation. For a long time, while contemplating this split, I felt I didn’t deserve anything but the bare minimum because I haven’t been steadily employed for almost a decade.
Through growth, supportive friends, and family, I now understand that I wasn’t being fair to myself. I negated all I contributed to our marriage besides a paycheck.
I want a full-time job just as much as my ex resents me not having one. I’ve applied for scores of jobs, to no avail. My inability to obtain work is the result of all sorts of dynamics, the least of which is my desire for a job.
It simply is not all my fault. Or even mostly my fault.
Our marriage vows, our commitment to each other, didn’t include an asterisk after “for better or worse* …
(*unless Jon is unemployed for an extended period of time.”)
Gaining clarity over this has taken ages.
As recent as last week, I was on the verge of accepting the barest of bare minimums, to just be done with it. My dear friends Frannie and Marty intervened and helped lead me to my realization that I wasn’t taking care of my self.
Had I proceeded, a whole new cycle of resentment and shame would soon overwhelm me.
So Caroline and I gingerly discuss what is fair, what we can live with, and without, in the dissolution of our union. I’m hyper-sensitive to her fears about her future, retirement etc. Though I repeatedly reassure Caroline, she doesn’t hear me.
Until everything is settled, she will continue to be skeptical and believe I will ask for more than that to which she believes I’m entitled.
I don’t blame her, entirely. She’s a litigator. Worst case scenarios are natural to her.
I keep repeating, “I don’t care what always happens, what everyone does. We are not everyone. We were a couple who lived our lives together following our own path. We will get through this the same way, with grace and compassion.”
Caroline’s lack of faith in me hurts. I also recognize it stems from fear. Reminding myself of that helps me feel compassion for her. But it still hurts.
So that’s where I am this brisk, damp Friday morning.
Caroline predicts, like Hurricane Matthew, I will wreck havoc, while I know the damage won’t be as nearly as bad as she imagines it could be. We’ll both get through this storm.
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