Tuesday, 12 November 2013

He's my "ex"

P and I have not been broadcasting our separation to all and sundry. It's not something that is easily dropped into a conversation. It's not news that we're excited to talk about. And sometimes we're just not up for the well intended questioning or concerns that people have.

Up until now I have managed to refer to P by his name or as the father of my children - as in "the boys are with their dad this afternoon". While our separation has been constantly occupying my head, P hadn't yet taken on the title of the "ex". But today I found myself needing to describe P's relationship to someone I had just met and the most appropriate way to explain it was "he's my…ex. We separated just recently."

For some reason using the word "ex" makes it sound a lot more final than "we've separated". Is that because it's a noun and not a verb? Or is separated an adjective?

In some ways it feels like normal. Like P is working his usual long days, or is out of town for several days for work. You see I'm used to dealing with the night time wakings from the kids by myself. To juggling after school commitments, dinner, bath and bed time unassisted. To get them all ready for the day while I'm fortified with coffee, porridge and a little sleep. Answering the boys questions of "is dad home for dinner tonight?" in some ways is just like before - no, he isn't. But instead, now P will not be coming home late from work tonight.

Now there is no one to chat in the morning with about what our days have in store for us.
No one to debrief with at the end of the day, share a glass of wine with, and wish each other good night.
The trivial conversations about housework, after school commitments, reminders about groceries to be bought and bills to be paid.

Instead today there was:
My own fly buys card arriving in the mail.
And the letter confirming how much child support my ex would need to pay me.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Dinner at the New Place

Three days ago I visited P's new home for the first time. I was picking up baby I after seeing my counsellor. It is a lovely older style unit with high tin pressed ceilings, wooden floorboards and flooded in natural light. But furnished like someone who had just moved out of home for the first time - some loaned furniture from a friend that had seen better days, a blow up mattress for a bed, a coffee table made out of a cardboard box. Our boys love the novelty of it all.

Just over a week ago, the thought of seeing him settling in somewhere else would have upset me too much. But, that day at least, I felt fine and calm. I'm sure I won't always feel that way, but something about the lovely afternoon sun on a Friday afternoon, the boys playing happily, and me gradually accepting that I would be strong some days and to enjoy those and get inspired from them, to help me see through the low days.

P invited me to stay for dinner, and we all ate sausages, mash and salad, with plates cradled in laps on the couch, or on the make shift coffee table. And it was sort of like a normal pre-seperation dinner, but not. P didn't make eye contact much that night because he was so tired with the stress of moving and working his usual long days.

There was something liberating about leaving with baby I, knowing I would not be woken up at 5am the next morning by A. And even more liberating when P informed me he would drop the boys off at 10 after tennis so he could go back into work, when I told him I was going to a 10.30 gym class, and could it actually be noon? He paused for a moment, unused to me setting boundaries around my own needs, and quickly agreed.

That night, after I was asleep in bed I opened a beer for the first time in goodness knows how long and allowed myself to just watch some TV without also doing housework at the same time or catching up on emails or working on another task on my separation to do list. And it was kind of nice. And it's the nice moments in painful journeys you need to hold on to, to remind you it will all be ok and that things will head in the right direction.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Hiding the Hurt

Tonight while readying the boys for bed, our eldest boy burst out with resentment at the hours his dad worked. P often worked 12 hour days and at least half of the weekend, which upset our boys long before we separated.

But tonight T railed against the unfairness. The unfairness of having a dad who chose to work long hours. The unfairness of having parents who are now separated.

I understand his pain. He has a right to be angry, especially when he has been such a trooper about the new living arrangements, finding excitement in all that is new about it.

I understand the unfairness of it. We have all been placed in this situation that none of us, except P, wanted.

So tonight I sat on the couch reminding T that his mum and dad loved him very much. Defending P's decision to end our marriage, when it still breaks my heart. Watching T slam the door on me as he runs out of the room. There are times I want to be honest with people. To say that P didn't want to work on our marriage. That it was P who wanted to end the marriage. That P had fallen out of love with me, and in love with someone else. But I don't. I bite my tongue. And tonight I did that again. Because I love my kids.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A House Warming Present

"How well adjusted am I? I just put together a house warming present for P" I jokingly boasted to a friend two days ago.

I pulled out a large collage photo frame that we had bought ages ago but never had gotten around to filling, and printed out several photos so P could have something of our kids at his new place.

In there were photos of our three children together, of the older two doting over baby I shortly after she was born (she is now 8 weeks), of his mum and dad with our children, of him with his brother and dad one Christmas. But there are no photos of me in there. Or us. No wedding photo, no photo taken in the early days of our relationship where the happiness beamed through our smiles and our eyes, no photo of me with any of our children. 

I don't want to be there on his wall, a reminder to our kids when they are there, that I am not. I don't want to be a witness when one day he brings someone else back to his place. 

But also because it has been a long time since we had any photos taken together. Because there are only a few photos of me with our children. And that makes me a little upset. No matter how many times I brought this to his attention, nothing changed. And I remind myself of the occasionally annoying, hurtful things he did. Not to be mean, but to help counter balance the good guy image he has. To remind myself that while he was lovely, generous, thoughtful, he was not perfect. That he was often more helpful to others, than those at home waiting for him. To help me cope.

But as I put this frame together it felt good. It felt good that I was doing something nice for our kids, and that even though it still hurt, that I was able to do something nice for P.

Three Weeks from Ground Zero

It's been a big three weeks.

Three weeks ago you confirmed something I had been hoping you wouldn't. That you wanted out. Since then, between the tears and the pain, I have focused on growing from this experience and becoming a stronger person. Some key things that have happened:

I had my first meeting with a solicitor, started to put together a budget, spent hours putting in a claim for government benefits and child support, wrote a parenting plan, typed up a list to help work out who gets what in the house, met with real estate agents about possible selling our house and trialled a couple of apps to help with our shared care arrangements.

I have thought a lot on the things in me I need to be aware of.
I have found a supportive and steadfast friend in someone I had previously thought of as a good acquaintance.
I have started to reach out to other people - to make contact, to ask for little favours.
I wrote a letter to my parents saying some home truths about our relationship, and how my mother upsets me in her lack of support for me.
I have thought a lot on how supportive and accommodating I had been as a wife. I've also thought a lot about what I will not compromise on again in future relationships. That essentially I will always be honest, and will not sell myself short.

And I can now say "P and I are separated" without crying. And that in itself is pretty big.

Moving Out

Over the last couple of days, he's been moving out. Gradually setting up his new life in his new place.

His half of the wardrobe is getting emptier.

Some of our crockery, glasses, cutlery is being emptied from drawers and packed into boxes.

The lovely collage artwork we were given as a wedding present has been taken off the wall.

The first night he slept at his new home, our eldest boy left with him. He's finding it very exciting - he loves helping his dad set up his new place. The novelty of the blow up bed, eating breakfast using a box as a table, opening up new doors and playing in a new backyard.

As they left I couldn't look at him. I didn't want my eldest to see my eyes well up with tears.

I could feel him try to reach out to me a couple of times before he left, but I turned my back. I find myself occasionally saying something hurtful, or blocking out any attempt he makes to reach out as a way of trying to control the situation. To maybe hurt him a little in response for all the hurt he has caused me.

That night we spoke on the phone.
"You know this is really weird for me too" he had said.
I kind of believe him because he doesn't lie. But I find it hard to believe him. He created this situation. I didn't. He has the power in this situation, I don't. He has put me in this situation, and he feels weird? I don't believe it. But if he does, I'm fucking glad.

Over the last couple of days, he's been packing the car, slowly removing traces of himself from the house. Each visit gets easier. And the desire to cut the shirts that still hang in the wardrobe ebbs away a little more.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Like Organising a Funeral

The morning after I heard the words "I can't do this anymore",  I had coffee with a new friend who had been separated for several years.

While we talked, I cried in the back yard of the cafe. Processing my emotions, wondering how I would be able to trust someone else again with my heart, if I could ever love someone more than I loved P, being angry for not being given a chance to make this relationship work. While I was going on an emotional roller coast, I was also starting to what I jokingly refer to as "project managing our separation". I had no control over the decision to end the relationship, so I would try and control what I could - the logistics.

When I got home I contacted an acquaintance who is a solicitor specialising in family law to make our first appointment, and started looking into the quagmire which is family benefits and child support.

Earlier that year while P prepared for an eulogy he had the honour of delivering, I had wondered how stressful it must be to organise a funeral for a loved one who had suddenly died. At a time when you are experiencing great grief, you need to think about who to invite, selecting songs, and what kind of finger food will be served afterwards.

Being told that your relationships is a 'do not resuscitate' is a little like that. You're reeling, crying, thinking it doesn't feel real, while you have to deal with paperwork and new processes. I just haven't worked out what the funeral march song will be.

A new way forward

There are many upsetting things about separation and a lot of new territory to discover while feeling quite fragile.

Two days ago while my ex (who I will refer to as P) and I were in the bathroom getting ready for the day ahead, I asked him what was in store for the day. We used to always do this, and then at the end of the day we would debrief on the victories, frustrations and trivialities of the day. These casual conversations would soon no longer be - we would have to call up the other person to find out how their day was going.

In a moment of hurt as I realised this, I quipped "well you'll have to find someone else to discuss your day with. I won't be here to ask you anymore". The minute I said this, I regretted it.
P replied, a little hurt "I would like to think that I can still talk about this with you, as you can discuss your day with me. But if you don't want to…"

Probably a year ago, I would have let this ride. But now I turned to him and apologised, explaining that I was just a little hurt and trying to hurt him. P understood. There will be so many things, little and big, that I wouldn't want to discuss with anyone else because we have so much history and understanding between us. But at what point does it become too much - at some point will I then have to wonder about calling him up too much?

Tonight, like most nights, he is working late. Up until two weeks ago, I would have had no hesitation calling him just to see how he was going and when he thought he would be home. But now, while we are still under the same roof at least for a couple more nights, I have no claim over him anymore. He doesn't need to consider me in his plans anymore, and while I understand this, it also hurts a little too.

P and I were friends before we were a couple. And now we will need to find a new way forward, forging a new relationship where we are just friends again.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Ground Zero

"I can't do this anymore".

These are the words my husband of 10 years said to me. Two weeks ago today, my world as I knew it fell apart.

You know that almost cliche move you see in films when the woman in despair slides down the wall to the ground? That's how I felt. The floor slid out from under me and my stomach plummeted. I felt sick, my head swam. I couldn't believe it, yet I knew this was coming for a couple of months.

A couple of months ago, when I was still pregnant I sat down with my husband late one night and started the conversation. That I knew that something wasn't right with our relationship. That I wanted to talk about it and work on it. But when I looked in my husband's eyes, I could see that as far as he was concerned, it was over. There was no working on it. But we agreed to talk about it after the baby was born to prevent me from becoming more stressed while I was pregnant.  I was a mess that night, and for a couple of days after then. But I tried telling myself that we would still be ok, even though I could tell in his eyes, his voice, his hellos and goodbyes that we were done.

The next day at work when I sobbed briefly at my workstation, a colleague asked if I was ok.
"I think we're splitting up".

Two weeks ago my world fell apart. In two weeks I have been on a roller coaster - at my highs I am organised, project managing our separation and focusing on the positives that will come from this separation. At my lows I cry, get angry at what I sense is a betrayal and doubt how I will manage juggling three kids under 7 by myself while working full time.

I know my husband doesn't want to hurt me. That he hasn't been unfaithful. He has simply fallen out of love with me. We are not soul mates. And while I came to this realisation myself several months before, I would not have had the guts to admit this out loud. But he has.

So now I am thrown into a situation I understand, but still hurts and shocks me. So with a broken heart, I have these options:

  1. Become a victim, and make this separation even harder
  2. Learn from why we are breaking up, and grow from this.
I'm choosing number 2. And this blog is an attempt to document my journey. How will I look a year from now, A Year from Ground Zero?