A Tragically Hip Marriage

I watched Long Time Running last night, with the adorabeasts in my bed, which made it all hurt a little less. And there we were, slow dancing to “Scared” for three or four seconds, singing the lyrics. My head on his strong shoulder, against his Phantom Power shirt. We’d ridden bikes to the arena that August, just a year and a bit ago, sweat of the humid city summer rolling down our backs. My hair was curly-frizzy, the hair he has left was matted with sweat. On his wrist, the watch we bought on our only trip to NYC when things were starting to get really bad and the fissures in our relationship started to resemble the giant gaps in the ground of a Roadrunner cartoon. The cliff was impending, but I thought we could “Meep, meep!” our way across.

I am wearing a Dia de los Muertos type skull tank that gringas like me get when in Mexico. We were in Sayulita for the wedding of our dear friends when I got it, and in terrible shape. He was living in another city for work (and to get away from me) and I was paying for it all. At the wedding he got ridiculously drunk and forgot that we needed to get our kids home, because our sick kid gets migraines if she doesn’t sleep properly. My resentment grew with every minute that he did nothing to get us home, because he was having fun and his fun always came before the rest of us. Then it started raining on our sleeping kids while he guffawed with an old friend and I completely lost my shit on him, because there were no cabs and no way for me to walk all the way to Gringo Hill from where we were with two sleeping kids. I should burn that tank top.


Gord Downie died this week and I am faced with a gaping space in my soul. Every single Hip song for me is a reflection of us. Every guitar lick, every lyric takes me to a specific scene in our marriage. Trouble at the Henhouse was released as our friendship was burgeoning and was frequently played throughout our marriage (you can read an entire post set to “Flamenco” here).  Phantom Power was released right when we started dating and in many ways, it’s the most definitive Hip album. “Poets,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Fireworks,” all on the same disc. “Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man” was his anthem, and I never saw it as a song about bands passing each other in concert halls, but part of me wondered if Theo saw it as the song which represented things I never knew about that happened when he was living in London. That song brings me right into sunny rental apartment living rooms with their mix of IKEA and hand-me-down furniture, movie posters gracing the walls. “Those melodies come back to me… At times beyond our heartbeat.”

Music @ Work was released the year we got married and moved into the concrete box in the sky downtown, overlooking the CN Tower. Our song was “Stay” — “You’re a fighter and a lover. And there’s no one up above her. So, stay. Stay.” But he couldn’t stay. He tried. I have days where I believe he tried his hardest and days where I think he could have tried harder, but today it’s the former. He wasn’t cut out for marriage, to give himself completely to another. And in the future if he manages to change that I will be bitter and happy for him in the same breath.

In Violet Light came next and that’s when we started to diverge. Theo was still committed to the Hip, but I was starting to wane. I don’t know why. If I reflect on it, I think it would be because Theo might read this and not think of me with any of those songs or albums. His relationship was one-sided. Just between him and Gord. Where as I saw it as more of an infinity symbol, a symbiotic relationship between my love for Theo and my love for the music. The music was the soundtrack for our playing house, where as for Theo, the music defined HIM. “O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken,” sang Gord, and we took his word. Maybe it was OK to allow for some space. Have our separate lives and converge at the end of the day to share privately what we’d experienced, who we were when it was just the two of us.


In their consistent way, the Hip released an album every two years. I recall nothing of In Between Evolution in 2004. I was pregnant with our first and so much in my own head that year. Wikipedia says it hit Number #1 on the Canadian charts the week it came out, but I don’t know a single song. By the time World Container was released in 2006, we had a baby who’d had a stroke, and a big grown-up mortgage in a new part of town with no friends there, and I was working part-time and feeling immense guilt about it. I had a two-year-old mom blog and was starting to overshare online to bigger and bigger audiences. And suddenly my separate life was no longer about going to the movies after work with my best gay and then coming home to retell the plot, but about living a life online while baby was sleeping, a life that he felt too far removed from to even care about. Worse, he felt super uncomfortable about where the internet was taking me and how much of my deepest, darkest thoughts were being shared with complete strangers.

On the other hand, I was feeling an incredible sense of community online. Motherhood was a lonely experience in a lot of ways, and reading honest accounts from the trenches was wonderful. I loved trying to be funny in my descriptions of the day to day. I loved the raw way I wrote and felt myself getting better and better with each post, my commenters encouraging me to keep going. But Theo does not like feeling like anyone knows anything about him, which I believe is part of the reason he didn’t find success as an artist.

Gord Downie splayed his insides out in song. A good artist does this, tells their truth, in their own way, revealing themselves in a way that we can all relate to. I was doing the same in my writing, but I suppose my ego started to come into play as well. With every accolade I began to get bolder in what I would share. I carved a niche for myself, writing about sex and arguments in a way I should have considered a bit more before publishing. Theo asked me to stop. He would never be comfortable with it. And so in time I began to hold back. And in holding back, I began to lose interest in writing.


When We Are the Same came out in 2009, we were two kids deep. I’d been getting help for my PTSD after my traumatic first birth. I’d gotten a do-over with my second baby and the panic attacks were decreasing. But I was working four-days-a-week at a startup, and with the constant sleep deprivation, my tendency to being capital ADD-distracted was making me struggle at work and home. I felt Theo judged me harshly in those days. I would constantly ask him to cut me some slack. The house was a mess and I couldn’t keep up. He was home with no one else at home most days before going off to work nights and felt that we left everything for him to clean up and he was mad about it. I was angry that he was home all the time with all this time to himself and things weren’t even or fair at all. Couldn’t he JUST CUT ME SOME SLACK?!

I shit-talked myself a lot at during that time, and without writing to process it, I was lost. That’s why I’m here, writing secretly under a pseudonym. Blogs are my moleskins. I need them. I began to fall deeper and deeper into despair. Sure, there was still a lot of light and joy during that time. I’m sure if I go check Facebook, there are photos of smiling faces and happy memories and trips to the beach with adorable little people. But the fissure was widening, and I mistakenly thought that once the kids were older, I’d be able to get out some Crazy Glue and some ratchet ropes and pull the whole thing back together.

In the background of our old rickety house with the creaky floorboards and the crumbling plaster walls, Gord sang, “Who are you? What is it with you? Who are you?” over and over on “The Last Recluse” and I struggled to answer.

You broke my heart, from the start
Made me work, work so hard
to get where I am
to where I’d let you do it all again.
Who are you? Who are you?

What do I do? What do I do, without you? 

Eight years later, I am attempting to answer.

The winner takes it all

I just googled “songs about failure” and found that loads of sites have written about this very thing. Clearly I’m not the only one who has a burning need to answer this question.

I often need some kind of hook to write. On this blog, it’s songs that inspire me. Sometimes my writing begins because a song is in me and it feels relevant that day. But tonight, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and it was what she said about failure that triggered my song search.

Big-Magic-quote

Gilbert is writing here about creativity, but the same could be applied to the end of just about anything. In my case, a marriage. Is marriage a creative enterprise? I don’t know for certain, but I love the idea of approaching relationships like any creative endeavour: with curiosity, interest, reverence and a desire for wonder. I also know that a mix of creativity, talent and divorce made a helluva good ABBA song (which is a TOP failure song according to the internets—and the hook for this post).


I don’t want to talk
About the things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny

Sometimes a relationship is like a game of solitaire (ironically). Sometimes, no matter how many times you’ve played and whatever strategies you’ve developed, you’re not going to win. You can shuffle the cards in the slush pile over and over again, you can review your moves to see where you went wrong, but you can only struggle for so long. A card here or there could possibly change the outcome of the game, but the longer you go, the more you understand that struggling against what is just ruins your fun.  And sometimes you missed the card that could have saved everything, but now it’s trapped in the middle of three cards and can’t be used to change the destiny of the game. To save your sanity and your capacity for pleasure, you must declare, “Game over.”

I’ve been struggling. With regret. With the decisions I’ve made. With feeling like I let my kids down. The terrible voice in my head tells me I’m selfish, distracted and removed. We all went away together last weekend, the four of us, and I spent 30 hours in my old life. And it was fucking hard. Because, you know what? Lots of it was idyllic.

I had to remind myself, over and over, not to fall for the illusion. We were our perfect selves for the time we were together, and while we didn’t get along the entire time, there was such an ease and fun in getting the band back together. I could feel this pull, drawing me back into the slumber, back into the bubble, where I could live out my days unconsciously. It would be so easy, familiar. But then I recalled my mantra.

A few nights earlier, when Theo was making eyes at me, as he has been at almost every encounter recently, I waited for the right moment and then got the courage to say, “I’d like to call out the elephant in the room. The reason this feels so good right now is a direct result of the decisions we’ve made.” There is peace, because we don’t live together anymore. I’m attractive, because he no longer takes up all the space in my heart and mind, tormenting me with neglect and negativity, turning me ugly from the inside. My therapist asked me to remember that: The reason this feels so good right now is a direct result of the decisions we’ve made.


I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

Our house doesn’t fit him anymore. The hobbit hut we live in is too small, and the space he created by leaving has been a gift. I don’t just mean the 6-foot, 200-pound space he left, but the hulking demon he dragged around. It punched holes in walls with its tail, darkened the house with nostril smoke and frequently burned shit to the ground.

Theo’s demon is quiet now, I can see that. It no longer gets triggered by my demon, their collective pain waging war on each other. He’s lost weight because he’s exercising and has no money for fancy food. He looks lighter in the face, too, in his eyes and on his brow.  His smiles are genuine and his laugh is easy and it’s clear from head to toe that he’s doing well. It’s all very attractive. The therapy is helping, but I have to admit that the therapy is infrequent. The time apart is consistent and plentiful. It’s clear what’s helping.

The gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain

Sometimes we reach out to each other, hold each other carefully, knowing that the other is also made of glass and that pressing too close together would smash us both into a confetti of cuts. I feel his strong, familiar arms and melt a little. Not from love so much as nostalgia. But I made the mistake of breathing him in this week during a hug and it left a chemical burn on my heart.

We went out of town for our kid’s birthday and we stayed up together after the kids were asleep. We sat outside and shared some wine and then I decided I wanted to know about what he’s been up to. He told me he’s been with four women since he left. So I embellished my number and said four for me too, even though it’s only been one. Ali. I was surprised by how easy our conversation was, but the biggest shock was realizing that it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t painful to hear that he’d slept with other women. Had we stayed married, had we tried to live an open marriage as he’d asked, it would have been.

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say
Rules must be obeyed

It’s also important for me to remember that him making eyes at me is not a sign that he wants to move back in. The suggestion is for sex, not rekindling the marriage. When I brought up the elephant in the room before we went away, his response was, “Doesn’t stop you from looking good.” He’s never asked, which maybe I don’t ever want to be put in that position, for me to take him back. And yet, there’s a remnant of a fantasy there. This bizarre egoic wish that he’ll beg to come back, admit he was wrong and fight to change everything to make it all work. Which is crazy. Because he’d have to change his whole self to fix the things that need fixing and isn’t that what sent him into depression in the first place?

He added quietly, “Doesn’t stop you from BEING good.”


We got into stupid arguments over the weekend, highlighting our inability talk to each other in the same language. It made a key point stand out—”This is as good as it gets,” I told him. We have to accept that by killing the marriage, we saved the friendship. We are never going to get past the bickering caused by different paces in living and word processing. We tried for years. We got stuck and it started to kill us. Sometimes the only way out isn’t through, but it’s by backing the fuck out slowly.

The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

Sitting outside and looking at the marina, I caught a glimmer of what looked like hurt in his eyes. The intensity between us was palpable, and as usual, he’d consumed 80% of the bottle of wine to my 20%. I excused myself and he stopped me, “I love you, Maria. I will always love you. I have a profound respect for you and I’m so grateful that you are the one I’m raising children with.” I smiled and put myself to bed next to our daughter.

I must consistently remind myself that our marriage is not a failure, it just ran its course. Our marriage was a decent success, it was just finite. It had a best before date on the bottom that we never took note of and one day—BOOM—it soured. And if I must rethink that statement and accept that it maybe was a failure, then so be it. The point of failures is to learn from them, right. To paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s your ego that gives a shit about the humiliation of failure. Your soul does not give two flying fucks. Your soul just learns from the experience and then expands to fill the empty new space.

“I am who I am today precisely because of what I have made and what it has made me into,” says Elizabeth Gilbert. I have to believe that no matter how sad, we are standing here, together but apart, for a purpose. And what comes next, if we remain awake, will be pure beauty. No mud, no lotus.

lotus

I don’t want to talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

I was over at a friend’s for dinner tonight and our truths came tumbling out. She told me that I was never to sleep with Theo again. (I’ve had a good track record there. Not since before I took my ring off on January 1st.) She also told me that Ali could never be for me, because my love language is obviously “Words of Affirmation.” I just went down the 5 Love Languages rabbit hole and Physical Touch and Quality Time were tied for first place and Words of Affirmation was third, followed by Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts. But I know what she means. I’m a word girl. I believe words have power and should be used carefully and with intention (something I’m not often good at doing verbally). I need to be with someone who can match my desire for sharing words and stories, someone who is not afraid to be vulnerable with his truth. Someone who can handle the desires of my mouth and my mind to express through words (and also touch).

I thought I’d write a second post about Felipe, a man who was good at “Words of Affirmation” and all of the 5 Love Languages come to think of it, but terrible at kissing and needy (though his words never lined up with his actions in this area) in a way that I couldn’t abide right now. But I will just summarize. He was a mansplainer, who insisted on smoking up on every date and his energy was nervous until he did. And when I wasn’t baked, I realized that no, the kissing is actually offensively bad. It was a mansplaining of the mouth, like his tongue needed to teach me something. And finally, I have just spent two decades with someone who didn’t have a job and who self-medicated, and do I need to do that again? Naw. That’s not progressing.

Old Maria would have kept Felipe on, because he’s nice. Old Maria would have convinced herself that she could help see him to greatness. That she could “fix” him. New Maria ain’t got no time for that shit. As a former therapist once advised, “When we are cheerleader personalities, we see the good in everyone—which is a gift! But next time, find someone who can meet you on your level and can celebrate your successes with you.” My new therapist cautions that this is not what I want just yet, that I’m still A/B testing and having fun, so don’t rush it. When I asked her how I should end it with him after three dates, she said, “Whatever you can live with.”

So I texted Felipe that I still have feelings for my ex. I texted Ali the opposite, that it was clear to me how much it was over. Both are true and both are also a lie. I love my ex. I’m confused by the way he looks at me. But the feelings I have are plain old grief. There are love, admiration and respect elements there, but they are primarily based on seeing him with our children. I know, to quote Taylor Swift, that we are never, ever, ever getting back together. And the more that becomes an absolute, the larger the ocean of grief to cross. But I’m a tenacious mofo and I will survive this.

I’m listening to my inner voice again and feeling confident in her every step. And right now, no relationship is worth losing that power. Not spending creative and emotional energy on a man is delicious. I’m having an affair with writing at the moment, for the first time in a long time. It’s just for me.

“I was suspicious,” Felipe replied to my send-off, which bolded, underlined and italicized for me that I was right to let him go. No regrets. No looking back. Just utter relief that I am not waking up 20 years later with this realization.

So the winner takes it all
And the the loser has to fall
Throw a dice, cold as ice
Way down here, someone dear
Takes it all, has to fall
It seems plain to me

Written by Benny Goran Bror Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

Gutted

I love the term gutted. When you think of something like a fish having its innards torn out, then it makes the term so perfect for when you’re feeling like a complete deflated balloon about your life.

Except the fish is already dead (one would hope). That’s a small consolation, but it matters. Whereas you are still alive, but someone has reached in and scooped out your insides, your guts still digesting the banh-mi you had for lunch and your heart fully beating.

Last week I had the floor ripped out from under me at the mediators’ office. They fucked up a spreadsheet, and as the Excel document recalculated the numbers, all the blood drained from my face. The amount I thought I needed to buy out my ex so I can keep our family home more than doubled. I hadn’t checked their math. I’d been elated at the number and found comfort in it. It wasn’t so bad. Until it WAS SO BAD.

In a simple computation, my entire financial future was gone. All the work I have done to reach the top, for nought. All that work, the work of getting over mySELF, owning my bullshit and fighting to improve myself so that I could function in the corporate grown-up world, today it feels like it was for nothing. Because I loved and enabled someone who was depressed and didn’t get proper help for years.  And that person fell so low in their crappy half-hearted quest to define himself that now I will have to sell the farm to stand him up on his feet outside my home.


Years ago, when he had decided he would go back to school, I told him we would need a line of credit to pay for his schooling expenses beyond tuition, and the income he’d no longer be bringing in. But at the time, I was hopeful. I wanted to believe we were investing in a joint future. If I ever get into a serious cohabitation situation again, I will keep my money completely separate.

He balked at the line of credit and said we just needed some lifestyle changes and to get rid of our home phone. Maybe sell the car. So I calmly opened up my spreadsheet and eliminated the cleaning lady, the home phone, our vacation budget and the car. We were still short $1000 a month. “One person can’t do this alone!” he finally realized.

“Um, yeah,” I responded dryly, “Why do you think I’m so nice to you?” Because of course I’d run the numbers. I have journals full of how it felt to be completely neglected, how what he would say to me would cause me to second guess or—worse—hate myself. I’d run the numbers when he was supposed to be making movies but couldn’t get off the couch all day. I’d run the numbers when I caught him on Ashley Madison or when I found he’d watched porn but left all the breakfast dishes in the sink. We live in an expensive city and one person can’t do this alone.


On the flipside, I HAD been doing it alone. His income was always spotty. He had good years, years where he worked while I’d breastfeed babies on government assistance. Years where we made about the same or he’d even made a bit more. But they never lasted. I remember the week I told him I was pregnant with our first, calling him on a Thursday afternoon to find him out playing flying disc golf.

“You NEED to get a job now, do you understand? We’ve got a baby coming and the government is going to tax the $400 a week I get and it will not add up to my salary!” The fight was awful. He went silent, as he always did. His attempts to work always fell a bit flat. Nothing was ever right and to be fair, I wasn’t supportive of the post office job that had the phone ringing at all hours of the night (he was on call) when there was a newborn in the apartment.

Somehow, when the baby was six months old, we bought a house. You could afford to buy a house back then. In the big city, on the transit line. My job got us the mortgage, some money from his mom got us the minimum downpayment. It seemed fair. My maternity leave top-up from my employer was about to end, JUST as the first mortgage payment was about to come out of our joint account. That’s when he finally got an offer for a full-time contract job doing what he wanted to do.

It was shift work, but it had a cadence, a flow. We could plan weekends away based on the schedule, for example. We spent many nights and weekends apart, but it was OK. My memory is fuzzy, but if I compare it to what came after, I’d say it was manageable. But eventually, he felt stifled as an artist and started to hate working there.

The second child came two years later. The goal was for me to freelance write, so I could stay home with her and keep the older one in daycare part-time for socialization and preschool education. “We can make it work,” he’d said, “We just need some lifestyle adjustments.” But then I ran the numbers and it didn’t look like it. Not if I ever wanted to be able to take a vacation or fix the thousand broken things in this century home. So I took a job at a startup, working from home, thinking that the steady income and flexibility the job offered would work for me.

But it didn’t. You can’t get work done with a baby at home unless you are disciplined as hell. And I’m just not. I always felt behind. I was up in the wee hours and would fall behind on my deadlines. When I would ask family to babysit, I’d often get, “But you’re not going to an office” type responses. So I started going to the office of the startup, and sending my beautiful baby to my mother’s for three days each week, in order to be able to work.

I would have nightmares that the baby was lost in the ether, that I’d left her somewhere when I was supposed to pick her up, but I didn’t know where. In the dreams no one knew where she was and I was a horrible mother, trying to make a living instead of taking care of my baby. I was still half nursing her during this time, which had its own issues. I was also going crazy.


When I went to the startup, my ex came home one day and said he was taking a contract job at a big national broadcaster. The hours were unclear, but the content was great. And we dealt. For years he would work from 2-10pm or 3-11pm and every single weekend, while I was working 9-5 and coming home to take care of two very small kids, alone. I’d have two evenings a week to decide what to do with my time: Hang out with him or maybe do something social with others. On weekends I would do the kids’ swim, ballet and soccer on my own. My family was a great help to me during this time.

While home during the day all alone, he would do the grocery shopping once a week and he’d do the laundry while he watched TV. I’d have to go back through old journals or emails to be sure, but I’m pretty sure that not much else was going on. I know I would ask for things to be done and they wouldn’t be done, or I’d email or text him throughout the day and get no response.

When you email or text someone during the day, this is called “turning towards” in relationship counselling circles. Other “turning towards” things are like saying, “Hey guess what happened at work today!” Or, “Did you hear about what Trump did now?” “Do you want to watch Game of Thrones together?” “Do you want to see the new Cohen Brothers movie next weekend?”

Partners that know how to maintain a loving relationship turn towards the other, even if they are in the middle of a juicy article in the New Yorker. They acknowledge the other partner has made an effort to engage them, even if it’s just, “Yeah, that sounds lovely. Let me finish what I’m reading and then let’s talk about it while you have my full attention.”

He was home during the day, alone, and would watch the series we were supposedly watching together and get so far ahead that I couldn’t catch up. I’d just give up. He was home during the day and if he’d respond to my questions, it was clear he hadn’t read through the email thoroughly and wouldn’t actually answer me. He would never initiate a date, never ask me to go anywhere unless his friends invited us someplace.


Then at some point, the grind of the contract work and the crazy hours caught up to him. I urged him to try something else, urged him to align his work with our lifestyle so we could all be home together more often. So he did. He tried a Monday-Friday, 9-5 situation, but the work wasn’t creatively fulfilling. And he started to sink that summer, slowly but steadily, like a boat with a leak.

At that point, I’d been working for about a year in a fancy job that would set me on the career trajectory I’m on today. I’d just won a big industry award, my first, and also started singing in a band for a magazine article. Here’s something I wrote during that time:

“A dozen years ago, I sat in my parents’ kitchen with all my girlfriends around the vinyl floral table cloth. No one was saying it, but we kept eyeing the stovetop clock. “Well it’s five hours ahead there,” someone suggested. “Maybe he’s waiting to be the last person to wish you a happy birthday.”

The evening grew to nighttime and then to midnight. And it was no longer my birthday. He never called.

I ignored his calls for a few days after that. Oh wait, no, he actually never called. A card never arrived. I finally gave in called him, upset, in tears. I told him our long distance affair wasn’t working for me. I told him it was over.

For weeks after, my phone was littered with messages. “I heard a Spice Girls song and it made me think of you.” “I saw a pair of blue shoes, and I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

Finally, I returned his many calls. He told me he was coming home. Coming back to be with me.

We were engaged months later, and married shortly after that. It was mostly blissful. Then kids came along and things became difficult. But we worked on it, believing that there must be something worth saving under the wreckage.

Today I’m 38. It’s almost noon. Technically I wasn’t born until 4:30pm, so technically I’m still 37 for a few hours. He still hasn’t called. Only he’s not all the way in England this time. He’s at work.

In the last year, I got a promotion, won a prestigious award, battled my demons and got on a stage as the lead singer of a band. I should feel satisfied. But it’s like he barely noticed.

I have a cozy house, a good job and two amazing kids. I have a “community” of friends, as was mentioned to me yesterday. But I still don’t have the one thing that has eluded me for years now.

Him.

Sure, he lives with me. He’s an amazing dad, and the kind of partner who will pick up the pieces on weeks where I’m busy, someone who has made great sacrifices recently to try to make our homelife a bit more stable… but I keep looking for Him, the real him, and I can’t find him. I keep waiting for the day where he emerges and sees me again, for the incredible person I have become. There are glimpses. A day here, a week there, but mostly, I live with this new person who broods in his head and criticizes everything I say or do in the presence of the kids.

He lives with a new person too. One who is more confident and doesn’t need to hold his hand anymore to try new things. One who has a new awareness and acceptance of her shortcomings. One who doesn’t need to have a feisty argument, and has grown up a bit, or so she’d like to think.

But I miss my old friend. I miss sharing our dreams. I miss laughing effortlessly and just enjoying being in one another’s presence. I miss my lover, my soulmate. I miss holding hands and looking longingly in his eyes.

I guess I can get over the fact that he’s not here. That I’m cleaning and cooking on my birthday because I asked for a BBQ that no one’s around to help coordinate. I can get over the fact that he hasn’t called or even texted a birthday greeting yet (after all, that precedent was set years ago). I’ll get over the fact that I made him a weekday breakfast in bed with the kids on his own day and he’s working on mine.

But I don’t know that I’m going to get over the fact that I no longer have a lover and a best friend. I’m seriously unsure about what the next year will bring.”


Everything went downhill after that. In the fall of that year he told me he was smitten with someone at work. By new year, I’d caught him on a dating site for adulterers. He was home a lot, depressed and watching YouTube and Netflix all day, leaving breakfast dishes in the sink and not picking up the kids until the final minutes of daycare, not starting dinner until way too late.

I’d written it off as a midlife crisis at first, and when he turned 40 and got into a university program to retrain himself, it briefly seemed like the cloud had lifted. And I worked. It was all I knew how to do. I worked and got promoted and each promotion was a punch in the face to a man who felt unmanly because his wife was more successful than him. We were a total fucking cliche.

I tried to hold myself back so that he could catch up, but he was headed in the opposite direction. When the depression was at its worst, when I felt like I was living with a ghost, I urged him to get help. He refused his doctor’s prescription for happy pills and wouldn’t take the fancy mood-boosting vitamins I’d bring home. The answering machine was full of missed appointment calls for much-needed counselling.

I held on. I told him that he could push as hard as he wanted, but I wasn’t leaving. I was there for him. I was his wife and I would do as promised. I would stay no matter what. In angry moments, when it was so clear he wanted this burden of marriage to be over, I would tell him that what he envisioned would not happen, that he would not get to stay in this house with the kids, while I fucked off somewhere and just enjoyed my success alone. Hell to the no.

I yelled that I wished he would grow the fuck up. “That’s harsh,” he said. He was so fragile. One night I yelled that he wasn’t the one that was oppressed, that I had creative dreams too that were unfulfilled, and I was shoving them down deep so that I could keep a roof over our heads.


It continued to get worse. I’ve written about it a bit here before. And now, just in this last week, just when I thought my latest promotion meant I could keep all the balls in the air and keep that roof over our heads, BOOM. Like a toddler kicking an epic LEGO build, it all came apart.

The amount I have to pay him to keep the house doubled and I doubled over. I have a medium-sized line of credit, which I could use to pay him half the total amount now. And then I will have to hand over my bonus to him each year until my debt is paid. The carrot that keeps the fight in me, that pays for a grand vacation each year, or fixes the roof over our heads, that carrot will be eaten by him each year. Getting my head around this has left me gutted, and him, not even realizing that he’s holding my insides in his hand.

I am bereft, not only at losing a husband and a partner, not only at losing all the dreams I had for our future, but also all the dreams I had for my new future. I will be in debt until I’m 90, just to make this work. I will have to give my all, even more than I do now, just to make this work. Again he had the gall to say, “You just need to make lifestyle adjustments,” as though getting rid of the cleaning lady and my taxi budget are just things I’ll adjust to as a single mom who works as a director of a department by day.

His poverty consciousness has kept us in this limbo for far too long. I am fucking done with his inability to understand how this world works. I need to cut the fishing line I’m caught on. Toss me back into the sea with my insides and bank accounts emptied out. I will fill up with fresh energy, cleanse myself, heal and swim again.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.