A while ago, I approached the father of my children requesting that we jointly file for divorce.
We were married for twenty years and for twenty years, I blamed myself for his struggles with sexual addiction. Ten years ago, I thought we had fixed it but…. three years ago, I discovered that we had not. Three years ago, I discovered that he had hidden credit cards and a hidden cell phone that he used to carry on a secret life.
I discovered this when everything his social security number was associated with was levied by a judge in a court case he ‘forgot’ to tell me about. I told him I didn’t want to be married to him anymore but that I would him through recovery as a friend. He needed to attend a 12 step program, go to therapy, make no more addictive choices and be 100% honest. Additionally, I was to be in charge of finances.
After several half-truths, lies by omission, reminders of the boundaries and warnings, I caught him in an outright, blatant lie. On June 19, 2013, I called in sick to work, called a locksmith, packed his things and arranged for him to stay with his parents.
He cut his financial contributions in half right before my son’s senior year of high school and altogether stopped contributing financially two months before my son turned 18.
I was ‘nice’ and did not file for child support. I knew he was struggling. I was struggling, too. However, I knew I could make it for a few months so I did not pursue it.
After my son graduated, we moved out of our home as I had drained any money I had saved. We were homeless for four months as we couch hopped among friends and relatives. I got a new job that paid more money. I got a new apartment that has space for both my son and my daughter when she comes home from college. We even figured out how to keep my son’s 89 lb dog. I nursed my car along even though it had 222,000 miles on the odometer, was spewing oil, needed a new fuel pump and was firing on only 2 of 4 cylinders.
My boss gave me a raise with the stipulation I buy a new car. So, I did.
I started the next step – working on my divorce papers.
Then, I got a message from an old friend. The kind of message that Hallmark movies are built on.
In high school we loved the same things. We listened to the same music. We laughed at the same jokes. I could tell him anything. There was a deep kind of soul connection between us. But one day, we crossed the line from the platonic to the romantic. And it was amazing. And wonderful. And terrifying. And overwhelming. And, we both panicked and headed the opposite direction.
We never spoke again.
Until about a month and a half ago.
He contacted me and we started catching up.
And then one day, he said, “I know this is pretty early but I need to tell you that letting you walk out of my life was one of the worst mistakes I have ever made. My life has never been the same without you in it. I have always wondered where you were, what you were doing, if you were happy. … I don’t care what our relationship looks like or where it will go but I do know that I cannot imagine continuing life without you in it in some capacity. Are you open to continued conversations?”
Of course, I had thought about him over the years. Actually I wondered the same things – where was he? Was he happy? Was he being treated well by his significant other?
I explained that while I am completely open to re-kindling our friendship and exploring future possibilities, I am not free to ‘date’ until my divorce is final. His response?
“I have been waiting for you for 30 years. Take all the time you need. I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
So, we aren’t dating.
We are both being respectful of each others’ boundaries but… we have been having a lot of conversations. And, they have been very respectful, interesting and marvelous conversations.
It is like we have never been apart. We still like the same things. We still listen to the same music. We still laugh at the same jokes. We have had very different experiences that, when you look at the heart of the matter, are exactly the same. It is like no time at all has gone by.
We are just a little more equipped to handle the feelings.
He is an amazing man with a quiet, gruff exterior and a tender heart who is wise, understanding and patient. He is single and has been for a while. It was his choice to not bring women into his home or life while he was serving as a single parent of his son.
And, I can tell you that I am no longer patiently waiting for my ex to complete his part of the divorce papers. I am very eager for this process to be done.
So, I met my ex and presented him with a new set of papers.
These papers did not itemize assets and debts because that is not important. The papers said that he simply keeps and owes what is in his name and in his possession. I simply keep and owe what is in my name and is in my possession. I had already signed them and asked that he take them, review them and sign them, too. If he did so, I would be willing to pay 100% for the divorce as it would be only for court filing fees.
He wants half of my Public Employee Retirement Account.
I got angry. This man stole 20 years of my life, money, peace of mind, happiness, potential, my self-worth etc.
He told me that his assets are all gone and, as we are just filing now, he is entitled to it. He deserves it and I owe it to him.
I have been more than kind to him. I paid his debts. I walked with him when I was devastated. I have been working to pick up the pieces and help two kids through college on my own. After 20 years, this retirement is the only thing I have left. I do not believe I owe him anything.
I responded by saying that I will fight for my retirement. That if he feels entitled to my retirement, then I am entitled to half of his fishing poles, half his guns, half the boat he co-owns with his father etc. I told him that I would also be filing a civil suit in addition to the divorce requesting repayment for everything I have put into caring for his children and paying his debt.
He suggested that because I make more money than he does and he can’t keep a job (He’s had four in the two years he’s been gone.) he will then request spousal maintenance.
I was destroyed, devastated, re-broken.
I called my friend. (Admission: Although we are not dating, we have been talking daily.)
He had the perfect response.
“I love you and it’s going to work out, ” are magical words that time-freezes everything bad, everything annoying, everything frustrating & everything crazy-making. They are magical words that make sunbeams appear on my face, make my knees weak and make my heart melt. They are magical words that make my brain stop running a million miles a minute and lets me just breathe, knowing and believing that if the first part is true (and I believe it is) the second part will be, too.