One Year Later…

So, it’s been a year since the day my wife came home and told me that she she didn’t want to be married anymore. On the anniversary of this life-changing day, I thought I’d take a look back at the last year.

Immediate Aftermath

In the days following the surprise dissolution of our little family, little facts about my ex’s motivations for her decision started becoming apparent and they pissed me off. I was hurt, I was angry, I had been betrayed by one of a very few people I had never doubted, and I was a freaking monster. I said all kinds of awful and embarrassing things. It killed me that it didn’t hurt her at all to hurt me and I wanted to balance the scales a bit. When you’ve been that close to someone for close to a decade, you know exactly which buttons to push to hurt them and I was intent on pushing every last one of them until I got some sort of sense of regret out of her. It was a fools errand. I’m super embarrassed about it now and wish I’d gone the “indifferent” or “I have some dignity” route instead, but it’s a thing that happened and, as it turns out, I am indeed fallible.

Am I OK?

I went to a therapist. Not new territory for me. My brain has long been a dirty, dirty liar on occasion and I got help learning to recognize when it was up to its shenanigans and what to do about it. Old hat, yo.

The therapist was super helpful. The logical part of me was trying really, really hard to shortcut all the emotions that I needed to go through. Rationally, I knew that Michelle and I had been a less than ideal pairing having disappointed each other constantly as a result of having drastically different priorities. My rational brain was all, “No reason to be upset, it’s totally going to be for the best… wait, why are my eyes leaking? Why am I afraid of the radio? Stop being a dumbass! Remember the time she __________? That was effed up! See? I’m better off! Am I good now? Great, now I’m angry…”

Understanding the feelings and letting them ride for a bit was super helpful. Really, just getting affirmation of some of the things I was feeling and thinking was nice, getting called out on the faulty thinking was less pleasant, but equally helpful.

Eventually, my therapist was like, “Well, when do you want to meet again? Or do you even feel like you need to meet again soon?” We agreed that I didn’t really, but that I knew where to find him if things changed.

Home is…

I like being a homeowner; it is something I am proud of. We had literally moved into that house two months before she dropped the bomb and immediately after I was getting a lot of pressure to GTFO. I was supposed to look for an apartment to move into until I found a place to buy and move into. I was looking at three moves in six-ish months and I was having none of it. I didn’t want that for me and I didn’t want that for my boys. Plus, I hated the idea that I would come out of an eight year relationship as a renter, essentially right back where I was going into it. I needed to feel like I’d made progress.

With the help of my real estate agent, I found a great place that fit my budget perfectly. I looked at exactly one place and immediately fell in love with it and had to have it (because that tendency has never caused me any trouble…). There were a lot of delays in the funding process due to my pending divorce and wonkiness on the part of the HOA. Fortunately, my agent pulled off a small miracle and got the owner to rent the place to me until the funding went through. The experience was a bit like doing trust falls with total strangers; fortunately there were only good people involved in the deal and it finally closed in May. I only had to move once and the boys and I love this joint.

Car. Yes, I’m Going to Talk About My Car

Alright, I’m not going way into the deets, here. I had just got a little red 2013 Honda Fit that I absolutely loved just a year before the split. In the process of divvying up, she got my Fit and I got her white Civic… which I hated. Lots of things going on there: First, it constantly reminded me of her. It was mine, but I was totally driving Michelle’s car and it sucked. Second, it couldn’t haul anything! As far as moving things other than humans, it was useless! To make a long story short, I found a ridiculous deal on a little red 2013 Honda Fit that ended up having a lower payment and less miles than my first one. Happiness ensued.

The Divorce Diet

I can’t recommend it, but man, is it effective. I lost 25 pounds in 8 weeks because I could eat, like, five Cheerios and be full. Food was gross and I was just never hungry. Also, I figured out that going to the gym and working out hard is a good way to cope with yucky feelings. Certainly a better option than some of the others out there.

I’m all too aware of how hard it generally is to lose that kind of weight, so I kinda looked at it as a gift and I wasn’t going to squander it. Besides, I had to think about dating again (more on that in a sec). I’ve managed to keep most of it off. I’m actually right where my cardiologist wants me to be, but I’d like to lose five more pounds; I feel like that’s when I look/feel my best.

Also, I think I’m going to run my first 5K pretty soon. Achievement unlocked.

Dating

Everybody’s all, “Don’t date for six months to a year,” or, “You probably shouldn’t date right away,” so of course I was on the online dating sites immediately. It’s terrifying out there, y’all. Also, that stuff is soooooo time consuming. But, I had some self-esteem stuff going on and I was hoping maybe I’d meet someone super awesome who would instantly give all of the hurt some sort of purpose. I might as well have hoped to win the Powerball.

I got horrible anxiety before every date. But I wasn’t nervous in the normal, “Oh gosh, I hope she likes me,” sort of way. Like, I don’t really sweat that. First off, girls don’t scare me like they did in my teens and twenties. Secondly, while I know I’m not in any real danger of getting mistaken for Chris Hemsworth or anything, if I get the chance to chat, I can be fairly charming and crap. No, it was something else…

After several months, I figured it out. I got anxiety because I really just didn’t (don’t) want a relationship. So, if I hit it off with someone, things were going to get complicated and if we didn’t it just wasn’t much fun. I came up with a brilliant solution: I stopped dating. I’m sooooo much happier now.

I Ain’t Missin’ You at All…

At some point in our last year together, Michelle was out of town for work for a week and when she got back, she asked, “Did you miss me?” And I hesitated. And I felt like a piece of crap for it.

The reality was that the relationship between the two of us had been dead for a while. We were faking it by doing the domestic stuff, raising the boys, etc., but the Neil + Michelle thing had withered and died a long time ago. Instead, the relationship became about utility. How much of what each of us wanted we could get from the other person for the least amount of effort in return. It was a race to the bottom, which I’m proud to say I lost.

But, I loved her all the way to the end. Sadly, it was in the way you love a troubled relative who just hurts and disappoints you over and over again; you’re not going to have a great relationship with the person regardless of how much you love them. You just can’t. I never would have given up, so in a sense, she did the right thing even if her method in doing so was the ultimate disappointment.

The weird thing is that I can count on one hand how many times I’ve legitimately missed her over the last 12 months. What I really miss is the normality of being married. It’s what people my age do. They’ve found their significant other, are raising a kid or two and have kinda checked all the boxes under the heading, “Being a Successful Adult Human.” Mine got unchecked and it made me feel like a weirdo… still kinda does if I’m being totally honest. I miss my wedding ring often, which I know is probably extra weird.

I’ve missed the companionship. It is pretty convenient having a built-in partner to go to stuff with or even just hang out and watch TV with. What I suspect would be super awesome is if that companion liked any of the same stuff I do… that’s a theory I’ll have to check out some day. But as for Michelle… I just don’t miss her. Looking at old pictures doesn’t bother me, hearing songs with memories attached is fine, and seeing her in person stirs diddly squat in terms of emotions.

The Kids

Dude, I know everybody thinks their kids are the best thing ever, but I’m tellin’ ya, my boys are something special. They crack me up, make me think, push my capabilities, and warm my heart.

Losing half of Tristan’s time was horrible and painful as hell. With Jackson, it was painful, but since I got royally hosed from the get-go, it was largely a process of getting more time over the years, which always felt great. Going from being around all the time to being gone half the time was awful. Did I mention that it was really terrible? Not just for me either. Watching him suffer through the process was probably the worst of all of it. I know there are different schools of thought out there, but I can think of very few things Michelle could have done that would have justified, in my mind, causing the little dude that kind of suffering. Like, pretty huge, bad stuff.

Jackson just kinda washed his hands of Michelle. I made a good faith effort to maintain some relationship between the two of them, he just opted out. If I was to speculate, I’d say that his problem was the same as mine: drastically different priorities and interests. I don’t ask him why because I don’t want him to feel pressured or like he did anything wrong, it’s just interesting.

All of that said, my time with my boys is better than ever. We do lots of fun stuff, we go have “adventures,” we talk about stuff we all like, we joke around and just really enjoy the time we spend together. My relationship with them has improved dramatically now that I don’t have a flawed marriage taking up a lot of my time and energy. Since I see them less I make way better use of the time I have with them. There’s something to being intensely engaged in the parenting thing for a few days, then getting a break for a few days. I’m not attaching any value at all, just saying that it seems to be working well for us.

Wrap it Up!

I feel like things went about as well as one can expect given the circumstances. All of us are settled into our new “normal” and I’m ready to buck my reclusive impulse and branch out a bit more. It’s nice kinda being out of the shock waves of that day, having things settled and this just being life.  It’s simple, it’s low stress, it’s good.

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