I am divorced.
What image does that paint of me?
Yesterday, I made my first public announcement of the end of our marriage. It has been over a year since we have been separated, and several months since the divorce.
It was a difficult thing to do, pulling that trigger. Now it’s out in the open, for all of our past friends and acquaintances to see and to make judgement.
It needed to be done, because we need to move on.
How do I come across to those friends who only saw the facade of the happy couple? What image do they conjure in their minds when they finally know the truth?
I am divorced.
There are connotations attached to that phrase, along with questions:
Am I just another statistical casualty?
Are we just another couple who inevitably “bit the dust”?
Are we just another example of the futility of marriage?
Or was it a result of immaturity? An unwillingness to work things out or to compromise?
But most importantly: Who was in the wrong?
-The Long Break Up-
I was in a 9 year relationship with my now ex-wife. We have a four year old son. Our relationship started straining about 3 years ago when she fell in love with someone else. She still cared for me, but we were living apart at the time, lonely and in need of emotional support.
I didn’t mind, as long as we were still close to each other. As long as we had complete trust and was honest with one another, I didn’t care what she did. We talked a lot over the phone during and worked through that time period together and got over the bump.
After he left, she eventually started seeing other people. While she told me of the first, even before it became anything substantial, the ones following were all secret until I eventually found out about them, one after another.
She would start to make excuses about going out to eat with friends, and outright lie when I asked her specific questions. It hurt terribly, but I wasn’t going to stop her. It was her choice, and I’m not a person who tells others what they should or shouldn’t do. Maybe that was part of the problem.
I wanted us to try and work things out, but she didn’t want to. She would always run to something else. Her phone, her work friends, her lovers. The thing is, I can’t completely blame her, because I haven’t done everything I could do to make her feel secure in our relationship.
After we had our child, I was stuck with a dilemma. The job I had was crushing my soul, and was taking me further and further from the career path I put myself into immense debt to pursue. It felt like I either had to stick with the job I hated and abandon my past seven years of education to work in the seafood industry, or act now to steer myself back in the right direction.
We decided to live apart while I tried to go back to school. She stayed with my parents, whom she hardly knew, and with whom I had a strained relationship with. She agreed to go, because it was impossible for me to go back to school without somebody to help look after our son while my wife worked. They insisted on her paying rent, so the end result was probably not much different after all.
In hindsight, we should have stayed together and figured things out another way. I eventually gave up on finishing my classes, and went back home to stay with my family before it was too late.
We had many ups and downs those next three years. There were still fond memories to be made, but by then, it was clear the trust she had for me was gone.
In her eyes, our financial future was impossibly bleak. It became an inescapable burden for her. Our current income couldn’t support the amount of student loan debt I had accrued over the years. I had a low wage job, but in an industry that I cared for. I was working on moving up–which I did eventually–but she didn’t want to suffer any longer. She lost all faith in me and my ability to provide for the family. It came to a point where she would come home from her job and would escape to her phone, staring at it non-stop. She wouldn’t even look up at me or our son.
I became more and more bitter as the months went on. Why couldn’t she even try to work things out? There is always a way to make things work. Why can’t she talk to me about anything anymore? Waves of hopelessness struck me constantly, and there were times I wanted to give up. On my evening commutes, I would entertain thoughts of driving full speed off of the highway, or even getting a firearm license so I could go shoot that mother fucker she’s seeing in front of her face.
She moved out over a year ago, and have been pushing for a divorce for the latter half of the year. We argued and discussed the terms for our separation, which mostly revolved around visitation schedules. We had no significant assets to fight over, but she wanted to return home to Japan with our son.
We met many times throughout the year, discussed, debated, back-tracked, and finally agreed on our son’s future. As much as I want to be with my son, and as much as I felt that I would be a better care-taker for him than this immature, irresponsible mother who put her own desires to be comfortable above her child’s desire to stay with his parents, I could only see the uphill struggle we would have if I took custody. A single father with a mediocre job, debt-laden, living with parents he couldn’t stand to be around, versus both a mother and a future step-father with a sound financial future.
I wasn’t, and still am not, in any state to take care of him on my own. And he will at least have a new father, as well as his mother to lean on.
Of course, I resent this bastard, who also happened to be cheating on his partner who lives overseas. Supposedly, he wasn’t close with her anyway, so they split after he started seeing my wife. Of course, I wanted to find out where he lives and beat his brains in. How could they get away with this? I have ammunition. I have text messages. I have photos. I could take legal action.
But then again, he’s providing her with something she really wants that I can’t offer. He gives her financial stability and a more financially sound future for our son. He also provides her with trust and understanding, which we have clearly lost. The photos she unwittingly left on our shared iCloud account shows me how much she cares for this person. She was happy in those selfies, and showed joyous expressions I haven’t seen in years.
We had a long back and forth with the documents her lawyer provided us, making adjustments until all of my concerns were sorted out. One night, after looking over the adjusted paperwork, with my soon-to-be-ex pleading sincerely, I had one last cry in the bathroom before I signed my son away.
All this time, everyone around us was oblivious to any of this. Mostly because we were so good at hiding it in public. Not even our parents knew anything was seriously wrong until the day my wife packed up and left.
We will still communicate going forward, because our son has us bound for life. She still cares for me, and let’s me see our son whenever I ask. She just can’t see herself happy living with me anymore and wants to move on. She felt incredibly hurt and abandoned while we lived apart, while I was free to pursue my dreams as she suffered in silence away from the person she loved. She felt our trust deteriorate, especially after feeling the guilt of seeing another person in secret after we had worked through the first one together. Sensing her lack of trust, and with a mix of bitter emotions, I found it harder and harder to comfort her and to give her the emotional support she needed. She built wall after wall of emotional defenses, and our rift grew ever larger until it was finally too much for her to handle. And that was the beginning of our end.
Even so, love is not an easy thing to abandon.
I still have occasional thoughts and even dreams of us reuniting, our son jumping up and down with joy that we can live together again. She is still my love, because she completed me. She was the first and only person in my life that I trusted without a doubt. She was the only one whom I could be completely honest with and be vulnerable about my inner demons. I was never lonely, even when we lived apart. Even after the emotional hell she has put me through, I could never intentionally hurt her, because I put her through that hell as well.
It has gotten easier these past few months, but I’m afraid it will become more and more difficult for our son once they move overseas.
I faced a new dilemma after we agreed on our divorce.
How the hell was I going to tell people? Everyone thinks we are a happy young couple, living happily with their son and their parents. My work friends and my school friends, they all think we are still happily married. To make things worse, our family is a part of a religious community which holds marriage and family as the number one priority. To make things even worse, I was in a public leadership position in that church, helping to lead and organize the music for services every week. How was I going to announce this to the world in these circumstances?
It was months before I told even one person. I would meet with an old friend ready to spill everything, open my mouth, then change the subject. He would ask me how my wife and kid was, and I would shrug and say, “They’re doing good. The usual.” It took everything I had to finally tell someone. It took over a year to tell just a handful of people I trust. I had to do it one by one, face to face. I couldn’t take the backlash and scrutiny a public announcement would create.
Last November, when I had an opportunity to switch locations for my job along with a promotion, I took it immediately. I used that as an excuse to relieve myself of my duties as a band leader at our church. I haven’t returned since. I needed to withdraw. I needed to leave enough time and distance so the blow would be minimal, both to my family and the community. Imagine the gossip and scandal that would spread throughout the church if all of this came out while I was still involved.
Soon after, an opportunity came for another promotion. I took this on, and while being extremely challenging, it provided me the means to save up to move out. I found an apartment with a friend who understands my situation. I set up my living space in a way that I could continue to pursue both my skills as a musician and my gaming hobby. I have found a go-to market and a gym that can help support a healthy lifestyle. I have found wonderful friends in the online space who share my passions, and with whom I can show my real self. I have found inspiration and developed great habits in large part to my exposure to this blogging community. I have experienced the zenith and nadir of emotions during the time with my love, and hopefully am a wiser person now because of them.
Were we wrong? Did we choose the wrong path? It’s easy to think of things we could have done differently. It’s easy to look back and find the crucial, pivotal moments where things started turning downhill. But time does not stop, and it does not let us rewind. We were married, and now we are not. What image does that paint of us?
To fall in love is easy, but to maintain that love is another story — and we all have our own stories. Most importantly, dear readers, before you judge, before you criticize, before you assume; please remember this: There are always two sides to every break up.