It started when my ex and I began dating. An innate need to protect his reputation. To keep the unkind sentiments or harsh words housed in the shadows. To protect his image as much as possible. The self-imposed responsibility did not decrease with time.
This made the separation tricky.
When a marriage ends abruptly, there is an avalanche of emotions to wade through. Shame. Failure. Anger. Resentment. Grief. Hope. For me, this resulted in a sort of paralysis. I didn’t know how to tell anyone that my marriage had ended. I didn’t want to. Announcing it meant it was concrete. A reality I didn’t choose. A disgrace I wasn’t sure how to burden.
I did what any rational human would do in the situation. Virtually nothing. I told a few close friends. I took my wedding ring off. I packed his things. Stored photos of our time together. Fretted how to divulge my new reality without scarring him. Without burning a bridge. Sometimes hope is misguided. Responsibility misappropriated.
For many weeks, I cried alone in the darkness after putting our baby to bed. I took tiny steps toward an outward expression of accepting this new life thrust before me. I took my last name off Facebook. Weeks later, I penned a draft for this blog. A draft filled with loneliness and animosity. Words concealed in the drafts folder until I was stronger. More resolute. Braver.
While those characters percolated, I took scarier steps. I called a therapist. I asked for help navigating the intense wound I was allowing to fester. I said the words out loud to someone that wasn’t family. I booked an appointment. And another.
One night, while my ex cared for our son, I took the plunge. One final edit. One last hesitation. A deep breath. Publish.
The previous twelve years of safeguarding my ex-husband’s image had distorted my perspective. As I released the post into the world- an admission of the alteration in my marital status- my anxiety climbed as I became increasingly concerned about how the world would see him. How it would see me. Would I be ostracized? My failure, as I saw it, placed at my feet. Blame cast.
None of this happened. I was embraced in love by those that matter.
Recently, I have been pondering why this didn’t color my outlook. I still carry shame. Shame that I chose a spouse so poorly. That I accepted what I received as love. Worry that my baggage makes me intolerable. That no one will want to love me and my son. Understanding that I will forever have communication with my ex. That some nerve endings will never become less sensitive. Most frustrating, I still carry the mantle of protecting my ex. Keeping things hidden in the shadows as to not allow the world access to his entirety. My reality.
The effort to shield certain events from public knowledge has silenced me. My brain adding an element of fear. Conjuring’s of a reality in which he would come across these descriptions of my life experiences and take revenge. I did everything in my power to keep from “rocking the boat”. Turns out, I cannot control a persons actions. Good or bad. My silence did nothing to protect me from reality. It just isolated me. Kept me from writing. Because if I could not discuss the giant elephant sauntering near me at all times, how could I elaborate on anything else?
The chips have fallen. The tale has taken its course and I am standing in the aftermath. There is nothing to protect any longer. Nothing to fear, really. Because the truth is, the worst happened. And I survived. Withstood the shit storm with the most amazing support system.
If I am being honest- which I strive to be- the scariest thing to me over the past four and a half years have revolved around the care of my son. More specifically, his father’s utilization of visitation, how’s he’s treated when he is not in my care, and child support. Every decision I have made, every response I have given has been colored by those concerns. I did not what to give Moose’s father any reason to withhold any portion of said items.
It goes without saying that being a single parent is arduous. There is a physical and emotional demand that rests solely on your shoulders. These are the things that are spoken about transparently. Common knowledge. But no one discusses the resentment that wells up in your soul when you have no energy left within you, but you can’t rest. The grocery store beckons. Laundry must be done. Or a million other things that cannot be ignored. We don’t talk about trying to plan your chores around when the child is with their other parent. The constant mental hoops you jump through remembering your schedule, your co-parents visitation schedule, and doing everything you can to maintain balance and routine for your offspring. The eternal struggle between missing the hell out of your kid when they are gone and knowing that you need the time sans child to accomplish the mundane chores you’ve been putting off. The extra hours at the office that you must put in. The decisions made alone.
And then there’s child support. Oof. Is that every a touchy subject. It’s so complicated. The financial support is necessary. Raising a child isn’t inexpensive. Child care, clothing, food, activities. These are just the basics. For me, there was the most important need- to keep my son’s home life as stable as possible. A reliable home. Steady day to day routines for him to thrive.
I am beating around the bush. Still awkward in sussing out how to unveil the elephant referenced earlier. You see, fourteen months ago my ex husband served me with papers to lower his child support. The wording doesn’t change the situation, but it still felt like a sucker punch. He was suing me. In a pandemic. After countless situations where he texted me last minute saying he couldn’t pick our son up from daycare. Months he went without seeing our son or communicating when that may change. Weeks after finally extending his visitation to include an overnight every other weekend. After four and a half years of walking on eggshells in fear of this very situation, it happened. All of the disrespect I swallowed did nothing to insulate me.
I am writing all of this at the conclusion of the lawsuit. Mediation completed. Neither of us feeling like we “won” anything. There is so much more to unravel. For now, this is enough transparency. Enough fear and discomfort to wade through.
It’s funny, even now, I worry that I am the bad guy. For writing this. Divulging this information. Fighting to lose as little of my child support as possible. Distress that it may be construed as vengeance.
All that being said, I am beginning. Unraveling this here. Emerging from the cover of seclusion. No one really gives you a road map for all of this. We muddle through. Learning the lessons- regardless of how uncomfortable- as we go. So if you’re in the midst of discomfort, know you aren’t alone. Know it won’t last forever. But mostly, don’t fear the conclusion. No matter whether the completion is what you hoped or what you feared, the outcome can be delt with. An outcome is concrete. Worry is not. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.