It’s one thing to separate from your wife when you are a regularly-employed man making a decent wage. It’s something entirely different when you are a stay-at-home father. And it’s also completely different when your ex starts dating while you still live in the same home together.
When my ex-wife and I had the chat about separating eight months ago and decided to split up (we both agreed it was necessary), it was a tough blow because everything I have is tied up in my marriage, so I’m stuck in separation limbo.
At first, we decided not to sell the house since it continues to make money for us as real estate prices increase where we live. So, the plan was for me to find a job, move out, and pay rent on a condo, while my ex and the kids stayed in our family home.
But the city where we live doesn’t have a whole lot of professional-type jobs, and it took me seven months to land one. I am now employed full time, but at that point, I felt trapped. I couldn’t get my own place or move out because I had no job. So, I’ve been stuck living with my ex (she’s a fantastic woman), as we navigate these uncharted waters. Fortunately, with me getting a job, the wheels are in motion to move forward and sell the house.
Right before Christmas, my ex decided she was ready to date. She met a man through a dating site and they hit it off right away. Then, in mid-January, she told me she was going out with this guy that night for dinner. Until then, I had no idea they had been going on hikes and communicating with each other.
Boom. Cue the sledgehammer to the head that unleashed a torrent of emotion, depression, guilt, and anxiety.
Her telling me she was dating was a wake-up call that pounded me out of denial that our marriage was really over. We still lived in the same home and kept the same routine, but we just weren’t sleeping in the same bed. It also opened my mind to how selfish I’d been in dealing with my ex and our two children, particularly the past two years. Me dealing with that guilt is a whole other story.
As I processed the fact that she was dating, a whole host of feelings came back to me. Call it the bargaining phase of grieving, because I was (am) still grieving the loss of my marriage, even though I knew (and know) it’s over. I also was dealing with my ego, which couldn’t handle that I’d been replaced, that I’d been put out to pasture, so to speak. It really, really hurt that she was seeing someone. And I was surprised it hurt so much, because I’d given up on her and my marriage, and thought I was fine with it ending.
But as I deal with all this, my ex is there to support me when I need it. We have had some of the best conversations of our 26 years together, and we get along like best friends. And I support her, too. I want her to be happy, first and foremost. She deserves to be happy. We all do. If dating this guy makes her happy, I’m fine with that, even though it still hurts—but not as much as it did four weeks ago.
When I knew the two of them were out together, the anxiety would nearly kill me. My palms would be sweating, my feet were dripping water, and my stomach was a tightly knit ball of tension. But as the days and weeks go by, I’ve come to accept it and it’s not so bad, as long as I remind myself to stay in the present as much as possible.
There is no anger. And that is key in going through this process with two teenaged children. Right now, everything we do is based around their happiness and well-being.
My ex has boundaries in her new relationship, and he doesn’t come to our house. That’s a good thing, because it would rock the kids’ world to see them together with me still living in our family home.
The children know she is dating and while it’s been a bit tough on them (because they know it upsets me), they seem to be dealing with it as well as can be expected.
The past four weeks have been the toughest of my life emotionally, but I’ve also become a much better person because of it.
As my ex-wife and I continue to navigate through these uncharted waters, we both laugh because there is no blueprint to follow for what we are going through. There’s no “how to” book. There’s no right way to do this. We just communicate with each other and put the kids first.
It’s been tough, but every day, little by little, I feel stronger and more optimistic about the future.
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