Thursday, June 12, 2014

Conscious Uncoupling Schmuckeling

It’s early in the evening and we’re seated across the table from one another. Our laptops are open, our glasses of Stone IPA, full. For a moment, he lifts his up his Mac and shows me a viral photo on Facebook. We both laugh.

 In my fantasy life, the man across from me would close his computer. He’d take my hand and gently lead me upstairs. We’d put on some Miles Davis, whisper to one another in the dark, and fall into a deep sleep. There would, of course, be other things in between.

But this is how it will be in reality: we’ll close our laptops and go upstairs, he to his room, I to mine. I’ll crawl in bed alone and watch an episode of Chopped on my laptop; he’ll crawl into bed alone and call his girlfriend on his cell.

This is not a bad thing. Nor is it a sad thing. It just is. The man sitting across from me, my housemate, is my ex-husband. We have a conscious uncoupling arrangement. Gwyneth may have popularized the phrase, but I started doing it first. By default, if truth be told.

Six years ago, I decided we needed to separate. At that time, we hadn’t talked (besides information-gathering about our kids) for two years. We’d seen three different marriage counselors—none helped. While breaking up my family was something I abhorred doing, the situation had become intolerable. 

Like most break ups, it was rough. Our kids were inconsolable and my mother was depressed. We faced financial hardships, we faced emotional heartache, and we felt anger and hatred that reasonable people should never have to feel. And even though I had lived on my own for a time, we ended up cohabitating again. This was due both to our commitment to co-parenting and out of financial necessity.

But neither explain these: I've gone with him and the kids to his family’s place in New York for Thanksgiving; he visits my mom and aunt regularly; we sit together at our son's sporting events; and, like tonight. we drink IPAs together in the evening.

In spite of our divorce, we do things together for our family. And perhaps, for ourselves. I know what you maybe thinking: they still have feelings for one another. We do. Unless there is lying, or cheating, or some type of abuse in a relationship, how could one not?

You see, in the past 20 some years, I’ve never spent a Christmas morning without him. We built a life together; we have a shared history. And we celebrate that.

But we’ve also moved on. This past December, we had my family over as usual on Christmas Eve. They’ve grown to accept this “unusual” situation, continuing to give my ex the same amount of money damn them as they give me. On Christmas day, we opened gifts with our kids, had breakfast, and then he took off to his girlfriend’s and I made dinner for my kids and my man friend.

It's true. I have a man. We’ve been together for five years now. My ex and his partner for two. Oddly enough, they understand the complicated nature of family and finances, and they’re okay with the situation. There’s even been numerous times when the four of us have been together at social events. One time last June while we were all together preparing for our daughter’s graduation party at the house, I accidentally said to my ex, “Honey, would you get the ice?” His girlfriend smiled.

Yes, Virginia, there can be more than one honey in this world. Just as the concept of family has grown to something larger than a nuclear one, so has the concept of divorce.

There are times, too numerous to count, when I pray wish my ex would take his 1972 Cadillac and 3,000 vinyl albums and move in with his girlfriend. Stay tuned for those stories where I won't be so kind.

But, tonight we’re here, together, in our house. And tomorrow when I’m too hungover tired to get out of bed, I’ll ask him to get up and drive our son to baseball practice. And he will.


sage said...

Nice to see you in my blogroll again... My mother was very nice to first wife, too (we were married in college, split up right before she finished grad school and before I started). I don't know how you do this, but with kids it kind of makes sense.

Diocletian Blobb said...

Though I'm in a similar state of union/disunion, I don't think I could navigate the emotional riptides that an arrangement like yours would produce. Brava to you for learning to live in the swirling waters.