The marriage that WAS and the relationship that IS

It’s now been 9 months since my runaway wife said it was over and moved into the basement bedroom suite. It’s been 7 months since she moved out to her own apartment. In that time she has had very little contact with me and very little contact with our daughters.

Over the course of this year, as part of coming to terms with the breakdown of the marriage, I’ve given some thought to the marriage we had. I’ve read and listened to many stories of men and women who have split up. I’ve tried to place ‘where’ our marriage was compared to that of other couples.

One perspective is that of outsiders. Many people were surprised at our break-up, including my runaway wife’s own family. Other people saw us as having a strong relationship. We seemed very connected and affectionate in public. We seemed to get along well when others were around. We seemed very compatible. Things weren’t dramatically different in private. We didn’t have one kind of a relationship in public and another behind closed doors. There was a lot of laughter and many happy times.

There were rows and arguments, like most other couples seem to have. (I take a little peverse pleasure in seeing other couples who are obviously having a row of some kind but are trying to put on a good show in public. I don’t think it’s nice they’re having a row. It’s just nice to see that other people don’t have Disney-perfect always-happy relationships either.) The serious rows were always started by one small spark and my runaway wife’s temper would build that into a flaming wall of fire that would take a long time to dampen. *sigh* One thing I always thought was damaging was allowing an argument to carry on for a long time–overnight, for example. I never saw how that could be good for the long-term health of the relationship.

Thanks to the separation in 1998, I was prepared to put up with most things. Had I wanted to be free and wild Mr. Divorced Guy with children living elsewhere, that was my chance. I eventually made a clear decision back then that this was not the path I wanted and, since that time, was content with the family, even during the tougher times. I was prepared to endure the things I thought were unreasonable just because it meant that we’d stay together and survive through the long-term.

When my runaway wife said she was leaving, she promised that we would be good friends. Yet I have barely seen her. She is so ‘busy’ all the time. I don’t know what she does or where goes or with whom. I just know that it is difficult to make time to meet up. Over the course of the last 9 months, the percentage of phone calls that have ended with her hanging up on me is still over 50%. As she does it less frequently now, the average is dropping. Yet there is still a great deal of anger in her, trying to burst out, but over what? She left us! I’ve asked a number of times why she gets so angry, but the answers are not there. I suspect she still doesn’t know what is wrong with her or why exactly she left. She hasn’t taken the time to analyze this, with or without the help of a therapist.

Some of you have left your marriages. You struggled mightily with the decision and still did it. I can’t think of a single story, told from the female perspective, where the justification hasn’t been clear and reasonable, even as it has been very tough to do. One day, somehow, it would be nice to hear my runaway wife’s version of events. Perhaps the mystery is as simple as a longing for someone else, a crush that needed to be attended (but how the girls figure in this?. Perhaps it is, as she has said, tied to the death of her father and the realization that she missed freedoms many of us experienced when we were younger.

Solving that mystery won’t make me feel any better about the outcome nor the pain it’s caused all of us. AS 2011 closes and 2012 beckons, this is history now. But it would at least answer those questions that bother me sometimes. It might also answer why she has seen so little of the girls that she loved so dearly when they were little, and why she today feels that they are rejecting her rather than the other way around.

About Single Dad

I married young. Now, after more than 20 years of marriage, 3 wonderful daughters, and many ups and downs, my wife has decided the marriage is over. The "About Me" and "My Background" pages on my blog have more details.
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11 Responses to The marriage that WAS and the relationship that IS

  1. Caroline says:

    Like you I have searched for answers as none of it makes much sense. But I don’t think my Ex knows – maybe yours doesn’t either. And until they do the questions will go unanswered because their version of the truth is still so muddied and muddled.

    • Unless the Answer is that I personally screwed up in some monumental way — which means there is a lesson for me in there to handle the future better — it doesn’t matter what the Answer is. Rather than beat myself up about it, I’m more interested in dealing with the now than the yesterday…

  2. TikkTok says:

    I’ve heard people say “never go to bed angry.” That just does not work for us- the more tired we get, the easier it is to flare and lose perspective. We don’t disagree on a lot of things, but the few times it got heated, we actually would go to bed- helped us cool off and not say things we would regret. Of course, we have actual rules (like no name calling, for example, and not dragging things up from the past, etc etc) and there have been times we’ve agreed to disagree.

    Life is too short to hang on to toxicity…..

    Hope you get your answers, S. You deserve to know what happened from her perspective. If she didn’t tell you what was wrong (and making her so angry) there was no way you could address it…..

    • Re: the going to bed angry.

      If that is what both of you agree works for you AND the next morning you are friends again, then it sounds like a very reasonable approach for you two as a couple. There aren’t right answers on any of this really, just things that work for each couple. For me, the next morning wasn’t a sunny end to an argument or I might not have a problem with the approach. Also, avoiding a discussion of what went wrong and pretending it didn’t happen didn’t seem to me to be a great way of avoiding future rows…

  3. Hmmm… a common theme in divorce….

    I think that sometimes the answers to the questions would be so brutal, so painful to inflict, that common decency holds that person back. We all think we want the truth, but some truths are so terribly difficult to recover from that the damage caused would be arguably worse than the vague uncertainty. For example, how many people would truly want to hear, “I realized that I married you for the wrong reasons” or “I was never physically attracted to you and was just a really, really good faker” or “I’ve completely lost respect for you as a person and can’t love someone I don’t respect”? I’ve heard these reasons from people who’ve left and who have chosen not to reveal them to their exes…

    Of course, the argument remains as to whether the exes could ultimately benefit from such knowledge. I don’t think most people could actually handle a truth such as those with any degree of grace or retention of self-confidence. In the face of her abject pleas, my father had the fortitude to explain to my mother that he thought he’d married her hastily and based on lust more than love; she hated him viciously for almost 15 years for it. The words haunted her in ways that I’m sure he hadn’t expected, and paid dearly for. So, not everyone who claims to want the truth really wants the actual truth. Sometimes they only want a truth they can live with.

    Having said all of that, I think you might be the exception, SD. And for that reason, I am sorry that Danielle has not chosen to simply blurt it out, no matter how bad or hurtful or mind-blowing it is. I suspect that you would study it and consider it and draw your own conclusions about it. I think you would likely engage an amazing degree of objectivity about it. But, in fairness, I think you have to concede that most people would not. Most people would be more like my mother — furious and hurt and determined to make the divorce even nastier than if the truth had not been revealed. And Irreparable damage might be done to the continuing relationship, making co-parenting all the more difficult….

    I’ve noticed that another reason that departing spouses don’t ‘fess up to their true reasons is that they are fully aware that those reasons will be judged, deemed insufficient, and the grounds for debate with the spouse they have already decided to leave. This is probably a reasonable expectation on their part, as the party left behind usually *does* think that the reasons for the split are not valid or justifiable. If they did, it would likely be a mutual divorce and everyone would part with shared relief that it was over. How often is that really the case?

    Finally — and at the risk of sounding like a broken record on this subject — I can say with complete confidence and incredulity that I told my ex-husband as early as the first two years of our marriage that if he continued treating me the way he had begun to, I would be gone “in ten years” (at the time, I was pulling that time frame out of thin air, but I did, in fact, end up leaving just before our 11th anniversary). Despite repeated warnings and tearful pleadings on my part throughout the years, he maintained his condescending nature and dismissive attitude, and then proclaimed loudly (and to anyone who would listen) that I had “left suddenly, and without warning or explanation.” I still cannot fathom how he has fashioned his truth from the reality we shared, but he has. So, I have to suspect that lots of other folks do something similar, too.

    Maybe Danielle told you things over the years that seemed like they weren’t big deals at the time? Maybe she displayed patterns of disappointment over things in her life or your marriage that seemed to you (and probably to lots of others who knew her) to be trivial? My point is that, as you suspect, she has her reasons. They may not be good enough for you, or her family, or your mutual friends, or anyone else, but they don’t have to be. They only have to be good enough for her.

    For your sake, and because I sincerely believe that you would benefit from them — whatever the heck they are! — I wish that she would tell you. Maybe someday, in her own time, and in her own way, she will. I’ll keep hoping…. 🙂

  4. Lady E says:

    Dear SD,
    Yes, some answers will probably bring you all closure, and she owes you that.
    She is clearly unable to articulate the reasons that drove her to such a radical life-change, and she is likely to need more time before she has figured it all out herself.
    Meanwhile, you are doing admirably for you and your daughters. In the long-term, you will not be the one who has lost so much they have to live with regret.

  5. Lost in France says:

    I see some parallels with my Ex.
    She married young, not to me, I was her second.
    One of the trigger events seems to have been when her brother died, and she seemed to think she had missed out on being young, footlose and fancy free.
    She has now done that, and I am not sure that it proved to have been as fulfilling as she thought it would be.
    This then left her lost and in severe depressions, which finally she is getting help for, and apparently settling down with a new partner.

  6. I actually just went through this only I was on your ex wife’s side of the story. When I left my last relationship, which was only a year long, as well as a long distance one…I couldn’t really give him a reason why I left. I just know that I wasn’t happy in the said situation. I had told him that months before, and he just pushed it under the rug as if nothing were wrong. I tried for months to work through my feelings and figure out what the real issue was, but you know, in the end I didn’t really come up with anything, there were just so many things that felt like they didn’t fit right with us. It felt like it was work to stay in the relationship, one that I wasn’t really getting fulfillment from anyways. He wanted an explanation why, when I told him it just wasn’t working for me, the answer wasn’t good enough, anything else I would have said would have made it seem like it was his fault, and it really wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just was. I know this still today isn’t enough of an answer for him, but I have nothing else to give him. He needs to work through it on his own, and I need to be ok with that fact. I can’t make the breakup easier for him by giving him information I don’t have.

    In the end, I just know I did the right thing for me, and I hope that one day he can move on and know that I am not the right girl for him, or I wouldn’t have walked away, something just wasn’t right.

    I don’t know if that will help you at all, but I think in the end, you just have to worry about you and where you can go from here, there is no point wasting time on something you have no control over…

    And from where I am standing and watching from, you are making it through just fine, you are feeling all the feelings and working through all the stages in a healthy way, good for you my friend, it is really hard to do… xo

  7. kimberly says:

    you can see throughout the movie, “sunshine cleaning,” how rose’s mother’s decision to leave early on in her childhood (via suicide) has sharply shaped rose’s and her sister, norah’s, life. near the end of the movie, after rose faces a devastating setback, and yet continues on in the face of it, she has an out-of-the-blue, uncharacteristic, one-sided “conversation” with her mother via a CB in their family van. her actual words take less than a minute to say, but it’s all that’s needed because it pulsates with truth —
    “Oscar (rose’s son) turned eight today. We had this whole big thing at Hinkle’s. Winston came. After dinner Oscar and Norah got a high score on Centipede and put in ASS as their initials and got in trouble by the manager… I don’t know if you’re in heaven or what. But you’re not here and that’s too bad for you `cuz you’ve missed out. You’ve missed out on some really great stuff.”

    i love how she chooses to respond. victor frankl calls our response to pain a “unique opportunity,” which is empowering because while we can’t direct every situation, we at least have a choice (and responsibility) regarding how we respond. i have days where the “whys” are too present, but i find this truth encouraging and hope it encourages you as well.
    some days are long and some nights longer. but overall, and in general, the rw is truly missing out on some “really great stuff.”

    “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.”
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson


  8. Pingback: …but can you handle the truth? | that precarious gait

  9. I know……the need to know. TPG makes so many great points, that the only one for whom the reasons really mean anything is the one that left. Conversely, you (and I) saw more reasons to stay. The problem now is how much of the story is still relevent and hoe much has been changed by time, perception and the opinion of others.
    I know in my case, that even if X came out and gave me a bunch of answers tomorrow…that the story has changed so much, nothing she says has much credibility with me anymore. So, I will probably never know. I assume that many of her assumptions were false in that she chose to act on what she felt was the truth without verifying it. The few things that she has told me I find hard to swallow as they are so far from reality it boggles my mind.
    I hope for your sake and the girls sake that you get the answers and closure you seek someday.
    Peace to you

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