“There’s things I remember and things I forget / I miss you, I guess that I should / Three thousand five hundred miles away / But what would you change if you could?” — Raining in Baltimore
Fourteen years ago, we met when I gave her a wedgie in the middle of our high school Chemistry class. Ten years ago, we were married on the first hot day of summer in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony. Nine years ago, we became parents with the birth of our daughter. Five years ago, our son came into the world. Three years ago, we nearly split up, but with marital counseling we were able to work out our differences and start getting along again. One year ago, we moved from beautiful, sunny California to the rain-drenched trenches of Seattle. This morning, after all of the laughter, tears, stress, and joy of a relationship that has spanned half of our lives, Sarah and I have parted ways.
For those who know us personally, what can I even say? In the early years of our marriage, I had a lot of emotional baggage leftover from one particular ex-girlfriend. Part of me resented Sarah because I felt like we got married before we, or rather, I, was ready to. She saw me pushing away, and responded by clinging on, which only made me push away even more. We started fighting all the time.
Sarah became depressed. I became moody and irritable. I asked her to move out, then relented. We went to marriage counseling and somehow managed to work things out. I learned how to set aside my baggage and simply love Sarah for who she was. Sarah learned how to communicate with me in a way I could understand and provide the personal space that an introvert like me needs to have. Our relationship did a 180. But the seeds were already sewn.
Our interests diverged until we no longer had anything in common. Sure we liked movies, but completely different kinds of movies. We liked different kinds of music. When we would go out, we could never agree on what we wanted to eat or what we wanted to do. We stopped spending time together. We fell out of love.
Sure, we got along just fine, we never really fought anymore, and we certainly made great friends and roommates, but it takes more than that to keep a marriage together. Honestly, I believe that the reason why we stayed together for as long as we did was that we both really wanted it to work out. We wanted to stay together. We wanted to be happy. But we weren’t.
Stay together for the kids
I don’t believe in the notion of staying together for the kids. I believe it’s an excuse that lazy people come up with to avoid moving out of their comfort zone. “Sure I’m unhappy, but it would be too much work to split up. Let’s just stay together for the kids.” Baloney.
Children learn what a healthy relationship is by watching their parents. If the parents don’t have a healthy relationship, the kids will grow up thinking that married couples aren’t supposed to be happy. Is that really what you want to teach your kids? Not me. Sure there will be some near-term pain for everybody involved, but over the longer term, your kids might actually have the chance to learn what a healthy relationship is. That’s what I want my kids to see.
I wish my parents had split up years ago. I know that it’s a strange thing to wish, but I grew up with parents that didn’t (and still don’t) know how to communicate effectively with each other. My parents were separated for most of my growing-up years, but the years they’ve spent together have been so dysfunctional that I wish they’d just broken up and married people they actually got along with.
They just recently re-separated after being together again for about 15 years. My brother is angry about it, while my sister and I are surprised it’s taken this long. We’re used to the dysfunctionality. I wish that we weren’t.
Sarah and I are determined to stay friends throughout all of this. We’re working out how to split things up fairly, and we’re splitting time with the kids 50-50. We plan to live in the same city as each other so that the school situation works out. We’re able to sit down and have rational discussions about our future apart from each other. We’re not mad, depressed, or even resigned from each other. We care about each other, but we recognize that we’re better off apart. It’s that simple.
I would wager that this is the most amicable split in recorded history. We don’t hate each other like most couples do when they split — quite the opposite actually. The best way I can describe our relationship is that we’re bonded for life. We still love and care about each other, even if we’re no longer in-love with each other.
I can’t help but think of the song “Good Life” by Frances Dunnery. I’ve been listening to it, along with the rest of my Depressing Music playlist, for the past several hours.
Softly now / You owe it to the world / And everyone knows that you’re my favorite girl / But there’s some things in life that are not meant to be / I’m not meant for you and you’re not meant for me / Here’s to our problems / And here’s to our fights / Here’s to our achings / And here’s to you having a Good life / From Me
Softer now / You owe it to yourself / And don’t think that you will be left on the shelf / Cause there’s someone for you and there’s someone for me / Like me you’ll meet them eventually / Here’s to your lover / And here’s to my wife / Here’s to your children and here’s to you having a good life / From Me
I honestly don’t know where things are going to go from here. Sarah is a smart, wonderful, talented woman who will continue to play an important role in my life for quite some time. I wish nothing but happiness for her, and look forward to the day when she meets someone who makes her eyes sparkle the same way they used to sparkle for me all those years ago.