Thursday, August 2, 2007

Blind and Happy in a One-sided Marriage? Never Again.

For years I spent time participating in a one-sided relationship—definitely not a balanced relationship. I supported my ex while he was in grad school; I worked all the time—days, nights and weekends. I bought a second car—a hatchback that my ex refused to drive, so I gave him my SUV. I did all the domestic work, even when we entertained large groups of his friends. Looking back, I realized that I did not mind the work. I thought that my ex's focus on his career would pay off for both of us.

Well being the hopeful and foolish person I was, my ex’s career focus helped him and not me. His salary and job potential have substantially grown at my expense. Over time, I felt like I was a second mommy for my ex so that he could grow up and become a successful person. I also felt like a fraud victim in the relationship department. Oh well!

I learned my lesson the hard way that I should not have been the one doing all the work. Even when I was pregnant with my second child, I worked full-time, took care of domestic tasks and spent time trying to diagnose my first child’s health issues. My ex just played Everquest and told me his work schedule was slow. In future relationships, I won’t be with anyone who can’t pull an equal amount of the weight in the relationship. I also refuse to be someone’s mommy. I have two babies of my own thank you.

My ex is the one who lost out though. When he gets lost taking care of himself and has the nerve to call me for advice, I won’t be there to bail him out. For example, if my ex has a late bill because he forgot to pay on time, I do not have to be there to save his credit history. Or better yet, when he's telling me he can't afford groceries because he spent his entire budget on gaming and his girlfriend, I don't use my own resourcefulness to help him eat on a budget. Not my problem anymore.

My ex will struggle for awhile and that's fine by me since he did not appreciate what I did for him during all the years we were married.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I Don't Tolerate Girlfriends on the Side

In late 2006 when I found out that my ex had a girlfriend while still married to me, I told my ex that I would not compete for him. I gave an ultimatum of the girlfriend goes or I go. At first he tried to convince me the girlfriend was out. Then he told me he needed to check on her and make sure she was okay--telling me he would then only keep out of contact for the short-term. I don't know about other people but what I am suppose to believe about someone who was running two women in his life? Hoe do I believe someone with a moving storyline? I did not sign up for marriage with a player.

The sad reality was that my ex had no idea what to do. I think he felt trapped, and he wanted his cake and wanted to eat it too. He wanted his girlfriend who lived in British Columbia. He also wanted to come home and see his kids every night, have home-cooked meals and not participate in domestic responsibility. To me he was being delusional. Maybe some women put up this nonsense, but I would rather walk away. And that's what I did.

I did try to give my ex chances. I attempted marriage counseling. I also tried to believe his lies (at least until I could find proof that he was lying). For example, while I was working one Saturday till 4 AM trying to prep a house for sale, my ex took his girlfriend on a weekend trip. He even tried calling me and asking if everything was going well. Needless to say, I hung up on him because he took a trip on a weekend where I needed his help. Initially, I had to believe his trip with a college buddy story because I had no proof. Then I started searching through his financial records because I suspected he was up to no good. Eventually I found an airline ticket receipt with the girlfriend's name. My proof caused him to recant his story, but only after he gave me hell for spying on him. In all, I gave him about eight weeks of daily chances to come clean and prove that he was sorry and wanted me alone--no girlfriends please!

I was not surprised when I told my ex he had to go. He asked for this sentence with his ongoing lies and his inability to do the right thing for me--namely, get rid of the girlfriend. Sadly, I even found him his apartment because I knew he would go for the most expensive apartment on his own and not one that he could actually afford. Even today, I still pay a few joint bills because he just spends money frivolously. An example of this is when he buys his girlfriend a present and then tells me he needs money for food. (You would think someone like my ex with an ivy-league education would have more common sense.) Someday when the legal maneuverings are over, I hope to be free of being my ex's mommy. Maybe his girlfriend can deal with being his mommy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Time To Rediscover Yourself

My first few weeks of separation are a blurry memory. I got up in the mornings and got the kids off to their activities, but after that I was depressed and locked in my own twilight zone. Most of my conversation were centered around what my ex did to me or was doing to me--like going on vacation with his girlfriend even though we were newly separated.

A few months of distance and the support of my family (and a good attorney) helped me to realize I had a chance to start over. All the things that my ex did to me were a signal to move on. Why be stuck in his world when his actions were saying he did not want me there? It was time to make a new life. Below are a few of the ideas I learned about creating a new life.

1. Rediscover Yourself. For me, the first step to creating a new life was rediscovering myself. After several years of marriage, my own concept of self had been put in a box and buried somewhere. I spent time catching up with old friends and doing activities I had forsaken in marriage because my ex was not interested. I also decided to try new things like joining a bookclub. (I know it's not skydiving, but it's a start.) I slowly have developed the life that I want. It's empowering, and i don't have to compromise with someone else.

2. Define new goals. Be sure to stretch a little. In early 2006, I left my job in software development and became a housewife. I was happy in this role and loved spending time with my kids. One year later, I was a single mom struggling to understand why my life had fallen apart. Nothing can prepare you for this event, but taking time to lay out short-term and long-term goals can significantly guide day to day activities and keep from feeling so lost. My short-term goal was to prepare for grad school, so I started studying for an awful standardized test and getting my transcripts together. It will be a year or so before I start school and I can hardly wait. This goal is tied to a loftier goal--being a successful entrepreneur. I may never be what I think of as a successful entrepreneur, but at least I have a challenge in front of me.

3. Get your financial house in order. Leaving a marriage is expensive, and costs add up fast--especially if there are lawyers involved. A new life means not splitting expenses, not contributing to one retirement account, and maybe having to get separate health insurance. The costs can be daunting if living week to week. This is a topic that is covered in depth on blogs, in books and even in some software applications. It is worth taking a substantial amount of time to investigate resources and make a budget and savings plan.

4. Build Time for Yourself into Your Schedule. I heard this advice from everyone I knew. Little did I know that taking this advice would help me the most. Doing small things like going to dinner with a friend helped me to visualize what I wanted in life.

5. Don't Rush too Quickly into Another Relationship. I devoted nearly 15 years of my life to one person. May of these years are happy memories even though my ex says he can't recall the details of our life together. Having a drastic change back to being single left me lonely and wanting companionship. I have heard therapists say that if you have multiple relationships, then you carry your experiences from one relationship to next. I have though about this advice and realized I do not want to relive the relationship with my ex. For this reason, I delayed going into other relationships until I knew what I wanted in my life and understood the behaviors I did not want to repeat in my next relationship.

I estimate it will take two to five years to get where I want to be. I am realistic about the timing so I do not lose my long-term focus. It will be a long journey and a happy one I hope.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Build a New Self. Do Not Let Rejection Rule.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today by Carlin Flora entitled "Dumped, But Not Down" and found myself thinking that my ability to move forward was partially resulted from not fixating on a failed relationship. Instead, I regularly took steps that eventually lead me to believing in a new self-image and future of possibilities.

It's not be easy to take the first few steps back into the world without a significant other, but it is possible to create a new direction. Over time, accepting a new reality may lead to better self-esteem and maybe a better outlook on life.

1. Remember That Your Are a Good Person. An important base of my self-esteem is knowing I am a good person and that I did the right thing or took the right path. In the case my marriage, I know that I tried my best and did nothing to wrong my ex. I even attempted reconciliation before calling it quits. Even when my ex was lying to me, I tried to be honest about where I stood. By doing the right thing, I have a clean conscience and know that I set a good example for my kids. To me, being a good person gave me inner strength. I hope that can hold true for others.

2. Be Honest with Yourself. When I found out that my ex was cheating, I went through receipts, emails, etc. to find evidence because my ex was never truthful with me. After I found proof, I knew exactly where I stood, my marriage stood and my ex stood. I was brutally honest with myself about the details because I knew that the chance of reconciling my marriage was slim. Then, after discovering professions of love to another woman in my ex's writings, I knew my marriage was over. I felt hurt and betrayed for months, but it was easier to move forward. Accepting the true situation made me realize I needed to take care of myself and my kids. I had a new reality of being a single mom, and I could not change this destiny.

3. Stay Optimistic, Especially on Depressing Days. Optimism is not easy, and self-help books at most will help get you started. Optimism is a state of mind that you regularly work on and live in, especially in rough times. I have read books like "The Road to Optimism: Change Your Language-Change Your Life!" by J. Mitchell Perry and "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. These books talk about different aspects of living a positive life, but I found it worth reading a few books on the subject. To get through tough this tough situation, I needed tools to cope. Positive thinking makes to road to a "recovery" easier--stay focussed on positive things in your life and do not dwell on the failed marriage. (I even read books by Ghandi and Thich Nhat Hanh to obtain different perspectives on humankind.)

4. You Still Have a Future, Just a Different One. Being separated or divorced is scary. It's a complete identity change. By accepting the singledom identity, I am learning to accept myself and my new future as a single woman and mother, just like college days--except for two young kids, a mortgage, etc. Well, it's not exactly the same, but I have gotten use to the idea. Not embraced the idea, just accepted it. I am looking at my future without my ex. He will be in the kids' lives, but not in mine.

5. If You Tried Reconciliation, Then You Gave Him or Her a Chance. Separation or divorce occurs for many reasons. If reconciliation is given an honest chance to succeed, then the outcome should not be a regret. Either the relationship works or it does not. Either way, an honest try should make both parties involved feel like there was a genuine effort to make things work. In my case, my ex went to marriage counseling and attempted to reconcile while keeping his girlfriend on the side. He lied when I asked him to drop the girlfriend, and he lied when he said he would not give her anymore gifts or money. To me, his dishonesty gave me no choice but to separate. I did however make my ex say he wanted a separation because there was no way he was going to come back years later and say I was the one who wanted a separation. I know this sounds hokey, but this happened to my friend's mother. I gave my ex a chance, but I do not think he wanted to reconcile. I gave my ex a chance and feel that separation was the right thing. I have no guilt or regrets.

It's difficult to accept a new identity and future path. Losing a marriage is a blow to self-esteem and can be a difficult hurdle to jump when re-building self-esteem. Fixating on what was lost however will not make the future any easier to accept. Taking small steps to re-build an identity and a different life will pay off over time. If there are kids, they will see this and learn from this example.

NOTE: I saw a therapist after I was separated. I had to watch my spending and could not go frequently, but the therapist helped me understand my situation. Therapists and support groups are amazing resources in times of need.

Coping with a Dying Marriage

Just a short time ago, my children and my ex were the center of my universe. I did not mind living in this limited world because these were the people I loved. When my ex became addicted to Everquest (EQ2) and started an affair with someone from Everquest, I was shocked. I knew my ex was depressed, but I had no idea how far astray he went from our life.

Through a two-and-a-half month period of trying to unsuccessfully reconcile with him, I was in so much pain that I knew I needed to make changes. He lied about dropping his affair and lied to his family and friends about his actions. He did nothing to change. For this reason, I decided to separate.

At first, I lost a few pounds, and my asthmatic symptoms were more frequent. I cried too much and knew I was grieving for lost marriage. I had the kids 95% of the time, so they at least kept me going.

My ex was callous about my feelings and was only concerned with himself. Talking to him about my feelings was not working. There was a wall I could not break. Our conversations were circular.

I ended up talking to my mom, my sister and a few good friends. My initial conversations focussed on what happened and was it possible to save my marriage. After e few weeks, the conversations shifted to how do I take care of myself and my kids without my ex. I switched my focus because I was going nowhere with my ex. It became a matter of self-preservation.

Leaving my marriage and starting over is the hardest thing thing I have ever done. I did not feel there was any other choice given my ex was continuing his affair. I also felt that I wanted my kids to have healthier relationship models in their lives. Having a father who cheats and spends all his free time at a computer is not a good role model in any marriage. I also left for myself. I knew that I was worthy of a better relationship. I am a good person with much to offer, so why should I be with someone who does not appreciate me or who verbally abuses me?

I am scared about the future and of being alone the rest of my life. I only wanted to be in a loving relationship where I am equal to and appreciated by my spouse. I only know that having no relationship is better than an abusive or neglectful relationship. I am worth more than that.