December 16, 2016

Together

The timing of his remorse is not at all surprising. He didn't say anything about regret or wanting differently for a year and a half while we were divorcing - coincidentally, for that year and a half, he was living with family members, enjoying a social life without restriction, going to the movies, attending football and baseball games. In the last month and a half, though, he's been brought back down to earth. Now, on top of a hefty monthly child support payment (and five-figures of debt for 18 months of retroactive payments for which I argued and fought hard), he's finally back to living on his own - with all the expenses that come with that.

He's never lived on his own, completely. He had a roommate when I met him, then we moved in together, and then we were three. Not everyone enjoys this particular solitude, and I think for him, it has less to do with his extroversion and more with responsibility. He's never been fully responsible for anything, including himself - there's always been someone to share the load, to help carry the burdens. Even if it was just a roommate who divided expenses and cleaned up once in a while - it was help.

And right now (and rightly so) - he's feeling helpless.

He called Noah infrequently while he was moving and settling in, mostly talking about the expense of furnishing a place from scratch (as if his three-year-old understood or cared). A few nights ago even, he called to talk to his son but spent most of his time asking me questions about how to cook.

This is an almost 30-year-old man who doesn't know how to bake chicken. I feel almost guilty, like I need to help him, because I've enabled him to get this far without knowing. (Because, you know, continuing to enable is the right response...) Cooking was something I always took care of - even when I was working full time and he was staying home with the baby, I'd come home and cook a dinner from scratch. It was our deal when we were dating - I cook, he cleans - and I didn't mind it for the most part, though it certainly would have been nice to come home one day to a meal he made - it didn't need to be fancy, even spaghetti with sauce from a jar would've been one meal I didn't have to cook after a long day at work.

Right before Thanksgiving dinner, I was sitting with a friend of Matt's - they'd grown up across the street from each other and despite countless differences, have maintained a good friendship. Mike is the kind of guy I wished Matt would pursue as a role model: he didn't always have his life together, but he knew how things could've ended up, and he worked hard to choose a different path. Matt was there too, and as we talked about Mike's applications to pharmacy school, Matt mentioned something about how he used to be smart but isn't anymore - and Mike (who isn't afraid to tell anything like it is) called him out on it. It's not that you're not smart, he said. It's that you don't want to do the work.

Later that night, in my suite alone with Matt, he made a separate comment that I wish I'd connected as soon as it was made. He was saying that he didn't think he'd ever be in another relationship, and that he'd had a conversation with his youngest brother where he said the family was "cursed" as far as relationships go, and it infuriated his brother.

It was such a dizzying conversation - I'd also just heard him say he wasn't sure getting divorced was the right decision - so I wasn't as sharp or quick as I usually am. But the next day, with hours and hours of flights and driving time back to South Carolina, I got to really, finally process it all, and try to make sense of it. Matt is a really smart guy - when he chooses to be. The capacity is there, the ability is there - it's just very selective drive. And that was frustrating to me, as his wife and partner, to see such wasted potential.

When Mike wanted to go back to college, he asked me to proofread his application letter. I looked over papers and essays for different classes, and I reviewed and sent notes on his application to pharmacy school. It was a process of several years, lots of work, and plenty of sacrifice - but now he is on the path that he wants for his life.

And I look at Matt, and I look at our relationship, and I put it all together. It's not that he's "cursed," as he put it. It's that relationships are hard work, and he didn't want to put forth the effort. It's hard to be married and make sacrifices and adapt and share. It's fun to celebrate together, but it's not all celebrating - you have to also be there for the struggles, for grieving, for challenges. As soon as it got challenging, he gave up. And that's the most painful part of processing this all: trying as hard as I can to silence the voice in my head that screams you weren't enough for him to want to stay - you weren't worth the work - what you had wasn't worth fighting for.

It's hard to overcome that feeling of not being enough. It's something I've fought my entire life, from my family to my friendships to my career to my romantic relationships, and even now as a mom. I never, ever feel like I'm enough, even when people promise and reassure me that I'm everything that they need, and more.

I'm still unsure of what happens next after our Thanksgiving conversation, and I'm a bit nervous already thinking of our next holiday: the language of our divorce paperwork has Noah with me through Christmas, and with Matt the day after through New Years. After how Thanksgiving unfolded, and since we're mostly getting along right now ... he'll be spending Christmas with us.

Together.

My family doesn't know this. I don't know if his family knows this. Our son doesn't even know this. It's part surprise for Noah, and part me not wanting to hear what anyone else in my family will certainly have to say on the subject. I didn't tell most of them about the conversation Thanksgiving night, and the responses I did get were exactly what I expected: he's insincere, and even if he isn't - it's too little, too late.

I know him better than anyone, and I know he was sincere in many the things he said - but I also know that he's still got so much maturing to do, so much more that he needs to make his own peace with. My heart is really, really struggling to make peace with the events of the last few years. And I don't expect one or two conversations to change everything - but at least they're the start of something, right?

That Thanksgiving conversation is still so raw. I need to know what he meant, even if it hurts.

God, what a mess.

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