Once upon a time, we used to talk about everything...anything. We would talk about my family, her family, her work, our dreams and hopes, and more. Now, we have become the scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We sit and no one talks. Worse, if we do talk to each other, if we make eye contact, it turns into an awkward silence or into an argument. It makes for an unpleasant house, and it scares the heck out of my kids. That's the worst part: if there were no kids, this wouldn't be so hard. The children have to be thought about when you're ending a marriage. Both their mother and I are guilty of not doing that. We acted poorly.
The first moment I saw her as a stranger came with the death decree of our marriage. I've said it before: this has been a long time coming. We stopped being a team years ago. We worked very well on problems when people needed the Leab Team, but as a marriage, the work ethic was lax. I won't disparage her here, and I won't talk about her failures here yet, but I will say that effort was not made. As I sat in a hotel room chair furious over her behavior, I could see the wheels spinning. Instead of admitting any wrong-doing or introspecting about why her partner was upset, she admitted something we both knew: "I haven't loved you in years." Those words hurt to hear, but also weren't a surprise. Her behavior had already admitted that. And even after my father basically said goodbye to me and began his race to death, here was this woman that didn't ask me if I was ok, but was angry that I expected to be checked in with. Maybe I'm naive, but I always believed (hell, I still do) that if your life partner says, "I am in crisis right now....Please help me," you, as their partner ask, "How can I help?" When she stopped doing that, I knew we were in trouble. Her responses became, "You're an adult. Get over it."
Since the day she admitted she didn't love me, I have seen actions that made no sense. Toxic interactions between two people in flux. A lack of emotions that many people around us find puzzling. One friend told me she is going to crash, and that I have to be ready to help the kids when she does. Part of me wants to make sure that doesn't happen, but part of me also says, "This stranger is not worth being saved. She wouldn't help me, so why should I?" I hate feeling that bitter. Hate it. Yes, using the very strong word here.
As I watch this shell of my former best friend and confidant move through the world, I become angry at myself that I ever trusted her. And that's where Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind resonates with me even more. I have memories of this person I fell in love with once upon a time, but that person is long dead and gone. And to be fair, the person she fell in love with is also long dead and gone. As a friend of mine once asked me: "Think long and hard about who you think you are now. Would YOU want to come home to that?"
My soon-to-be-ex-wife is not a person I want to come home to anymore. For the last few years, I have found that my kids and I function better and feel better without her around. I would place good money she feels the same. The hard part is that I want her to be reasonable and hear me, but she can't. She absolutely can't hear me because that would mean getting in touch with emotions that I think frighten her right now. There's a great line in one of my all-time favorite movies: The Cutting Edge.
"I keep thinking...If I just keep moving and checking...I'll get clear."
I truly believe that's where she is right now. If she runs and keeps moving, she'll be fine. My fear is that eventually the emotions will catch up to her, and she'll crumble. God help my kids if she does.
So now what? Now I move on. I rebuild with a person who cares about me emotionally and wants me in her life. A person who will let me love her. I also have to learn who this new person is that is caring for my children part of the time. I don't have to like this person, but I have to learn to trust her with the two most important people in my life.
I mean, look at them...how do you not love them?
So what is my point? My point, dear reader, is that people we love or loved will change. Sometimes they will go from bonded to complete stranger hanging at the fringes of your life. Know that it can happen. Know that you will lose someone very important to you, but that you can survive and bounce back. I am...so I know you can too.