I never anticipated the most difficult part of ending a marriage. I thought for sure it would be the effect on our kids: the fear that they will struggle, the sadness they will experience, or the resentment that I will eventually be uprooting them from half of what they know in our nice little suburban small-town neighborhood life and moving them into a city of over a million people. And maybe it will be; maybe the most difficult part of this journey hasn’t even started yet and I’m fooling myself by thinking this is as bad as it will get…the 30 minute showers where I just silently sob because it’s the only time I can get it out without scaring anyone…the scream-singing commutes home as I dread walking in the door and facing that level of stress each night…the work meeting where I unexpectedly sprouted tears as we discussed summer vacation plans not because I thought I may have to work my birthday weekend (as my boss mistakenly took them) but because I realized I may be spending my birthday weekend alone this year.
No, the worst part is knowing that I’m the only one who truly knows we’re going through a year of “lasts” and it’s slowly eating me alive. It started around Christmastime last year, shortly after I came out and really let him know how unhappy I had been for so long. The truth of the matter is that over time the walls I built around myself allowed me to begin putting distance between us long before December, and I carry so much guilt that maybe I never gave him the chance to “fix” things, because I had already started considering that this would be the last Christmas we spent together. The last time we filmed our kids coming down the steps in that house on Christmas morning, the last time I spent much of Christmas Day at his mom’s peaceful old farmhouse, and the last time I get to be part of “Friendsgiving”, and event I helped start over 15 years ago, but also an event that I know I will be excluded from in the future because his brother’s family also attends.
We just scheduled a weekend trip in May with our best friends, and I know it’s probably going to be the last time we do this as a couple. What will the future look like with this? Will we both find other people and occasionally take separate trips with this couple that has been with us each for 20+ years? Will they choose sides and one of us may never get to travel with them again? This isn’t just a “normal” friendship. They have supported us through pregnancy loss; we’ve supported them through cancer. In small ways along the way, we have helped them begin and run a thriving business. Not knowing the future is terrifying, because they are truly family.
We’re planning our younger son’s 4th birthday celebration, and I already know it’s the last one that we will do as *this* family. Have we already experience my eldest son’s last birthday together? Did I miss that last? The last first day of school? The last baseball opening day? Have we been to church for the last time as a family? Was my nephew’s birthday party last weekend the last time we go to my sister’s house together? If we’re already separated by the time I go to the beach house for the first time this year, what will I do with all of his stuff there?
There’s a lovely, heartbreaking book about not knowing when your kids’ “lasts” come along until you’ve already had them…the last time they want to snuggle, the last time you put their shows on for them, the last time they ask to be rocked…it makes me cry every time. And let’s be honest, everything males me cry so that’s not shocking, but I never imagined that I would be experiencing the lasts of an 18-year relationship in much the same way.
And I don’t know what he’s feeling exactly, but on some level I know he suspects the same thing, that these are our lasts. He knows that the slim hope for reconciliation he has is just that: slim. The next month will be hard on both of us. Hard on him as he comes to terms with what I’ve known for months, and hard for me to watch him process it, even from the cool, detached, emotional distance I’ve put between us. I know we will both be okay, and I know that each of us has our own well of strength to draw upon, but I make friends easily, share easily, and allow myself to lean on others easily when they offer, and he has never been that way. He leans on me. So hard that for the long years I allowed it, it nearly pushed me into the ground. Now that I dug myself out of that and into the understanding that my faults don’t make me a faulty human, I worry which way he will fall when I remove that support beam.