Why I Went to Disney World With My Ex-Husband

“Are you nuts??!?!” This seems to be the standard question from everyone in my life recently. In fact, the texts and DMs haven’t stopped pouring in. We are now just past two weeks since returning from the Disney trip heard ‘round the world.

Over 50,000 people visit Disney World each and every day – so why did my trip, the one I took with my four-year-old daughter and her dad, matter SO damn much?

Oh, right, because we’re divorced – and divorced parents don’t often make family pilgrimages to the happiest place on earth together. At least not these divorced parents.

My daughter’s father and I separated just days after she turned two – a split that may not have shocked some, but nonetheless rattled our worlds. Once the proverbial shit hit my South Florida ceiling fan, lawyers stepped in to create nauseatingly detailed rules of co-parenting engagement. While we figured out schedules, number of overnights, vacation breakdowns, who-pays-for-what, and all of the other complexities of divorce with kids – one issue simply couldn’t be solved:

Who would take the kid to Disney first?

This may seem like a real ridiculous riddle to solve to some of you, but as residents of Florida, the home of the Happiest Place on Earth, it’s not unlikely for parents to start taking their children for some Disney magic fresh out of the womb. By the time Bella had turned three, some of her friends had been there multiple times, and she would come home from school bummed that she hadn’t yet had her way with a few fast passes and some Minnie Mouse ears. The only answer I could muster up, time and time again, was the promise of a trip in the future – even though I knew damn well it would be a lot more difficult to figure out than that.

But I get it – no parent wants to miss out on their only child’s first trip to the magic of the Magic Kingdom and everything else that goes along with it.

Michelle Dempsey

When the realization that my four-year-old wasn’t getting any younger and that this princess obsession of hers would eventually make way for more grown-up things, I knew it was time to take the leap. Before I knew it, I had planned the trip of a lifetime.

The trip of a lifetime with my ex-husband in tow.

Before I get down to business here, I’ll tell you a little bit more about my ex-husband and I, so you can understand why everyone in the world seems so blown away by the notion that we spent three days together. We’re not the co-parents from the movies, who lovingly wish each other well on a daily basis. We’re not the co-parents hanging out for the sake of hanging out.

We are not that at all.

But I knew in my heart of hearts that it was time to be – or at least try to be, for that matter. That this wall of tension between us needed to come down – not for me, but for our daughter.

So, with our pride in our back pockets and Disney magic bands on our wrists, my ex-husband, my four-year-old, and I, hopped in the car – the same car – for the long haul up to Orlando. My sweet daughter, so fixated on the fact that her parents were in the same car with her, never even bothered to question us about our destination – a clear indication that us being together was enough to satisfy her soul. Having not sat in a car with my ex-husband at the wheel for well over two years, the emotions were real – for both of us.

It started out tense. Uncomfortable. Frantic. Tension from so many unsaid things. Uncomfortable because, well, this was no longer our norm. Frantic because we were frantically grasping at straws for normalcy, trying to reignite a friendly rapport for the sake of the innocent child we brought into this world, sitting behind us and observing our every move.

Nearly four hours later, the “Welcome to Disney World” sign appeared. My daughter knew instantly what the surprise was. Her dramatically adorable reaction had us both in hysterics; half-tears, half-laughter and with one look of the excitement in her eyes, the walls came down, and we were ready to tackle happiest place on earth. Because even though the happiness between us had ended, the love we once had for each other produced the most important thing in our lives – her. And her happiness is what we care most about now.

I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is no, we did not stay in the same hotel room. We didn’t even stay in the same hotel, though Bella emphatically asked if we could both put her to bed on our vacation. We kept this part separate, though, because confusing our child was not our goal – showing her harmony was.

Was it a perfect trip? No. Was it easy? Not at all. Were there moments when we were both reminded of why we’re better off apart? Absolutely.

But, would I relive this experience again?

Yes.

Yes, because she deserved it. She deserved a once-in-a-lifetime experience with both of her parents, even if we don’t both tuck her in to bed together anymore.

The post Why I Went to Disney World With My Ex-Husband appeared first on Scary Mommy.

15 Things Your Divorced Friends Want You To Know

We were all once like you. We once had a spouse and kids. We had a family. Maybe it was picture-perfect but was wrecked by an affair or betrayal. Maybe it was never as perfect behind closed doors as it looked on Instagram. Maybe it was always a hot mess and everyone knew it.

But, regardless, we had what you have, and now our family is no longer the same. It has changed. Our lives have changed.

One of the hardest things about joining the Divorced Wives Club is that it can be isolating. Whether our old friends just feel like they can’t relate, if they think divorce is contagious (it’s not), or if they think all newly single friends want their spouses (we don’t), many of our married friends seem to disappear.

I choose to think it’s just hard for some of our married friends to understand this new phase in our lives. Maybe they have questions they’re afraid will be uncomfortable for us to answer. Maybe they don’t understand why we’re only available at odd times (every other weekend we are all in, but the once-perfect Thursday nights are now out). Maybe they think they’re hurting us by talking about their husbands or being invited to family events.

Anyhow, I’m hoping this list may clear a few things up.

1. We are worried that our kids will be treated differently.

Our kids have been through a lot, and we know it. Many of us carry guilt about not making our relationship work, even if we did all that we could. We have to answer questions that our kids have, hear them complain about going back and forth between parents, and see them miss out on events because they are with the other parent on that weekend.

We, just like all parents, just want our kids to be healthy and happy.

Our kids know that a lot of their friends have parents who are married. They know they are different.

Anything you could do to include our children, to treat them as you did before the divorce, would be so appreciated by us.

2. Being divorced/separated is not the same thing as having a traveling spouse.

While I personally have had a traveling husband, and I know how difficult that is, it is not the same as being divorced or a single mom. If you happen to suggest as much or call yourself a “single mom” because your husband is gone for a few days or a week, just be aware that you are probably offending a single mom you know. I know you probably mean nothing by it, but while you may run the household alone, you do still have someone to do life with. True single moms do not.

That being said, I personally think that being a divorced mom holding down the fort at home is a bit easier than having a traveling husband in some ways. When I was married and my husband would come home on the weekends, he would kind of rock the boat of everything we had going on. Sleep schedules, routines, meals, etc. would be thrown out of whack. Also, I felt like I had to clean like a madwoman every Friday before he got home. AND I still missed out on some girls nights, etc. when he was traveling because a sitter was so expensive. So, while you aren’t a “single mom” while your man is out of town, that doesn’t mean that it is easy or that you have nothing to complain or be frustrated about. Just know that particular phrase tends to get under some single moms’ skin.

3. Unless you got married less than 5 years ago, your dating advice is old school. But we still love it when you try to talk dating with us.

We LOVE that you care about our dating life (if we are talking to you about it…unsolicited questions are not so welcome). It’s nice to have someone to talk to about that cute guy we met or the last date we went on. But wow! How times have changed! Not only is dating in general totally different with dating apps galore, but dating with kids is light-years different than dating without them.

Just remember, we are trying to figure out this new dating world too and may make some mistakes along the way. If you can just reserve a bit of judgment and try to be encouraging, that would be great! And, yes, we do appreciate all of your advice…we just might not take it.

Also, the phrase “I’m so glad I don’t have to date these days!” is probably meant as a way to relate, but it can kind of sting. Most of us aren’t exactly thrilled to have to go out into the dating world the second time around.

4. Complaining about your spouse to us may be a bad idea.

There are three types of divorced women:

TYPE ONE: The well-adjusted ones who are not bitter and who want to hear everything about your life. You can have an occasional vent session with these girls and they are not offended or bothered in the least (I fall under this category). But not every divorced woman is there yet.

TYPE TWO: The ones who are hurting. Complaining to these friends about your husband is like complaining about your kids or pregnancy to someone who just had a miscarriage or is dealing with infertility. Unless you know for sure your friend can handle your vent sesh, try to be sensitive to her feelings. While you may be pissed that your husband didn’t take out the trash last night, your divorced mom friend has been taking it out by herself every single time since her husband walked out.

TYPE THREE: The bitter ones. These should be easier to spot. If your friend is a little too gleeful of your irritation with your husband, and especially if she encourages separation or divorce, stay away from her. She is toxic to your marriage. A good friend (married or not) would suggest counseling or reconciliation if you are having issues. I personally hope my married friends have life-long and happy marriages! If your friend isn’t on your marriage’s team, drop them.

5. Please don’t leave us out now that we’re single.

We want to be invited on that girl’s trip or to the family cookout. We miss you. Our kids miss your kids.

I was so thankful for those friends who still invited me to things after I was divorced. A few of my friends truly made me feel as if nothing had changed. They still invited me to adult events where couples were, and to be honest, since the guys usually hang out with the guys and vice versa, I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. We were still invited to family parties and cookouts and events. They made me feel normal. They made my kids feel normal.

I also had other friends who no longer invited me. It was as if since I was a little different, I wasn’t welcome. Or maybe they thought that I would feel uncomfortable, so instead of leaving the decision of whether to attend up to me, they made the decision for me. Either way, it hurt. It made me feel weird, out of place, and alienated.

So, if you are on the fence about whether to invite us or not, please invite us. We’ll make an excuse if it feels too uncomfortable, but we will appreciate the invite all the same.

Oh, and another thing…if you go to church, invite us to sit beside you on Sunday. It can be weird to get used to sitting alone at a service where almost everyone seems to have someone with them.

6. We may have changed, but we still have things in common with you.

I know that having a husband is a big part of your life, and it used to be a big part of ours. But even though we no longer have that in common, we still have other things that we share with you.

After all, we still have kids and all that comes with that. Most of us probably originally became friends over our kids anyway…that’s what moms do.

Plus, even though we are no longer wives, we are still women. We still love neighborhood events, shopping, dancing, trying new restaurants, laughing over a glass of wine, girls trips, etc. Whatever we did with you before, we still love now! We can still be friends.

7. We try to make the most of our “free weekends.”

For those of us who have our children every other weekend, that time is precious to us! I know that I personally have my kids 80% of the time. That means that 80% of the time, I do it all. I don’t have anyone to pick up the slack or to pass the kids off to if I need a break. On the flipside, I’m totally alone 20% of the time. No kids. Not as many responsibilities  So, in that 20% of the time, I try to do the majority of my socializing, dating, etc. as well as catch up on housework and my to-do list. There is nothing worse to me than a wasted “free” weekend. So, if you do have a weekend free when you would like to have some girl time: grab brunch, get a little pampering, etc., call up your divorced mom friend. If it is her free weekend, she would probably love nothing more than to have some time with you.

8. But when we are with our kids, we don’t want to leave them.

I cannot tell you how many times I have said no to a kid-free event on a weekday or a weekend when I have my kids. Yes, I need a break. Yes, the 12 days straight with my kids without having help can drive me insane. But I work full-time. I spend most of my evenings shuttling kids to afterschool activities. When I have time to spend with my kids, I want to hang out with them. I DO know I need time for myself and so once in awhile I will do something for me, but don’t get offended if I say no, even if I have someone to babysit.

The worst part of becoming a divorced mom is that almost every single MNO takes place on a Thursday, no matter what it is: Bunco, Book Clubs, Wine Nights, etc. It’s hard to justify getting a babysitter for a Thursday night when my kids are going to their dad’s for the weekend the next day.

9. Our kids are going to miss important events because they are with their dad, and we hate it.

My kids have missed out on a lot when they were with their dad. Even though he and I co-parent very well together, he lives three hours away. Which means that my girls miss a lot of birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates, and other events.

Our kids are sad to miss out and we are sad that they have to miss out. But don’t stop inviting them. They may be able to make it next time.

10. Our stress level is high.

Oh what I wouldn’t give sometimes to have someone to share the load with. If anything, I think I miss that the most.

Just someone who could watch the kids while I run to the store. Or who could unload the dishwasher. Or do the nighttime routine so I could just have a little break. Someone who could help with taking the kids to their afterschool activities. Someone who could be there with the kids so I could run out to a girls’ night without feeling guilty about it. Someone to share paying the bills. Someone to take over with discipline when I’m burned out. Someone to back me up when the kids want to keep arguing with me.

It is stressful doing it all on our own.

And on top of that, we are the breadwinner in our family. And we’re worried about our children’s well-being. And we’re trying to make sure our kid doesn’t miss out, because they already miss out on having both mom and dad there in their home together like all of their friends whose parents are still married have.

And if we’re dating too….oh boy. Have you seen the people on those dating apps? Remember how stressful and nervous you were to go on a date in college when all of your girlfriends were there helping you get ready and sharing in the experience with you?

Well, now it’s just as nerve-wracking, but you’re getting ready on your own, and most of your friends can’t really relate because they have been married for eons. Plus, if you end up going on a date when the kids are with you, you’re trying to get your kids settled with a sitter and battling “mama guilt” before you head out.

So yeah, it’s stressful. And it never ends.

11. We are exhausted.

I’m not 100% saying that I am “having a newborn at home” exhausted, but I’d say I’m pretty close to that most of the time.

Look at everything I listed in #10.

My days are spent:

– Getting kids up for school, packing my child’s Gluten-free & dairy free lunch, getting myself ready for work

– Going to work for 8 hours

– Rushing (always rushing) to pick up my kids from daycare and the sitter’s to get them to dance (one of them dances or tumbles every day).

–  We get home. I cook dinner. Because not only is it expensive to eat out all the time (and out of budget), but my oldest can’t have gluten or dairy, so I have to make special meals for her.

– After dinner we: practice dance/stretch/sometimes watch a tv show/play basketball/walk to the park on our one early dance day.

– We do bedtime routine/devotion/prayer/my youngest begs me to sleep with her. I try not to fall asleep and give myself a time-limit on how long I will stay. I stay about 30 mins longer than I tell her I will. She still cries when I leave.

– I do dishes and laundry and clean if I can muster the energy. Or I fall asleep in bed with my clothes on. Or I have already fallen asleep in bed with my youngest and stumble to my bed in the middle of the night.

–  I set my alarm to do the same thing the next day.

While not every divorced mom shares my exact schedule or circumstances, almost all of us have one thing in common: We are trying to be everything to everyone, while trying our best to support our kids and help them have the best childhood possible. All with no partner to help.

And, yes, those of us who have every other weekend off can sometimes catch up on sleep on that off weekend.  But we’re also so busy making the most of the that time (we have so much to do to get caught up around the house) that if we DO catch up on sleep and rest, we are behind a day when the kids come back.

12. When the kids come back after a weekend with their dad, it’s hard.

So, picture what it’s like when the kids spend the weekend with Grandma and then you get them back. We all know about that “adjustment period” right? Well, for many of us divorced moms, we deal with that every other week.

When kids see dad only every other weekend, they tend to get a little spoiled at his house. I’m not faulting the dads for that. It’s just that…when you don’t have to actually be a parent to your child every single day, you can let things slide. You want to make the most of the time the child is with you, and you want for the visit to be a great experience. It makes sense, and I would probably feel the same way if I were in an “every other weekend” dad’s position.

My kids definitely have different rules at their dad’s. There’s more candy and sweets, a lot more screen time, and no responsibilities. My youngest sleeps with her dad (she is very cuddly), which makes it SUPER fun when she comes home and wants me to lay with her until she falls asleep.

Very doable two weekends a month. Not practical or feasible when I have to use the time after the kids are in bed to get the house in order.

13. We are on a tight budget.

No matter what kind of lifestyle we had when we were married, no matter whether we have gone back to work or if we get child support, we are probably on a tighter budget than we were when we were married.

I had a sweet friend once who was trying to help me house hunt. She told me that the house down the street from her (in our old neighborhood) was for sale. While I could have afforded that house when I was married (and I do receive child support and have a great job), I couldn’t move into the same type of house that I’d had before my divorce. Some may be able to fund a similar lifestyle, but most of us have had our budget take a bit of a hit.

14. We can do it all (almost). But sometimes we do need some help.

We are strong. We can do almost anything.

Since my divorce, I have learned to kill bugs, conquered my fear of being in a house alone, started paying all the bills by myself, taken up every household chore…

But when you or your kids are sick with something major, you never wish you were still married more.

When I had the flu, my friends dropped off soup, crackers, tea, and medicine to me. When my daughter had the stomach bug and I couldn’t leave, my friends dropped off Gatorade, Pedialyte, and saltines. While we don’t want to be pitied, and we can do a lot on our own, there are just some times when we need some help.

There are also some household issues that I can’t tackle alone. A friend sent her husband to help me hang a light in my house. My brother-in-law checked out my car when it was acting funny to see what was wrong. My dad and boyfriend helped me put the furniture together in my house. Even though we have to do almost everything alone, it is nice to have a little help when we need it.

15. Please don’t trash our ex-spouse or get involved in the drama of our divorce.

We all have our moments when we want to vent about our ex, but it isn’t healthy for us to dwell on the past or on his bad traits.

I know you may have things you want to say about our former spouse, especially if you didn’t like him or the way he treated us, but please don’t use our time hanging out as a trash session. Also, please never say anything negative about our child’s dad in front of the children! After all, no matter what you think of him, he is still the father of his children, and they love him. They don’t need to know everything their father has done wrong, just as we don’t want them to know everything that we could have done differently.

If you get too involved in the divorce drama, you aren’t going to be able to be supportive of a healthy co-parenting relationship (which is best for the children and all involved). Your negative behavior could even cause us issues in court as most custody agreements include a clause about disparaging remarks made about either parent in front of the children.

Instead of bashing, keep our mindset positive and help us find solutions to our problems. Encourage us to make some time for us (maybe even offer to watch the kids for a bit so we can relax). Remind us to keep our eye on the prize of a healthy co-parenting relationship so our kids can be healthy and happy! That is what we really need…even if we don’t realize it!

As an added bonus, if you don’t get overly involved in the negativity, you can treat our ex kindly if you see him at a band concert or dance recital without feeling weird and awkward, which is a win-win!

The Verdict

Even though some things in our lives have changed, your friendship is still valuable to us. Don’t give up on our friendship or shy away just because you don’t understand exactly what our lives are like now. I hope this post helps those married mamas who are having a difficult time relating to their newly divorced friends, but if you are having a hard time connecting to an old friend who has gone through this huge life change, just ask her about her life now. She may be dealing with the same things as me, or she may have other challenges, but either way, the path to understanding begins with open dialogue.

I’d like to thank those friends of mine who have been there for me through all of the changes in my life, who have never ceased to include me, and who always made my kids and I feel like part of the group. I love you.

The post 15 Things Your Divorced Friends Want You To Know appeared first on Scary Mommy.

The Privilege Of Divorcing With Money

I just moved into a new house. It’s an old 3-bedroom cottage, very small, but perfectly adequate to shelter me and my two daughters. I put 25% down so my interest rate is low. My mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, is under $800 per month.

The reason I bought this new little house is because my ex and I recently sold our family home as part of our divorce. My new house is much smaller than the brick colonial we shared as a family, and the yard is almost nonexistent. It’s not very impressive, honestly. It is one of the many ways in which I have had to adjust to doing with less.

Except…

This doesn’t feel like an adjustment for me, at least, not financially. I don’t feel that I have “less.” I feel rich. I feel rich because I finally get to live my truth as an out gay woman. I even feel materially rich, money rich, the kind of rich we usually think of when we use the word “rich.” Because when my ex-husband and I split up, there was a decent-sized pile of money between us that got split up too. And another pile of money when we sold the house. So now I have this modest house with low monthly expenses, and I still have a retirement account.

I feel equal parts grateful and guilty about this.

I’m grateful because, for a long time, when I tried to picture life on my own as an out gay woman, I assumed… well, honestly, I assumed I wouldn’t ever be able to have a life on my own. Not for a very long time anyway. I thought I was trapped in my heterosexual marriage even though I’d been certain for years that I was gay. I’d been a stay-at-home-mom for over a decade, with modest income earned in the spaces between maintaining a house and caring for two children, and no savings in my own name. I knew the laws in my state divided marital property in half, and I knew all the work I’d done for my family had value, but for some reason I imagined that none of that would apply to me. I imagined that if I were to leave, I would leave with nothing.

I’d looked at apartments and knew I couldn’t afford to rent—at $1,500 per month for a run down three-bedroom, my meager and inconsistent freelancer income couldn’t be trusted to cover rent plus bills every month. But I couldn’t afford to buy a home either, because what bank would give a loan to a freelancer who didn’t have a down payment? I would need to save up. A lot. It would be years before I could get out and feel financially stable.

It wasn’t until I jokingly brought up the topic with a recently divorced friend that I learned I had a way out. “Um,” she said, “that’s not actually how things work.”

So, when my husband I divorced, I left with enough cash that I could put money down on a new house. Yes, it is a small house, with Formica countertops and outdated avocado-green bathrooms, nowhere near as nice as the house my ex and I sold as part of our divorce settlement. But it is a place for me to be with my daughters, a place where we can be comfortable and safe, a place where I can start over as an authentic version of myself. I am free.

I feel guilty about this freedom. I can’t stop thinking of all the stay-at-home parents trapped in marriages for financial reasons or left near penniless after a breakup. Last year, desperate for advice on how to help my daughters through this stressful time, I joined a divorcing moms support group on Facebook. But instead of advice for how to help my daughters, what I found were thousands of women frantic for advice on how to make ends meet as they clawed their way out of broken marriages.

And that is in a group of women who are already divorced or separated. I know I’m not seeing the thousands upon thousands who are simply trapped, who believe they have no way out. Financially, even with 50/50 laws in so many states, many partners are unable to leave their spouses even though they know the marriage is over. For many couples, 50/50 is irrelevant because there simply isn’t anything to split. They may have been on a tight budget, living paycheck to paycheck, for years. Their spouse may have been irresponsible with money, spending frivolously, wasting the safety net that might have been.

For stay-at-home parents who have been out of the job market because they agreed with their spouse that staying home would be best for the family, their employment prospects are grim. They look at the job market, at the low-paying jobs where they have a chance of being hired, and they do the math. For what they’d need monthly to survive, even if they received child support, there isn’t any way to make the money stretch. They’re stuck.

I know I am incredibly lucky. It has been a hard year, but I am grateful every day that I had the financial means to free myself. And I’m fortunate that I possess a skill that allows me to bring in money despite having been out of the job market for so long. Living frugally allows me some freedom, but even with cutting corners everywhere I can, money is still incredibly tight. But I couldn’t have made this move without the money I walked away with from my marriage. I know I am the exception, not the rule.

If you know someone going through divorce, offer to help. Odds are, they are struggling financially. Offer to carpool, invite them for dinner. And remember that emotional support is needed as much as financial support.

And for those of you financially trapped in your marriage, please know there are ways out even with little to no money. I’ve witnessed women in my support group fight their way out of toxic marriages and make it on their own and thrive. Happier with less because they are free and independent. This is the harder way though, no doubt—those who manage this are climbing an invisible mountain. Just please know that I see you, I see the mountain you are climbing, and I am amazed by your strength.

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As A Divorced Mom, I Won’t Leave My Teens Home Alone To Go Out

For the past two years I’ve lost a big thing in my life: the privilege of spending every morning and evening with my kids.

Once upon a time, our family would all sit around the dining room table, filling out five of the six chairs around it, talking about our day and getting frustrated with each other because I expected table manners where my kids wanted to eat pasta with their hands and bust ass at the table.

Then I’d clean up while my children sat at the kitchen island doing their homework and we’d watch mind-numbing television together after arguing if we were going to watch Wheel of Fortune or Seinfeld reruns.

Sometimes we’d go snowshoeing out back or walk the dog.

There were nights when I’d lie on the sofa and read while my ex-husband took the kids outside to play basketball.

I got to physically be with my children every night, hear them brushing their teeth and come to life a bit too much for my liking at bedtime. After several threats, I’d tuck them in and kiss them five times even though they told me once was enough. Then I’d reach for the door behind me, taking one last look at them for the day.

Every morning they were here. I’d get to walk down the hall and annoy them with my love for early mornings as I greeted them in a silly voice — something they used to love when they were younger.

As they’ve gotten older, I still do this, but now I’m met with grunts and groans. They get annoyed with me as I open their curtains and tell them they have 15 minutes to get their butts outta bed and ask what they want for breakfast. I’d give them a little “mom pep talk,” reminding them to make sure they enjoy this morning because the day will be what they make it.

But now, three nights a week, the house is quiet. The chairs are empty. The kitchen island isn’t littered with pencils, paper, or laptops. There isn’t a sink full of dishes to wash and I don’t get irritated and feel claustrophobic when the while family tries to fit in the kitchen.

There’s no fighting over the television. The basketball sits in the garage and there are nights when the silence hurts my ears bad so bad I can’t read.

I wake up in the morning and head straight downstairs without looking down the hall because if I don’t look, maybe I won’t feel the emptiness behind the doors so much.

My social life has gotten busy since my divorce. I believe in living out my second chapter to its fullest. I deserve it, and my kids can’t be everything because damn, that’s a lot of pressure.

But when they are with me, on the nights they are mine, I decline all other invitations.

Yes, they are old enough to be alone — they are all teenagers. And they would probably be relieved to have me out of their face for a night or two.

But nothing is more important than me being with them on the nights they are under my roof.

Some people look at me sideways when I tell them I’m not going to a certain event, I can’t attend girls’ night, or I decline a date. I don’t judge single parents who do get sitters on the nights they have their kids, and I’d like the same respect when I choose to stay in with mine.

“They are old enough to be alone, right? You can’t leave them for a few hours?” they say.

And my answer is no. No, I can’t leave my kids on the nights they are with me because I don’t want to.

In no time, they will be packing up their rooms and heading off on their own.

But not yet. Now, they are with me four nights a week and I intend to take full advantage of that. I can’t get that time back with them. And honestly, I’m sacrificing enough time with them now so I will have a healthier life and they won’t have to watch their parents argue every damn day.

Yeah, everyone needs time to work on themselves, have fun, and build a life outside their children. It sets a wonderful example for them and makes you a better parent.

But, for me, committing four nights a week to my kids is what I need to do to be right with myself. So, no, I can’t just leave them. I don’t care how old they are. I don’t care if your event is only a few hours or it sounds like a blast.

And I know the people who are meant to be in my life will understand that my time with my kids takes priority every time.

Besides, I have so many years ahead of me to be footloose and fancy free and I don’t want to look back and wish I’d spent more time with my children while they were living with me.

The post As A Divorced Mom, I Won’t Leave My Teens Home Alone To Go Out appeared first on Scary Mommy.

When Your Marriage Is In Limbo, It’s A Special Kind Of Hell

While I was married, my (then) husband came home from a weekend away with his friends. While he was gone, I felt like I could breathe again. I could tell by his posture — by the way he slumped when he walked in and set his bag down with a deep sigh I’d never heard before — that he felt the same.

Returning back home made him feel constricted. We’d been doing this dance for months. We’d both been trying so hard, thinking if we just kept at it, our hearts would fall into place again.

We both wanted to feel the things we felt when we first met, when we got married, when we bought our first house and raked leaves together in the spring and would go to our favorite pizza place down the street.

But it wasn’t working. My daughter asked if we still loved each other one afternoon, and we both looked at each other, not even surprised. We had to do something.

“The writing is on the wall,” he said.

“I know, ” I answered.

“I can’t leave, but I can’t stay.”

“I know,” I said again.

When you take vows and sign a contract, build a life together, and start eating pizza every Friday night and complain about your backs and see each other at your best and at your worst, the decision to end your relationship doesn’t come to you in the form of a clear-cut decision.

You ask yourself every damn day if you can do better. Then you try, and see proof (again) that it’s not working. Then you get mad and resentful at each other for not changing because, damn, if only they would change, it would all be okay.

You become passive-aggressive. You fantasize about a life without your spouse. Your guilt is enough to make you stay in the situation even if you know deep in your core it isn’t the right one.

You feel paralyzed and aren’t able to take steps to move forward because you are so afraid of what the future might bring. You wonder if you can stand on your own two feet without this person who has been such a huge part of your life for so long. Some days, that makes you feel free and other it makes you feel like a chunk of your soul is missing.

Being in limbo about your marriage is so damn exhausting. It’s when your insecurities take center stage and things like a leaking sink make you shrink because you literally can not think about one more thing.

You worry about your kids, you worry you might not have what it takes to make a relationship work. The what-ifs swirl around your head and leave you weighed down with self-doubt.

The day my ex moved out, I felt like I could breath again. I sat alone on my sofa, and though I was crying, there was a glimmer of hope brewing in my stomach. I was sad but so much happier than I was when we were in limbo about what to do and it felt as if there were no good options out there.

There was a while when we weren’t ready to let each other go, but we were miserable. And I can tell you, those were the hardest years of our lives thus far.

It felt so good, to both of us, to stop white-knuckling our way through life. We finally took action, ripped the Band-Aid off, and were brave enough to start anew and explore what our life could be without being married to each other.

And once he was gone, life started to open up for both of us. That doesn’t mean that divorce doesn’t knock you down every other day. You can struggle your way through, you can miss who you and your partner used to be, you can beat yourself up, but you still know deep down you’ve made the decision that was best for you and your family.

Your home isn’t supposed to filled with so much tension that you dread walking through the door every day. You aren’t supposed to simply coexist with someone. You aren’t bound to this person — you can let go. But limbo locks you in and freezes your mind.

Sometimes it takes a while to figure that out, and for me, for us, that was the roughest road throughout this whole divorce process — the not knowing. Everyone likes to have a plan when it comes to their future.

My ex did something for us I wasn’t able to do. He called it. He knew it was time to walk away, and he knew I would have held on longer and stayed somewhere between not loving him any longer but trying for our family’s sake anyway. He was done being in limbo.

The not knowing is excruciating, yes. But cementing your decision to leave your relationship, or stay in it, is such a relief after walking through that kind of hell.

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I Hate The ‘Look’ I Get From Ex-Family And Friends After My Divorce

I recognize that look. It’s the look I might give to someone or something that I’m trying to pretend isn’t there. It’s the look I typically reserve for awkward, embarrassing, or even hurtful situations – the ones I don’t know how to respond to. It’s a look meant to block someone from attempting to engage with you. It’s a look that quietly shouts, I thought I knew you! Maybe it’s a look someone would give if they saw a ghost. It’s just never a look I thought I would receive from people I emotionally invested in for years and years – individually (irrespective of my marriage). By emotional investment, I mean these were people I shared laughter, worry, happiness, tears, and life with. I’m talking about you – my “ex” life (family and friends).

There’s a stigma wrapped around divorce, especially around the initiator. Especially if it’s initiated and there was no infidelity or domestic violence (let that sink in – that’s the standard for justifications around divorce. And even then, don’t put it past someone to judge you for not working it out even with those things present).

For those who haven’t walked this road called divorce, count that as a blessing. Really. Divorce is a gut-wrenching business. It’s emotionally bankrupting and a torrid force of nature that takes on a life all its own. Granted, I can only speak from my own experience, but it took a bottomless pit of heartbreak, disappointment, broken trusts, and genuine suffering to get here.

I didn’t enter into my marriage with the assumption I would end up here. NO ONE in their right mind would willingly sign up for that! I entered into my marriage the same as most people – with high hopes, blind faith in love, and a sincere desire that we would always be together. I entered into my marriage with a vision that we would grow together in a strong, healthy, genuine way. I held out that hope for many, many years.

Before I start down the path I intend to go down, I would like to point out that I’m not advocating for divorce here. However, there are times when divorce is someone’s only option for peace and preserving their mental and emotional well-being. Sometimes divorce is the path you must choose to ensure you (and possibly your child/children) don’t go on to experience a lifetime of hurt and disappointment.

Divorce hosts a multitude of negative emotions. First, I saw it from a Christian standpoint — the scripture that God hates divorce is staunch. I am absolutely convinced He does – why wouldn’t he? God loves his children and knows the pain of divorce (for both people). There’s so much collateral damage it leaves in its wake. Divorce is ugly, folks – for both the initiator and the non-initiator. Yes, both people! Downright painful from the moment you’ve met your threshold for heartache and you decide you can’t remain in a marriage, to the days you sit in your new place in life and realize you’ve lost part of your identity.

Though you’ve removed yourself from something that was toxic for you, when you’re sitting in a new void-like limbo, it’s terrifying starting over. You must forcefully cut away the person you were before you accepted your partner wouldn’t partner with you in any healthy way. Nothing is ever the same. We often grow comfortable in the uncomfortable spaces. We often justify staying in ugly situations for a number of reasons that we would tell others not to stay for. A lot of times we stay in ugly situations just to please other people (and often those people aren’t even the people that choose to sit at your table of life). I read a quote the other day that went something like this:

Grab a plate and throw it on the ground.

-Ok, Done.

Did it break?

-Yes.

Now say sorry to it.

-Sorry.

Did it go back to the way it was before?

-No.

Do you understand?

I felt that.

Having said all that, I still recommend that before you pass judgment, alienate, or avoid and cold shoulder the initiator, remind yourself of a few things: This was not your journey. This was not your marriage. This was not your life. This was not your parenting relationship. This was not your child that you worried about impacting. This was not your emotional and mental wellbeing at stake (and remember, a child needs two emotionally and mentally well-adjusted parents). This was not your burden. These were not your tears, your heartbreaks, your daily struggles with trust issues and deeply rooted resentment. This was not your pain you had to carry around and still seemingly function as a happy, healthy, well-adjusted human being. This was not your heart that you felt breaking into a million unrecognizable pieces so regularly that you lost count.

You were not the one being lied to whenever it was convenient. You were not on the other end of the master manipulator. You were not the one being taken advantage of or taken for granted day in and day out. This was not your loneliness. This was not your daily reminder that someone you vowed to love would never see you as a priority or worthy of mutual respect. These were not your spouse’s demons you had to try and wrestle to the ground ever so consistently. This was not your experience. This was not your failed marriage. It was, however, mine. Let that marinate.

I’m sorry if this took you by surprise. Sadly, we often don’t express a genuine interest or ever fully pick up on other people’s pain – we only know our own. I’m sorry if it made for uncomfortable conversations with your child/children (though imagine how difficult it was and will remain to explain it to mine). I’m sorry if it struck a nerve in your own life/marriage regarding things you might currently tolerate for the sake of keeping your marriage together. Though I’ll say this: you only know your own threshold for pain, so please don’t expect or even pretend to know mine.

I’m sorry that the offender was your son, or brother, or friend and you’re having to watch him unravel. I hate that part too – I gave 14 years of my life to this person only to see him throw it all away one day at a time. I’m sorry that I couldn’t twist myself into the barbwire I would have become had I stayed just to placate the relationship I was in. I realized my mental and emotional well-being were important too – I am after all, like you, a human being, not a garbage disposal for someone’s toxic behavior.

See, the problem is that I’m giver who married a taker. I’m an optimist who married someone with a deeply rooted negative view on life. I was a naïve 21-year-old girl who rooted for someone to develop into a person they hoped they could build a lifetime with, only to realize that person wasn’t capable of that kind of growth. I’m someone who refused to give up on this person, only to realize this person all too willingly gave up on himself long before I left. I’m a mother who realized that she would have to take drastic measure to ensure her son’s father would stop taking his role in their child’s life for granted. I’m a human being with a real heart that is really, truly broken.

I began seeing myself as someone that didn’t deserve love, compassion, partnership, or even respect. I started walling myself off from a reality I couldn’t digest anymore. I began operating as if this person didn’t even exist just to live in my own marriage. It’s easier to deal with disappointments when you set the expectation for your partner at zero. Then, one day I woke up devastatingly out of touch with my life. I didn’t recognize myself. That day changed everything. There’s a saying, “Be careful what you tolerate, you are teaching people how to treat you.” It’s true. I allowed someone to almost ruin me. However, you didn’t share that experience with me. You didn’t live that. I DID.

So, please, when you see me out at events, during child exchanges, looped into communications regarding children and family functions, even when you simply see me out in the world just trying to piece my life back together – have some compassion for what it took for me to get to this point. Remember that while this divorce is painful, it’s not your divorce, it’s not your ugly chapter.

Please remember the millions of overnights I had with your children, my nieces and nephews, holidays celebrated, family functions, and life experiences we shared together. I’m not a ghost, I’m not a leper, I’m not a villain, I’m not your enemy. I have loved you. I have invested in you. I have rooted for you. I have prayed for you. I have been there for you. I’m still me – just separated from something I let foolishly hurt me for far too long. That “look” means something to me. It’s now fully resonated with me, your cold shoulder, your silent condemnation.

Congratulations, you’ve succeed in fraying yet another relationship that I spent a great deal of time and energy investing in. It makes me question whether you were ever invested in our relationship at all. Truth be told, it hurts, and I’ve experienced enough hurt for a lifetime. I really don’t need it coming from you too. Please remember that even though I did ask for this divorce.

I never asked to be treated the way I was treated before it finally led me there. So please remember when you decide to pass judgment or cast that “look” over my way, ex-family and friends, just because a decision hurts, doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. Until you have walked in my shoes, lived my life, felt my hurt – you really don’t know a thing about me. You can bet on this though: should you ever have to write a chapter in your own book that looks anything like mine, I’ll spare you the look. Because I have lived it.

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When I Tried To Get Child Support For My Kids, I Realized There Is No Safety Net

I’m frustrated and angry and completely nonplussed.

I’m sitting at the little window in front of a bright red phone, a landline in a world of wireless communication. It’s (ironically) incredibly fast to find service through it’s singular purpose: child support enforcement uses this red phone.

It’s been over three years since my ex-husband has attempted to communicate with his children. After his initial showing at court, his lawyer ended up dismissing him as a client and his signature was thereafter replaced with failure to appear. Certified mail was left uncollected and unsigned for; regular mail was thrown away unopened and in-person court-appointed knocks to his door were met with strange behavior, such as a returned knock and refusal to answer. I never pursued collecting child support owed because I found myself so grateful to just have my kids and be away from his abusive, demeaning, terrifying hold on our lives. Plus, I’m stubborn and I’ll be damned if I ask for help from that man. If he pays me, he’s alive. If he doesn’t, I can go on pretending the Earth is washed of him forever. That he can’t hurt me or my children anymore.

Our margins financially (and emotionally) are razor-thin. So when our car started slipping while shifting, I panicked a little. I took her in, and the mechanic who always hates to give me the terrible news tells me old Volvo doesn’t have long before her transmission falls out the bottom. My $29 in checking won’t cover a new car, or a transmission. I take substitute teaching jobs when I can nearby, and teach as many classes as possible at the university I’m incredibly lucky to work at. I write grants for a local nonprofit on 30-day contracts because I can do them while my kids argue about who has more milk, and it’s something. I get to be with my kids, and that is almost always enough. Until it isn’t. Until a mechanic tells you that you’re well and truly screwed because your only means of transportation is about to enter its grave.

My son is three and my daughter is five and we’ve adjusted to life because, really, they’ve only known life with me. My boy was maybe five months when we left, and my daughter doesn’t remember anything except a few scary moments that she’s grabbed hold of because it’s her only recollection of  a different life. They both crave a dad–but it’s not on the menu, so they content themselves with mommy doing Hulk impersonations and reminding them that families are all unique in how they are made.

What is more difficult to adjust to is the knowledge that I’m not going to be miraculously saved. I don’t know if it was brewing in me for some time or not, but sitting next to that red phone as the support enforcement specialist spoke kindly and uselessly to me, I felt my entire stomach sink.

“I’m here to, um, to file this paperwork,” I say awkwardly. My kids are sitting next to another kid, watching Ice Age in the lobby, laughing with their new friend.

“What’s your case number?” She asks.

“I don’t have one,” I reply.

She looks closer at my papers. “Oh, right, this is a new case. Okay, so it looks like there hasn’t been any payment…ever. Okay…” she shuffles page after page, looking for spots to fill in, telling me about the process. I feel myself holding my own hands tightly and wonder if I look old, because I feel like a child internally but know the last five years have done nothing but mark up my eyes and face. My body has gone from lean to matronly, my hair has gone from kempt to managed, and my heart is still warm, but oh my god, so heavy. My words have gone from pleasing to succinct and honest in these situations.

“I’m nervous,” I say. “I’m nervous he will retaliate. I haven’t pursued this because it’s just, you know, poking a bear.”

She looks at the papers. “Did you mention that in here?”

“There was a box to mark about domestic violence or restraining orders. I marked it.”

She scanned the page. “Sorry, where? These are new forms to me,” she passes them to me.

I point to the tiny box, the one that you mark if you’ve had someone choke you, rape you, trap you in a doorway, pin you down. The little box with the tiny check mark that is supposed to somehow relate that someone screamed at your toddler for peeing her pants, scaring her so much she would poop on the floor before asking for help from him again. A checkmark, a singular checkmark, to indicate you think he’ll gun you down if you make him mad enough by standing up for your kids or yourself.

“Is there a restraining order?” I nod, and tell her it expired in November, over five months ago. “You should get that to us, with a written statement from you that you have concerns over safety of yourself or kids. That will change how we do things.”

“How will it change?” I ask. “Could there be protection?”

“Well, if he does threaten or react badly then we can back right off. We don’t want you or your kids in any danger.”

This is where the nonplussed feeling settled on my face. “So…if he is a big enough bully, he gets his way?”

“Essentially, yes. Your safety and your kids’ safety is more important.” She is speaking truth, but not seeing the injustice of it. Or maybe she is, but she’s as impotent as I am about it.

She tells me they will start with certified mail to let him respond and set up payments. I tell her it’s been three years and he doesn’t know how to write a check properly. He won’t do that.

She continues, saying it will likely be around six months before they can file contempt. “Even after three years of nonpayment following a court order?” I ask. She says, likely.

“Then we can pursue suspension of driver’s license, and see if that gets his attention. Where does he work?” She asks. I try not to laugh derisively.

“He probably doesn’t. At least, not officially,” I say. “He does have a trust fund that matured in October when he turned 35.” This is where I feel skeevy. The only way I would go after that unearned income of his would be if I had two kids, one dying car, and $29 in checking. So here we are.

“Okay. Well, we’ll start with certified mail, give him that six months to respond, then we can send a person to his address to serve papers.”

“He won’t answer. He won’t sign. He doesn’t open mail. He is suspicious of everyone and will punch a messenger before signing for anything.”

“Well, we have to legally give him the six months, then we can look into the trust fund by about a year’s time for backpay. Often the fathers will demand to see their kids and say the mother hasn’t let them see the kids, so we will need the parenting plan. When does he have the kids?”

Now I’m just done. Against my will, against my reserve to not look more foolish and pitiful and desperate, I feel my eyes well up with tears. “He doesn’t have the kids, ever. The judge ruled abandonment. He’s not allowed to see them, he has to have a psychological evaluation, everything.” She hands me a box of tissues.

“Have you been to the domestic violence resource center?” She asks quietly. I nod. They helped me get out of that house when I thought I’d die there. “Would you like to apply for TANF?” I shake my head. I don’t qualify, because I have three jobs that pay around $200 more a month than the cut off. “Well, I can file this, and you can call next week after Wednesday to talk to your social worker.”

I shake my head again. Now the tears are just rolling down my cheeks with reckless abandon. I tip my head up as though I can suck the moisture back in, yet another futile endeavor. “I…it’s not worth it. It’s not worth pressuring him. He’ll just take all the money out in cash so it’s unfindable, he’ll demand to see the kids, he’ll make our lives hell again. It’s not worth it. I’d like my papers back, please. I…I don’t want to file. I’m sorry. Thank you for your help.”

I stand up, and I know she looks at me and sees me precisely as I have been unwilling to see myself the last three years. Stuck.

My mother prays for a savior, some financial rescue through a fine gentleman ready to take up the mantle of caring for the dysfunctional wayward daughter and poor disheveled offspring. I think I still hope for it, too, but with a disgusted feminist self scoffing at the very sentiment. This isn’t the 1950s, mom. Or literally any time prior to this modern age. But then I stop, and I realize the incredible resolve the women who came before me had. However disheveled and tired, however unfairly treated or unceasingly demanded upon, I stand better than my forebears. Because of the women who walked through more, withstood more, fought for more, I stand.

There is resolve to be found in bondage. When there are no other materials at hand, you augment and fully use the tools found around you. When you have no margins, you squeeze tighter together to adjust to new margins. You make them wider through perception. That’s all truth is, anyway, isn’t it? Perception?

She slides the papers back to me, neatly bundled in the little black clip I dug out of a basket on the counter at home, next to random, mundane yet precious rocks and dead dandelions.  She smiles that sad smile that says, Sorry there isn’t help for your kind of problem, and I reassure her with a crass joke that maybe my ex will get hit by a bus and all this trouble will go away. She offers a chuckle, but it’s 9 a.m. and it’s unlikely I’ll be last hard story today, or the most tragic.

I pull my kids from the screen, bid their newfound friend farewell, and we walk our little circus out to the car that I bless each time it gets us from one point to another. How I appreciate each trip, each ability to reach a destination free of breakdown, knowing that a breakdown looms large in the future. I wouldn’t have that gratitude if the threat were no longer there–or at least, it wouldn’t be as pervasive in my daily life.

My rearview mirror holds my daughter’s blue-paint speckled, tangled hair. She is gesticulating with her wide gestures and dramatic flair, and buckling herself in like such a good girl. Her brother is racing her without mentioning it, no doubt hoping to get the jump on her without her noticing. As they click in and settle for a trip to the second hand store to dig for Harry Potter books, I readjust my margins on what it means to have a beautiful life.

A beautiful life is about the refining, the perfecting, of all that makes it challenging and noteworthy. Just like how grateful I am to have my children, because I might have lost them. My car, because it might go at any second.

My life, because I wouldn’t notice these sweet, poignant, precious moments if they were muddled and softened with easy living.

What a gift I have, kicking my seat, arguing with each other, waking me up to talk about mean elves in my room, Mom. Wrapping their little arms around me, jumping out from behind doors to startle me, rolling their eyes and dissing my food. Without this, it would be far too quiet. Besides, a car is a car. We’ll live. We’ve been through worse–and look how far we’ve come.

Life is perfecting.

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My Spouse And I Are Separated But We Still Live Together

The details don’t matter, but my marriage has been over for several months. This isn’t obvious from the outside looking in; seemingly, nothing has changed. We are separated but are still living together and plan to do so for a while.

Neither one of us could have predicted that after many years of marriage and multiple kids our living situation would shift from following the roles of partnership to creating boundaries and maintaining a friendship outside of wedding vows. The truth is, we still need each other in some ways, so we are choosing to co-habitate.

First and foremost, we are parents to children we created together with love and intention. My spouse and I work two more-than-full-time jobs; we are constantly juggling schedules and making sure we know who to pick up where and when. The day revolves around meals, homework, extracurricular activities, and bedtime routines. The logistics of managing a family of five is hard enough in one home. We agreed that managing this between two homes was more than we wanted, needed, or can handle right now. It would not benefit either of us as individuals. It would not benefit the kids. It would not help any tension that still hangs between us at times, either. It just makes sense for us to run this ship while both of us are on it.

I am thankful that my spouse and I have always been on the same page in the way we want to raise our kids. We have worked hard to communicate discipline ideas, values we want to instill, limits to set, and expectations we place on our kids. We have always maintained a united front and will almost always back the other in front of the kids to model this. If my spouse and I disagree on a topic or have suggestions or criticism of the other, we voice these differences out of the kids’ earshot. This is something that will continue. We recognize that this is challenging at times because of the undercurrent of stress that comes with separation, but our plan to stay focused on the kids has helped.

The presence of two parents at school functions, sporting events, and family outings will continue too. The love we have for our children will not be compromised because the love between us has changed. We are not staying together for the kids, but we can be there for the kids even though we are not together. Our kids will always keep us connected and we will continue to share our love and pride for them.

There is the financial piece too. Our two-income budget is already tight. All of our accounts, credit cards, loans, and everything else is tied together. We just can’t afford to split everything and have it work. Half of what we have is not enough to support us as individuals. We need to think about the kids too. We need to continue to pool our money at this point because the strain of not doing this would create unnecessary resentment and anxiety.

Money earned has always been family and household money. We talk about and agree on big purchases and neither one of us are really spenders. The extras we pay for are usually for the kids, so there have not been arguments about inconsiderate or “unapproved” purchases. We are not selfish with our money. We respect each other to know that we each work really hard for the money we earn. It covers the basics and a few extras we don’t take for granted.

And then there is the cooking, cleaning, yardwork, and maintenance of a house that feels impossible with two adults on most days; the idea of just one person doing these tasks while juggling single parenting and financial stress just doesn’t make sense for us right now.

We don’t expect others to understand, but staying together in the same space though the marriage is over is more common than people think. Several places call this a parenting marriage. There is teamwork, mindfulness, open communication and respect without the romance and physical and emotional commitment of a marriage. We are working with a couple’s therapist to be sure we are forcing ourselves to have necessary conversations. The therapist’s office also creates a safe space to have those conversations in respectful ways and to be sure both of us are getting some version of what we need. We will also have her help us navigate the idea of one or both of us dating when we get there.

There is too much shame put on people when their family or relationships don’t look like what people think they should be. Single parents, queer parents, monogamous parents, polyamorous parents, step-parents, grandparents, foster parents. Does it really matter how people do family as long as kids are in loving homes surrounded by adults who respect each other?

We are taking one day at a time. And just like we didn’t predict where we are right now, I can’t predict where we will be in a month or a year from now. But we are modeling to our children how to treat each other despite dealing with disagreements, big emotions, and scary unpredictability. We are leading with open communication and the understanding that shit will be hard at times. But we are focusing on establishing a new normal while maintaining a family unit.

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Why My Ex-Husband Had An Affair (According To Him)

A few weeks after my husband confessed to having an affair with a much younger woman, we were watching a special on television. I don’t even remember what show it was, but what I do remember was that a marriage therapist was interviewing couples about marriage.

One of the couples was trying to work through an affair, and the therapist began talking about why people cheat on their spouses.

I wanted to get up and change the channel. This subject was a tender spot and the woman on my television screen was pushing on it.

So, even though I was in the middle of painting the front door, with hands covered in paint, I put down my brush and rushed over to change the channel. My then-husband was lying on the sofa, unmotivated to change the channel and hear all about cheating and affairs, apparently, which annoyed the hell out of me.

“I can’t watch this,” I said. “I just want to move past this and I can’t even stand the sound of her voice.”

Obviously, my husband’s infidelity wasn’t the woman on TV’s fault. She didn’t sit on his shoulder and whisper in his ear that he needed to fuck the 20-something woman in our family car while I was home with our three kids who were running wild all day. She didn’t convince him to lie to me and tell me he was all of a sudden going out with his friends a few nights a week. I wasn’t able to see anything clearly for weeks, and that had nothing to do with her, but still, her voice felt like sandpaper on my skin.

“I think we need to watch it,” he said.

And, deep down, I knew he was right.

My attitude about not wanting to discuss his reasons for stepping out on our marriage wasn’t helping us. My anger and resentment were building, and he certainly wasn’t opening up to me about his feelings, even though I could tell he wanted to.

My ex is a man of few words. He doesn’t talk about his feelings much and wasn’t able to communicate his needs. Not before his affair, not after.

He went with the flow and never told me how lonely he was in our marriage. So when the topic of cheating came on the TV, I knew that I still loved him and wanted to understand why he did something like this to us, to the life that we’d built together and to our family.

If he couldn’t tell me on his own, which he was trying but struggling with every time it came up, maybe I would get some answers from him via the marriage therapist on the television.

And I did.

She said people cheat because of the way the other person makes them feel. Then she went on to say some other things that I missed because as soon as that sentence came out of her mouth, my husband looked at me and I saw the tears welling in his eyes.

“Is that what it was? Because she made you feel a certain way? A way that I don’t make you feel any more?”

“Yes,” he answered. “Yes. I’ve been missing that spark, that newness, that passion. You don’t see me the way you used to. She reminded me of that.”

He went on to say he was conflicted. He didn’t love this woman and he wasn’t even sure that he liked her. But she desired him. She was persistent. She listened to him.

It was hard for me to not throw things at my husband that night. After all, I’d carried his three children, kept our home in order, made him his favorite meals, took care of our social calendar, and made it so he didn’t have to do much with the kids’ schedules.

He never noticed that though. He never complimented my mothering skills. He didn’t see me. And I sure as shit didn’t feel very desired myself.

But I didn’t say a word despite that fact I wanted to vomit and tell him he sounded like an immature asshole who didn’t deserve to be married to me. I wanted him to finish since it wasn’t often he opened up.

We’d been married for 10 years and together for 13. I wanted to finally hear his side, and he was going deeper than his usual “It just happened and I’m sick about it.”

I wanted to save us and so, I kept my mouth shut so I could try and understand.

“I never, ever thought about leaving you for her. I wanted hot sex, I wanted someone to listen to me. And it was nice to not talk about shitty diapers, and to not have her say she was too tired to have sex.”

And that was when I’d heard all I needed to hear. Did I understand where he was coming from?

I did.

I myself have dreamt of a man coming to my door and screwing my brains out against the living room wall and not asking me to wash his underwear or check the bubbling zit on his back. I, too, missed the excitement, the lusty nights, the spontaneous dates and the effort he used to put into our relationship. I had those feelings just like he did — but I never acted on them.

After he’d confessed to me about his affair, I went to stay at a friend’s house after I’d put the kids to bed– the thought of staying there and being alone with him without our kids as a distraction was too much for me to handle.

The first night I arrived at her house and we were talking it all out on her living room floor, she said something that was incredibly healing, and I’m still not sure why: “Diana, there have been times in my marriage that I’ve felt so lonely, I shudder to think what I might do if someone came on to me and made me feel seen and special. Maybe this is just a blip. Maybe you can get past it.”

Her being real and honest with me made me face something I didn’t want to face: My husband felt alone in our marriage, and I knew it even though he’d never said it. And I had done nothing.

We hadn’t had sex for months. He’d wanted to go out on dates to connect, and I was too tired to put the effort in and told him so.

These are not excuses for what he did, but I knew I had to take some responsibility for shutting him out in a sense and thinking my needs and desires for relaxing, sleep, and being told I was a good mom were more important.

The truth is, I thought we’d make it thorough without any “blips.”

That’s where I was wrong. There was no way our relationship could sustain itself in the place we were in.

But he went wrong too. He thought he could use another woman as a band-aid to fix himself so he could be a better husband, and the consequences were disastrous.

Since our divorce, I’ve talked openly to a few other men and women about my ex’s affair. Some of them have had the same experience and said, “Oh yes, the way that person made me feel was amazing. It was enough to shove the guilt away and try and get more and more of that feeling. It was about me.”

I’ve talked to happily married people who have been tempted and never acted on it, even if they were going through a rough patch, because they didn’t believe the consequences would ever help their circumstances.

And I just talked with a couple who made it through after infidelity, and the wife said her affair was one of the best things that happened in their marriage because she and her husband finally got the counseling they needed. She too felt unseen, undesired, and was prepositioned by an old lover and said she was starving for connection and affection, but really wanted it from her husband and had no intention of leaving him for her lover.

I’m not justifying affairs — it was one of the most painful things my ex-husband and I ever had to work through. But having a better understanding — beyond thinking people who cheat are selfish, reckless, dickheads who never deserve forgiveness — helped me to move on.

I chose to move on without my husband, and if you have been cheated on, that decision sits on your lap, and your lap alone.

But before you go blaming yourself and thinking you could have done this, that, or the other, I think it’s important to realize your partner is probably having the affair because of the way it makes them feel. They aren’t thinking about the long-term consequences.

And then, it will be up to the two of you to figure out if you can continue your marriage after the damage has been done.

The post Why My Ex-Husband Had An Affair (According To Him) appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How I Overcame My Worst Fears About Getting Divorced

It was hard to concentrate, or even function.

Hard to fall asleep at night, hard to pay attention at work, and no matter what I did to try and distract myself, the sheer panic and chaos followed me around all the time.

“Ohmygod. I have no idea what do to. Will I ever get through this?”

“I have no idea where I’m going to be in a month, much less a year. How the hell can I plan for anything?”

“Everything is crumbling around me, and I’m terrified.”

Divorce is one of the most stressful life events that a person experiences. One of the main reasons it’s such a nightmare is because it somehow manages to hold us hostage with stress and fear. It makes us unable to move, to think, to function. You don’t know what’s going to happen to us, our kids, and our way of life, and you think you’ll never make it through or be happy again.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I remember waking up one day after another restless night, and something just clicked. A frustrated voice inside me said,

“What are you so afraid of, and why have you not taken steps to counter it?”

And that is where this fear-blasting exercise was born. When you feel like you’re going off the deep end with fear of not knowing, do the following:

Write down all of the things you’re feeling afraid of—the sources of our fear-based stress.

Be completely honest. No fear or concern is irrational, stupid, or unreasonable. Some of my own fears included…

I will have to move out of the marital home—the only one I’ve known for years.

I won’t be able to afford a long and drawn out divorce.

I will have to put the lawyer fees on my credit card.

My savings will be wiped out and that I’ll have to cash out my 401k to pay for all of this.

My family will judge me.

My friends will shun me.

I will be alone and don’t know what to do.

I am afraid to start over.

I am afraid of never being happy again.

Now comes the part that takes some work, but it’s the best part. Under each fear, write down a solution. This step shows the truth—that you have the power to beat those fears and calm that stress you feel. I’ve provided a few examples of possible solutions:

I will have to move out of the marital home—the only one I’ve known for years.

“If I want to stay here, I am going to speak with my attorney to see what my options are to remain. I will look at the budget to see if this is possible, but if it is not, I know I have options for other housing. I also know that I am the one who has the memories in my heart, and that I, along with my children, are still a home and can create our own memories, wherever we are.”

I won’t be able to afford a long and drawn out divorce.

“I do not want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a divorce. If my spouse and I are on speaking terms, I will examine options for using divorce mediation, which could help prevent long expensive court battles. I will also research my options and ask around to find a good divorce attorney that uses a conciliatory problem-solving approach, instead of a belligerent gladiator one. I may also speak with a financial adviser to help with the financial side, and I could talk to a divorce coach, who could possibly help with money-saving ideas.”

My savings will be wiped out and I’ll have to cash out my 401k to pay for all of this.

“If I am working with an attorney, I will look into possible payment plans. I may also seek pro-bono help or find divorce legal clinics that can help minimize costs. I will focus on the big picture. If I don’t want to wipe out my savings fighting in court, I will learn how to choose my battles so I can move on with my life.”

My family will judge me.

“I will be honest and ask for their support, but I do not have to surround myself with people who will make me feel worse about the situation. If I am afraid of this, I will work with a therapist, who can help me create boundaries with my family and help me grieve in a healthy way.”

I will be alone and don’t know what to do.

“I may feel alone because I’m no longer with my spouse, but I will find a great support system—there are support groups, online groups, friends who care about me. I will not be afraid to ask for help. I will be kind to myself, patient with myself, and realize I don’t have to do everything at once.”

As you can see, once you start doing this exercise for yourself, you will notice that neutralizing fears goes beyond just giving yourselves a pep talk. This exercise can help you start taking action. And when you take action against those fears, they are no longer the things that will keep you up at night—instead, they become the logical courses of action—merely things on a to-do list—that you will accomplish because despite your panic and fear right now, you are a hell of a lot stronger than you realize.

Facing and beating our divorce fears and learning how to counter them may not be fun or easy, but in the end, learning those strategies will help diminish our stress so you can think clearly, move on with your life, and get back to being happy.

The post How I Overcame My Worst Fears About Getting Divorced appeared first on Scary Mommy.