“It took a while, but the kids are finally asleep. Do you want to talk now?”
With a deer in the headlights look in his eyes, my husband replied, “Sure.”
I sighed and took in a deep long breathe, steadying my nerves. “I am not happy in our marriage and haven’t been for a long time. If I had to guess, it goes back to your confession. I can’t live another day in this marriage. I feel as if I am slowly dying, taking care of everyone else’s needs. I don’t think you even realize how unhappy I am being married to you.”
I wanted to scan his face to see his reaction, but I kept my eyes staring out the windows into the darkness of our backyard. I pressed on nervously with the echo of my heartbeat reverberating through the open rafters of our bedroom, “I think if you were brutally honest, you would admit that you aren’t happy either.” A deliberate pause was made, as I noticed my husband slightly nod out of the corner of my eye. I took another huge breathe into my lungs before closing my eyes, reminiscing about Billy and just how he made me feel.
“I feel–like I am about to have an affair…” my voice quivering as I finally verbalized the extent of our disconnect. “I am that unhappy in our marriage.”
Motionless, he did nothing.
He just sat there.
The stillness of the night enveloped us, as we both stared out the glass windows. The moon cast it’s glow down upon the yard, yet neither of us stirred.
My husband always had a rebuttal when we had our “talks” which went something along the lines of, “I know I have been lazy and not trying at home or in our marriage. I promise I will try harder. I’ve let you down and I’m sorry.” I had listened to that script throughout our marriage and knew they were empty words. Nothing would ever change between us. Although perfectly worded, his reply meant nothing more than to silence me. To stop our conversation in it’s tracks, so he could put off our disconnected marriage talk, for another time down the road. He was in every essence of the phrase, the King of Sweeping-things-under-the-rug.
But this time, he didn’t feed me his usual line of BS. This time, he just sat there defeated and silent. I knew, I just KNEW it meant–we were done. Both likely holding on for the kids sake, but unable or unwilling to face that fact.
For once, it wasn’t his words that told me everything. But his body language and silence:
I don’t love you anymore. I don’t care what you do and even if you say you are about to have an affair. I don’t even flinch when you say these words to me now. That is how far removed I am from caring about you. And our marriage.
Trying to wind down our brutally honest conversation, I finally said, “Look I am old enough to know that I want and deserve to be happy. And I think you do as well. If we divorce now, we are young enough that we could both find happiness again.” My voice trailed off, pausing, then deliberately stopping–unsure of what to say next.
He sat there silent.
Saying nothing in reply.
“I just told you I am on the verge of having an affair and you haven’t even said a word. Do you want us to have an open marriage, where we both see other people?”
Immediately he shook his head, got up and said forcefully, “NO! That is not what I want.” He proceeded to walk out of our bedroom, as I watched the outline of his body turn into shadow, then descend into the darkness of our hallway.
I sat on the edge of our bed, frozen, listening to a blend of crickets and distant airplanes jettisoning out of Los Angeles. Saying nothing more, I couldn’t help but wish I was on one of those airplanes. Leaving this empty marriage. I wanted nothing more than to feel alive again. I wanted nothing more than to feel passion again. I wanted nothing more than to feel those intense butterflies that Billy created inside of me. I wanted sex and passion and intensity and romance. I sure as hell didn’t want a roommate for a husband. I certainly didn’t want a wet noodle for one either. The thought of him following me around for the rest of my life, while I made all the decisions for our family revolted me down to my core.
I wanted an alpha male. Someone to uncover the incredibly sexy woman that I knew I was, but no longer felt within the context of our relationship. The chains of my marriage and confines of motherhood had all but stifled out any sexual desires within me. Monotony and responsibility replaced my adventurous spirit. But it was still inside of me, knocking in the lower chambers of my heart. Like a tiny ember that eventually turns into a roaring fire, I felt it re-awakening from within me. And I yearned to be uncovered and explored by the right man.
That evening as I tossed and turned having a fitful sleep, I made the conscious decision that if he wasn’t about to change, then I would. No more waiting. No more doing more of the same.
I would be the one to change.
The next day, after finishing my run, I phoned my mother to talk. “I told him I wanted a divorce a few weeks back. I’ve already talked to a few friends who gave me attorney recommendations. And…”
“You can’t divorce him. You’ve got kids together! Look, why don’t I start watching them once a week. Let you guys have time to talk or go out. It will be good for you. The kids will survive. They may not like it, but you owe it to them to try everything before divorcing.”
I sat there pondering her words. I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down at her offer, as I knew her babysitting the kids would creep her existence further into our lives. For very good reason, I kept her at arms length. She has a lifetime history of making her problems-ours. My entire life, I have felt like the adult, whereas she is the child. There is a long list of short-sighted decisions which she has made, all of which impacted me in my own childhood. And I certainly didn’t want that for our kids. But for once, I finally said yes.
Perhaps I was nuts. Or perhaps just at my wits end trying to keep our marriage from crumbling before my eyes. So far, the kids were sparred from any adult talks. But I knew that could change at any moment. For sure we needed time alone to talk–to hash out a divorce and what our family going forward would look like.
“How does this Friday sound? I can be there at six.”
We hadn’t gone out, alone, in probably four years by then. Yes, you read that correctly. Four. Long. Years. The last time we did, it was for a friends wedding. And we hired a sitter so as not to involve my mother. Viviane cried as we left our house, her face smashed up against the glass of our sash windows. I felt horrible driving away, thinking I was somehow abandoning our only child, essentially to attend a peripheral friends wedding. It was only for five hours, but still. Viviane would later inform us that the babysitter spent the entire time talking on her iPhone to her boyfriend. She spent no time with her, ignoring her entirely. Never again would I hire a sitter.
So it was with much trepidation that I texted my husband the following message, “Do you want to go on a date this Friday? My mom will babysit. Maybe we can do something fun, like before we had kids?”
The only thing that I could think of was, “I want to have fun”. Something carefree and easy. Something we couldn’t typically do with children in tow. And for sure, I wanted great food. And somewhere that wasn’t kid-friendly. Anywhere that thwarted families from entering, was fair game.
“So this may sound crazy, but I was thinking of going for a ride along the water. We can stop at various bars, grab a drink at one, food at another. We use to do carefree things like these before we had kids. I thought it might be fun.”
He quickly texted back, “But we don’t have bikes.”
“Leave it with me. I will sort it out.”
Three days later, we said goodbye to the kids and peddled away on what was our first attempt at being adventurous in years. It felt awkward and strange to be on a bicycle. Neither of us had been on one in years. As we rounded the corner, away from our tract of homes, I started to feel like a kid again. With the wind brushing against my face, I couldn’t help but feel giddy inside, like we were escaping our two little balls of overwhelming responsibility for a night of shenanigans. I had visions of drunken kisses stollen in alleys. Maybe an impromptu blowjob at the waters edge when the sun went down, if we could find a private spot. Feeling excited and more optimistic than I had all week, I looked back to see my husband angrily huffing and puffing along. Urgh, it was obvious, he was not sharing my same adventurous sentiments towards this date.
Trying to make light of the situation, I yelled over, “Hey, it’s only a mile to the first bar. Great food and they have a huge selection of craft beers. Does that make the ride easier for you?”
As he peddled harder through the patched asphalt, he said, “Yeah, fine. I just don’t get why we couldn’t just drive there.”
“Urgh”, I thought to myself. My sense of adventure and wanderlust had always been ten-fold to his. But to already be complaining sent waves of frustration pulsating through my veins. I wanted to scream, “Yes of course we could have driven there. But that wasn’t the point. We drive everywhere. This is fucking LA. We live at the beach and pay a huge premium to do so. Where is your sense of adventure? Is one night riding a beach cruiser going to kill you?” But did I say it? Nope, I just bit my lip–trying to make peace in this precarious dating situation.
We locked our bikes and entered the small gastro-pub, which by now was making a name for itself in the foodie scene. It was run by a contestant from one of those cooking TV programs where people get voted off for making subpar dishes. As we walked inside and quickly took our seats at the bar, it was obvious the waitstaff were overwhelmed. Full of happy-hour patrons and nearby office workers, the bar was heaving with patrons.
As I scanned the bar to my left and right, I pulled up an empty bar stool and said “I’ll have the Rombauer Chardonnay please.” I couldn’t help but notice, there was a couple to the right of us. And another, two seats over from the left of my husband. But sandwiched between them was a lone male, talking to no one. He sat there drinking his amber Allagash while staring at the Lakers game playing overhead.
Staring at the TV behind the bar, I finally broke the silence with my husband. “So how do you envision we split things up? The reality is, you work such long hours. You would need to hire a nanny to handle the children if we split custody 50/50. After alimony, child support, and now a nanny, is there anything left to live on? You won’t be able to afford living at the beach. Commute time will increase. And you would likely end up living in a less than desirable area, purely because of economics. I don’t want that for the kids, nor you.”
“No I completely agree. There is only so much money to support our family now. Divide it up, and we both suffer. The kids being shuffled back and forth sounds bad for all of us. Time. Energy. Schedules. It’s already a juggle now.”
Mulling over what he said, I finally replied, “I completely agree. Well, I could continue watching the kids during the week. And have you take them on the weekends. Therefore, you wouldn’t have to hire a nanny and deal with daycare. But if I am completely being honest, I’m longing for an even split. Having the kids 5 out of the 7 days, supports your career but not mine….I don’t know how we find a middle road here.”
As my husband nursed his Indian pale ale, I looked over to the lone man sitting next to him. No ring on his finger. Likely in his early forties. Whatever good looks he had years ago were fading. I could see tiny wrinkles formed along the outer creases of his eyes, from years of smiling. A pinky hue to his skin matched with pale blue eyes, Irish for sure–well at least somewhere in his ancestry.
Whispering into my husbands ear I said, “Look around. If you and me divorce, this is the dating pool. See anyone you fancy? Anyone? This is the reality of what divorced dating looks like. This. Right here.”
His head bobbed back and forth, covertly stretching to look around at women in various states of undress. Some in office attire, others clearly dressed to impress. No tens in the bunch. Feeling utterly cynical I added, “The reality is if we get divorced–we will likely date three kinds of people. The rejects, climbers or the divorcees.”
“Yeah, the rejects. These are the people that weren’t ever snapped up. And for good reason. Scratch the surface and you find something terribly off with them. Then you have the climbers who threw themselves into their careers and one day, suddenly looked around and realized everyone was married–but them. They rarely dated because they were too invested in themselves. Their sole purpose in life was to get ahead, focus on their careers and occasionally get laid. They are completely inept when it comes to relationships because they never put any time into them. So it’s like dating a fifteen year old–but with money. Then you have the divorcees, enuff said.”
Cracking a smile he volleys back, “Aren’t we a bit pessimistic? By the way, where did you come up with this theory of yours?”
“Trust me. This is what’s in store for both of us, should we divorce. What do you think the divorced women talk about during girls nights? Think about it. It’s the reality of our age and stage of life we are in.”
“You really think it’s that bad out there?”
“Uhhhh, yup. Marriage is hard, but so is being single. I’m under no illusions it’s a bed of roses out there. If you don’t believe me, ask him. I guarantee the guy sitting next to you is single.”
Leaning across my husband, I tilted my bare shoulders forward and reached for the strangers arm. With a light tap, he turned his body facing me, smiling immediately. “Hello there! Excuse me for interrupting your game and I know this is going to sound incredibly weird and yet brutally honest. But my husband and I are married and have been for a long time. Things aren’t exactly great in our marriage anymore and we are talking about getting a divorce. I’m just curious, are you single? And if so, how would you describe the dating scene for people our age? Is it hard to meet people? Do you find that most are divorced? Or lost a spouse/had a tragedy which is why they are single?”
Smirking and completely dumbfounded he immediately replied with visceral honesty, “Yeah I am single. But no, it’s not hard to meet people, now with online dating. You are correct though- a large percentage of people I meet are divorced. But so far, no tragedies or widows…at least that I know of!” He reached for his beer to take another swig as I pressed further with another round of questions.
“So for the people who aren’t divorced, have you found a common theme amongst that group? Like are these people workaholics or commitment phobe’s? I’m sincerely curious to learn your experience here.”
Re-adjusting on his barstool, he coyly smiled, “Well I guess I would fall into that group because I definitely didn’t focus on finding someone in my twenties. Just too busy getting ahead at work and traveling in my spare time. I really didn’t want to settle down and have kids. Got an established career now, the house, a full passport and loads of friends. But I’m still out there dating.”
“I completely understand and that totally makes sense. Please don’t laugh but I have one more question for you. You’ve been a saint sharing your experience with us. It’s one thing to be so focused on making partner, building a business or becoming a doctor etc, but do you find the dating scene to be filled with–dare I say, rejects?”
Snickering he replied, “What? What do you mean exactly?”
“You know. They weren’t the catch of the day in their twenties. And here they are almost two decades later still looking to find someone.”
Nearly snorting his drink he chuckled, “Yeah I guess, there are some rejects in there. Can’t lie. But for the most part, this area attracts successful people so I would say less rejects and more divorcees you two would find.”
I turned my attention back to my husband, raising my eyebrows and giving him that “see I told you look” when I suddenly heard, “Bartender–this should cover my check. You two have a good night.” And with that, the lone, single man briskly walked out the door.
Shaking his head in disbelief, my husband squealed, “You just ran that guy out of here. He couldn’t wait to get away from you. I can’t believe you asked him all that stuff.”
“Well look, I’m sorry but this is what it’s like out there. Everyone thinks the grass is greener till you look over the fence. I just think we both need a healthy dose of reality should we actually pull the trigger and file.”
My husband paused, looking back up to the Laker game. Then took a long sip of his beer, while I flagged down our bartender and asked for the check. Our conversation ceased, just as quickly as it started, and we pulled on our jackets before throwing open the exit doors. This date wasn’t exactly going to plan.
As comical as our first stop was, the next few bars were lackluster. We pedaled away to a jet setter bar, only to stay for a quick drink. The sun had long set and the crisp night air was filling our lungs like knives, as we peddled next to the sea. Complaining and gasping for air with each push, my husband continued to yell, “Hey, slow down! Why do you have to ride so fast?!?”
Urgh, I didn’t want to ride slow. And I certainly didn’t want to listen to him complain. All I wanted to feel was the wind against my cheeks. Feel a sense of adventure, like when we were younger. Besides, it’s easier to cycle faster, don’t you know? As I approached the pier, I could see the streets filling with college students out on the prowl. Funny how life works sometimes. We use be just like them–but now, here we were saddled with the responsibilities of life. Of kids. Of a mortgage–the whole shebang. It was a moment of self realization that we weren’t that young couple anymore. We had somehow firmly crossed the threshold into middle age, unbeknownst to us at the time.
As I continued to pedal faster and faster home, the buzz from all the alcohol wore off. I kept hearing purposeful grunts from my pissed off husband that meant, “I hate that you are making me do this” as my frustration mounted each mile. Continuing to listen to his diatribe, the cynic in me grew more and more. Although I was trying to see if dating my husband could somehow restart the connection we once had, so far this date was nothing short of an epic failure.