We Stumble Together

So my ex and I have hit a snag. Not a snag between us. Rather, a snag that envelops us.

Turns out, suddenly money is really tight. It’s tight because the economy stinks. Tight because both he and I have been out of work for long patches here and there (though thank goodness, he’s working fulltime again). And tight because our son—our beloved project who will outlast our years together as a couple in six more years—suddenly needs a lot of care and intervention and special attention. That’s $$$pecial attention, in case you were wondering.

Times like this is when living in New York is great, because there are plenty of warm and wonderful people who are helping us understand what Zack’s issues are (educational, social and otherwise). But what can I say? It’s a financially vulnerable time for us to be taking all this on.

I will admit that I really put off telling my ex that I was in trouble and struggling to pay for all these services. I didn’t want to be weak. I didn’t want to NEED him. He left me, after all. Needing someone who rejected you feels like a death-defying proposition. Even though I’ve forgiven him and all is well. I had to admit that I’d fallen a little in love with an idea of myself as the strong survivor. Because of my steady career as a magazine editor, we were able to separate without too much financial panic on either of our parts. My ex didn’t care about “my money,” he said, and he acted accordingly, allowing us to work out a nontraditional agreement that gave him what was his, while also giving me enough to buy a big apartment for our son to live in fulltime.

And now, I’m staring at my emptying out bank account, and looking over the cost of the private schools and so forth that our son needs, and panicking. And having to work with Chris to find a way to make it work.

And you know what? We are. I exposed my fears and mounting financial concern to him, expecting anger, eyerolls, refusal, since I am the more comfortable partner. He responded by reassuring me that we’d figure it out. By sending a long and thoughtful email about what he can do now, and what his plans are to help more later.

I’m so grateful. Grateful that that’s who he is. Grateful that we broke up in a way that means every time we have to renegotiate the terms of our connection (since it’s not really negotiating the terms of our separation anymore, now, is it?), we find a new path. We walk in all this unknown together, even though we are apart.

No, that doesn’t pay the bills. But I’d rather be financially stressed and at peace than the opposite any day.

Thanks for being a great partner, Chris, still, four years after we stopped being married.