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.

In Search of The Answers

My least favorite part of divorcing—well, besides the divorcing part–was how suddenly I turned into a one-woman referendum on Why Marriages Fail. Everyone had a reason or two for why my husband had left me (and if you read the comments on articles I’ve written for other websites, like HuffPo and CNN.com, you can continue to delight in the fun). The top 3? Because I made more money than he did. Because we married too young. And because I worked too much.

Actually, he left me because he didn’t want to be with me anymore, and not because I made too much money or worked too much. He just felt like we wanted to live different lives, and not share the same life anymore. It took me awhile to accept that simple truth—mostly because I was looking for a reason or two that made me look good or wronged or anything other than being someone Who Was Left—but once I did, everything stopped hurting so much. Truly. (Which is why I can laugh when I get all those funny comments about why my husband left me on my articles; because I know the truth and don’t need to care what anyone else thinks anymore.)

We, as a society, are so desperate to make divorce something that happens for a REASON: and not some meaningful reason, like, we’re living in a society that only knows how to stimulate and reward individual growth and sucesss, not the growth and happiness of family units (hello! government policies to help with work-life balance, childcare and so forth!). So instead, we focus on minute, probably irrelevant details that possibly divine the end of a marriage, to make us all feel like it’s something that Happens To Other People.

So that brings me to a hilarious, fascinating, potentially useless article from the Daily Beast that explains some of the “high-risk” factors that make us more likely to divorce. Such as: having a child with ADHD (sure, knew that one; it’s very stressful), to having two daughters instead of two sons (huh?), to if you didn’t smile for photos in high school (triple huh???), to if you happen to be a choreographer or dancer, and so on. I love the comments on this article, I have to admit: someone points out that if you don’t pluck the hairs off your big toe, you’re more likely to divorce as well. Maybe *that’s* why Chris and I didn’t make it after all!