Day one…an open letter to my significant other
To my wife:
I hate to bring this up but I have to ask you a question.
Do you see us as a couple? We are married, legally, but that seems to be where it ends. We are far apart, figuratively and literally. I now live 100 miles away so we are actually apart, and when we are together we are not really together.
When we separated 10 months ago it was a “financial separation”. We couldn’t afford to live together anymore. It was a horrible moment in my life. The family got along pretty good in that house. Which is good because the bank took the other one.
We had always struggled financially but for 6 years we had kept the waterline just below our noses. Our home, while only a rental, was warm and accommodating. For the first time all of our children had their own rooms. We had a table to eat dinner as a family, 3 times a year. I had my own room because we haven’t shared a bed in 15 years. I slept on a sofa of course but it was still in my own room. We kept the fighting to a minimum. My favorite part was that every night I would listen for the front door and I would know that all of my kids, whether I got the opportunity to talk to them before they went to bed or not, were home safe. I loved that feeling and I miss it more than anything.
You had it all planned out, almost too well. When I lost my job and my income went from just enough to nothing you knew just what to do, as if you had thought about it for a while. The oldest 2 would go to your mother’s while still in college (not a bad deal for them) and you would move in with your best friend in NH with our 2 youngest. The same best friend that you basically admitted that you had chosen over me about 10 years ago. As far as where I would live, I really appreciate how you unceremoniously told me to “find someplace to live”. But I did. I sucked it up and moved in with my friend and his family. I fucking hated how you handled it but hey that’s life.
After my last hospital stay my anger subsided a little. You were very diligent in visiting me, pestering the doctors for information and I felt supported. But when I was released, moved in with my mother 100 miles away and applied for SSDI we were reduced to a schedule of seeing each other twice a month and speaking once a week, if at all.
When I visit, I drive 2 hours to see you and our youngest two. I usually catch you as you’re heading out the door to work. That’s not a coincidence. I try to see our youngest boy, the popular and hard-working high-school senior who is busy with his life and almost never available when I am. He and I used to talk for hours at home about music, food, and anything that came up. Now I never see him. I get a couple of hours with our youngest, the beautiful 15-year-old who has not adjusted to life in her new “home” and sits in her room alone for hours playing on her phone when you’re not home. I spent so many hours hanging with her, we miss each other like crazy. She tells me all the time. I can only spend a couple of hours there because I have to drive another 45 minutes south to see our oldest 2. I can usually coordinate a dinner or a coffee with our wonderful oldest daughter who I have the most complex relationship with. I am proud that I salvaged our relationship, for a while I thought I had lost her. And I have to find a way to meet with our oldest son who I so lovingly refer to as “mini-me”. He’s like my best friend. But between school and work, he’s never around so getting time with him can also be a long shot. Then I have a 2-hour drive home. It’s a long day and it is very unfulfilling.
I recall my now defunct career as a series of really hard jobs, some that I hated, some not so much. I worked really hard and I put in a lot of hours. I put up with a tremendous amount of shit and held back a lot of punches and urges to walk out because my family needed me. I always believed that someday I would break through and make some real money. And you, for your part raised our 4 children and did a very good job. I will always respect you for it. We both spent too much money, you needed to eat at restaurants with your friend (you can only have one person in your life at a time and it was always her not me) 5 days a week for your “mental health”. And I suppose I hit the pub a few times too many as a reward for my thankless work at companies that never gave a fuck about me despite the blood and guts that I gave them. But your best use of our money was when you went to college. And did nothing with it. You spent a buttload of money on a degree that you never intended to use because you wanted to spend more time with your little friend. Don’t you think that medical coding degree could have come in handy as our family’s finances collapsed? To your credit, you did give me the satisfaction of admitting this last week on the phone but a lot of good it is doing us now. I hope all of those fun days in class were worth it.
You always accused me of having affairs. You couldn’t imagine how a man could go so long without sex. Yet you were the one who shut it off. Do you realize that it has been over 7 years since we touched each other? And I have never cheated on you, despite multiple opportunities. Is there a man alive that would go that long without straying? But I didn’t because I’m honest. A man doesn’t cheat. And I know what would have happened if I did, I would lose the only thing I have left, the respect of my children.
Do you remember about 6 years ago when I told you I wanted to move in with my friend because I was tired of the fighting? We had just had a terrible argument in front of our kids and I decided that I couldn’t continue like this. Your first reaction was to tell me “good luck seeing the kids.” I knew then that you were the despicable type that would play the kids against me. And I then knew if I ever cheated on you, justified or not, you would tear me apart to my kids. And for that, I will never forgive you. But I stayed.
Yet I feel sorry for you. I worry about you. I might stop short at saying I love you but I don’t hate you. You did a lot for me when we were younger and I am truly grateful. But we are two different people now. We grew in very different directions.
If we were to come into some money tomorrow would you want to move back in with me? Do I want to go back to sleeping on the sofa? Would the fighting start, would the kids again be forced to take your side and gang up on me in any argument for fear of your retribution? Yes, that’s right, they know that I’m the one that they can shit on knowing that I’ll forgive them. Yes, you’re that parent.
You once told me that your worst fear is to be alone. As your husband and a man of his word, I feel obligated to care for you regardless of how well we get along. And I will. But I have to ask, at what point does my happiness matter? I have spent very little time on my own happiness and I may not bring it up again. But what are we doing here? I don’t have any plans that hang on your answer, I just wonder if you think about this like I do.
Are we a couple?