(image by mcptato on deviantart.com)
It’s hard to write about this. I had this dream that my ex and I could move into this new space of separation and co-parent as though we were all still a family. But I’m beginning to have my doubts so I’m grieving the loss of the relationship I thought we could have as a couple and the likely loss of what I thought our new relationship would be like. Except when in public or with close friends, my ex responds with muted hostility. He’s even more locked away from me than we were together.
What was I thinking? As much as I worry and fear, I still have a tremendous capacity for hope. I hoped we could finish our time living in the same space without conflict in front of the kids. Once separated, I hoped we could agree to show up when needed, even if it’s not our week to be with the kids. I hoped we could listen to one another and hear concerns about specific problems we see in our kids. We would put our differences aside and make decisions together. I hoped we could help one another as two people with love and trust help one another. But that’s it right there. We don’t have trust and I feel the love ebbing away a little more every day. How much longer are we going to be able to call this amicable? I already feel like it’s a small lie when I tell people “our divorce is going so amicably”.
He didn’t share much when we were together and now he’s like a reinforced, sound proof, titanium door. I made this blog to serve as a bridge between us when I was so steeped in my trauma and depression that I was not capable of speaking to him about what I was going through. I wanted him to know that I was trying, that I was fighting to get back to him. He hardly read it and when he did, he almost never mentioned it unless I asked. It could have been a starting place for us, a way for trust and communication to grow between us but instead I felt disappointed that he didn’t care enough to read it very often or discuss it when he did read it. And while I was working my ass off fighting my inner demons (which, by the way, I can now say I have defeated) he shared less, became more secretive and shut off. My attempt at a bridge became just another betrayal. I bared myself, asked to be seen and validated and I feel like he often turned away. Maybe it just took too long for me to heal.
Looking back at this failure to thrive between us, how could I have thought things would be any better once we separated? Why am I surprised that he’s suspicious of my motives when he never saw the me that loves our family enough to take on my trauma head on? Why am I so angry when our youngest doesn’t feel validated by his father? Our oldest kid and I have been telling him for years that his flippant attitude during serious moments with big feelings is hurtful and damages trust.
I recently told him I couldn’t discuss our more troublesome interactions without having a professional in the room to help us communicate effectively. I’ve done a lot of work to learn to trust myself and find words that convey my feelings and thoughts without being unintentionally hurtful or invalidating. I recognize that I’m still at the beginning of this process. I’ve learned to trust my experience and my feelings, to evaluate interactions in order to tease out triggers and automatic negative beliefs and mind reading, but I still don’t feel confident at expressing myself effectively with my ex.
I was thinking about this yesterday when I realized that I am capable of it sometimes because my closest friends have no trouble understanding what I’m trying to express. They grasp my concerns and even call me out when I’m expressing myself in ways that aren’t fair or leave out my responsibility in a situation. So why doesn’t this work with my ex? Is it really an inability to share my thoughts, feelings and concerns clearly or is it something in him that distrusts my sincere intentions? I am guessing it’s a little of both and that’s why I want someone to help us.
It breaks my heart that my ex seems to think that I am attacking him. It breaks my heart that he doesn’t respond with basic courtesy when I express feeling hurt by not being validated. It breaks my heart that he doesn’t trust me. I know deep down that I went beyond what I thought I was capable of to heal myself so we could have a better relationship. I chose to face my mental health problems and trauma. I chose to accept my chronic illnesses and did my best to find ways to live with them and still show up for our family. I often wore myself out doing so, to the point that there was no energy left over for doing things that bring me joy.
I had a dream that if I worked diligently on my trauma, our relationship would heal and grow and we would be one of those couples who stays together until death and tells stories about how they struggled to have a good life together and one day fostered a truly powerful relationship because they had deep love for one another. Trust would grow. Intimacy would grow. Acceptance would grow. Now I realize that dream was never going to come true because we lacked the basic trust and respect needed to allow that to happen. Now I’m mourning the death of a dream.