Thursday, November 19, 2009

The straw that broke a marriage

This is the much belated conclusion that answers the question "Why did you get divorced?". There's also a beginning and a middle to the answer, if you're so inclined.

I slipped the game hens into the oven and sighed. The Kid, just 16-months-old, toddled between my legs for the 30th time in two minutes. "Gah?" he asked my kneecap.

I was certain what he intended to say was, "Where the fuck is my daddy, anyway? Isn't he supposed to be watching me so my mommy can cook without the fear of me crawling into the oven to be roasted with the poultry?"

Projecting? Well, yes. But where the fuck was his dad?

I lifted The Kid onto my hip and wandered through the house, following the sounds of laughter into the basement. Finding that the party had moved downstairs, I set The Kid at his father's feet and gave my best "Hello? Remember this?" scowl.

I returned to my kitchen duties and was surprised to hear the party climbing back up the stairs only minutes later. For a brief moment, I thought he'd really gotten it; was moving everyone back upstairs so that he could help and leave me not quite so alone with my chores.

But my hope was short-lived. It wasn't long before I noticed that something was missing. "Where's The Kid?" I asked, glancing into the living room.

"Playing with his trains," replied The Ex. And so he was, as was one of our guests who had conveniently been abandoned in the basement to watch him. I found her sitting on the floor looking a bit bewildered, while The Kid happily circled around and around and around his train table.

"Did you just get left down here to babysit?" I asked, appalled.

"Um. Kind of..." she answered. "But it's okay!" she added quickly. Because she's polite. Unlike my ex-husband.

Again, I lifted The Kid onto my hip, this time with a Thomas the Tank Engine piece clutched in each grubby fist, and walked them both back upstairs. Again, I set The Kid at his father's feet. "Can you please keep an eye on him?" I pleaded.

Again. For the umpteenth time that evening. And I had to ask several more times before dinner was finished.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Eventually I gave up and (again) lifted The Kid to my hip while I finished up the meal. This involved a lot of balancing him off to one side while I leaned into the oven to baste the hens, and on one attempt I managed to stick my bare thumb directly on the very hot oven rack.

I yelped, handed The Kid to his dad (again), and scampered off to the bathroom to find the aloe. But my thumb REALLY hurt. And the hens were close to being overdone. And in my pain and haste, I couldn't find the damn aloe. So I returned to the kitchen to ask for help, and found The Ex deeply engaged in a conversation.

Now, a note on The Ex and his conversations: they're monologues, really. Never ending monologues. People have been known to walk away from him mid-sentence because there's only so much "uh huh"ing and "yeah, totally"ing and "you don't say"ing that any once person can be expected to do during any one conversation.

Finding him in the midst of telling a story did not bode well for my thumb.

I tried the polite approach first and stood obtrusively in the kitchen. (The kind of obtrusive that says "I'm not going to interrupt, but as soon as you finish that sentence, could you give me a second?") He glanced at me, and went on with his story.

I inserted a gentle "Um..." at a subtle pause in his speech, but he plowed on through.

Finally, I blurted out: "I burnt my thumb." And then I held it up for him to see. It was already blistering, so I thought the "Help!" would be self-explanatory. His response almost knocked me over.

"Is that all you have to tell me? I'm in the middle of a story."

And then?

He continued with his story. He never did help me find the aloe; never asked me how my thumb was; I'm not even sure he ever asked me how I burned it.

Maybe that doesn't sound like that much. Taken by itself, it's not that much. Certainly not enough to end a marriage. But it was a perfect example of very typical behavior from him.

After 8 years of it, I was done.

I'd been done for quite some time, really. But that was the moment when there was no longer any doubt in my mind.

When our guests went home that night, I told him we had six months. If, at the end of those six months, there was no improvement, we'd be over. He wasn't surprised. We'd been having the same arguments for almost all of our relationship. The only thing different about this one was that I wasn't arguing; wasn't pleading. This time, I was giving it a deadline. I suggested we go to counseling (something I'd suggested many times before), but he declined.

And six months later, I told him it was time to go.


Jodie Ansted said...

Good for you to stick to your deadline and get out of it when you did. Many would battle through for many more years to come, and really, what sort of life is that? It's cliched, but life really is too short. It's here to enjoy.

And now you enjoy. Good for you.

Nicki said...

I completely understand. And it's funny, the whole concept of 'no, it wasn't just the dinner party...' I think we're trained to think it has to be some huge culminating event that leads to the divorce. Instead, I think sometimes it's a bunch of little things that all add up to we shouldn't be together.

Right now, I, too, am analyzing the marriage and the divorce. Guess I truly believe that if I don't study it and learn from it, I'm doomed to make the same mistakes. And I'm determined to break the cycle NOW.

T said...

Uh huh. Yep. Been there. Done that.


Good for you for finding that breaking point and following through. Sometimes the breaking point is a minute little thing, isn't it?


MindyMom said...

This scenario sounds so familiar. My now ex husband was often just another guest at the party instead of the host. It was a microcosm for the rest of our marriage. And he was very dismissive.

adrienzgirl said...

I think often that people in general, not just men, forget, that really, it is the little things that mean the most!

anderson said...

It is the duty of both the partners to look after the child and if one is not paying attention, he/she deserves to learn about it!
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Moo's Mamma said...

I just found your blog... I love it : )I could have written this post...myself... well... I'm off to read more : )

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