This entry will have no fun pictures and will probably be the hardest thing I’ve written to date. It has taken me over two years to sit down and start this story. One reason it’s so difficult is because its complicated, people are complicated, and this is my version and only mine. Oddly I’m starting in the middle, because for whatever reason the middle makes sense to me. I have unpacked this with therapists and friends and friends that could be therapists, but mostly alone, with my thoughts, trying to sort it all out. I’m still sorting, but I need to start. I want to share this part of my life so I can connect, and learn, and ultimately move on, so here we go.
One year ago, my husband of almost 20 years, who I have been with for over 22, moved out of our family home into a little house, on the water, directly across the street from me and the kids. This day was surreal but certainly not the hardest of days that I’ve experienced over the last several years. By this time, I was exhausted, and I was ready to try something different. It felt like we’d been on a hamster wheel for almost a decade and all I felt was a sense of peace when I stepped off.
On this day we were in the “doing” not the “feeling” mode, so it was tactical, and task driven. His best friend had come to help us move the few larger pieces of furniture that he was taking but he wasn’t taking much, and it took all of about 2 hours to move his belongings and some things to help him feel a little more comfortable across the street. While they got organized and tried to get him settled over there I returned and started to clean. I didn’t move anything or really change anything at this moment, that would take another 9 months, but I did deep clean the bedroom and the living room. It felt like nesting or maybe it was a way to keep my mind preoccupied, so I didn’t have to feel the pain, or the peace of this moment.
At this time, we knew we needed real separation, but we still didn’t really know what this would lead to, that would become clear in May 2021 when we decided to officially end our 20-year marriage for good. We had been separated since October 2020 after a 2-day couples intensive in DC. But being separated and living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, was not providing the environment that felt healthy for healing and was definitely not helping us find our way back to one another. So, we worked with multiple professionals to figure out our next steps and how we could live a life apart.
I had known, at this time, that I felt disconnected from him for many years and that I hadn’t considered him “my person” for so long that I wondered if he ever really was. But I do believe that we managed life well together and we both loved our three children. So, our focus became them and how we could create the best environment for them while we tried to figure things out. We discussed who would be more equipped to handle their emotional and physical needs, we both agreed that I would be the parent to stay with them in the house.
If there is any moment that I will be eternally grateful to Greg, it would be this moment when he agreed to let the kids stay in our family home with me full time. He would set up times to be with them as a group and one on one. The convenience of being across the street would also allow for daily moments and constant connection for events and normal life. I know this was extremely hard on him, something I can never actually imagine, and I know this sacrifice would mean that my kids could experience as few disruptions as possible in their day-to-day life while still having full access to both their parents. This felt like it was best for them, but I understand that this was isolating for him and I felt awful for it all. At the end of the day, we both decided to choose the kids feeling safe, loved, and as unchanged as possible over his needs. It is a testament to the man he is and although I struggled to be in a relationship with him, it was this type of act that endeared me to him and one of the reasons why I do, and always will, love him.
We were still unclear about what was next for us, so we stayed in therapy and continued to connect monthly for a talk to discuss how we were feeling and all the details of life like finances and childcare. I appreciated our ability to continue to put all the pain aside and handle things maturely and with respect. I kept waiting for the dramatic moment of anger or betrayal, but it never came. Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of sadness, anger, guilt, resentment, self-pity, and grief to fill multiple rooms between the two of us and sometimes something hurtful would find its way from inside one of us to send over like a dagger to the other. But in general, we were kind, and generous and thoughtful, it was a bit disorienting in some way. But as I’ve unpacked our relationship now it makes sense. We have put being accommodating, nice, and respectful over just about everything, including our needs, the truth, and our genuine feelings. It was helping us be good in a separation, but I realized it was part of our demise as a couple.
I remember the moment in May that it became clear to me. There were things I was missing about our life as a family and I was in full blown grief over what I’d hoped for us in the future that now felt impossible. But I wasn’t missing our relationship. I was breathing again and relaxing and thinking about how I could experience joy and get to know myself again. I couldn’t figure out where he fit in that process and he had seemed to settle into his routine as well. I didn’t feel either one of us fighting for us anymore. It’s like we ripped the bandage off which hurt like hell but with some air and light the wound was healing and we weren’t going back.
One of the hardest days was the day we sat down and had that final conversation. I went over to his house for the privacy it provided, and we talked about where we were and how we were feeling. I shared that I didn’t want to continue in this place of uncertainty, and I thought it was time to “call it”. And then we looked at each other from across the table and told one another how much we loved each other, and we meant it, every word. Then I started to cry, uncontrollably, and he asked me why I was crying. I’m not sure exactly what I said but I think it was something like, “this is just so sad”. We were both so incredibly sad, the grief poured over both of us. It was the end, and we knew it and we both surrendered to it. We stood up and embraced, we cried, and we held one another and cried some more. It felt like we had done our best and that we were hurting and letting go all at the same time. I will never forget that moment, that feeling. I felt loved, both by him and for him.
Well, this was the middle and although it was hard it didn’t compare to the pain and struggle that occurred years before we got to this point. For Greg and me it wasn’t like something happened and it all fell apart. It was like it slowly, over many years and moments, fell apart and then we had to decide what would happen. We had grown so distant from one another, in so many ways and for so many reasons, many that I’m still uncovering. But ultimately, we just never found our way back. What I’m clear on is that we had many wonderful and loving years as a couple, and as a family. We fit at some point, it worked, and we were genuinely happy. I don’t regret any of the years, they made me who I am, they taught me so much and they gave me three beautiful children.
I will be forever grateful to Greg, and although I understand this path is challenging, painful and uncomfortable, I believe I’ve made the best choice, at this moment, for me and for my family. I am doing the best I can, and so is he. I will always be here for Greg and I believe he will always be there for me. I imagine that we will be connected for the remainder of our lives, at least, I hope. So, I will continue to search for clarity, live in each moment, and practice gratitude and compassion, especially with myself. I got this.
3 thoughts on “Across The Street”
Oh Michelle, how beautiful, sad, and incredibly brave you are to share this part of your journey with everyone. I’m so sorry to hear about your separation. I know you know this, but perhaps it’s still nice to hear that you, Greg, the kids…you all have people rooting for the best for all of you, even from a far. You are in my thoughts, often, and you always have a friend in me. You’ve definitely ‘got this’ my friend, but if you ever need another ear to bend, I’ve got you!
Thank you Sherry, that is extremely comforting. I know you care about all of us and your words mean so much. Appreciate you beautiful friend.
I understand your words. Completely. Was there in this space just last March. Thank you for writing about what has been … and will continue to be … in your world.
From one who has been there, again, thank you. Doug