It’s now Tuesday morning, and I wrote and meant to post this Monday evening. I was so mentally wiped from the day I left it sitting up on my screen without pressing publish last night.
The post has been brewing in my head for the last week and the perking overflowed when a email this morning made me recognize that I should probably download my thoughts now and try to make sense of my own thinking.
One of our “couple” friends recently separated, and this one really rocked our world and saddened us. This is an older couple, the wife taught both my oldest daughter and my son in second grade, so we have known her awhile, but really only became friendly friends when G was in junior high school. She is in her last year of teaching after a 41 year career, and her husband is an engineer working for the state. Both are 65, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in December.
Last month, just after a few days after a large gathering of family and friends for her 65th birthday, he blindsided her by packing a bag and telling her he was leaving … for another, much younger woman. In fact, his new squeeze is a few months younger than their 36 year old twin daughters. So major drama and upheaval in that corner, right as she is nearing retirement and was looking forward to new challenges as a retired person or as a retired person pursuing new interests and potential second careers.
This morning she emailed me asking for finance type advice – budgets and such. When she first told me about what had happened, we were one the phone for more than 2 hours discussing how she felt and what practical steps she should be taking. Because while she’s heartbroken and truly angry with her spouse, reality is they have a long marriage, assets, and she really needs to contemplate life on her own right now and investigate the practical steps to protect herself in the event the separation sticks and they do proceed into divorce. Because I (apparently) have a heart of stone and zero interest in seeing her reconcile with her rat bastard husband … or so one of her daughters characterized me and anyone else who suggested anything other than pursuing marriage counseling and individual therapy to repair the damage.
Every day that passes I realize I have become more cynical and suspicious of people’s motives and intents. But it seems to me, when a man packs his bags and moves in with his mistress he is presenting a pretty damn clear declaration of hurtful intent. And while I wish it were not so, too many times this is the time when unscrupulous former partners drain bank accounts or take other hostile actions that have to be fought over and sorted out in an extraordinarily expensive manner later on.
So call me cynical if you must, but I view it as purely practical – I strongly suggested she consult a good family law attorney as to what her next steps should be with regard to the separation. They have joint everything, so it would be easy for him to drain their accounts, go on a shopping spree and max out their credit cards, and then merrily walk away. In no way am I saying he even might consider doing this, but I have seen far too many people do crazy things to discount anything. I believe in protecting myself when someone takes hostile actions against me. Engaging an attorney for some professional advice is small cakes in the bigger picture of what a divorce in this case could become. Protecting herself NOW does not mean she’s filing for divorce and giving up on her marriage; it simply means she’s taking steps to ensure she does not get screwed over or hurt further during a vulnerable time.
I am not sure why my advice seems so controversial, but it is. Even M is on the fence about it, because in his mind, it’s like tossing in the towel on a long marriage. Of course, it could be he’s afraid of what I would do in the event he suffered some sort of mental breakdown and tried that kind of crap on me. In my life, people do a lot of things for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend. If I cannot understand their actions, I need to be very wary and take steps to ensure my safety first before the situation between us escalates – I am very simple minded that way.
Only a little surprisingly, she consulted a family law attorney about what to do about their finances, etc. He advised her of many of the same things I did – open her own bank account and redirect her paycheck, make note of their account balances as of date of separation and move 50% of account balances to an account under her own name, etc. I’m sure there is more, but those are the things she things she specifically mentioned. But she needs some help working out a budget for just herself. So we’re meeting on Wednesday after school to get started on the process.
In her email she also joked about what sort of dating life a retired school teacher in her 60s could eventually enjoy. Humor is her defense, and I get it. However, her daughters are horrified by her joking this way. I suppose they would prefer she shroud herself in grief until their father comes to his senses and leaves “that floozy.” They hate that their mother is talking to attorneys and drawing up a financial separation plan upsets them, but calling, texting, emailing and screaming at me is misdirection of their angry feelings.
My friend did not say anything about their interactions with their dad, and neither did the daughters in our brief, emotion-shortened communications today, but I cannot help wondering what their feelings are about their father and his girlfriend? Are they as angry and as thoughtless when speaking to him as they are to their mother and by extension to me?
Anyway, it’s sad, probably be even more sad by the time everything is said and done.
This situation has been on my mind most of the day, and we talked by phone this evening. She’s in so much pain, and it breaks my heart and makes me want to throttle her husband AND her daughters. I think her kids are actually pretty good people under normal circumstances, so it’s not that difficult for me to give them a pass for their unhinged behavior toward me today. There is a little tinge of entitled princesses coming out right now, and I hope someone captures their attention long enough to make them recognize their behavior helps no one, least of all their parents.
I realize I haven’t a clue how to reassure my friend about dating and future relationships, except to say when she is ready, there are a lot of resources available to help find companionship. But that’s not something to think about or concern herself with right now. Right now is living moment-by-moment, getting through a single day, then another, then another until the end of the school year. I offered to make dinner, or we could go out, or just meet somewhere for coffee and talk if she wants or needs to get out of the house. We are meeting on Wednesday to discuss her budget and how to manage her finances. I think she is in such a pained fog she has no idea what she’s doing, what she should be doing. I will do what I can to help her get through this awful, awful period.
We did share a laugh, joking about this was my cue to proselytize about the wonders of diet and exercise. I told her I would be terribly hypocritical about the eating, seeing as I feel as if I am faltering and falling down, down, down, after tumbling completely out of the wagon. It is a temporary setback; RD is tomorrow and will help me with my focus. As for exercise, she walks regularly, and if she did not live across town from us, I would strongly suggest she hire J for a few sessions and then come practice with me. Then again, I think everyone would benefit greatly from at least a few sessions with J.
Anymore, I hope this is as cranky as I get with people who are genuinely hurting. Yeah, the daughters could be a little more grown-up about expressing their opinion differences on how I support their mom, but today they got a free pass to be abusive. I also made the judgment call that their mom does not need to be burdened further by their acting out toward a family friend. Tomorrow, next interaction, not so much, and definitely without some measure of an apology for dumping their crap all over me.
It’s been quite a Monday. Usually the most dramatic thing I have to talk about is training with J.
At the opposite end of the marriage spectrum is friend J. Poor friend J and his dating trials and tribulations … *laugh*
His most recent dating partner has not taken his offer of hanging out, being friends very well and is being difficult and petulant with him. The trials and tribulations of a nice, honest guy who does not want marriage, children, or even a serious relationship. Having watched him go through this same dance with other women many times through the years I know he will manage. But I shake my head and wonder why he never seems to learn. Having known him since he was 22 and fresh out of college (he is now in his early 40s), I remember what he was like when he was 28 and dating women his own age. I wonder how he has managed to forget that there is not too much difference between women that age 15 years ago and now.
But M and I have a little chuckle over his relationship wrangling. It’s a pleasant distraction from the rest of my Monday’s events.
Tomorrow will be an improvement. I have already decided.