Separation limbo!
November 30, 2016 3:47 PM   Subscribe

This was me. We've living apart, not really communicating, and still married. Now what?

He moved out a little over a month ago and contact has been minimal. We talk on the phone maybe 15 minutes a week and it's mostly been checking in to say hi, how are you, happy birthday, happy Thanksgiving, you have mail here, etc. He's been a combination of cold, detached, and weepy. Occasionally he emails me a news story or a jokey link. I'm a wreck but playing it cool in our interactions. Being kind, upbeat, chatty without sharing much, conversational in a superficial way, trying very hard not to fall apart and/or explode. I have lots of support thanks to great friends/family and my therapist. I'm working hard to bring my best self forward in all of this and find other ways/places to express and process my hurt and anger and grief and the million other things I'm feeling.

He's the one who wants to divorce, but there's been no discussion of moving forward with it. Months ago we talked about filing a summary dissolution in CA (we've been married less than 5 years, no kids, no property, no debts) and we'll need to complete and file that paperwork together. I realize it hasn't been long, but having this space and hearing him choke up on the phone and seeing his name in my inbox activates tiny pangs of hope, and there really isn't any hope here. Even if he did change his mind about the divorce, things would be have to be hugely different and it would require work that he's already made pretty clear he's not interested in doing. There's a part of me that desperately wants to get this over with ASAP so I can move on.

My therapist asks me if I feel ready to go forward with the divorce. I don't, but I can't imagine ever feeling "ready." What does "ready" even look like in this scenario? How long would I have to wait to feel "ready?" But I also feel it would be unfair for me to have to initiate this painful process when this is something he wanted. I've already done the lion's share of the emotional labor in this relationship. It makes me feel bitter and resentful.

Any advice from those who have been there (and those who haven't) would be appreciated. I read and re-read the comments in my last post on a weekly basis and it's so helpful for me. Thank you!
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you're misunderstanding the word "ready." Have you shored up your support systems, do you have whatever money will be required, do you feel you can get through this task without the stress of it affecting your ability to support yourself/not hurt yourself? If yes, go ahead. If no, tell her you need help putting together a plan to get those things queued up.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2016 [14 favorites]


Oh, and it IS unfair, but it will be the final unfairness. Get it done, you know he won't.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2016 [23 favorites]


There's a part of me that desperately wants to get this over with ASAP so I can move on.

Listen to that part of you. Make friends with that part of you. Honor that part of you.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 4:05 PM on November 30, 2016 [38 favorites]


I don't, but I can't imagine ever feeling "ready." What does "ready" even look like in this scenario? How long would I have to wait to feel "ready?" But I also feel it would be unfair for me to have to initiate this painful process when this is something he wanted.


It's going to hurt and no one ever feels ready to do something they know is going to hurt. But it's also going to stop the hurt in the long term and get you out of this terrible limbo. Yes it's unfair of him to make you go through this, but that's even more evidence of how very much this needs to happen. Get the paperwork, set a date and time, and go through it. Rely on your supporters. You'll start feeling better soon.
posted by bleep at 4:20 PM on November 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


Listen to Lyn Never. "Ready" can mean that you've numbly gone through the motions of getting your property, finances, address, health insurance, etc. sorted for a change, even if you can't yet feel prepared for the circumstances that have brought you to today. I've said before that this situation is like a fear of flying: one anxiously books tickets, packs clothes, reserves a hotel, drives to the airport, goes through security, and gets on the plane. One doesn't feel ready for it, but suddenly you're flying and the anticipation of the moment is in your past, leaving only the present and future in focus.

My sympathies.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:23 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Promise not to threadsit! I should clarify my therapist was referring to my emotional readiness. In the practical sense, I'm both ready and lucky. Have good supports in place, financially stable, feel safe, the divorce won't negatively impact my ability to support myself and I won't be needing him for anything.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:25 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


it would be unfair for me to have to initiate this painful process when this is something he wanted. I've already done the lion's share of the emotional labor in this relationship. It makes me feel bitter and resentful.

It IS unfair and it sucks, kind of like it was unfair and sucked that you already had to do all the work in this relationship and still got dumped. This is after all the same guy. He's not all of a sudden going to be tending to your needs at this point.

If your finances and supports are in place, rip off the bandaid. That part of you that wants to get it over with? She's smart and realistic and brave and ready. Let her take the wheel.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:01 PM on November 30, 2016 [18 favorites]


It wouldn't be unfair of you to start the proceedings because you have to be able to get on with your life. He's said he doesn't want to work on the marriage so it's shit or get off the pot time. He's laid this on you, you don't have to wait for him to take it off.

I also think you might be talking too much under the circumstances, it seems more like leaving a door open and putting yourselves through an ascetic period where you're only minimizing your emotional involvement. You're the best judge of whether time will expand this involvement in each others' lives as each or either of you doesn't move on and turn to the other for emotional support. My impression is that it often does.
posted by rhizome at 5:24 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a part of me that desperately wants to get this over with ASAP so I can move on.

This is what ready looks like.
posted by rtha at 5:29 PM on November 30, 2016 [27 favorites]


But I also feel it would be unfair for me to have to initiate this painful process when this is something he wanted. I've already done the lion's share of the emotional labor in this relationship. It makes me feel bitter and resentful.

Yes, this absolutely is unfair, and it's also the reason why it's probably going to be better for you to move forward with the divorce and get on with your life. He's not going to bother to do the work to set you free unless/until doing that work it going to benefit him (and even then, ten bucks says he'll still expect you to do more that half the labor).

I got divorced in 2008, after 5 years of marriage and 12 years together. I didn't (initially) want the divorce, and I felt like my ex could have done much more to save the marriage-- but he didn't want to. And yet, after breaking my heart and announcing that he just "couldn't do this anymore", he totally failed to take any useful steps towards actually getting a divorce. After months of limbo, I finally, resentfully, got the ball rolling on the divorce-- and found out that it was a relief and, honestly, vital to my process of letting the marriage go.

Getting divorced will help you move past those pings that are keeping you tied to your almost-certainly sentimental vision of the past. Once you're free of your ex, you can grieve and heal and find someone who wants to be with you.
posted by Kpele at 6:03 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've just realized that I didn't emphasize an important aspect of this, which is: you're not moving forward with the divorce to benefit him... you're moving forward for you. You don't owe him anything, but you deserve to be free of him so you can find something better.
posted by Kpele at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


Hi blackcatcurioser, my heart aches for you and I have wanted to send you hugs since your last post about this situation (I couldn't because I wasn't yet a member). Anyway, others have written about the divorce/legal aspect of this, and I am not as familiar with divorce but I am also going through a break-up and move. I think part of why you are not feeling emotionally ready is because you haven't done some of the break-up steps, like going no contact. These weekly calls sound emotionally and energetically draining and they do not seem to serve a purpose other than maybe assuaging his guilt. I suggest going no contact. Set a date for some time in the future (minimum 3 months, but probably more like 6) and try to use that time to grieve, reflect, rest, connect with friends and your support system, and stop pouring your energy into this person who has left you feeling so depleted. When the deadline is up, check in with yourself about what you are "ready" for: maybe it will be calling him or meeting for coffee, maybe it will be filling out this paperwork and finalizing your divorce, maybe you will discover that you need some more time. I get that it feels urgent/important to "finalize the divorce" but I also think there's not necessarily so much urgency around it, and maybe the bigger piece right now is really about making the separation real, accepting it, and attending to your emotional needs, because that is the stuff that will get better with time and will clear space for a feeling of "readiness." Hugs and strength to you.
posted by sleepingwithcats at 7:58 PM on November 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


I want to reinforce all of those who are urging you to just do what works for you.

I'm going to straight up quote my advice from your last post. We started by clearly separating, and letting people know rather quickly. Within a couple weeks of that decision we were not living in the same place. Beyond that, one day at a time, with an eye on the logistics. You need to make a clear decision and then implement it.

Vermont required that we be separated for six months before the courts would finalize a divorce. So, that gave me my timeline and I created a calendar (actually a spreadsheet). This week I need a new credit card, next week we liquidate the bank accounts, the following week we list the house, etc. I sat down, figured out every logistical task that would need to be done, and how to get through them all. I let my therapist know what I was intending. That helped because I hit a period after about three months where I just decided to go out and have fun - which was great - but I needed a nudge to remember my priorities and not let things linger or fester.

Personally, I don't think this is about whether you have that fifteen minutes of contact a week or not. It's about what you do with all the other minutes in the week. If you can't focus on your path forward, that is the sign you need to cut contact entirely for a bit. But, if you are implementing a clear plan and need to coordinate with him as well, that's okay. Either way it's going to suck and hurt. Sorry about that. It isn't fair. It is worth keeping things moving towards a resolution. Hugs.
posted by meinvt at 9:08 PM on November 30, 2016


There is no emotionally ready in terms of "BOOYAH! Let's do this thing!" unless you either a) dislike your spouse, or b) are a sociopath.

I think you should ask your therapist to help reframe that question. Do you acknowledge the marriage is over? Do you want to move into a new future? Answering "yes" to those questions does not mean there will not be mourning and pain and tears and waves of regret; it means you are moving ahead through those things.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:15 AM on December 1, 2016


As someone who's been there: do not underestimate how good it will feel to be allowed to quit.

Honestly. I worked a long time on my marriage before the end, and when we decided it was over, for real, the vast sea of relief that was open to me at that time was the best thing that could have happened to me.

However, I did REQUIRE that my ex actually DO THINGS. He wanted to claim that I'd made all the decisions in the past, that he just went along: Okay. Fine. Now you get to make some decisions. We need to do x, y, z. I took z, he took x and y, and I held him accountable to that in order to move the divorce process forward.

It is freeing. It is cathartic. It is what is best.

Good luck. Please contact me if you want to talk. This sucks. A lot of things about it suck. But getting to quit is pretty great.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:59 AM on December 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Get a lawyer. Have your lawyer contact him. You won't need to feel those pangs.

He's been a combination of cold, detached, and weepy. Occasionally he emails me a news story or a jokey link.

This is exactly how my ex was with me. And we tried to be "friends" and then suddenly he "couldn't be friends" and it was shitty and thoughtless and he was never actually a very good friend anyway because I was just a supporting character all along in the dramatic movie of his life about how unfair the world was to him and how much of a victim he was and how sad it was that I couldn't make him happy. Sad for him, that is. Woe was him. Eventually (as in years later) I was able to laugh at his bullshit, and now I pity him.

He had a lot of issues and wasn't very mature. I see a lot of that here. I don't think your ex has handled much of anything here well. It's a shame, but you need to get to that place where you can detachedly observe his self-pity and self-sabotage and sort of shake your head and move on to exciting and good things in life.
posted by stockpuppet at 1:12 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Definitely the no-contact thing.

In New Zealand, divorce laws are quite simple. It's just a stage, which you can only apply for if you can prove you've been separated for two years. It's always no-fault.

By the time you've been separated two years, divorce is just "oh I must get round to filing that paperwork sometime".

Time fixes everything.
posted by tillsbury at 11:10 AM on December 2, 2016


He's done a really fine job of making your relationship all about him. Make the divorce about you. He's not going to do anything about it until he has to - like, when he's met someone else he's super eager to marry.

But right now he can run hot and cold with you as he pleases. He doesn't have to make any effort in (not even a phone call - you'll do that!).

I think the very worst part is the thing you've already faced: it's beyond repair, even if he wanted to come back. If you can look that in the face, you've got this.

Yes, divorce sucks. But it was the most liberated I've ever felt. I've never been lonely a day in my single life.

Even if you have to do all the work, it's worth it. Give up whatever he wants. (I literally kept the TV, the TV stand and two patio chairs. It was fantastic! I'd do it again.)

But do not give him anymore days. Or even hours. You get those now. It would be a real shame if you were still tangled up in all this nonsense and missed out on someone who was willing to be a real partner. Someone who didn't make you do all the work.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:15 PM on January 29, 2017


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