Treading Water


I don’t know how to do this.

For nearly eighteen years, I’ve been part of a team. We bought a house together, paid our bills together, made three babies together.  We shared holidays and we carpooled when the roads were bad.  We held hands and dried each other’s tears at funerals; we leaned on each other in tough times and laughed together in good times.

It’s time for both of us to sink or swim on our own.

It would be easier if I could hate him.  I want to hate him. I want to rage and shriek with fury.  I want to be Anne Bancroft in “How to Make an American Quilt”, hurling porcelain dolls at him and turning the broken shards into a lasting work of art so I can revisit my anger for years.

But I can’t hate him.  We never stopped loving each other.  We stopped liking each other.  We stopped talking.  We stopped being a couple.  We stopped telling the truth, and we stopped being in love.

I am making plans for a future without him:  I am trying to buy my own home, and I have a job interview next week.  We are being cordial—friendly, actually – and making decisions about who gets which car and how we’re going to share custody of the kids.  But in the end, I’m going to be alone.

I’m going to be a single mom.

I can’t call my mom for advice.   She’s been gone for almost thirty years.  I can read books on coping with divorce, and I can ask others for advice, but when it comes right down to it, I am going to be alone.    Sinking or swimming, all by myself.

It’s going to be all right.  I never sink, no matter how choppy the water gets.

In the past month, I have cried a lot.  Talked a lot.  Thought a lot.  Haven’t slept much.  Thrown up more than I care to admit.  But I’ve also talked to my husband – really talked, actually communicated on a level we haven’t reached in years.  I’ve seen a spark of the man I married, a hint of his old smile, and I remember why I fell in love with him.

And I’ve seen the old me, too.

I miss the sweet and funny guy that I married.  I miss the strong, independent person I used to be.  I miss our naiveté, and I am mourning the loss of everything that could have been.  Should have been, if only we had learned to communicate like this a long, long time ago.   As much as it hurts to admit, we can never be at our best as long as we are together.

The thing I miss the most is sleeping with him. I don’t mean having sex; I mean sleeping.  On our left side, a pair of spoons. His arm around my waist, our fingers twined together, his breath in my hair.  Even after all those years, even after the worst fights, we always slept like that.  Close together, drawing warmth from each other.  He was my cocoon. My security blanket.  My protector.

He took care of me when I broke my neck.  He cried with me when I lost my father.  And he held me in his arms the night we broke each other’s hearts and spoke the word aloud for the first time.


I don’t hate him.  But we are sinking together, and we both need to swim.

On our own.