I sent the following e-mail to my friend Erin last night, near midnight, from the cold street outside a coffee shop.
I’m done. I can’t do this without my wife, and she is texting another man. I need her back. I can’t do that as a woman.
It was the culmination of a week’s worth of anxiety and two days of straight-up heartache. And everything written there is true, for the most part.
First: Yes, my wife is texting another man. She did not do this in secret, and she was honest with me when it started; but for the past few days she has been exchanging messages with someone she connected with on a dating site. She feels that our marriage is over, emotionally if not legally, and she wants to begin moving on.
Second: Yes, last night I thought I was willing to give it all up to get her back. We were out with some friends as a social gathering, and I was trying to grit my teeth and grin my way though it (not everyone there knew our marriage was breaking up), and I just couldn’t do it. I ended up outside, near midnight, e-mailing and then calling poor Erin on the phone to vent, to complain, to break down. I wasn’t strong enough to do it, I would never successfully transition anyways, so why was I giving her up just to become a lonely freak in a dress?!
Erin, bless her, tried to talk me down, but I was in an emotional breakdown. I had been depressed for days about her wanting to text another man. I was still in love with her, I wanted my fair chance to win her back, and why wasn’t she giving me that chance?
So when we got home last night, I broke down to her. Again. I told her I still loved her, that I thought she was disrespecting me by texting another man while we were still legally married, and that I was willing to give it all up for her. Everything! Throw away every stitch of clothing. Delete every online posting. See a therapist who could “fix me,” maybe dose me with MOAR TESTOSTERONE, make me manly and hetero.
I was lying, and she knew it. Hell somewhere deep down, I knew it too. But this time she was not sympathetic to me; this time she let me have it. She said I was being unfair to her; that all those years she tried to make it work and I wasn’t willing, those were my chances. That for her, the intimacy — in a lot of ways the marriage itself — had ended nearly two years ago when our attempt at marriage counseling broke down.
There was some more conversation, but that’s the essence of it: I wanted one more chance, and I was told, emphatically, NO. She wants to move forward, and I want to move back, and that isn’t going to work.
And wearily, at 2:30 in the morning, both physically and emotionally drained, I finally said, “Okay.” To her, and to myself.
From now on, in this blog I will refer to her as my ex-wife. Not out of malice, and not out of a lack of love, but out of a need to accept it as real. Please don’t read this, or any of my future blog posts, and think of her as my enemy or as someone who has hurt me. She is as much a victim of all this as I am. “Ex-wife” is a statement of cold reality, not a vilification of this wonderful woman who’s just trying to put herself back together, the same as I am.
We remain together as legal partners and co-parents, for now. It will take a lot of time to untangle our lives, and I think we’re finally both okay with that. It is entirely possible that, as roommates, we’ll stay together for some time to come. But she is my ex-wife. She is in my past, not my future.
I’ve got a lot of stuff swirling in my head this morning. I’ll end with lyrics from one of them because, if you hadn’t already noticed, music kind of speaks to me, and I think a post like this needs to end with at least a little optimism …
Well I’m not
The kind to insist
You couldn’t have missed
We must coexist
So please listen to me
There is no such thing as human debris
I know I’m not broken
A little cracked
But dad I’m not so nothing
I wanna laugh
I’m not joking
(Oh yeah I said I’m unbroken)
I said I’m unbroken
(A little cracked it’s just a token)
I’m really not broken
(What a guess I’m unbroken)
— “Broken,” by Bad Religion