My ex-husband informed me yesterday that hereafter we will be following the terms of our divorce decree when it comes to sharing certain expenses for our children. He is, of course, entitled to insist on this, but until now we have simply divided things amicably into categories (e.g. medical expenses, extra-curricular activities, school fees, etc.) and split our responsibilities roughly by category, rather than keeping receipts and doing calculations and writing each other small checks back and forth to account for monthly or quarterly differences in expenses. By my estimation, sometimes I had come out ahead, and sometimes he had, but I figured that preserving the peace between us and cultivating a collaborative and supportive post-divorce relationship was worth losing some small amount of cash.
Apparently I was wrong.
Money was always an issue in our marriage. Not the lack of it, mind you, but the fact that he felt that because he earned the overwhelming majority of it, he should control it. He chronically complained that I spent too much money on our children and myself, despite the fact that our net worth surpassed 98% of America as well as most of our friends, and the girls and I wore clothes from Target. After our separation, having control over my own money — what little of it there is — has been one of my greatest joys, and to no longer feel like a financial burden is truly a gift.
And yet, here we are: still fighting about money.
We’ve all heard often enough that when you have children and divorce, you don’t really get to divorce yourself from your spouse. You just don’t have to live with them every day anymore. But they still have the power, every day, to yank the rug out from under you and send you tumbling back into that uncomfortable, uncertain place full of conflict and mistrust and angst. Quite simply, they can still ruin your day.
Being divorced is full of dichotomies. There are moments when I feel quite warm toward my ex, when I am glad that he is still in my life in some small way, and then there are moments when I truly and sincerely wish he would go away and I would never, ever have to deal with him ever again. Today, I’d even buy him the plane ticket to make him just. go. away.
In my lighter moments, it almost makes me chuckle — that when I said “I do” to forever, I had no idea that our forever would look like this. But, truth be told, we will be sharing a forever together. Not as a married couple, to be sure, but definitely as a couple locked into this tentative, suspicious dance. Our once-tender relationship has been reduced to the terms of a court order, and that will be our mutual future forever.
When I am battling my ex, I look at my daughters and pine for a way to teach them how to avoid this in their own future. I worry about how to convey to them the importance of their choice in a mate. I wish I could pour my accumulated knowledge into their little heads so that they will not risk the same mistakes I made. But I can’t. So instead, I continue my mantra of caution with them: Choose carefully and deliberately and wisely and for the right reasons. Because forever is a lot longer than you think.