After however many years, whether in a marriage or in a live-in relationship, at some point, statistically, most of us will separate. Traditionally when you separate from someone, it is customary to leave the domicile, or at least the area. You tried, it didn’t work, and now you pack your stuff into a Louis Vuitton suitcase, or a Vons shopping bag, or a handkerchief tied to a stick, and venture forth into your unknown, bright future.
Some of us, under the influence of an overblown sense of guilt or some other forces not understood to humanity, do not leave at all. Instead we move into a guest room, or a basement, or a guesthouse and continue to “co-parent,” for the sake of the children. “Co-parent” which according an earlier post I define as, “The illusion that you can control another person’s actions when you are not there because you used to sleep with them.”
When you co-parent in the same house as your ex, many times you are there. You are still subject to all the annoying habits you used to find so damn lovable, and these serve as a constant reminder that YOU FAILED. You are a statistic, you couldn’t make it work and now you must stay and rub your nose in your inability to co-operate. You live, at least partly, amongst their “crap,” both physical and metaphysical, and but now there are no mitigating factors, like that you may actually get laid later.
And then there are the children. Ah, the children. Remember all those years ago when you made that fateful decision to procreate, high on the fumes of ill-advised optimism and oxytocin? And now here they are, all tanned and puppyish in the Malibu summer, gazing up at you with their fast dwindling innocence, with some infinitesimal hope that mommy and daddy will get back together, even having been told a thousand times otherwise.
“Kiss him,” they bleat, as you pass the baton and hand off the progeny at the neutral location of Barney’s Beanery. You kiss his cheek, and he rubs it off. There is affection, tenderness, but all pretense is gone. You didn’t make it. And now you must pay.
Friends, it is not for the faint-hearted. No matter how amicable the break-up, it is a challenge to continually put the kids first; to work on letting go of resentments as they occur, to cry the tears that need to be released, and to compromise so two kids who can barely find their socks in the morning don’t have to pack and move between two households every week.
Lately I feel like a distance runner, on mile 65 of a 150-mile race. “Only eight more years,” I tell myself daily, “Maybe less.” And I stagger through the days, sometimes worried about the sounds I make at night, because he can hear me through the vents, and sometimes just not wanting to be under the same roof with him, but knowing that until we sell the house, I don’t really have a choice. I am stuck in a generous purgatory that I am supposed to be grateful for, because the house has a nice view, and I’m not eating out of a dumpster. So what if I don’t have a bathroom; for how can your children’s happiness compare to peeing in the bushes?