As I type this, my partner of a little over six years is packing up the belongings we've decided are his and moving them out of our apartment.
This is a decision we both came to and agreed upon, but one that is still fraught with anxiety, pain and heartbreak. As much as I'm looking forward to getting to find out who I am now in the context of only myself, a very real part of me is devastated by this turn of events.
Our serious, we-need-to-address-this-shit type problems started around two years ago. We embarked on a dizzying cycle of ups and downs, and have almost separated three times in the last year and a half. And I'm not talking about having a conversation with each other and whispering about one of us leaving –- I mean we told our friends, told our families, and started to make arrangements three times.
Each time something would happen (one time he showed up at a wedding I was shooting with flowers, like something out of a movie), and we would pull back. Even though we knew we needed to, we weren't ready to be apart.
This is all a little more complicated because we're also co-parents to our three-year-old son, and his happiness and emotional security is at the forefront of this entire separation. We're operating on a “need to know” basis with him –- he has the information we feel like he can handle, carefully presented to him in a way that he can process.
For example, he knows his dad will be living nearby, but I'm not entirely sure that he understands that if he's spending the night with his dad he's not spending the night with me. After one particularly detailed conversation about having two homes and spending the night at each, my son turned to me and asked, “But who will live with you if I'm staying at my dad's?”
My husband (What do I call him now? Estranged spouse? Ex? My son's dad? Fuck.) and I decided to separate three weeks ago, but have continued to live together while he found a roommate and another place to call home. Since we're on pretty great terms personally, friend-to-friend, this hasn't been the worst situation in the world, but it's still not an experience I would wish on anyone.
We live in around 400 square feet, so when I've wanted to just sit at the table and be sad, really process and dig around in my feelings, I haven't been able to –- there's nowhere to go when you share a small space and you don't want the other person to see you cry. I haven't wanted tears misconstrued as regret, so I've been trying to contain most of my emotions until I'm on my own.
We've also kept up a lot of the habits we had as a couple –- if one us cooks, the other has been doing the dishes. I do bath time with our son, and his dad reads books before bed. This has been nice, because there's still a semblance of what has been our normal for years, but it's also not nice because it's just going to end. It is ending. Right now.
We're still watching bootleg episodes of the current seasons of "Downton Abbey" and “Grey's Anatomy” together and musing about the state of the shows, but things get uncomfortable when there's a particularly sweet moment or a line about loving someone forever and/or marriage. Because, well. You know.
Later today, we'll all go to the place where my ex(?) will be living and explore the area -– we'll pick out some toys for our son to have and talk about what it might be like for him to spend the night there soon.
Tonight will be the first night my son and I spend alone in our own space, a space that will be missing a few things. There will be random Sociology textbooks missing, clothes will be removed from the closet, and we'll have two toothbrushes instead of three.
Tomorrow we'll wake up and continue our regular routine -– making coffee, eating breakfast, getting ready for school and work -– and it'll just be the two of us. We'll probably talk a little about all of the new changes in our lives, but most of our conversation will probably concern a plot line from “Cars” or Thanksgiving, when my sister is coming to visit.
And then tomorrow night, and every night thereafter, I'll wash, rinse, and repeat.