Our relationship by the numbers went something like this: 7 years of friendship, coupled for 5 years, 4 years as parents, 1 blindside breakup a week before my birthday, 7 months of song-and-dance separation, and now 9 months of regular bang sessions on my couch.
My head looks at those numbers and logically can conclude the problem. My only justification is to say, “It’s complicated.” Life has been on fast-forward for years. I’m 27 with a five-year-old daughter and a year of separation (self-described “pseudo-divorce,” since we never technically were married) under my belt. He left me on a Monday night, telling me he was sorry but he hadn’t loved me for years and he couldn’t keep up with the lies anymore.
The next day we had a written separation agreement hashed out and signed. He packed a backpack that night, sat down with our daughter, and told her that we wouldn’t be living together any longer. It took me months before the gravity of his words even absorbed a little bit into my brain.
I spent every night snuggled into bed with our daughter, answering questions that didn’t have answers like “Why is dad staying at Grandma’s house?” and “When are you guys going to be together again?” or just attempting to hold it together while she told me how much she missed him, how she didn’t understand, how she wished that we loved each other and that she had a “real family” that lived together. Nine months of therapy for my preschooler and she still tells me every night before her eyes close how much she wishes we were all together.
The best news here is that although he walked away from our relationship without hesitation, he never walked away from his obligation as a father. He continues to be abundantly loving and present in our daughter’s life — spending as much time as his schedule will allow with her. We spend time together the three of us for dinner or holidays or a day at the pool. Appearances would indicate that we may have a healthy and amicable separation, navigating co-parenting with the greatest of ease. But… “It’s complicated.”
You see, when you’re young and navigating failed relationships, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. There are countless xoJane articles that document the ex-sex phenomena at length and the advice and comments all offer the same advice. RUN. Cease contact. Block him. The only way to end it for good is to get a clean break.
Not so easy when you and your ex are sharing what is arguably the single most important job of your lives. Add in daily communication, shared family holidays, and face-to-face interaction several times each week.
When we started sleeping together, it felt easy enough. I remember feeling relieved that I didn’t have this rush of nostalgia when he left the next day. I told my therapist, “This really felt like what I needed to get some closure.”
And suddenly that one time turned into a few times, and before I knew it we were sleeping together every week. Seeing each other after our daughter had gone to bed, texting every day, making sure we never missed an episode of The Walking Dead together. And there they are: feelings. I’ve got them, and I’m still not sure what he’s got.
Nine months. We’ve talked about it, I’ve gone on other dates, he’s not sleeping with other people (neither am I), we’ve talked about it some more. But his words are always the same: “I just don’t know. It’s complicated.” He clearly isn’t ready (if he ever will be), and I cannot keep perpetuating a cycle that devalues myself, especially knowing that I’m setting an example for my young daughter.
But there isn’t any young, unwed, separated, single mom playbook. The answer seems obvious to YOU but even my friends and family admit that there isn’t a clear-cut, simple answer here anymore. Making a concrete decision when each day brings new challenges and complexities — seeing his face at my door every week, watching him endlessly love on the giggly little girl we created together.… It’s not so easy to know whether my life without him could even remotely be better than it is with him, even with the pain and confusion and complications it brings. Or maybe all of these situations make it even more clear what I need to do once and for all.