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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Sunday
Dec132015

Looking Around In Wonder

I spend a lot of time writing bullshit. Not bullshit in that the stuff I write is lies, bullshit because it's not what I want to be writing. It's a watered down version of what's really happening in my post-divorce life; diluted so that it fits the brand of whatever website the piece is for and doesn't hurt someone's feelings or embarrass certain family members.

I think it's time to edge closer to the truth.

I am often really fucking sad and scared. (Who isn't?!) At the same time I feel an excitement and freedom I haven't experienced for twenty years; a magnified insight into who I am and how I work. An understanding of the real me, maybe for the first time in life. It's stuff it takes being single to figure out, I think. In your twenties you're rarely capable of the kind of brutally honest self-introspection required to realize certain things. Your mind is full of ambition and hope and excitement and love and alcohol. You haven't experienced enough life yet. Then you get married and the constant give and take required to maintain a relationship overtakes the solo thought processes needed for self-actualization. Being married requires overlooking so much, to the point that we don't allow ourselves certain thoughts because realizing those truths could potentially destroy the marriage. So it isn't until you're on your own again - usually in the wake of divorce - that you can actually start thinking clearly about just who the fuck you've become and who you want to be.

I am a survivor. A badass. I hold shit together and shine when life gets difficult. This isn't necessarily a good trait because it also causes constant anxiety and I withdraw from people emotionally so that I can keep it all together... But whatever. At least I'm aware. I'll take being a survivor who excels when confronted with obstacles and work on the being vulnerable part.

I was talking to a fellow survivor badass outside of a birthday party both our children attended the other day. Discussing marriage, motherhood and finances and chuckling over what we do to make shit happen in our families and it really is some lengendary war story stuff. Women are often the psychological cores of households. We understand how and why our husbands do the things they do and learn to negotiate around certain of their behaviors, we know which kids are struggling and why and how to respond or not to respond (not responding is a response) in all the best ways. And that's just psychological stuff that doesn't include the physical work flow of maintaining a household or the financial strategy of keeping a house in business. For example;

Send the rent/mortgage check on Monday even though the money won't be in the account until Friday so make sure the check goes into the mail Monday after last mail pick-up so it technically won't be sent until Tuesday and won't arrive and be deposited in their bank until Thursday afternoon at the earliest and hopefully Friday morning and then use the money that is in the bank right now for groceries to last until Friday and just late amount due on the electricity bill but not the full amount due, we'll pay that after Friday and if there's enough left over we need to register the car because tags are expired but electricity takes priority over a legal car. Collect $50 from each sibling for Mom's Christmas present that you're going to use your Best Buy credit card to purchase and then keep their cash and use that $150 to get a Christmas tree and pay the cable bill so it doesn't get shut off. I'd use the $700 emergency fund we had built up in savings but that's being used to repair the brakes and get at least two new tires even though we need four. We'll have to wait until next month to replace the back two tires...

That was my life for ten years. Made all the lonelier because I was with someone who was blissfully ignorant of the above process and the hoops I jumped through each month. I don't say this to slight Serge. He contributed to our marriage in other meaningful ways and I fell short of his expectations in various areas as well. That's how every marriage works. People naturally assume certain roles as their personalities negotiate with each other and sometimes it works out beautifully and sometimes it's a constant battle.

He's a charming extrovert and you hate parties = relief that he takes over at mandatory events. Except, maybe, eventually he just annoys the fuck out of you with all his blathering at parties. Or maybe you never get tired of being entertained by him. Who's to say? People are constantly changing within marriage and sometimes it makes for a better fit and sometimes it causes a rift. Maybe you can suck up a certain behavior for 6 or 7 years but eventually you can't take one more goddamn second. Maybe you tell yourself your superpower is letting things roll off your back but maybe in year fifteen of marriage you realize you haven't been doing that at all, that you've spent years seething with resentment. You hate cooking, he loves it = win. Nobody likes cleaning the bathroom = constant battle. This shit is magnified when a task is considered decidedly masculine or feminine or one partner experienced a childhood wherein a specific parent always did a certain task and now subconsciously expects their own marriage to run in the same manner. Yard work is men's work! Laundry is a woman's job. My mom always did the grocery shopping and you never do so I quietly resent you for not living up to this marital expectation I have maintained from childhood.

This constant negotiation no longer exists in my life. I am free to explore who I am and what I want now. My personality is no longer defaulting to fit the patterns of someone else's personality. Sharing a life with someone can be a beautiful thing. It can also be incredibly stifling. It's so easy to forget who you are and what you really want from life. You have kids and it's so motherfucking intense you default to autopilot to survive. You both fall into the roles described above and you forget to look around in wonder. You forget to look inside yourself in wonder.

I'm spending a lot of time looking around and inside myself in wonder and what I'm learning is incredible.

Reader Comments (8)

I'm not pro or con divorce but I"m wondering, when you are divorced don't you have to do it all yourself now? All of the things you argued about and had to negotiate (bill paying, cleaning, yard work etc.) are now your responsibility. Is that easier or maybe just more peaceful? At least there is no arguing I suppose but damn, it seems like a lot for one person, with a full-time job to handle.I guess my mom did it (worked full-time, raised 3 kids alone) and she managed it all pretty well. But, unlike modern parents, she made us kids do a lot of housework. I was doing laundry at 10, mowing the lawn, cleaning the kitchen etc. It was good for me though. Life skills. You've got a few years yet before your kids can really pitch in but it will be here soon enough. Plus, it's a great opportunity for you to smash their perceptions of gender roles when it comes to running a household.

December 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

I've heard similar from people who have divorced after a fairly longish marriage, that unspoken expectation and small annoyances build and build and each feels incredibly resentful of whatever it is they get stuck with... till they call it quits. It's a reason to actually get to know each other well before tying the knot from what I can tell NOT that those people are immune from divorce, but that time where the lusty romance bit that totally clouds us all dims a bit and you start to see the real person, with his or her quirks and faults is so important. I think it's why marriages that start extremely young often don't work too.

It's a reason why I firmly subscribe to premarital counselling (no, not even remotely religious, am a hard-line atheist as it happens), to get boring old things like money and children and who-does-what out there and on the table. So unromantic! But a lot of marriage is just plain hard work. Trying to do that and have babies in quick succession on a very limited income would make that exponentially harder, though rewarding in its own way.

December 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Nothing new to add.....just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas & I seriously hope that 2016 is good to you. Thank you for your writing.

December 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

It IS a relief to be single for sure. I would love to find someone who is easy to be with but I am afraid that time is done. Also a relief.

January 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBetts

I just read your babble post about "complex daddy complex" and I have to say, while I applaud the self-reflection, damn girl you are brutal on yourself. You're not the only one with daddy issues (despite dad being technically around) and who thought prince charming actually existed (definitely not a mormon thing at all but a woman of all stripes thing) and was willing to do just about anything to secure a sense of security which extended into making rash decisions about men I hardly knew and staying in bad relationships long past the sell-by date. I don't mention that to downplay what you've experienced and concluded, just that you seem like despite your shortcomings, you've managed to do very well for yourself and your family. I'm not convinced that being married is all that it's cracked up to be for anyone, but especially for us strong female types who aren't so great at sublimated ourselves for eternity and end up being labeled with a lot of the labels you used in your piece. So, maybe be kinder to yourself about how much emotional growth you've experienced starting from a very difficult place. No one ever stops wanting that parental love and approval, and a lot of us that didn't get it never recover from starting out adult life with a very big hole in their hearts. Namaste girl.

January 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterevaKay

Hey! I'm new to this blog thing(just started my own about a week ago). I just want to say I admire your spilling of realness on this post. I just recently got married in July, we are both Christians and love each other very much. However, I can relate to some of the things you were saying for sure. Marriage is crazy hard, but so is being a single parent!! I have been in both positions. Both are wonderful in their own right. Just be in the moment like you are. Makes for a good read for sure!

January 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke

I liked your description of the negotiations that go on in relationships. I've never been married but I lived with a guy for a while, and we dated for 6 years, and I did feel a lot of those personality clashes as well. I felt like housework and money were the two things we argued about the most, especially because as modern as he was he just never felt compelled to clean. Ever. And I was the one who always worried about saving a little and thinking about the future. And he was the extrovert and I was the introvert, but I felt like sometimes his outgoingness was a mask and that the person he was at parties was this jovial fake version of himself that would get on my nerves. It really is a constant adjustment, even if you love the person and think they're basically great. I've been single now for a while, and while I want a relationship I think it may be hard to live with someone again and start those negotiations over again.

January 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLuky

Just thinking of you. Your last video made me cry and wish I could ease your pain. 'This too shall pass' and all that, but I wish the journey weren't so hard.

January 20, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterhey

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