The Separation Anniversary

Comments 67

separation agreement

She took off her wedding ring one year ago today.

That’s when I learned she did, anyway.

It was Easter Sunday, but nothing was coming back from the dead in our house.

I will probably be doing a lot of reflecting this week.

Lisa at Lessons From the End of a Marriage published an important post titled When Will I Feel Better?” which tackles the question every person dealing with a life trauma wants the answer to.

A person doesn’t really understand the full spectrum of human feeling until they experience a great loss. Some people lose parents or siblings or friends or someone else close to them at a young age.

But their experiences, while unfair, raise an interesting question: Are they better equipped to deal with life trauma as an adult due to being tempered in fire at a young age?


But it doesn’t matter. Because everybody is going to go through their own personal hell sooner or later. I don’t think there’s any defense except to make your life the most-balanced and content it can possibly be.

It’s officially been a year.

Do I feel better?

So Many Stages

There’s nothing one-size-fits all about any of this.

Everyone’s situations are different. And everyone’s ability to cope mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually varies for a million different reasons.

Here’s what happened at our house.

A Great Loss

Without warning, we lost my wife’s father. My son’s grandfather. The closest thing I had to a dad locally.

He was a fantastic human being.

There was nothing fair about what happened next for anyone. My sweet mother-in-law lost her husband and a home she helped build with her bare hands. My wife and her brother lost their father. A really good one. They lost the only “home” they’d ever known. Their place to go on beautiful summer days. Perhaps the perfect place to wake up Christmas morning. My son lost his grandfather. Both deserved more time with one another. I had a million things I wanted to do with those two and my brother-in-law.


And I lost my wife. Right then. It just took me several weeks to figure it out.

I’d heard of grief changing people. But I’d never seen it up close and personal.

She shut down hard.

And instead of leaning on me, she told me losing her father meant she lost the only man in her life that really mattered and made her feel safe.

She pushed me away. She said I could not help her.

That everything she thought she felt about me and our marriage was now uncertain.

That’s when I moved into the guest room.

The Guest Room

I slept in the guest room for about 18 months.

It was an extraordinarily challenging time.

Every day consisted of me waking up sad and going to bed sad and waiting for her to make a decision about whether she was going to choose to stay married.

At some point during that period, a light bulb went off. And I knew who I wanted to be.

I did the best I could to piece it all back together. Whatever I did was wrong. Nothing worked.

Sleeping in the guest room was the second most-horrible experience of my life. But that’s where I became a better man.

Whatever I am today that is good—that can maybe help people—came together in that guest room.

The Exit

It felt long and drawn out. After breaking the news she was leaving on a Sunday night, I had to work the next day and came home to watch my wife pack a suitcase for her and our son and take him to her mom’s house.

If you’ve been there, you know how surreal it feels. We’d been married nearly nine years. Your brain is in complete denial.

Maybe she’ll come back!

Maybe she just needs some time away!

And at that point, I did think she would come back. Maybe an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder situation. Or maybe she would decide to not break up our son’s home. Or maybe she would simply decide the horror of losing half of her son’s childhood seemed worse than the horror of being married to me.

This lasted exactly 11 days.

The Boyfriend

My wife was in love with someone else.

I found out 11 days after she moved out. My then-four-year-old son let it slip in a conversation when asking me if I knew the guy. It took me about 30 seconds to piece it all together. Who knows how it would have played out had he not asked me that.

That information changed everything.

I went nuclear. Not the stable kind.

Because regardless of the details, timeline, circumstances, etc.—that’s when I realized the person I thought I knew best was someone I didn’t know.

That is some earth-shattering shit. When you find out someone isn’t who you thought they were. It’s easier to deal with when it’s just some person at work, or a friend of a friend. It’s more complicated when it’s the person you married and had a child with.

This is the thing that left the biggest scar of any life event I have ever experienced.

It has poisoned me in ways that are hard to explain. The wounds have closed. The pains I feel now are merely ghost pains. But I still feel them.

I still dream about it.

I still get goosebumps when I drive by the hospital where they met.

I still cringe when I hear his name.

I have an unfair hatred for cyclists now. Simply because he was a cyclist.

I never want to go see our local minor-league baseball team for the rest of my life because that man was part of my son’s first-ever baseball game. I put a tee-shirt on my son the other day with the team name on the front. It gave me a stomach ache.

I took a girl out to dinner a few weeks ago. We went to a restaurant where I feel certain my wife ate with that guy. Ugh.

I care about being strong. I care about pride. I care about holding my head up.

But the complicated feelings associated with that entire period still course through my veins almost every day.

Almost every day, I think about that man.

And I think about her liking him. Loving him.

Our marriage legally ended exactly one week after our nine-year wedding anniversary. And that was the day I found out her relationship with that piece of shit ended.

Not even five months after she left.

Not even five fucking months.

It was good that it ended.

But it was bad, too.

So cheap, my entire adulthood.

What a waste.

Acceptance and Healing

There was no healing during those five months. None. I foolishly tried online dating because I insanely thought that if I could be with someone else that I would balance the equation and not feel as bad.

As if that would put us back on equal footing.

But I wasn’t ready to date, and I sucked at it, too.

I was so tired of feeling like I didn’t have any control. Like she had the upper hand.

But she always did.

Once that relationship was over—and I knew she and my son were in a healthier, safer place—real, actual healing finally did begin.

That was August.

And here we are. Seven months later.

And, yeah.

I feel better.

I don’t know if I’m better. Sometimes when I talk to my father about divorce and he tells me stories about my mom driving me 500 miles away from him when I was four years old, I can hear the anger and resentment in his voice. More than three decades later, you can still hear the bitterness.

Maybe I will always feel this.

Maybe that’s my penance for all the things I got wrong in my marriage leading up to it breaking.

Maybe that’s going to be part of the fuel that helps me continue to grow as my years advance.

One year later?

I can breathe.

I can laugh.

I can relax.

I can enjoy being in my home.

I can look forward to seeing a girl who isn’t my wife.

I can say bye to my son without breaking down crying after he leaves.

But, one year later?

I can’t let go of the anger.

I can’t stop wanting her to care.

I can’t shut off my desire to try to protect her.

I can’t escape the memories that haunt me.

I can’t make her stop mattering.

She dropped off our son at my house over the weekend. I asked her if I could hug her. I do miss her. I do want her to know that I’m trying hard to be a big person. That I care.

She said I could.

So I did. And kissed her cheek.

She didn’t reciprocate.

Which is okay.

Because, one year later?

A lot of things are different. A lot of things are better.

But a few things?

They’re exactly the same.

67 thoughts on “The Separation Anniversary”

    1. Thank you! I’m okay. Promise. I’m intentionally putting myself back there mentally and emotionally because I think people want an answer to the question: “When will I feel better?”

      How I’m doing is not how other people will be doing at the exact same time. But maybe someone can use it as a benchmark of sorts and feel better.

      I hope so. 🙂

      1. I shared your blog with a friend yesterday…I hope it saves his marriage. I didn’t know what else to do. I wonder if I had understood 5 years ago what I think I understand now, could I have saved my own 20 year relationship? I don’t know.

        Book….this needs to be a book…please.

        1. You can’t understand how big of a lift that gives me.

          That you shared this with someone because you thought it might help save something.

          Sort of too amazing for words.

          Thanks. You said that at just the right time.

    2. This was hard to read…maybe my own closeness to the subject matter made it so. In my case, there is no “others” (neither of us has someone else) but the end looks all the same despite the difference. I think it really helps to read things from your point of view. It helps me understand why my husband is having such a hard time with our own separation. Still, it hurts to truly understand the pain I have caused by walking away…it’s bittersweet, I guess but your portrayal of emotion is always admirable. I hope things get easier for you…I hope some day, you’ll “be better”.

      1. Thank you so much.

        I am better. Really and truly. I can’t even begin to describe the difference. Time is an amazing healer.

        But I’m also occasionally surprised by little triggers. Little moments that make me feel weak. That scare me. That make me question just how much more work there is to do.

        I don’t know.

        I just know I’m going to keep trying the best I can and writing it down. Thank you so much for saying hi. 🙂

  1. completelyinthedark

    As always, food for thought, Matt. Brought to the surface some thoughts I’d been having about what will be six Springs ago, losing my parents, then the following year, nearly the same time, losing my beloved gf. Then learning about the other guy. Then the guy after that guy. It’s like relationship roulette.

    The part about wanted to date to “even things out” must be common. Tried that too. No one on the horizon. Yet, I guess. Trying to keep positive and keep moving forward. It is true: you never know what tomorrow will bring, I guess.

    Thanks for helping me not feel so alone after a tough, tough weekend. cheers, mate. 🙂

    1. Cheers to you, sir.

      I’m so sorry to learn about your parents, but I am glad to hear that this can be more than just a guy reflecting on the end of a marriage.

      Because loss is loss. And it’s all hard. And I have no idea what I’m doing and may never figure it out.

      But I can smile today. And be grateful that I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago.

      And every single person who reads and can do the same thing will only serve to make me feel even better about my place in the world today.

      So, thank you for this note. I don’t think we’re ever alone, sir. I think we all just forget to poke our heads out and look around, or maybe yell a little louder, sometimes.

      Appreciate your time and thoughts very much.

  2. This is all too scary. I’m a few steps behind you, basically living right now what you have been writing about. Sleeping in the guest room, crying after you drop off your son. Shit, I wouldn’t wish divorce on my worst enemy. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I wish I knew what to say.

      It’s a terrifying time. And it can go one of two ways.

      One way is beautiful and redemptive in a more immediate sense. But super challenging.

      The other, more painful, way has all kinds of challenges, too.

      But I know there’s something amazing heading my direction.

      I can’t wait to catch up with it.

      Thank you so much for saying hi. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope there’s a next time.

      I wish you well during this difficult time. Hug your son. Stay close to your friends.

      Talk to you, if you ever want to.

  3. I started following you shortly after starting my own blog. I swear you are the guy version of me… I loved this one and could really relate. I read but don’t comment. Just know that you are helping a chick in Florida 🙂 thank you so much!!

    1. Thank you for this note. 🙂

      I’m so glad this matters to you. I appreciate you saying hi very much.

  4. Yeah, I’m thinking of you too, Matt. I have been through similar pain, so I hear you. I have one son older than you and one younger, and I’m sure glad they aren’t going through this stuff. But yes, we will all experience some devastating pain at some point — if we’re lucky enough to keep living. Hang in there, my young friend. […Sends a Momma hug]

    1. 🙂

      Thank you. I’ll take the kind hugs! I’m glad your sons aren’t going through it either. That’s a beautiful thing.

  5. I was thinking about you this morning, realizing the date, wondering how you were. I’m glad you are ok. I’m sending virtual hugs and kisses on the cheek anyway, because you deserve them. You are so brave to put all this out there, to share it with the world. I’m really glad you are ok. You are an amazing person, Matt.

    1. Weird. I wrote you back before. It didn’t take.

      Thank you, Mel. Thank you so much.

      I hope you’re feeling healthy and that your entire family is well. Really appreciate this kind note.

  6. “That Guy” my dad refers to anyone with a “That” – man, women, guy, girl etc. basically, substandard person, immoral. When I saw this in your post, instantly had to smile, then, “Ooh”. My ex was a “That Guy”.
    Love your post.

    Best wishes,

    NIBSIH ?

  7. I think you’re right it never really goes away that sense of loss, it’s worse than grief for someone who died. I get along really well with the ex the father of my children but at times I get a feeling of resentment building up inside me when I talk to him or think of him or am with him. It’s not resentment for him or for myself or for anything other than I hate that we messed up the most important thing in our lives and that we failed to provide a happy nurturing family of mum, dad and two kids for our son and daughter. I hate that I had to raise them alone with occasional input, I hate that my daughter didn’t have a doting daddy like I did, I hate that my son has to go to football matches with his mum instead of his dad… just stupid things. As much as I love everything I’ve done and do for and with my children i hate that we failed to get it right, for them and for us.

    I wanted a forever together story, I so wanted that and I took time and painstakingly thought long and hard about who and when I married. I even went on a solo pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a solitary mooch around the holy land for 5 weeks before our wedding where I spiritually opened myself up and cleansed and refreshed myself and truly felt that I heard the message that this was right, what we were about to do was right. It was and still is a kick in the teeth that we messed up.

    I can’t help but believe that the message that it was the right thing to do was real and that without it our children never would have come to be and all of the personal growth I have achieved would never have happened. But sure I still want to smash him in the face every time I see him because I am so frustrated by this feeling of failure… we failed and he reminds me of that by just still being around. I truly believe that if he had died it would have made life easier.

    Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to hurt him or wish him dead and all of this is figurative but I think at times we underestimate the hell of grieving for something/someone who is still alive. 15 years on by the way and it’s still the same… it’s down low but it creeps up to the top now and then and whacks me in the face.

    1. I don’t like hearing that it still triggers after all this time.

      But I accept that it may always be so. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s a unique challenge, being divorced when it isn’t what you wanted.

      I’ve never been more surprised about anything in my life than just how difficult it was to deal with.

      1. I don’t know if when the kids are grown you kind of feel it more because then you are reflecting on an almost complete scenario or you are seeing it from a whole new perspective.

        It’s a big thing calling quits on a marriage, none of us head to the altar thinking it’s anything other than forever. It is a grieving process and just like we never forget or fully accept the death of someone we never fully forget or accept the death of a marriage especially when it affected the lives of others.

        Just like grief it can jump up and bite when you least expect it to. It’s like every bad experience though, take the good and go with it and value the learning experience.

  8. I think it is a much tougher road for the leavee than the leaver because as well as having lost your partner (and who you thought they were) and self respect; you have also lost power over your own destiny. It was not your choice. That is a huge loss to lose power over your own destiny and in fact is the greatest loss of all. The only way to heal from that is by making your own choices going forward (in a valued way) and you are doing that and I admire you for that.
    I have also noticed that you have stopped beating yourself and yet at the same time are showing compassion for your wife which would take much courage.

    1. You make a great point about losing control of your future.

      It’s a huge loss. And it’s not just your spouse. It’s their family. And friends you only know through them.

      There is plenty to grieve.

  9. Hi Matt, this is a great post. A number of years ago my soon to be ex wife (emotionally divorced me) told me she doesn’t want to be married to me anymore. Due to economic conditions I too live in the guest room. Unfortunately I cannot afford to move out and my ex needs me to be the stay at home asshole to run my son around to all of his activities. The situation really sucks because I wasn’t 100% transparent in my relationship and I am still very much in love with her. If I had been completely transparent I think we would still have the greatest marriage that 2 people who had finally found each other could have. She too needs a hug every now and then but pulls away when I offer her the kind of support that best friends should be able to give one another.
    To add to my sadness about not being able to make the marriage work is that she gets involved with long distance cyber relationships and when I found out I just couldn’t stay quiet about it and yet she still denies it to me.
    If the soon to be ex which emotionally has divorced me already would allow a reconciliation, I would spend the rest of my life making her happy. Your post made me really sad but makes me realize that eventually I will come out the other end. The sad part is that my boy thinks we have a pretty good marriage and family and we just bicker a bit like most moms and dads do. Cheers to you.

    1. Wow. That’s some story. “A number of years ago…”?

      Good God, man.

      I don’t know how you’re doing it. But that’s amazing.

      Thank you for writing and for reading and for doing something extraordinarily difficult with this much strength and grace. It’s a really good example for the rest of us.

    2. I note the nod to history in your name, and so to you I say:
      I cannot tell you how often I talk to people and learn that much of their lives is “repeating history” that their parents made!

      Consider that you are providing your son with a VERY unhealthy emotional example of adulthood, manhood, and marriage. All the little cues you think are going over his head? – nope. He may be too little to articulate what he is seeing, may think it’s normal, but trust me, the coldness is not being missed. Would you like such a relationship for him in his future?

      If after “a number of years” you are still seeking to love someone who does not love you back, you should maybe read up on codependence.

      And yes, we all have to own our share of why marriages fail, but “the greatest marriage that 2 people… could have”? Based only on you fixing your half? Not if she would fix her half..

      I just left my home and cyberaddict wife (of 20 years) after spending about 6 months where the biggest goal in my life was to confront, understand, and fix her problems. With out her deciding to fix herself, and be WITH me, it was for nothing. So I choose to do what is best for me, and in the long run for our 2 young daughters. Who, BTW, are both often completely willing to subjugate their own feelings if they think it will help mommy and/or daddy feel better… That’s not good.

      You say that “if she would allow a reconciliation..”. BS. Don’t put yourself into a position where you’re asking someone else to “allow” you to be happy or be yourself. If she SHOWs (very different from SAYS!) she wants to go back to being PARTNERS, then you have something to think about. But if things have gotten this far, then words are just words. Anything other than sustained action should be considered fleeting until PROVEN otherwise.

      Good luck to you, I feel your pain, and hope the lessons it teaches bring light to your life.

  10. Matt, thanks for sharing and revisiting those times when your feelings were raw. It made me cry. Those feelings of being rejected and only wanting to fix it all, I know those too. Similar emotions, just with a different cast of characters.

    I know you said you’re better than you were. The anger is just under the surface isn’t it?Triggers come and blindside you; you feel like you’re there again.
    My separation anniversary is April 8th. I drove away from California and was told “we’ll see you soon and we love you.” It was a lie. I was asked “what’s in it for them?” being in their lives. I went from hugs and I love yous everyday to absolutely nothing. Nothing.
    Silence is unbearable. All I hear is my broken heart. All I see are tears when I see a 3 year old toddler. All I feel is hollow and empty.

    One day at a time is what they say.
    Some days those one days feel like forever.

    Hugs to you, my friend.

    1. Yes. Just under the surface. And the triggers do blindside you.

      Because most of the time, I’m okay, instead of just some of the time. And that’s a great thing. But then, when something hits you, it hits you hard, and at complicated times.

      This is the first time I’ve read this about your life story. There are infinitely more questions than answers in that comment.

      But, no matter what, it must be extraordinarily difficult and complicated.

      I wish I knew what to say.

      Hugs, back. Big ones.

      1. Yes, my life story is complicated. Even though we are strangers and have never met, your writing is so raw and honest that it strikes chords in my life. That’s a good thing because it means there are lots of us out here with the same pains and hurts. It means we’re not alone. It means we’re in the same book, maybe not on the same page but definitely in the same chapter. Those common threads are strong, strong enough to build friends wherever they are.

        Life is very difficult and very complicated. My husband finally listens. One day everything kept pouring out, years of agony, hurt, sorrow and rejection. He kept talking over me AND I had to make him stop to REALLY LISTEN.

        No words need to be said. Thank for your hugs. They mean a lot.

        Big hugs to you, too.

        Hoping that the powers bigger than all of us will be kind and thoughtful.

        Why is it that some of us bear more hurt than others?
        (Philosophical question, no answers)

  11. One year? I was still a mess on the inside and often on the outside. Two years? Only occasionally a mess on the inside and could hold it together on the outside. Three years is when I really started to feel more healed than not. But even now, almost five years out, I still feel the occasional twinge and face the side effects. It keeps getting better. Happy to hear you are too:)

    1. Hi Lisa. 🙂

      Yes. I get a little better all the time. I didn’t have to deal with the overnight shock and awe that you did, and with all those limbo months, I’m sure it prepared me in a lot of ways that other people don’t get.

      The only similarities in our stories are that we both wanted to stay married.

      Your toughness and courage continues to be an inspiration. Thanks for stopping in to leave this note.

  12. There’s a lot I could say about this, a lot I can relate to. But all I’m going to say is this: it’s oddly nice to hear you say you can’t let go of the anger.
    That’s something I struggle with and you saying it too makes me feel a little normal. So thanks for that.

    1. I am not an inherently angry person. I am very blessed to have a healthy and productive forgiveness gene. Not something I earned. Just something I was born with.

      I am grateful every day that I don’t have to sit around bitter and hateful. If my wiring were different, I may.

      1. Generally neither am I. I’m not bitter and I definitely try not to be hateful…ever, in any situation.
        I don’t hold onto the anger I have right now but it’s always there, just a little bit. Usually when it flares up I go for a run and I’m back to my normal, calm self. Logically I know anger is not productive but I can’t quite seem to be completely rid of it.
        I’m guessing it’s just one of those things that takes time.

  13. The Exit

    That’s a hell of a feeling. I experienced that Saturday.

    You stayed in the guest room for 18 months? Man It was hard for me to stay in a different room for five months, I can’t imagine.

    I remember the last time I hugged my wife, it was October. I wanted to hug her lots more but I had to give her space, it was pointless to press it. I don’t know if I’ll ever hug her again, I can’t entertain that idea really. When I read you hugged your ex and kissed her cheek, it put a lump in my throat. That must have been a good feeling that would have been better if she hugged you back.

    Thank you for being so open in your blog. Remember, things will get better right? They have to I think.

  14. I hear you so loud and clear. I went through all of that but took a lot longer than one year. But here’s the controversial rub. I was that other man! That’s right, I was a dirty rotten low down mug!

    When your single and a beautiful young girl hits on you, you don’t say no. We fell in love. In the beginning it was so passionate, she wanted to have my child. She married young and told me she married to get out of her greek family and away from her bullying brother. Also because she said she didn’t think she would find anyone better. She was only 24 and married only 2 years! She planned many times to leave her husband, but used every excuse not to, saying she needed more time. I even met her husband on a few occasions, and screwing in their bed when he was away. She did try to seriously break up once but he refused to discuss, obviously very hurt. Horrible now when I think back on it. I’m too embarrased to admit how many years went by like this.

    She eventually left her husband. They hadn’t had sex for so long he realised it was over. But she didn’t want to be with me either. She didn’t want to break up, always insisting on more time, but she refused to introduce me to her family and friends as her boyfriend, and started avoiding me. She actually started making fun of me saying I couldn’t get anyone else, implying I was a loser, and treated me like shit, and flirted with guys right in front of me. I found out she had been screwing around all of those years and had other boyfriends. In my own stupidity I had been monogomous and faithful. Simply because I loved her and didn’t want to be with anyone else. When I called it over, she broke down and wanted another chance, but she refused to make me her partner, so that was it.

    She contacted me a couple of years later to apologise and wanted another chance. I didn’t promise anything but it only took a few weeks for her to screw around with her best friends ex, so that was that. What got me over it was my realisation that all my emotional hurt and grieving was wasted on someone who didn’t deserve it. You grieve for the loss of those that are valuable, not those that are worthless. Yes, I know I am a heel and just as much to blame. Love really does make you stupid. To boot, I have severe trust issues with women as it’s not the first time I was screwed around on.

    There is a lot more to this story of course, I have only simplified it. So many women have written books about their affairs that I am doing the same, even though I’ll be villified for it. Yes, I have learned some hard lessons.

  15. Matt, you’re a jerk for making these feelings come back up into the forefront for me again. And I am not mad, just always sad for what all of us are going through. And because you are saying exactly what it is that I am thinking and feeling and HOPING that my ex-husband would be feeling if he had any feelings. I swear we are one and the same sometimes. Healing is different for each and every person and I have no clue when I’ll be 100% again, if ever. But I pray and have hope for all people in this kind of divorce situation to find themselves back to wholeness. Oneness. To being complete again.

    I wish your wife would soften her heart towards you, maybe for my own selfish reasons.
    Then I would believe that my own ex would soften his heart towards me. But he has his gf and is supposedly happy. And he still treats me like a stranger on the streets (who just happened to give birth to his kids). I just have to find my own happy, one of these days. Thank you for your words and insight. They sting and hurt sometimes, but are completely appreciated.

  16. Anniversaries are tricky. Thinking of you as you navigate this one.
    My ex remained under my roof for three weeks after I declared us separated. That three weeks was horrific. I can’t imagine 18 months of that awful limbo.

    1. I don’t want to use the word “horrific.” But maybe that’s what it was in a lot of ways.

      Changed me forever.

      Thank you for your kindness. I’m confident this “anniversary” will be just fine.

  17. Pingback: Marital Limbo | Lessons From the End of a Marriage

  18. Try to get back in the “now” Matt. Do it for yourself and your son. The world is a wonderful place and when you wake up n the morning you can choose to “live” the day or “die a little”. I know going over what happened is only natural. I know probably a million people have told you it gets better with time. Take it from a guy approaching 4 years out; sometimes It doesn’t feel like it! But in reality the triggers diminish and they diminish the most when you DECIDE to look for, see and focus on the positive things in life and the future, not when you relive the past, no-matter what “rational” reason you come up with for reliving and re-assessing the situation.

    Look at all the people’s lives you are touching with this blog! Look just at me, some random dude who you’ve never met who looks for your blog daily and was concerned that the posts had become a little sporadic and a little too focused on the past. I understand a year is a point to reflect on what the hell happened and re-assess. I know all about anniversaries that you never imagined you would have in your life or prepared for and triggers. And the little that I “know” you through this blog I understand that you are a person, much like myself who analytically contemplates and processes through your writing.

    My “advice” as a guy approaching #4: Don’t get stuck in the mud. Press on. Choose to live life. Think about positive subjects and revelations that you want to blog and share with us next week and next month and even though your mind probably feels completely full of the emotions caused by these triggers and the past, choose the “other” subjects, choose now and the future. These triggers can be tricky, it’s natural and OK to process but you have to CHOOSE to move forward from them, If you don’t make that choice they will overwhelm you, they will cause you to get stuck in the mud. If I was writing about triggers and the past I would hope someone would bring it up. I might rail back and yell “you don’t understand!” but then I hope I’d get outside in nature, where god shows his beauty and walk and listen and clear my mind and probably try to get active and sweat a little too. That’s what I do to “get positive” and hey, just as I write this I realize I probably should do that soon just to “check myself” – look at that Matt’s blog helping again! … Choose to do what you do instead of getting stuck in this mud.

    I love your blog, I look for it every day because there have been times when I have had “the mud” up around my ankles and your approach, perspective and willingness to put your story out there has made me choose to take a different direction and step out of the mud hole. I don’t know if you’re willing to run this like a late night radio DJ, but if you’re willing to consider requests, my request for some upcoming blog subjects are; some funny and/or proud stories about your son, something on dating or some completely off the wall stuff like a funny wrestler. That’s the “now”, the future and the positive, wonderful “stuff” of life. I think you can handle me just saying this: We’ve already heard all about the guest room bud … it sucked … I’m sorry … but another way to look at an anniversary is: that was over a year ago now! Hooray!!!! OVER A YEAR SINCE THAT HELL!!! “I’m never going back!” … (even in my thoughts) Wipe that mud off your shoes, choose positive living and when you look down next year at this time your shoes will be that much cleaner.

  19. Matt,
    THIS is my story. Mother in law died, husband did the same thing to me. I am not at the year mark. Long story, same feelings. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Julia. 🙁

      I’m so sorry.

      It’s not an easy time. <– understatement

      Thank you for reaching out. There are so many people dealing with this kind of thing all the time. It helps when you find people who understand.

      I appreciate very much you being a part of that.

  20. Sometimes knowing someone else is going through the same thing gives us validation for our feelings that we might otherwise feel guilty about. Thank you for your candidness. I hope this journey of healing gets a little easier for everyone going through something similar.

  21. Thank you for sharing your personal story. Your pain is real and a lot of us reading have been in some similar situation. But it sounds like you’ve come very far in your healing process. There is one phrase of yours “Maybe that’s my penance for all the things I got wrong in my marriage leading up to it breaking.” hey stop here!
    Don’t blame yourself for the break up – . it is always two in a relationship.

    I don’t think it’s easier to cope with trauma as an adult if you’ve experienced losses as a child. In fact I think it’s harder. But as you wrote – it’s individual.
    Have you talked to your ex-wife about the loss of her father and maybe went to a couple therapy? Sometimes the deepest most scaring feelings comes up to the surface that lead to her actions when he died. What ever happens – I wish you all the best.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and saying hi.

      And yes. Takes two. But I will always choose accepting responsibility versus pointing fingers.

      Two people accepting responsibility and growing and communicating can go-exist and thrive.

      People who finger point cannot.

      I don’t want to take any more blame than is rightfully mine. But I am fully aware of what is rightfully mine. And those will be my greatest regrets for as long as I live.

      1. It’s hard when only one person accepts responsibility and wants to fix things especially when there are kids involved. I never knew how much one person can change after a death of a loved one. Healthy grieving is necessary for healthy relationships.

      2. Thank you for taking your time to answer. So true. I have a personal quote I chose to beleive in. It’s very simple.
        If your intentions are good- then everything lays ahead of you
        If your intentions are bad – nothing can save you in the end- not money, not good looks,
        I get the impression thar whatever happened, you did the best you could at the circumstanced you had back then in all aspects. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The other person had also the possibility to understand and forgive. If it’s over for good? Build a good friendship and your son will be fine.

  22. I thought this was a beautifully written post about what was (is) a very tough time. I’m glad things are starting to get better.

    1. Thank you very much. 🙂

      Things are absolutely better. I have every reason to feel hopeful about my future. I hope others do too.

  23. Matt– I think you said a lot with “that’s when I realized the person I thought I knew best was someone I didn’t know.” Nothing is more devastating than that. It’s beyond a feeling of “how could I have been so stupid not to see this?” and over into the realm of feeling haunted, which makes sense, b/c really you’ve been living with a ghost, or a zombie. It is especially corrosive when what you’re told is “this just isn’t working for me,” but then it turns out that that’s a lie, and that in fact it’s about there being someone else. That calls into question not just the other person’s identity (“I thought he was someone truthful”) but also your own vis a vis them (“I thought I was someone sufficiently valued that I would not be lied to”). the result is vertiginous.

    I’ve felt for the last 18 months as though a part of my brain is unavailable to me b/c it is reviewing the files of 12 years of partnership, seeing them now through a lens of deception. “Oh, remember that birthday party? I thought we were having fun then, but I guess he was already hating me.” My hope is that, like after a disk crash, once the review of the files is over, there will be a re-boot.

    Also, b/c we sometimes disagree on this, I say kudos to you for acknowledging that you’re still angry, still can’t let go of it., “can’t stop wanting her to care.” That’s not being “stuck in the mud.” That’s keeping it real.

  24. Hey, Matt. I wish for all good things and know that things work out in some way. And, we never know what will happen. I have a story to tell–I swore I wouldn’t do this again–long stories.

    My first marriage ended wrong but it was my fault or more my fault. My husband drank–alcohol was the other woman that I could not compete with. I pleaded for him to get help–us to get help but I did things myself–independent (my fatal flaw). Rather than turning to him, I turned outward–working more hours–talking to people when I should have been home. He needed to be wanted, needed. I gave him the bed and I took the couch and we stayed that way for a while as the divorce was finalized. I have not spoken with him in ages–many years–eons? 🙂

    He told me today that as we were separated by a wall, that he wanted to talk to me and fight for me but didn’t know how. He wanted to be needed in our marriage–I was independent. I don’t know what is going on in my life right now but I know that I have been trying to heal and forgive 2 marriages–individuals. I loved him but not the drinking. I treated him wrong but I didn’t want to hurt him or bring harm to him.

    I can have no expectations of the future but I can say that I have seen a man I wanted to see so long ago and never did and he has seen a woman that he wanted to see years before. I don’t know. Life goes on whether we want it to or not. I loved the post! Enough of this serious stuff… 😀 Take care! – Amy 🙂

  25. This post. This post deserves one of my patent-pending, line-by-line comments but alas, church work is never done (particularly around Easter). There’s too much goodness here so I’ll just hit the proverbial “love” button.


    1. It’s not a particularly fun one. I’m so sorry. But if you’re walking the path… And we’re not so different… Then everything, really and truly and almost sneakily, is going to be okay.

  26. Very powerful stuff.Today is the last anniversary my wife and I will have being married. It would have been 8 years today. We’ve been separated now for 8 months. 8 months. I can’t even process that. It feels like an eternity; it feels like just yesterday. The last line of your article explains everything.

    1. Hi John. My would-be 11-year anniversary is this coming Friday. I get it. But I have the benefit of being much further along in the process, and it’s just naturally so much easier to deal with in time.

      I was not well for a long time. When I was in the time and place you are now, nothing ever felt right. I was just… off… every day.

      It was a really rough period made worse by the fact I didn’t know it was possible to feel that way for such a long time. I always thought depressed people were weak or “crazy.”

      Divorce was a major wake-up call on several fronts.

      Thank you for reading and taking time to comment.

      I’m sorry this is happening to you guys.

  27. Jeremy Jackson

    I’m going through it now. She’s leaving on Thursday. She still matters. I had children that she is step mom to, we have a 13month old girl, a girl due Oct. I would do anything. Nothing works now. Even after 100 epiphanies she’s done. Shutdown. Any advice

  28. I have just stumbled across this, it would have been out 11th wedding anniversary this coming Valentines Day (yeah sucky date now!). Reading your words was a joy and made me feel encouraged for the future, so much of it I feel could have been me writing. As this post is now a few years old I hope you have found a much happier place xx

  29. I know this was written awhile ago, but I have a question. If your wife regretted what she had done and realized she made mistakes and bad choices, would you take her back?

    1. That would have been a better question at the time it was written because I don’t have a good answer for you now.

      We’re more than five years removed from our marriage and living together. She has been in a serious relationship for a few years with a guy I like and respect, and who I can trust to care for her and my son.

      I am grateful beyond words every day for that fact, as one of the most difficult parts of the first year was feeling that complete loss of control over who was in my son’s life. It was the worst.

      I have always, and will always, want what’s best for everyone.

      I think it would be disingenuous of me to suggest her ending that relationship and trying to be in a relationship with me again. Two people with loads of history and baggage and an amazing capacity to trigger one another’s worst selves, and who may have never been super-compatible in the first place, but we were too young to know better.

      She’s a fine person. Great mom. Still lovely. And I’m lucky to have her as my parenting partner.

      But no. For a variety of reasons, I have doubts that she and I are ideal partners, and because of that, am not inclined to re-live old wounds, or expose my son to a new level of potential discomfort and disfunction.

      My life is not better than it used to be. But there’s no such thing as time travel. 🙂

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Matt Fray

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