Sometimes I wonder if most, if not all, couples have a version of The Big Talk lingering just below the surface. Like an iceberg where there’s all this stuff below the water line and then at some point a kind of relationship global warming sets in and what’s hidden begins to melt and comes bubbling up. Or like a Hemingway story where what is said is pregnant with what is not said. Perahps that’s a cynical view, colored by my current situation, but still.
In any case, Colleen and I had our Big Talk between Christmas and my birthday, which I know probably sounds like me lamenting about the awful timing of it but really when would NOT be a bad time for this sort of thing. Suffice it to say, it happened. And I’m not going to indulge in a sort of exhibitionism here by detailing the discussion. That kind of thing is simply too personal and intimate to share in this kind of forum, or any other really, at least for me. If you want that kind of thing you best go some place else.
In the end, we came to conclusion that things were not right and something needed to happen, something needed to change. Our solution was to separate. As disappointing and scary as that was for both of us, it was far better than I think what too often happens, which is that people don’t talk about it and far worse things happy, thing that make the possibility of reconciliation pretty much impossible. I for one feel fortunate that things did not go that route. We can proceed without the kind of baggage that can prove debilitating to a relationship. At least, that is the hope.
As hard as our Big Talk was, the even hard task, the even Bigger Talk was telling our daughter, who is eight. On the advice of a counselor we waited until we had a plan in place and told her about two weeks before I was to move out into an apartment nearby. Two weeks because it would give our daughter enough time to get used to the idea but not too long as to sit there like this big thing looming on the horizon. Not that that made it any easier. But then nothing would have made it easy. It isn’t the kind of thing that should be easy, in any case.
Our counselor also explained that the kids that transition through these kinds of things the best are those with parents who can manage to get along during it and afterwords. I think we’ve managed to do that, after of course some initial turbulence. The thing is that for a child our daughter’s age, eight, it goes beyond just the emotional impact. At that age they have serious and very real concerns about their very physical survival, wondering who will take care of them, make sure they are fed and clothed and protected etc. So it is important to continue to reinforce that Mom and Dad love you, the child, and will always take care of you. All things considered, I think we’ve managed that pretty well, letting our daughter know that she is loved and taken care of and always will be, by Mom and Dad. We do it regularly without being obsessive about. Life needs to continue as normally as is possible.
We told our daughter that we are still a family, just one that is going exist in two different homes. That’s all. And home is wherever she and Mom and/or Dad is at. Of course, at first she did what the counselor said she would do. She kind of shut down and didn’t want to hear what was being said. But she since seemed to have absorbed the reality of the situation. In some ways, she’s even kind of excited, especially about having two bedrooms.
We made her part of the move, allowing her to decide which of her things she wanted to bring to her other bedroom at the apartment. She was in charge of organizing and arranging her bedroom, and she seemed to enjoy doing that.
She’s spent a full weekend with Dad at the apartment and seemed to go okay. Her biggest concern — sleeping in a bed that was different, because she thought it would be too cold. Her bed at the house is a loft, raised up near the ceiling and warm air rises. While her bed at the apartment is a regular bed, closer to the floor and cold air sinks. That’s how she put it to us. We assured her there would be plenty of heat and blankets to keep her warm.
Also, as anyone who has lived in an apartment knows, there often strange noises because of your neighbors, especially in comparison to a house, which is much quieter, and any noises made have an identifiable source. The hope is she’ll grow more comfortable in time. We’re just getting started.
And now we move forward, with our family taking on a new shape, a different structure. And there’s no reason it can’t be okay that way.