Left Behind

I’m over my marriage. I really am. I can honestly say that I don’t miss my ex. I no longer wistfully think about the good times. I don’t think about it at all.

Until the other night when I suddenly found myself on my couch watching an episode of Parenthood on my DVR with a huge weight on my chest and tears in my eyes.

In the episode, Joel was leaving Julia and they were trying to figure out how to tell the kids.  Rather, he was trying to figure out how to tell the kids, while she was nodding, still in complete shock.  They visited a counselor for advice.  The counselor started off by asking why they are there.  Julia was unable to speak, but Joel jumped right in.  Then the counselor asked if they were headed for divorce or if it was a temporary separation with hopes of reconciliation. Julia immediately said that it was temporary and that she hopes for reconciliation.  Joel said, “uhhhhh, I don’t know.” Or something equally stupid.

There was Julia on the couch with her mouth open, probably feeling like he had punched her in the stomach.  And there I was on my couch, feeling that way for her.  Remembering exactly how it felt from my own experience.

Sometime after the counseling session, presumably later that evening, Joel is rambling on about the plan to tell the kids the next day.  He was chattering as if they were planning the dinner for the next day.  A freaking To Do List of sorts.

  • Pick up kids – √
  • Eat dinner – √
  • Crush their entire world by telling them that we aren’t a family anymore – √

Julia sat on the bed, still looking shell-shocked. She asked him not to go; asked him to stay and work on the marriage. She promised that she would try harder. (Seriously, it’s like a scene straight out of my life.)

Joel responded in such a matter-of-fact manner, “I wish we weren’t at this point, but we are.”

Kick him!  Kick him, Julia!  Right in the back of his fat, stupid, uncaring head! [ugly sob]

Finally, the time came for them to tell the kids.  And just like a scene from my life, Julia just sat there while Joel told them that he was moving out.  Something about them deciding about the best decision for the family.  If I had to guess, Julia was sitting there wondering when they came to that decision because it isn’t what she wants at all.  As Joel was leaving, he said that he will pick up the kids for school and asked if he should use the key or knock. Julia looks confused because OF COURSE you just come in, you big jerk!  You should live here and care about what this is doing to me because  you said that you would love me forever.

Okay, maybe I added that last part in my head. While sobbing.  The truth is that, although I rarely think about that time, that pain is still in there somewhere deep down.  As I sat there watching her go through (almost) exactly what I went through, I felt every emotion that she was feeling.  The shock.  The helplessness.  The fear.  Like falling and grabbing for anything to catch your fall, but nothing is there.  You just can’t wrap your brain around it, and every time you try, you are slapped with pain.  Overwhelming pain.

Your mind scrambles to say the right thing to make this awful, spinning ride stop.  You can’t seem to comprehend how this person that you love with every fiber of your being acts as if you don’t exist.  Your feelings don’t matter.  Your pain isn’t visible despite your tears and your begging.  Or worse, it’s visible, but they don’t care…or even get annoyed by it.

I remember one of my last-ditch efforts to make it work right before our divorce, telling him all of the reasons that I thought we could work it out.  Making all sorts of promises of what I would do to make it better.  (ME make it better, even though I hadn’t cheated or spent the last several years in bars.)  He said, “I’m sure that we will get back together at some point, maybe five years from now, but I can promise you that it won’t happen before the divorce is final.  This has to happen.”  Why?  What’s the point in going through all of this if you are so sure that we will get back together?  Why not just work on that now?  Why don’t you love me RIGHT NOW?

Yes, yes, yes, I’m smarter now.  I know it was the best thing.  I know that he just didn’t give a damn.  And frankly, Scarlett, neither do I these days.  I’m over him.

But will I ever get over being discarded so easily?   Left behind without a second thought?


  1. No–we never get over that pain–even when we get to the point that we knew it was the right thing to do. It is still there–30 years later, it is still there. I so regret my divorce, but…I think perhaps what we regret most is not the actual way the marriage was, but the way we wanted it to be–knew how it SHOULD be–could be. I can’t quite explain it–perhaps we are saddest for what wasn’t, rather than the reality of what was?

  2. I know in every fiber of my being it was the right, safe, only thing to do. But it still hurt every day when it was going on. And to know that he chose so many things that were horrible to our family over the family – that’s the part that can creep up and bother me if I think on it too long.

  3. Everything you wrote I could have written myself – right down to the comment from your ex about “maybe in 5 years.” Mine said the exact same thing, verbatum. He felt NOTHING for me – well, I suppose he felt contempt. Contempt, because I dared to expect him to be better, be more, be THERE for us. Who did I think I was? Didn’t I remember that he was special and that he shouldn’t be held accountable for things that other men are? I was discarded even though I’m the one who technically left. What I realize now is that he could have left me at any point during our marriage because he wasn’t in it for me. He was in it because it benefitted him for the time being. As soon as he had an “exit strategy” he was going to leave, or so he said. Well, he never left. I left him but I’ve never seen a happier person who has just been told his wife was taking the kids and leaving him. He was relieved! Life had just opened up for him and he couldn’t help but show it. Meanwhile, I lay in a heap on the floor (fetal position) moaning as though someone I loved had just been murdered in front of me. When I looked up at him he had the same look on his face that people have when they see road kill – disgust. So yes, Stronger, I understand. I’m so sorry that there are others out there like me who can move on but never forget. It has been 10 years for me.

    • You described it so well. My ex was actually angry when I filed for divorce. (Oh, the irony.) Although, I think he was just mad that it might make him look bad. He wanted to be the one to do it, but then again, he didn’t want to look like a guy that would leave his family. He said, “I NEVER would have filed for divorce.” Well, why would you? You came and went as you pleased, spent whatever money you pleased, and took your girlfriend wherever you pleased, while your WIFE handled the house, the kids, the bills, etc. I never would have left that either!
      The fact is that he left me long before I filed the papers. He HATED me. He wanted nothing to do with me. Or our kids. She was all that mattered. And his drinking. I was nothing. And that is the part that is hard to get over. I was nothing.

      • Yes! I agree that being “nothing” to him was one of the hardest things to get over. For me, the hardest part though was that I didn’t realize I was nothing to him until I left him and he was happy. Everyone always says “deep down, I guess I knew.” Well, I had gotten to be a master at ignoring my gut, inner voice, red flags, etc. I actually thought he was pretty darn lucky to have me and our beautiful children! He disagreed. He hated my guts. Just like you said, HATED me. What has made it a little easier for me is after reading almost every book on the topic, realizing that my ex has a personality disorder. He doesn’t have the same emotions or responses as a healthy person. Understanding this personality disorder made me feel vindicated in some way. It really WAS him and not me. It has taken me 10 years but I finally like myself again. Life is getting so much better for me. I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and it seems like we’ve been living almost parallel lives. If you ever feel like no one understands, remember there’s a pretty good chance a lot of us really do. xoxoxo

  4. Oh my goodness ladies. I’m sitting at my desk reading this and I want to jump up and down and wave my hands in the air and say, “me too, me too!” only it’s not really a club I want to be in. I’m in the midst of divorcing my alcoholic husband of seventeen years that is taking forever to get through because he can’t keep his shit together long enough to accomplish a damn thing. Over the summer I met a man who swept me off my feet until he “had” me and now suddenly out of the blue I have been disgarded like a piece of trash. After doing some research I have decided that he has some personality disorders. Even so, my heart hurts and it leaves me looking in the mirror wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Obviously there is some work to be done within myself but how much rejection can one person and her children take? Oh, and let me add this and tell you that I lost my Mother who meant the world to me and my kids the week before Thanksgiving. I guess for now, I will just keep picking myself up, dusting off the dirt and keep going.

  5. I love “Parenthood” and that scene did not make me mourn for my own marriage ending as much as it reminded me of my parents splitting up. My marriage ending was sad not for what was but for what never was and never would be. The children and I have sadness over the loss of a dream, but the loss of the reality of living in chaos and fear was a relief. I’ve tried to bring joy and peace back into our lives, and am only sometimes successful. It still often feels like a bomb went off in our lives and the pieces are scattered everywhere.

Speak Your Mind