So, here I am, thirty six, very little family time and I know the work life balance isn't right. Finally, after years of trying, arguing, attempting in vain to remould each other, we finally accepted, this weekend, that enough is enough.
We met, my wife and I, just eighteen years old, at university. Both involved in creative degrees, we found ourselves swept along by the tidal-wave of the new. We shared a creative vision, a philosophical viewpoint and political reasoning. We still do. The trouble is, we finally had to admit, we really make each other pretty miserable. This is hard to come to terms with. Goodness knows, we've been trying for years. We got ourselves a mortgage, we had two children and a couple of house extensions. These were temporary asides to a general downwards spiral. 'Who's at fault?' I hear you ask. Well, actually, nobody.
For me, the most difficult thing about all this, the raging torrent of thought and confusion that has been my existence for the last few days, is the kids. You see, I'm a teacher. I know from experience that separations effect children. It's inevitable. I know this is not the fault of the parents - I'm just saying it's a given. To some degree, like or not, the children are going to suffer. I have other fears too of course. I'm a loner, I don't socialize easily but my wife on the other hand does. She's a natural. So of course I worry about isolation. On the other hand I have my job and great colleagues. This helps.
Money is always an issue. My wife is a home maker - she has no income. We talked about it tonight as a matter of fact. Her biggest concern was security. Not just her's, but also the children's. 'Well it's obvious to me', I said, 'I have to guarantee your financial security because if I don't I'm harming the children. Why would I want to harm my own children?' She looked momentarily relieved. We talked some more, mainly about how we were both feeling much lighter now the decision to separate had been made.
We are lucky I suppose - we have come to an understanding, we haven't cheated, met someone else or fallen in love with another. In those circumstances I can only begin to imagine the resentment, the rage, the stomach churning disappointment of a life that might have been. On the other hand, this decision is not without its emotional trauma. We have been together, living together, for seventeen years. Not a bad achievement in itself. We have a huge emotional investment in our relationship and in our family - and - being the types to seek perfection, an enormous aversion to failure. If anything is likely to result in misery, then a fear of failure must be top of the list.
To my utter relief, we've managed to conquer these hurdles. We should have done it years ago, but then who ever regrets their children? So we are where we are - and from this point must set a sensible course. In doing so we discovered, quite by chance, an approach to separation completely at odds with our natures. We are both very emotional you see. In fact we see emotional truth or emotional intelligence as a strength. What we found though, was that giving vent to the frustration or disappointment, or the sense of regret or failure or blame, has always stopped us moving forward. This time a kind of emotional coldness has seen us through one of the most difficult decisions you can make. It sounds desensitized, it sounds somehow false or out of touch. The opposite is true.
By accepting that we are, quite frankly, making each other miserable, by avoiding the pitfalls of blame and a ice cold serving of revenge, we have been able to be child centered. My wife thinks I'm a workaholic, thoughtless, stressed and often angry excuse for a husband. I think she's closed off, limited by her own fear and unreasonable in her expectations of me. But none of that is the point. We're just different in personality and temperament. Accepting that, we have structured our separation around the emotional well-being of our kids - two beautiful boys - aged seven and five. Who in their right minds wouldn't put them first? No lawyers, no moving out - at least not yet. No announcing it to family or friends - it's not a soap opera after all, no sudden moves, no emotionally charged action. Is it a bit cold? Yeah, of course it is - but it's working - so far.