It's 1 AM And My Stomach is Churning with Anguish

This will be long and sucky but I have to tell someone with no stake in the matter so you folks are gettin’ it.

So ten months ago my wife and I separated, largely because she cheated, lied, lost jobs like people lose keys, and so on and so forth. Fior six months after I found out about the affair I tried to fix the relationship while she sat there like a bump. She started dating (again) the guy she’d had the affair with right after the separation started, if not before. We can file for divorce as of May 1 on the grounds of a year’s separation. That’s the easy way out.

I finally pinned her down last weekend to talk about the arrangements. She held forth for two hours on a twisting, confused talk about how she feels, which was such a conflicting mess of crap that I could not make heads or tails of it. To my utter amazement and shock, she actually floated the idea of us getting back together - not enthusiastically, more wistfully - a prospect that I, to be honest, cannot even begin to imagine how she could convince me to trust her to do it. I left her utterly baffled as to what the conversation had even been about. Why doesn’t she want a divorce? SHE cheated. SHE treated me like crap. SHE is dating the fat pig she cheated with. She made her decision. What the hell?

My daughter, a ridiculously sweet girl of 5, is now asking me at least twice a week to move back with Mommy so “things can be like they were before.” The agony and despair this causes me is literally beyond my ability to express it in words. My child is hurt, and I don’t know how to fix it.

Thanks to the separation, I am living paycheck to paycheck. I’m saving for retirement thanks to automatic RSP deductions, at least, but there’s no spare money. Credit card bills loom. I am stuck, for the time being, in a job that overworks me on purpose; quitting would mean ruin within a matter of a couple of months. I can’t move from this city, even if that were to create opportunities, because then I would lose my shared custody of the only person in the world who really makes me happy.

I am 39 and have a kid, making me poison to most women. My attempts to find dates have been absurdly unsuccessful (and it’s more having the kid than being separated, believe me; I’ve run the experiments.)

I’ve put considerable effort into getting out, pursuing interests. The standup comedy course was a huge success. I’m going out more. But I’m still alone when I get home to my little condo I don’t own and the loneliness is indescribably bad and now my little girl is sad because her Mommy and Daddy aren’t together for reasons she can’t understand. Everything is fucked. I had a wonderful life and its been blown to tatters.

Everyone told me it was going to get better. Well, it’s not getting better. And there’s no particular reason to believe it will anytime soon. Why would it? Next week will be exactly the same as this week, and so will the week after, and the week after. I have to grind through it for my daughter’s sake, and that’s going to be my life. It’s so horrible a thought that I can’t sleep. So here I am.

I don’t have any advice, but I read your post and I’m thinking about you. I believe that it will get better, I really do. I’m glad your daughter is healthy and she will be happy again someday, as will you. Best to you.

Damn it, I lost my whole post so you actually get the condensed version. It started with one of these: :frowning:

  1. If you get a great opportunity that requires you to move, why not take your daughter with you? Dads don’t get screwed in family court near as often as most people would have you believe (at least, not anymore) and if your wife is as unstable as you describe here, that may work to your advantage as far as primary custody goes. Not being able to hold a job is a big deal. And long distance visitation issues work really very well for a lot of people. I’m just saying it’s not impossible; you’re not necessarily stuck there.

  2. Being a single parent (of either gender) isn’t a dating death sentence. Actually maybe even less so for fathers because primary custody typically is with the mother* so she has less free time to devote to looking for/pursuing/maintaining relationships than a man would. Plus, if you’re not a total shitbag who whines about parenting and complains about child support and is just generally a douche, being a parent (a GOOD parent) may work in your favor with some women.

  3. Your daughter will understand someday and, though you may spare her the finer details, she will see that it was for the best. She’s going to be just fine.

*And not because of a court bias necessarily but because that’s “just how it is” and a lot of guys aren’t pursuing that primary custody. This is all IMO, IME.

Feel better, Rick.

It will take time. I know it doesn’t seem like there is progress now, but there is.

Take the whole ‘floating the idea of getting back together’ thing as at least a glimmer of recognition on her part that she done fucked up. But don’t buy into it for a minute on your part.

Kids are kids. They don’t know adult things. My young nephew used to ask me about getting back together with my psycho ex for several years after the fact, and it was extremely painful to deal with his questions and ideas. Your daughter doesn’t understand what happened, she’s too young. Give her more time. Try to explain in simple terms that even if you did get back together, which you won’t, things would never be the same, because bad things happened (do NOT explain the bad things. You don’t need to badmouth her mother!)

Please don’t settle for getting back together with your ex, that way madness lies.

It could take a long time to get back to normal, it is hard to accept but if you *can *take the long view it is healthier.

I spent 10 years as a custodial single father, taking care of my mother at the same time. Try telling your prospective date that you don’t need to find a sitter because your mom lives with you. It was a real ice breaker I tell you. Still, any woman worth hanging out with is not going to care about the fact that you have obligations and should realize that it says something very nice about you that you are taking care of business.

I have now been with my current wife for 10 years, married for 4, and these years were worth waiting for.

It will get better. It takes too long. It sucks.

Ten months after separation is still early days. Don’t write yourself off for at least a year after the divorce is finalized.

Hey RickJay,

Most of what I was going to say has already been said. I broke off an engagement, and had that wistfulness bit, but fortunately he quickly moved on, sparing both of us having to go through trying to get back together while knowing it wasn’t going to work out.

I’m 45, and I’ve never been married. I reckon folks like me look more like damaged goods than someone who’s been married and divorced. From where I sit, a nice fella with a cute 5-year-old sounds perfectly fine to me!

Yeah, you’ll get through it because you have to, for your daughter’s sake. But things will get better, especially now that you’re moving towards kicking batshit wife to the curb.

I dunno if I’d tell your little one that “bad things happened between Mom and Dad,” since your daughter’s world is already feeling upside down. I think whenever that comes up, if it were me, I’d take her in my arms, reassure her that no matter what, her mommy and daddy love her very very much. And leave it at that. After all, if a bunch of reasonably intelligent Dopers can’t make head or tail of what batshit wife is doing, your little one won’t be able to grasp it all either.

Y’know, I think that it’s a bit of a myth that ‘things will get better’. Things certainly change, and sometimes we’re in a better place to deal with those changes, but the whole notion of getting better is a con job IMHO. Getting better is a medical term for when the bug you’ve been carrying around drops off you and hitches a ride on the passer-by. When yer’ dealing with emotional shit, it doesn’t get ‘better’, it just means you develop some sort of immunity to the symptoms.

RickJay, I hope good stuff for you. I hope your little girl learns ways of coping with the separation of her mum and dad, and don’t you forget that squillions of kids through the ages have dealt with such stuff before, and still turned out to be well adjusted and even almost normal human beans!!

Now go to bed and get some sleep otherwise you will be a total friggin’ mess in the morning /end nagging-mum-lecture.

So sorry for what you and your daughter are going through. I personally would prefer a guy who is clearly a good, loving dad to someone without kids. Right off I know you are not an ax murderer, you are not selfish and frivolous but make sacrifices for the well being of someone you care about, you think of others’ feelings, and you know all the practical details of making a family work.

I teach preschool and kids whose parents have separated are often some of the strongest, most resilient, most empathetic kids, with a clear awareness of how very much they are loved.

Things do get better, but it takes time and effort to change the current situation. Focusing on the standup is a really strong idea. Just being at the clubs every night you can is a positive step.

I’m guessing your wife is waffling on the divorce because her life is going to get a whole lot harder once it happens. I would guess maybe the boyfriend is dragging his feet on offering to marry her. Your daughter wants you to get back together for childish reasons - but you have to follow through for adult reasons.

As far as dating goes, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of turmoil going on right now. Finding a quality woman, someone you could introduce to your daughter, will be easier once some of this is settled.

Being me, my advice usually boils down to 1. Get a dog and 2. Get a World of Warcraft subscription. But you seem to have a better plan in the stand-up. Maybe your daughter would like a dog? I don’t know. It would keep your apartment from feeling so empty, maybe?

My second husband was a single dad. We met when our daughters became friends at the day-care they both attended. I think they were 6 when we met. Anyway, it’s already been said but being a single dad can be a bonus. It certainly will weed out the frivilous, shallow women you don’t want to be dating.

Come to think of it, my third husband was a single dad too. :slight_smile:

Another piece of advice: I always give myself 2 years to recover from divorce. It takes that long to get your head back together, and get a routine established with your kids. You want to project as much stability as you can to your daughter. Bringing a girlfriend into the picture at this time will upset the balance and I advise against it.

As the child of people who stayed together way too long for the children… don’t. Although the couple of years around the divorce were difficult to handle life was 1000x better afterwards.

The one thing your daughter needs is your reassurance that no matter what daddy will always love her. If she asks include mommy but be wary of promising things about the crazy. One day your nutso ex-wife will say something stupid and you don’t want to be sucked down as the daddy who lied about mommy. Don’t say nasty things about her but don’t go overboard with praise either.

Here is another thought. If you get back together, and you can’t trust your wife, you will put your daughter through this AGAIN when your wife flakes out again. And again, and again.

Healing is hard, but her mother is not grown up enough to be married. So getting back together would simply be delaying another drama - this one when your daughter may be old enough to understand how selfish her mother is being - and therefore take it harder.

Its sometimes sucks to be a parent. We have to watch our children hurting because if we step in and fix it - it would be worse in the long term.

At 39, women who are around your age and are realistic expect baggage. You don’t get to be 39 and not have a past - and sometimes that past includes a crazy ex and kids.

RickJay Your Wife is dating and sleeping with other men? How much do you love her?

Excuse me if I take a bit of a different route than the syrup that has been laid on the OP. If it matters, I am in my 14th year of a very loving marriage. I have, though, in previous relationships been used like a toilet brush. That won’t happen again.

RickJay You are no longer in a marriage. If this bothers you, divorce her. She is at fault.

She decided ‘Fat Pig’ is not good enough. She will find someone else though. She would just like to use you as a crutch until that happens.

The ONLY question you have to deal with is how to best take care of your daughter. Document everything. Even hand written notes to yourself count in court.

And some gravel and rocks from me -

Saying you’re worried about dating because you have a kid is very, very troubling. What is more important to you? Its sounds like neither you or your wife are fit to be a parent. Sheess I have more consideration for my dogs than you have put into your post about your daughter. Please remember that she is a life that will bloom, and it’s not about you any more. That was the choice that you made when you decided to have a child.

I’m not a Dad, but if I was I sure would not use my daughter as an excuse that ‘I can’t get ‘dates’.

And if having a daughter is the reason you can’t get dates, you’re a lucky man because the women that you may be trying to get dates with are garbage. Count yourself lucky. Kiss your daughter and by God Man Up a bit.

I didn’t feel that his post was all about his trouble getting dates. And, looking at his daughter’s long-term happiness, daddy eventually having a steady girlfriend or wife could have huge benefits for her, both in having another adult to love and care for the child, and daddy not being a miserable and lonely person. I’ve seen kids where the single parent doesn’t have another adult for mutual support and so the kid ends up feeling lots of pressure to be that person to make it okay for mommy or daddy. Not saying the OP would let that happen, but the child could well feel that way. Daddy’s sad because I’m not making him happy enough! I’m failing him!

enipla, recognizing that it is harder for a man with children to date than it is for one who does not have them does not make a man “unfit to be a parent.” And not wanting children, and therefore not wanting to date a man with children does not make a woman “garbage.” You’ve been married for 14 years, and you don’t have children. Are you garbage?

And, really? Man up? RickJay is coming here to complain so that he doesn’t have to complain elsewhere. That’s how people “man up.” They bitch where it won’t hurt anyone so that they can be strong when it counts. Sheesh! Judgmental much?

That’s a really good point - there’s no way of telling if it will “get better” or not, but I can guarantee you that it WILL change. It could change in as little as two or three months, when the divorce is final. Your daughter won’t be five forever. You won’t be in the same job forever. You won’t be in the same apartment forever. You won’t be paying child support forever. You most likely won’t be alone forever - you were married once, so chances are you can do it again.

It sounds like you’re having a good wallow, and there’s a time and place for that, but that’s not a place to live. Have a feeling sorry for yourself weekend, then pick yourself up, shake yourself off, and get back to having a life again.

What the fuck are you talking about?

OK, let’s simmer down. enipla, this statement is rather uncalled for. Though it might be your opinion, you are not obligated to kick a man while he’s down and venting about a deeply emotional personal problem. RickJay, please resist the urge to further express your irritation in a pointed way.

Let’s concentrate on ways to help RickJay through this, everyone. Thanks.

Ellen Cherry
MPSIMS Moderator

I’d suggest continuing to pursue interests. Somewhat similarly to your standup comedy experience, I found that getting involved with a community theatre production worked wonders–it was something I’ve always enjoyed, and I met a lot of great people I wouldn’t otherwise have known. In the summer after my wife left me, I played more golf than ever before, and met yet more people. Thanks to these and other activities, my circle of friends is widening; and while I may come home to an empty house (well, except for the cats), I often come home to a phone message or an e-mail asking me if I want to join the gang to watch the game at the sports bar, or show up to a jam session, or play golf on Saturday. It’s not a bad thing to come home to.

The nice thing is that the friends I’ve made don’t know me as half of “Spoons and Spoonette”; they know me as simply “Spoons.” This is important, I think, because it tells me that I don’t need to be part of a couple in order to be accepted–I can be accepted, even wanted, because of who I am, rather than who my wife and I are. It’s done wonders for my self-confidence.

I cannot comment on the situation with your daughter, but it would seem to me that part of your troubles may be alleviated by getting out and getting involved. Your standup comedy is a great idea–now that you’ve been through the class, work up another routine and try it at a club’s open-mic night. Meet some people and make some friends as simply “Rick.” And don’t sweat the dating–it seems to me that that will come if you have lots of friends you’ve made from activities you enjoy.

Hope things turn out for you. Good luck!