Who are these men leaving their wives for women 10 or 15 years younger? These men who leave their kids so they can go be “happy” because the lives they signed up for are too “hard”? The vows said “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health” because it’s not so great all the time.
A friend of mine last week told me that she has at least five male friends in their 40s and 50s who have left their wives and families for women between 26-32. What do the men say about these women? That they’re easy.
Of course they’re easy. They haven’t moved in together, divvied up chores, gone into debt together. They don’t have kids to take care of and a yard to maintain. So what happens when the relationship progresses that far? Do the men leave again because this just got too hard too? Do they realize what a craptastic mistake they made in leaving their first wives because all the problems they thought were escaping are back and they realize it wasn’t the women and kids they abandoned after all?
And who are these women, these easy women who want the men who would lie and cheat and leave the people they’d made vows to? Another friend pointed out to me that at least I got 15 years of believing my husband was honest and faithful. His mistress knows that he would do this so she gets to worry whether he is really where he says he is and who he says he’s with. Or maybe she doesn’t worry. Maybe she just thinks it was his shrew of an ex-wife and she’s different. He would never do it to her.
So is she going to stay “easy”? Forgo having kids. Fight the metabolism slowing down as her 30s (or 20s) progress? Will she just ask for less? Want less?
When I was growing up, a midlife crisis meant that dads moved into apartments, bought motorcycles, leather jackets, and maybe pierced one ear. Since I don’t actually have a crystal ball to see five, ten, or twenty years into the future, I can only consider what I know of the midlife crisis to imagine how all our currently wrecked lives turn out. All those women who were with our dads right after the divorce disappeared, some more quickly than others. And there were some more broken marriages. Eventually, most of the men found women they settled down (ostensibly to ease into retirement) with. Some stayed alone or decided they didn’t believe in marriage after all and would just commit to a relationship for as long as it was fun or easy.
So what’s set off this diatribe of questions? Yet another friend of mine has called because her husband cheated and has left her for a younger woman. And I was with a group of friends recently talking about sex (or the lack of it) with their husbands. I said I wasn’t sure if or when I’d ever have sex again. Another friend asked recently if I was ready to start dating, because maybe if my mind was on some new man, it would be easier to get over my ex-husband.
In the meantime I keep seeing my ex, and he looks like the man who made vows to me, the one who is supposed to be my person. He’s still the one I want to call when something good or bad happens. And I’m realizing how much easier it was when I didn’t see him for six weeks this summer. But seeing him daily for kid exchange, it’s like my broken heart never gets to mend in a cast. I don’t know if I’m healing at all. Because I still cry all the time, and can’t sleep. And though he and I aren’t fighting, the only person I see around here claiming to be happy is him.
What I’m not missing though is all that he left. I keep looking around and realizing I am living the life I want. I wanted to be in this house. I wanted this son. I didn’t sign up for easy. I signed up for a whole long messy life together.
I’m also not missing the first snowman, or making lunch for the first day of school, or all the beautiful minutiae of a child’s life that the parent who left is walking away from, no matter how often they have visitation.
I’m just not sure how long it takes before I stop waking up and feeling the shock that this is my life now, that my husband is gone. I’ve grieved deaths before. I remember that one day you realize you just haven’t thought about the person who is gone for a while. And then the relief expands, slowly, without your noticing. I’m not there yet, not even close, but I’m looking forward to it.