Magic Numbers

People have been posting new-year stories, taking stock and making plans, and I feel like it’s a good night for me to join that party. I haven’t posted in a while – partly because the changes I’ve made might be hard for some members to register as significant. I've been moving on internally, and setting things up to make it external when I judge the time is right. The pace might be glacial…. but just imagine trying to argue a glacier out of its path.

My H’s problems stem from a lack of a fixed identity, what he calls a “moral compass”. As he’s explained it, he’s operated through life by finding people (individually or in groups) with qualities he admires, and attaching himself to them in order to absorb some of those qualities. But it never seems to “take” – when the relationship ends, he’s back at square one, seeking another guide. I can't wrap my head around this, hard as I've tried. My own identity has been fixed since I was about five, and hasn’t changed all that much….. the same faults, the same virtues. It takes a long time to bang any big, new idea into my head, and then once it’s there, practically forever to get it out again.

So I had no conception that the guy who courted me for over two years, slowly getting to be the closest out of our big group of friends, would drop any pretence at social life the minute we were married. He’d reached the goal, gained the prize, and now he could relax and let me run things. When I didn’t, he started to become mired in resentment. But how can anyone live that way – never getting what they want, because they can’t find a way to ask for it? When I would try to find out what was wrong, his most common response was “I don’t know.” If you’re unhappy, I can see not knowing how to fix it, but how can you not know what the problem is?

Of course I wanted to help; I tried to help. In my engineer/labcoat world, everything can be fixed, every problem solved…. if you have the right materials, the right tools, and unlimited time. But people problems are a different story. I don’t do rescue. Once I realize a relationship is codependent, or trending that way, I am out of there. I’d never been married before this, and thought that the vows meant the help I was giving H early on, would be balanced by the same kind of help when I needed it. When I finally figured out, four years ago, that it was NEVER going to arrive, I unilaterally declared us roommates and the marriage was over.

Living in the guestroom for this long hasn’t been easy, but it’s been the least worst solution I could come up with on my own. I had no income, no realistic work prospects, and a young daughter. Living in a crappy apartment would have made things harder, not easier … and there wasn’t even enough spare cash to make it happen! I don’t need a lawyer to help me do basic arithmetic. So I’ve bided my time, taken some professional training, and quietly started building my social safety-net. Hard to do, since I don’t fit either the “singles” world or the “couples” world, but at least I won’t totally shock folks when I do move out. Or move H out, one; he’ll get that choice, but that’s the only one he has.

About a year ago I got my own cell number -- a throwaway account, like the one Katie Holmes used to escape Tom Cruise. I paid for it with a new credit card, sent to my part-time work address; I've also used it to buy individual concert tickets, for arena shows this spring. My outfits are already picked out, clothes I've never worn in front of him. These are symbolic steps, but giant ones for me, and they give me strength during the annoying, repetetive arguments we still sometimes have. He "does not have my number" -- this is a massive, slightly malicious source of satisfaction.

Two weeks ago I interviewed for a full-time job; my daughter is old enough now and we have enough child care to make it happen. The boss called me this afternoon to “review my numbers.” I know there are other good candidates – there’s fierce competition for this job – but I can’t help but think that call was a good sign. And this spring, there’s another number in play…. my H turns 59 ½. Old enough to withdraw money from his retirement plan, without penalty, for a downpayment on the condo I’ve already picked out. He won’t see it coming – did you see it coming? – but he won’t argue much, or not for long. Nothing you can do when that ice-shelf is bearing down on you, but get out of the way.

I am 49 today; 7 x 7, a squared prime. Happy lucky-number birthday to me, and happy new year to all of you.
DeborahManning DeborahManning
51-55, F
6 Responses Jan 10, 2013

Happy Birthday D,
I love seeing you plan your escape!

Deb, glad to see this update from you. Keep moving forward, at any speed!

"thought that the vows meant the help I was giving H early on, would be balanced by the same kind of help when I needed it."

This was my final eye-opener as well, when I finally realized no matter how much effort I put in, I would never get even a fraction of effort back when I needed it, no matter how small an effort it would take.

Congratulations on moving on, take your time and do it right.

What a great update! Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I feel stuck in the mire, but like you, my forward motion creeps along like a glacier, but still moving forward. Your story helps me, and I'm sure it's helpful to many others.

A *very* happy squared prime birthday to you! I got goosebumps reading your story, particularly towards the end.

Oh, and your comment about being "glacial" resonates. An apt description to the speed at which I also move along, especially when I'm at a crossroad in my SM.

<p>This reads like you are gradually abandoning "we" thinking, and that, is your ticket out of Dodge longer term.</p><p>As you are embracing "me" thinking, and making informed choices on a basis of what is in YOUR best interests, there can only be one possible outcome. A greatly enhanced life for you after this phase of your life is behind you.</p><p>Stick at it. Quite a ways to go yet.</p><p>Tread your own path.<br />
PS - can I suggest that you re-visit your thoughts on seeking legal advice ? There may be unexpected information or legal pifalls in play that could work to your benefit (or penalty) that you need to take into account in "doing your numbers".</p>

Thanks for the head-pat. As a longtime reader and fairly regular commenter here, I am well aware of your thoughts on the wisdom of seeking legal advice, and am pulling together a file of my (and our) financial data, to share with my attorney..... when I am ready.

I'm sure it's going to happen. Just keep that "Mona Lisa with Microscope" smile and keep glaciating!