“You say you never saw this coming, well you’re not alone.
Million dollar renovations to a happy home.
My ex said she gave me the best years of her life.
I saw a recent picture of her, I guess she was right.”
- Kanye West, 30 Hours.
Maybe we were happier when we had no money. Before the mortgage, boat and six-figure income (his). I’m sure that our happiest years were when we paid modest rent and all of our furniture was secondhand. When we would take baths together every night and dinner was usually something that I had thrown together with the help of a Donna Hay cookbook. We became engaged, then married. He was a part of every important event, every family vacation that I can recall since I was 19. A brilliant man, eleven years my senior, quick-witted, tall and attractive. His first degree was in industrial chemistry. I met him after he had completed his second degree, and quickly fell in love with his kindness, relaxed demeanour and sense of humour.
I won’t go into the reasons why it was all over a decade later. The reasons are too many, too personal, and too raw. But I will say that no-one was caught cheating, and there was no domestic violence.
It started slowly. We used to have awesome dinner parties, usually ending at 3:00am, with our little dogs rotating to sleep on different guests’ laps during the winter. Now, we were no longer eating dinner together, nor were we having any conversations of any substance. There were so many topics that we knew were ‘forbidden’ to discuss as they would cause an argument. We began taking separate holidays. The best couples grow together; we grew apart.
I had lost myself somewhere in there. I was constantly on edge, had lost my sense of humour and ability to laugh. I rushed through every day, just wanting it to be over, for the relief that sleep brings.
I tried, I really did. I ran the household, made sure that the bills were paid, clothes were ironed, and meals were cooked. And even though I was working full-time as well, I didn't mind. First, because I loved him, second because I’m naturally better at those things than he was, and third because my income was a third of his, so it seemed kind of fair. When he refused to go to couples’ therapy, I went alone.
The end came the day before my birthday. There were several defining events that took place in the preceding weeks (it’s hard to explain properly without going into too much detail). I took a deep breath, looked into his eyes, and gently explained I couldn’t live like this anymore and we needed to live apart.
Until that moment, I had no idea that I had the power to inflict that much pain on someone. He shook his head and kept refusing. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. He just didn’t see it coming. Sure, he knew things weren’t great, but I had never uttered the word ‘divorce’ before.
As it turns out, we actually had to live together for another month or so, as we had moved out of our house while it was being renovated. That was a strange time. After work each day I would iron and pack his clothes neatly into boxes, and then crawl into bed beside him, being careful not to make any physical contact.
I gave him most of the furniture. He took our dog, I took our cat. I opted not to touch any of his superannuation and settled for far less than 50% of all marital assets. A decision that I may regret in later life.
I may be describing the events in a pragmatic fashion now, but make no mistake. I was devastated. I used to cry in the shower. My poor parents bore the brunt of my distress- receiving calls from me, sobbing into the phone, asking if I had done the right thing.
My boss was aware of what was happening, but I didn’t tell a single colleague until I eventually resigned to move to Sydney. None of them had any idea. I’d been covering for my husband’s lack of attendance at my work events for so long that it was easy to continue.
I couldn’t tell my extended family. Especially my grandmothers. I didn’t have the words. Luckily, my Mum took care of that for me, in her gentle and honest way.
I was so embarrassed. I felt like I had left everyone down. I didn’t want to joins the ranks of other divorcees- those depraved cougar-types that drank like fish and hated all men.
I was worried about the stigma, the shame of having a failed marriage. I was worried about being treated differently. What if my friends were suddenly scared to leave me alone with their husbands at BBQs?
I remember sitting on the couch at a psychologist’s office, bawling my eyes out. “You don’t understand!” I wailed. “He hasn’t paid a bill in over a decade. When he last paid a bill, you took a paper copy to the post office and paid it with cash. I feel like I’m abandoning him to fend for himself.”
The kind psychologist said some things that struck me. First, she told me that most couples she saw in her practice come to see her about six years too late. When their marriage is beyond salvageable. Second, she had observed that the decision to part is usually a shock to one person, whereas the second person is just ready to get on with it. She had described my situation perfectly.
(As it was, I ordered him a new phone and set up direct debits for all of his bills before he moved out. Anything to make his life easier and ease some of the guilt that I felt).
I often feel like I gave my husband what should have been the best years of my life- my twenties. And yes, perhaps I am beginning my thirties as a single person, but I often feel somewhat like ‘used goods’. A 30-year old with a HELP debt and a mortgage who is still working her way through her bachelor’s degree. Not a lot of upsides there.
I miss the banter, the joking around. I miss his ability to build things, fix things and show me how to use different power tools. I miss that having a date to take to weddings was a given. I miss not having to worry about whether the mortgage would be paid.
To my surprise, twelve weeks after we broke up, he had a girlfriend. That’s what I would urge men (or women) NOT to do. Don’t think that you’re going to be able to leave a long term relationship and get straight onto Tinder. It just doesn’t work like that. Your mind and heart are a mess. And if you’re a man, your ‘downstairs region’ may not be in the mood to co-operate (as he admitted to me later).
As it stands now, we are (cautious) friends. We text. We joke via text. I’ve started to wear my engagement ring sometimes, but on a different hand now. Hey, it was beautifully designed (by me), and diamonds are my birthstone. And now that I know that my ex-husband is doing ok, I’m ok.
For some reason, I had kept every single card from our wedding. When I was home in January, I made myself read each one before tearing them in half and throwing them in the bin. Some of the cards were written by people who have since died- including my beloved grandfather. As I read each card, I felt a sense of finality, but also a sense of curiosity. How many of these people had their doubts that we were really right for each other?
I view relationships differently now. Having had the ‘white picket fence’ existence before, I don’t seek it again. Instead I would hope for a kind of Venn diagram. Where we are both self-sufficient individuals, but our circles overlap.. hopefully a great deal. Having said that, I try not to see clients as potential partners- I see them as people meant to cross my path for a reason. Besides, that’s really not my call to make.
I could still be there today. In fact, any time I’ve ever found myself into a difficult situation as an escort, my first thought has always been, “Well, you could still be living the life of a suburban housewife. So the fact that you are in this situation is absolutely your fault.”
I’m in no hurry though. It would be enough just to be with someone whose face lights up when they see me. Someone who makes me laugh and wants to go on crazy, spontaneous and non-committal adventures (calling Italian Stallion…). To have someone that I could just drag into bed at midday on a Saturday to make love would be awesome. Someone who could overlook my years spent as Mischa and love me for the rest of me. I guess I crave consistency too- not to be confused with monotony. Just to know where I stand. That’s all. That would be enough. My time as Mischa is finite. The love that I have to give is not.