Before divorce became the ultimate conclusion to a turbulent nine-year marriage, I was introduced to a term I had never heard before—Married Single. My wife and I were attending a Marriage Encounters weekend in one of many attempts to repair our damaged relationship. On the second day of the weekend long relationship seminar, the collection of hosts started to discuss what it meant to be a Married Single. The term defines a marriage where one spouse in the relationship continues the same social behavior of a bachelor or bachelorette while the other spouse is left with all the domestic duties that come with a marriage.
This term resonated hard with me. Since the beginning of our marriage, my wife continuously exercised what she believed was her right to go out on almost a nightly basis the minute I entered the door from work. She felt entitled to socialize with her friends and drink at the bar whenever she desired. After working twelve to fourteen hour shifts, six days a week, I would be left to cook dinner, clean the house, and tend to our young children.
A vicious cycle grew from her sense of entitlement and became the center of constant argument. She justified her behavior to do as she pleased by claiming she was taking care of the kids during the day with no help or support from me, and refuted my defense that I worked long hours to provide for our family. My work, she claimed, was my social life and reason for my absence in the family. And so it went on for our entire first half of our marriage.
Eventually, the long work hours and the added burden of filling the domestic role at home because of the ever-growing absence of my spouse led to serious physical and mental health issues for me. The situation worsened when she decided to get a job of her own. The added stress of juggling my schedule around her new work and play schedule brought on a heart attack scare, which was later diagnosed as a massive anxiety attack. I had to make an important life choice, and this incident forced me to decide on a career change. I needed something I could do from home to make extra cash while allowing me to continue to perform the domestic duties of a stay-at-home parent.
Most men who find themselves in midlife crisis go out and buy an expensive sports car, or run away with a younger woman. Not me. I chose to put myself in $45k in student loan debt.
With my wife working full time and continuing to have an active social life, I chose to enroll in an online college program to develop my writing skills. It had been a lifelong desire to be a writer, a dream discouraged by many members of my very blue-collar family. Making this personal life decision did not set well with my wife, who expected me to get a “real job” so she did not have to support the entire household alone.
We found ourselves in a vicious cycle once more. While the position of housewife was considered a difficult job for her, my decision to become a househusband and return to college was viewed as an excuse to be lazy and a way to avoid my economic responsibility as a father and husband. It was a double standard I could not defend myself against. And so fighting went on, through two domestic violence charges against her, more counseling to try repairing the damage our family and marriage was suffering, and the addition of two more children to our growing household.
The addition of two more children, even with all the turmoil should have been a reminder of the love we had for one another. But my wife’s desire to be independent, as well as, her growing animosity for me attempting to follow my dream of becoming a writer was too strong. The tragic story of a once loving family ended with infidelity and substance abuse.
Our divorce will be finalized in a few more months. My wife has her new boyfriend, expecting a baby they conceived while we were still together, and a new life.
The transition from being a Married Single to a divorced father raising four children was a relatively easy adjustment. After all, I had been caring for my children with little help from my spouse. The toughest part has been tending to the emotional pain of having our family torn apart. I still feel the stabbing in my heart and the nauseating roll in my stomach every time I hear my ex’s voice or see her face.
My love for her is still there, and the wound she left on my heart is still open and tender. I miss what we had, but I know there is no way to ever get that back. What I have left from all this is the strong bond of love with my four young children, and a true understanding of what a “Married Single” really is.