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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Friday
Mar282014

Buckle Up

Life has been happening to me for a long time now. What I mean by that is for years now I've just been sitting on the sidelines passively watching it all go down like some funky parade lumbering down my street. Sometimes it's exciting, other times I'm bored but there I am, slumped down in my chair as it all passes me by.

I don't want to let it all happen to me anymore. I do not accept where I've suddenly found myself. I want to happen to life.

For so long I've allowed myself to be this dysfunctional individual who struggles within a dysfunctional marriage, even going so far as to convince myself that couples who fight are normal, that Serge and I are charmingly dysfunctional, even, that it's kind of our thing: two fiery, passionate people who love each other and really get each other and also argue a lot and, oh yeah, say really mean things to each other sometimes.

Serge and I do get each other. You don't grow up with a single mom, no dad around, no money and not develop a kind of kinship with others who experienced similarly traumatic childhoods and exhibit the resulting behavior well into adulthood. But dysfunction conducted between two people who have a wicked sense of humor about it is still dysfunction. Simply put: it's not funny, it's painful, no matter how epic the initial love story seems, regardless of how I've attempted to portray it here in the past.

Several months ago, after another argument about who the hell knows what, it all just kind of bubbled up inside me. I stepped back and assessed our union with an objective eye and what I saw bitch-slapped me onto my ass.

Our marriage sucks. And it has for a while now. I've been unhappy for a long time but have become so used to living this way I assumed this was it in life. Grow up, get married, have kids then break out the lawn chairs, crack open a couple cold ones and watch the fucking parade go by.

The parade is over. Or else I'm finally putting down the beer, getting up out of my chair, kicking it to the curb, storming the parade and commandeering the grand marshal's float. This is my parade now.

What does all this talk of parade even mean? I don't know. In fact, I don't know much these days. I do know that I love Serge desperately and I always will. Meeting him was the best thing that ever happened to me. But we're also facing the hard truth that maybe some time apart would be beneficial - the first of many hard truths we're both facing right now. Call it separation, call it a 'conscious uncoupling' call it whatever you want but for me to continue writing here I need that information on the table. I can't write around it, can't write around the biggest thing going on in my life.

For the past several years Serge and I have spent almost 24 hours a day together. Not only do we work together for the same company but we physically work together every day. I don't think you'll find a therapist worth their sky high prices that wouldn't tell you that space, for us, for now, is a good thing. And because we're having a hard time defining what separation or space means for us I can't exactly define it here for you either.

And kids. The existence of children changes everything. Every thought you have, every decision you attempt to make - it all has to be filtered through what will be best for them. Can you make it work because if you can, you should. Should you make it work if you don't feel like it? Are unhappy parents that live together better than content parents who live apart? Are we unhappy? Is our marriage negatively affecting our children or is us being together still a positive thing?

I don't know. These are all questions that have yet to be answered.

I turned 37 yesterday. I am determined to make it a milestone in my life. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I'm an excellent mom, my kids are the most important thing in my life, I no longer care what anyone thinks about me, I want to be content, I want to be happy, I want to allow myself to be vulnerable and not be afraid of what might happen as a result, I want to live a very deliberate, mindful life and not ever slip back into the comfortable numbness of autopilot.

I have kicked off the autopilot switch, grabbed the wheel and intend to steer this life into the storm, even though I'm heartbroken and scared as shit. So buckle your seat belts.

(Serge's story is his own to share... Or not share.)

Reader Comments (37)

You are brave. Wishing your family true peace,

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterE.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

(encouragement from Mary Oliver)

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAshleyGill

Oh man. I am so sorry to hear this. I hope absence makes the heart grow fonder.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

As always, rooting for you and your family, for you to find solutions which bring you the most peace.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Thank you for the sharing the real truth and all of its complexities and non-answers.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

This makes me sad. I wish you every happiness.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Well....not a surprise to me, looking in but it has got to hurt like a mofo. Wishing you all well, especially the kids

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAri

Wow, Monica. Thank you for being the brave person you are and writing this. It is like you are living a parallel life to me right now. These are exactly the things that are happening with my husband and I in ourselves and our marriage. It's like there's something in the air. I do know that reading this makes me feel so much less alone . . .

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLara

Good luck grand marshalling, girl. I've sat and performed in a lot of different spots in this parade, and each and every one of the transitions from one place to another was difficult beyond measure. I wish you and your family every strength as you shuffle and try to live and love your way through it.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkatherine

No

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

Oof, I'm going through a "conscious uncoupling" myself, and oh it's so wobbly out here in the world of no definitions and no certainties, isn't it?

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersherewin

I hope that this time brings you both peace and leads you in the direction you need to go. I am heartbroken for your family today.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Lee

Life and relationships and kids and stuff is incomprehensible sometimes... you have just given birth within recent weeks and hormones and lack of sleep are likely making things feel a little extra crazy for all of you... also it is damn lonely to have your kids gone part of the time... and even when they are there it's lonely to not have their other parent there too... if you still love each other, you are ahead of the game compared to the rest of us... and in terms of finding love again, every 40-something man or woman I know who is starting over is damaged...separating at a pivotal moment can cause its own unique flavor of damage... there is no right answer, except being as self-aware as possible in your choices...

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDD

thank you for being so honest and real. Sending hugs.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

sounds like the worst and best day of your life all rolled into one. I am off in a middle of the USA hoping your best days in your 38th year are a lot more than in the past 10. I am rooting you and Serge on so you both are happy as you can be.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarty

i'm sad for you guys and i hope that getting some space gives you both what you need to be able to stay together happily. i get where you're at; my husband and i have always fought a lot, we're in a band together, he works from home, we spend a lot of time together, and it's not easy. it's important to be happy and live life as true to yourself as you can. i wish you all the best monica.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlinda

So sorry, Monica.
You and Serge had seemed so much happier, lately.
In my own experience, too much together time is as difficult as too much 'away from each other' time.
May you both find what's best for you and your family.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCathlene

So honest and real, Monica. I've been there and while it is scary, it was also the best thing I ever did. As we sat across the dining room table from each other and I told him that I wanted a divorce, and he agreed, we both literally burst out laughing because we each felt 10,000 pounds of resentment and pain LIFT off our shoulders and fly away into the ether. It was such a revelation, to acknowledge that IT'S OK to decide that you aren't willing to be miserable anymore.

I've come to decide that marriage and/or monogamy is NOT a natural state. It's a lovely fantasy, but it's completely unrealistic to expect ONE person to be your everything: your best friend, the most compatible co-parent, the most ardent lover, the person you can/are willing to live with. It just aint natural. I honestly believe that people who stay married for decades do so only because one person has sacrificed everything for the sake of the marriage. And it's usually the woman.

This is a great article about marriage: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/fashion/Sex-Esther-Perel-Couples-Therapy.html

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkate

I'm sorry that you have to walk this path, but I'm in awe of your courage and fortitude. I am sure whatever you decide will be the best choice for you and the family.

I will agree with Kate that monogamy is hard and it may not even be natural, but I know this part isn't universally true:

" I honestly believe that people who stay married for decades do so only because one person has sacrificed everything for the sake of the marriage. And it's usually the woman. "

My husband and I have been married for 17 years and although we've faced the usual challenges, neither of us have sacrificed everything for the marriage. Honestly, I think it has been part good luck, part good parenting (from our mutual families of origin), part hard work, loyalty, and dedication, part compatible personalities (no drama introverts), and part whatever magic it is that keeps people attracted to each other for multiple decades. But it does happen organically for some of us.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

Ah..37. I thought you were 36. I am all for space.Oh nooohwa!!! NOT for separation which opens the door for creeps to wander in and try to impress you both with their crap. CRAP! Cant this font get any larger? DAM, my eyeballs are burning. OK, so Monica, you have the BEST life in the whole wide world. Gosh. The finest life. What do you need? I will send you cash to stay together. Why not simply change it up a bit...maybe try something like...another flavor of frosting on the bathroom floor as you pretend to dump water stools. What do you need romance? There is nobody better for you out there. Serge and you are like....like Steak and hollandaise, Santa and Mrs, Santa....YOU and SERGE are like PB and J. Like Sunshine after the rain. Maybe you just need a nice fight and a nicer makeup. ( I NEVER EVER HAD A GOOD MAKEUP). Maybe date nights. Get a sitter. I would come out and babysit! Anything. Just be good to each other. Don't break my heart!! I can't take it....Nooowah!!! Love you guys. Together. With the kids. I just wrote a really sad dad leaving poem just before I read this news. Forget the uncoupling PLEASE. Go out to dinner. A movie. Go watch a band..anything!

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergeezer

You just had a baby and your hormones are raging. Have him move in next door - build a shed if you have to- and see how you feel once your body is itself again

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMabel

I'm so heartbroken for your children.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMB

Wishing a life full of happiness for you and Serge, whether together or apart.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersarah

Regarding the kids: which is better...having a mom and dad living under the same roof but who are so miserable and fighting constantly OR having a mom and a dad who acknowledge that living together is toxic for the entire family and they have the balls to put an end to the dysfunction ( after having tried everything to make it work)? Monica and Serge clearly love their children enough to STOP raising them in a dysfunctional environment.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Thank you for your honesty Monica. I have followed you through your struggles with your marriage and can relate to them. My husband and I have especially struggled since the birth of our third (now 11 months old). There is just too much to do in a day to give thought to or nurture our relationship. When we do actually talk, it usually ends up in a screaming match where we blame each other or bring up buried resentments. It's been a struggle. We decided to stick it out. I'm being a little less judgemental, letting things go. He's trying to compromise. It's a struggle but I know he tries his best and is a good person. Perhaps someday I'll kick myself for not letting go earlier, but for now, it's worth the fight.

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteranothermamaof3

Oh…wow. There is so much I want to write to you, an unsolicited perspective for you to think about…but my words aren't coming out well right now. It's such a hard spot to be in with a new baby and other kids and working together every day! I truly hope it works out happily for you all - sending lots of positive thoughts...

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

I got no advice, just an opinion. I have read your blog for a very long and have been entertained by the ups and downs, but now for some reason I feel like I have a genuine interest in your relationship. So many times I read and think how happy I am being single, and so many times I read and think how much I don't have! But right now I am thinking about you and your family and sending good vibes and I know you can do this! I know I am a nobody, but I am here for support!

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Hi

didn't you have a baby about, ooh... 4 minutes ago, all love and peace and homebirth? Did you and Serge not make a decision to bring another new person to join the world approximately 42 weeks ago? I wonder what can possibly have made you feel that you need ''time apart''. Surely time together is the answer to the really gnarly bit of a newborn, a toddler and a pre-K age child AND trying to work and pay rent and find time for each other.

I'm sorry if I sound mean and harsh, but honestly, I think you sound very down, very blue and probably quite (just a little!) tired and that now might not be the most awesome time to decide a separation - another one - is what you need. Admitting that you have just gone ahead and had that 3rd child when actually, you were just on autopilot and oh gosh we're fighting, so let's separate doesn't sound like a wise decision.

I've followed your blog and the ups and downs and think you two have done so well, facing the various things that would test anyone. The fire was a curveball of note, the money worries, the general exhaustion of living and working and child-rearing together... all of it. You have done so well, find a way to make it awesome, but for now, for the next few newborn months (I call it bootcamp - my number 3 was born end Sept for what it's worth), don't make big, drastic decisions. Please. For all of you.
x

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Last year a separation was thrust upon me, and eventually led to divorce. I was mad about it, am still mad about it. Especially with very young children. But I have to say that nothing in my life has done more to accelerate my presence in my own life. Of course, it's also filled with a huge number of obstacles I didn't have before. Still, I feel like I'm more myself now, even when I'm terrified my whole life will fall apart I don't feel lost the way I used to.

Every marriage is different, and I think every separation is different, too. But I hope you find a little bit of yourself in it like I have.

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Wow. I am glad you are able to be so honest with yourself and Serge, about the things you do know and those that you haven't quite figured out. I can tell you, from the perspective of a child that grew up in a highly dysfunctional family, with two parents who either argued brutally or didn't talk at all, that I wished as a child and still wish as an adult that they would have lived two separate and hopefully happy lives. The arguing was completely brutal on me growing up and they did us no favors by staying together and forcing us to witness it. I wish the very best luck to You and Serge and I hope you come out of this with clarity that what you are doing is best for yourself and those three precious kiddos of yours.

Sending love and hope Monica.

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Quam

Wow....WOW. Not only are you going through something confusing, hurtful, and very upsetting, you have to put up with gaping assholes who criticize your life choices that have nothing to do with them. I really hope you ignore those kinds of comments. Only you and your husband know what is best for your family. As a child of divorce (my parents divorced when I was 11), my family was much more harmonious when the pressure my parents were putting on each other and themselves to stay together was lifted. And honestly, if they had divorce sooner than when I was 11, it would have saved years of bad memories as a small child of them fighting and hating each other. And I'm not saying you will divorce, but if it happens, sometimes it's better that way - yes, assholes, even with small children. I know from experience. Whatever happens with your family, you will know it is the right choice, not some jerk internet commenter is all I'm saying. I hope you find the strength and peace you need and the answers you are looking for. Stay strong!

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

You are awesome and your decision to share your experiences here is amazing. I am feel for all you are experiencing. Thank you for being great enough to share you story!

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterM

I cannot believe all of the nasty comments I read on here the other day. Obviously this is a very difficult time in your life, and you are brave for sharing with the world. Everyone deserves to be happy. Bravo to you for realizing that "everyone" includes you.

March 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Have been following your story for a long time. Marriage is HARD. That being said, I really wish and hope you two eventually end up together. I can't help it; that's just how I feel. But whatever you do be happy.

March 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMTHS

It's weird to me the folks who are trying to convince you to stay together. How can they know what is best for your family?
There are no absolutes here and every choice carries a significant amount of pain. You both seem like good people and I hope you can sort this out somehow in a way that promotes love and resilience and minimizes blame and suffering.
I am sad for all of you tonight, it's a hard road you are on, whatever the ultimate destination.

March 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiki

hi again...
sooooo... yes... u r brave...
to admit this publicly...
i have lived a similar situation for some time, to some degree... never admitted anything publicly...
but... the questions are more along the lines of... while this is surely love, because we love the other person, is it a compromise? can it be more? do we want something that is more than a compromise?
i mean, how many people here, if they take a technical look at their seemingly happy marriage, how many people can say it is NOT a compromise to some extent? we let things go, we close our eyes, we grind our teeth, we scream, we fight... and some of us are content to going back to "but we love each other", and start the cycle all over again... you have done that (how many times now? :-) )... i have done that... everybody has done that...
but is this compromising cycle all we can have? i don't know, maybe some people don't hope for more... maybe they have it all figured out, this is the best we can have... but, deep inside, do i believe that? or do i hope things can be... well... perfect? and that i can spend 24 hours a day with another person and love them without the "unnecessary roughness"?
good luck... whatever you do, do not regress or revert back to mindsets you already conquered... i am not saying you should do one thing or another, i am just saying, leave your mind open... understand things further... lead the way... because, unlike most people in similar situation, you are already on that way... and that makes you, in a way, lucky...
it should make you happy, too...

April 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

I am coning to all this late, as I haven't been checking in for a while. I'm an occasional reader so I can't say I know everything that you've been through. I am so sad about this--- I have been rooting for you both together and individually, and this makes me so sad. But, I'm still rooting for you two, whatever happens, and for each you, wherever your paths lead, and wishing you the best.

June 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRLR

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