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Surviving Separation: The ways we cope

My ex husband went out of town this week for work and said that I could come by the apartment to get the last of my things while he was away. I hadn’t been back to ‘our’ home in over a month. I went over right after nightfall to avoid an awkward neighbor run-in and immediately felt a sense of unease when I pulled into the complex.

I got out of the car and walked the cold path to the back of the building. The door was unlocked – something he does that I’ve always found maddening. When I stepped into the apartment I couldn’t believe my eyes. The place was clean, he had purchased new art and hung it on the walls, he had filled out his bar and it now included fancy shakers and stirrers. The kitchen was neat and organized.

I walked into the bedroom and gasped. He had bought and assembled a beautiful, modern bed frame (something we had been talking about for years). My eyes slid over to the open drawer of high nightstand table. Inside there were not one, not two, but three (!!!) boxes of condoms. Each box was a different kind – her pleasure, ecstasy, ribbed. Two of the boxes were open and there were a fair number missing.

A wave of anger rushed over me.

I don’t know if I was angry because it had only been three months and he had already jumped into bed with someone else or if I was angry because he had actually made a home for himself. He had contributed to the building of a home and seen it through from start to finish – something he could never get off the couch and do with me.

Once my anger subsided and I got a little perspective, I started thinking about the ways we cope with change, heartbreak, and loneliness. Even the healthiest coping mechanisms (exercise, writing, hiking, traveling) can be used in unhealthy ways. We can use anything to escape from our pain.

Who am I to judge him for his ways of coping? If anything, he is making positive changes for himself, he is building a new home base and connecting with new people.

I think the hardest part of seeing his apartment and seeing him a few weeks prior was that, despite all of his grief and anger and pain, he is doing better. He’s better than he was with me.

For so long I felt like I couldn’t leave my marriage because I thought it would destroy my husband. It turns out that he is more resilient than I ever knew.

A majority of my coping has been navigating through the grief I felt about walking away and ‘ruining his life’. It turns out that I don’t have as much power to ruin his life as I thought I did. I don’t need to carry that egotistic grief around anymore.

Who am I when I am not worrying about the effect I’m having on everyone else?

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