Tango Tales - 'Separation saved our marriage'
It felt like ground hog day, day in, day out. Tania was exhausted, she felt like the whole weight of parenting, housework, paying bills and cooking was her life. She often thought, is this it? Is this what life has become? What happened to her aspirations to become a lawyer, to make a difference in the world? Most days the closest she got to defending a case, was her own! She would snap at Simon as soon as he walked through the door as he declared he was starving, and surprised dinner hadn’t even been started. He was late of course, he always was, so Tania would defend herself that she had been busy getting the shopping, cleaning the house then helping the kids with their homework.
Tania often resented Simon for having the freedom to have a fulfilling job as an architect, designing dream homes for families and getting to feel accomplished, something Tania lacked in her life. Sure, Tania loved her kids, they were her life, but she constantly asked herself who am I? Wife, mother, homemaker, serving everyone else’s needs but her own. Tania would collapse into bed soon after putting the kids to sleep at 7:30pm, pulling the covers over her head to drown out Simon’s laughs as he watched a comedy on TV. Tania wondered ‘when was the last time I laughed?’ Her mind went blank, she couldn’t remember, but if she asked herself when was the last time she cried, she could recount the times over the past week on both hands. Tania felt so unhappy, overwhelmed with the feeling of been trapped like a caged animal, brought out to do its routine of tricks, then put away again until needed the next day. Like most nights she cried herself to sleep hoping she could dream a better life before awakening to the drudgery of the next day.
Simon with his belly full and relaxing on the sofa after a long day at work was disappointed that Tania would be in bed when the kids went to sleep. 7:30pm again? Who goes to bed at 7:30pm Simon thought……? kids and pensioners! Simon felt lonely in his marriage. It seemed like ground hog day for him too, he would go to work, work his butt off to make a good life for his family and be greeted at home to arguments and stress. He let his mind wonder, reminiscing about the pre-kids’ days on how Tania would be so bubbly, happy and fun greeting him at the door with a beaming smile and a big warm hug. They use to be so happy to see each other and spend time together. What went so wrong? Sure, life is tough when you have kids but does it have to zap all the fun out of life? Simon found he would volunteer to stay back at work to complete urgent proposals as it was more exciting than coming home. If he came home late it wouldn’t be too long after dinner that he could sit in peace with a beer and relax. All he wished for was that he could have that quality time with Tania, the old Tania, so they could reconnect again.
It was the weekend. Saturday had arrived and Simon was up early thankful he didn’t have to go to work. He was busy making coffee when Tania came down the stairs in her pyjamas still half asleep. “Hey sleepyhead, how about we go out for the day to the beach” said Simon cheerfully. Tania said “No, it looks like it might rain later, I just want to relax on the sofa today”. Simon felt deflated, he wanted to do something exciting. “Oh ok, well I’ll see if Dave is free to play golf”. Tania snapped at Simon “You are so selfish, I look after the kids all week, can’t you help for a change?” That was it, Simon felt like he couldn’t win. “I suggested we go to the beach, but you said no you wanted to laze around here, how boring. I don’t go to work all week to be stuck in the house on the weekend” he replied “Why NOT, I am stuck here ALL week, day in, day out!” Tania shouted. With that Simon threw his cup in the sink and said “That’s it, I’m done, I can’t live like this anymore” Tania screamed back at him “Your done! I have been done for soooo long, just get out”. Simon stormed upstairs, packed a bag and jumped into the car which could be heard screeching off down the street. Tania slumped on the bed sobbing knowing life had to change but she didn’t really think it would come to this.
Simon stayed away for a few days. He thought he would give them both time to cool down but silently reflected how he felt more peaceful being away from the arguments and tension that had built up at home. He thought maybe they needed a break for a while to work out what they really wanted. He called Tania and asked her how she was. Feeling hurt and helpless Tania lashed out saying “How do you think I am; I can’t believe you just up and left, the kids are distraught”. Simon just felt every conversation they had never seemed to be a good one and suggested they separate for a while. He said he would rent a place nearby for 6 months and wanted to have the kids come and stay with him every second week until things settled down so they could work out if there was any possible future together.
Tania was sad at the loss of her husband, the loss of the kids 50% of the time and the emptiness felt at the house when she was alone. An emptiness she felt in her heart just as much as in her home. She felt her life had hit rock bottom. The key for Tania was to create a new life for herself, not for anyone else but rediscover who she was and who she wanted to be. She sought the help she needed. Tania kept herself busy by joining a gym, enrolling in a university law degree and got a puppy. The kids would love the puppy and it would make for good company when she was home alone.
Simon threw himself into work and at first struggled with balancing work, shopping, cooking dinner, doing the laundry and helping the kids with their homework. There had to be a re-adjustment to gain balance in his life so he got approval from his boss to reduce his hours at the office so he could spend time with the kids after school and catch up on work after they had gone to bed. Each afternoon when the kids were staying with him, he would pick them up after school and either stop at the shops to get groceries, go to the park for an hour or help them with their homework. The reduced hours helped him cope more but more importantly he realised he was actually enjoying more quality time with the kids reflecting on what he had been missing out on. Each night he would take the time to sit on the bed and talk with the kids about their day which actually provided the kids the opportunity to talk about their problems whereby before they had always gone to their mum. Simon reflected on how he always admired what a great relationship Tania had with the kids and secretly wished he had the same.
Tania was enjoying going to the gym daily and studying law. It was like she had come alive again. She managed to get a part time job in an office at a local law firm which she loved. Tania reflected on the months and years in her marriage where she had succumbed to depression finding it suffocating like a boa constrictor sucking the life out of her, making her feel limp and lifeless. The recent changes enabled her to come up for air so she could put her needs first to create the life she wanted. With her opportunities to be her best self and seek her passion, people could see how she was changing, becoming happier, more confident and more fulfilled with life. She loved the time she had with the kids and they loved the new happy mum that they had to enjoy creating great memories together.
Simon was driving the kids back to Tania’s when Amy said “Dad, when we get home can you come in and see my trophy I got for netball?” It had been some time since Simon had been back to the family home. Feeling a rush of dread with memories flooding back of many arguments there, he tentatively said “OK, if it’s OK with mum”. As soon as they drove onto the driveway Amy jumped out of the car and rushed inside shouting “Mum, can dad come in and see my trophy?” Tania replied “Of course” She fixed up her hair and straightened her clothes as Amy came through the front door dragging her father by the hand. “Hope you don’t mind, Amy wants me to see her trophy” said Simon “Not at all, how are you?” replied Tania. Simon stopped to say “I’m good, and you?” which was met with a yank of the hand by Amy to drag him upstairs. When they had finished seeing the trophy they came back downstairs and Tania met them in the hallway saying “I just made some coffee, would you like some?” Simon said, “yeah that would be great thanks”. They sat around the kitchen table and the kids were telling Tania what fun they had been having and laughing at how Dad burnt the dinner last night and they had to go out to dinner instead. Tania thought how comfortable it felt having the family all together laughing and talking so she said “Well if you don’t want burnt offerings for dinner, you are welcome to stay and have dinner with us” Amy and Jacob jumped for joy shouting “Yeah dad, stay for dinner”. They all ate, chatted and laughed some more before Simon said "I better head off, I've got to get up early for work. Thanks for dinner, it was really nice to eat as a family again”
The following week, on his own, Simon thought more about the dinner together as a family and wished it had been like that before. At work his boss asked him after their meeting “How is the family Simon?” and he replied “Great actually, we all had dinner together last week and it was really nice. I’m really missing the kids more than ever this week, and Tania too actually”. His boss replied “It’s never too late you know!” as he walked out of Simon’s office.
A few weeks later when Tania was picking up the kids from Simon’s place one Friday afternoon, still in her gym gear, Simon thought how great she looked. She had a beaming smile as the kids ran to her and he could see she was so happy, like the good old days. Simon suggested they all go out for dinner together as a family then play ten pin bowling, girls against boys. The kids squealed jumping up and down shouting ‘yay’. Tania looked at Simon and smiled and he hopefully awaited her reply. She said “I can’t go out to dinner dressed like this” Simon’s face dropped in disappointment and the kids stopped jumping, then she continued ‘but we could go home and get showered and meet you at the restaurant”. Simon beamed with a smile and the kids once again started jumping around and ran towards the car to head off home to get ready.
As Tania turned to walk towards the car, Simon grabbed her wrist and twirled her around, saying “I miss you”. Tania’s heart was pounding and she said “I miss you too Simon, see you tonight”
They met at their favourite Thai restaurant then had a great time bowling. Laughing and competing against each other doing high fives with the scores being neck and neck. With the boys finally winning they all agreed to a re-match next week and headed home, where they all use to live. The kids ran up to bed and Tania and Simon sat drinking coffee by the fire in the loungeroom.
Simon moved closer to Tania saying “I’m so proud of you for doing your law degree, you look so happy with life. I am so sorry I wasn’t there to help you and make changes with my work that relieved the pressure”. Tania replied “I became so stuck I didn’t know how to help myself either, I suppose we needed the reboot to our lives to shake things up and make it better” Simon hugged her and said “I love you and miss you.” Tania replied “I love you too. I want you in my life but I don’t want my old life back” Simon sat back and looked into Tania’s eyes and said “I don’t want my old life back either but I know I want you in it. Do you think we can make it work now?” Tania smiled “Yes, I am so much stronger now and happy that together we can make it work for all of us.”
Simon stayed the night and they reconnected, holding each other all night long, something they hadn’t done in years. The next day Simon moved back home and they both felt happy that the separation had saved their marriage.
Author - Cheryl Duffy
Cheryl Duffy, Mediator, Divorce Coach & Author of The Divorce Tango