Single Mom Life: A Cautionary Tale

Once upon a time…

In a city far, far away…

There was once a princess…

Actually, I don’t know where I am going with this.  To be honest, there is no fairy-tale way to begin this story because this is certainly not a fairy-tale type of story, but the advice that comes from it needs to be said.  This is partly because, just recently, a very good friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend because of this advice.  My student teacher heard the same exact thing two years ago, and she also broke up with her current boyfriend.  My friend’s niece heard my tale and she too broke off her two year engagement.  They have all thanked me for my information.

“My life is a cautionary tale,” I told to my mom on the phone.

“Yes,” she answered, “but look at all the good you’ve done.”  These three women all ended long term relationships with significant others their families had been warning them about for years.  They ignored their families’ pleas because they believed they saw something in their relationship that others could not.

Here were some of the signs I told them I saw in my relationship, but I ignored them all. Instead, I continued the relationship and even pushed him into marrying me.

A list of all of the things I ignored and later realized were serious red flags:

  1. I ignored his constant lethargy.  He was always tired and full of excuses for why he could not help more around the house.  “You are just a clean freak,” he would say. “No one can keep up with your level of clean.”  When we had children, and my level of clean naturally lowered, I realized that he never felt like doing any chores at all.  He had just let me do them all of the time.
  2.  I ignored his emotional shut downs.  He was never available to talk about problems in our relationship.  “Can we talk about this when I am not enjoying a cup of coffee?”  or he would say, “It’s too late at night to discuss this issue. I am just trying to relax.” He was always too busy or just enjoying his downtime, but it amounted to our never discussing the mounting issues that were piling around us.  He would never say “no” but he would never say “yes” either.
  3. I ignored our lack of capability.  I love to read and go for runs and argue about controversial topics.  He loved music and drinking beer and sitting around just enjoying the creature comforts.  I always relied on my friends to provide mental stimulation. I relied on my job to be an outlet for mental energies, and I still don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with having your own things in a relationship, but when you cannot find any common ground with your partner on multiple levels, the foundation of the relationship can start slipping away.
  4. I ignored how much I started to resent his complete inability to support me financially.  When we were young, he never had money, but I believed that was only because we were just getting started.  But as we got older and started to move towards adulthood, his inability to make and keep money started to become more of a liability.  As a very independent woman, I grew up and still very much believe that I do not need a man to pay my way, but it is nice when they can.  Being with a man who had no money and no way to support us or our family was a tremendous burden.  I was working full-time, and he was the stay-at-home parent, but he would not even sit down to help me pay bills.  All of the money was my responsibility, and this was a huge burden.
  5. I ignored the way he treated his family, especially the way he treated his mom.  His mom is a train wreck, and she lacked boundaries and many members of his family were also struggling with multiple aspects of life.  I always blamed them for why he shut down and didn’t even return their phone calls.  I was irritated by his family also, so it made some sense to me when he would say, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t listen when she starts going on about that stuff.”  Or he would let his voicemail box get full so his family could not leave messages about their continual problems.  He was never there for them when they needed him, which I selfishly attributed to his being with me instead of helping them, but then I realized that as soon as anyone needed him, he disappeared.  And he didn’t always disappear physically.  He was just as good at shutting down emotionally to the point where he was truly not aware of what was going on around him.  “When did you say that?”  He would ask me tiredly, exhausted by my need for him to do something to help keep our family going.  “Are you kidding me, right now?  I told you multiple times and wrote it down.  What planet are you on?” I would yell.  As the pressures of our lives mounted and his protective shut down mode went into overdrive, we lost sight of everything.

Why did I ignore these things?  I ignored them because I believed that he would change and because in isolation none of these things seemed to loom as large as they did when they were all piling on top of our marriage.  It wasn’t until we had children that these flaws turned tragic, and each one felt like a crime against me, against our family.  To retaliate against my hurtful attacks at his character, he shut down further.  His passive aggressive nature and his need to punish me for making him feel inept and child-like pushed our relationship over the edge.

Finally, I ended it.  He was shocked.  He could not believe that I would quit on him like that, not realizing he had given up on us long ago because in his mind he was coping.  He could not wrap his mind around the idea that I felt miserable and trapped in a relationship that was sucking the life out of me.  I had let the story play out to long, and now we were married and had children, but I destroyed it all to start over from scratch.

“A phoenix,” my mother said.

“Yes,” I agreed because I liked the image. I felt far from a phoenix. I felt small and fragile and scared.

I hope this story makes other women think.  I hope this story makes it so someone else does not ignore the red flags.