When I realized that I was going to ask for a divorce, I asked my mom — who was down here for my birthday — if she could stay longer. Thank goodness she agreed because I don’t think I could have stayed sane (or my version of it) without her to lean on.
Telling Tim I wanted a divorce was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I knew the news would hit him hard, and that he’d be heartbroken. I wasn’t wrong.
On August 30th, I presented him with the papers. He fell apart — actually, he fell to the floor — and of course he tried to talk me out of it. We spent some time talking civilly (for a change). I cried but told him my mind was made up and gave him time to compose himself.
After about an hour, I had him get dressed, and we headed to the UPS store to get the service of the papers notarized. Then we headed to the bank to remove him from our joint account and to open one of his own. I transferred his Social Security check (a little over half of what we had in checking at the time) into the new account.
I fought back tears — sometimes unsuccessfully — through all of this. As much as I knew the divorce was necessary, it was still breaking my heart.
Which is probably why Tim’s pleading later that night hit me so hard. He kept trying to talk me out of it, which was understandable from his point of view. He promised he’d change and asked me to withdraw the petition for divorce. I repeatedly told him no, but once again there were a lot more tears involved.
In the end he wore me down to this: I agreed to watch the changes he was going to make and try to keep an open mind.
True to his word, he changed. Big time.
A whole new man
He started doing all of the chores, running all of the errands, making all of his own calls, preparing all of his own food and working on desensitizing his stomach so that he could eat more of whatever was just lying around. He also found a therapy group and went in for an intensive program: six hours a day for 10 days. He also started working to find a psychiatrist to get him back on some form of antidepressant.
He did a lot of self-discovery in that time. He was finally able to admit that he had overcompensated for his fear of the pain by limiting himself too much. Therapy also helped him cope with the negative thoughts about himself. He even finally figured out that he’d stopped watching shows with me — the change that led to us being in separate rooms most of the time — because he didn’t think he deserved that sort of enjoyment, which broke my heart.
The problem was that he was once again in ADD mode: zero to 60, all instead of (almost) nothing. There’s no way it was sustainable, as much as he protested otherwise. He said that the work didn’t hurt nearly as much as he thought, and he thoroughly believed he could keep it up. He believed that losing me was enough motivation to never backslide. And that if he did, I only had to bring up the subject — he even had a phrase I could use, which now escapes me — and he’d get back on the straight and narrow.
Desire vs reality
It was tempting to believe that was the case. Tempting to not discard the last 10 years of my life.
I consulted my therapist. He said that complete change is difficult for anyone. Most people end up reverting to old habits, and he had no doubt that Tim would. As to the idea that I could snap Tim back to reality with a phrase, my therapist said, “That’s not your job.”
I spent about a month and a half wrestling with the decision, but when my lawyer contacted me to see if I wanted to move forward, I immediately knew the answer was yes.
Because even if Tim had been able to maintain his new levels of activity, I’d always expect him to backslide. I’d forever be waiting for the other shoe to drop. That was no way to live.
Not to mention the resentment. All of those years of my exhaustion and pleading for help, and it turned out that he could have pitched in. I resented the fact that he only changed when the status quo meant a huge detriment to him. The fact that it hurt me hadn’t mattered enough to make him improve himself.
But the good news is that he had now proved that he could take care of himself once we were no longer together.
Nadine and Marc
When we broke the news to Tim’s parents, one of their main questions (after “Are you sure it can’t be fixed?”) was how long they had before the divorce was final. I was startled, having expected them to move out within a month. Instead it looks like they were going to stay as long as possible.
I quickly discovered why: They had zero savings. None.
Part of the issue was that Nadine’s new medication had a huge copay of about $200. But she had only been on that for a few months. And yes, her other medications added up too, but there still should have been some money left over at the end of the month based on the budget we drew up. Not a ton of it, but some.
I was infuriated that they had let their finances get to this point, but there was nothing I could do.
I told them not to worry about September’s rent, since they’d need to save up. (Later, this apparently translated to “Don’t worry about paying any rent until you move out.” Which I suppose was necessary, but the presumption/lack of even a token effort to pay still made me grumbly.)
I sat down with Nadine to figure out how much apartment they could afford. This is when I found out that she wasn’t particularly tracking their spending. She could list off expenses after some thought, but she couldn’t say where the supposed leftover money went. Her response? “Well, that probably just goes to the little things.” My response? “Three hundred dollars is a lot of little things, Nadine.”
And that’s not even touching the fact that they apparently spent around $600 a month on food. For two people. With some coupons at Fry’s and with price matching at Walmart. And cooking 95% (or more) of the meals at home. It baffled me, but Nadine likes to try out new recipes and they have meat with every meal, so I guess that had a lot to do with it. Regardless, it was baffling/maddening, especially given the state of their finances.
Perhaps most infuriating was that they didn’t seem to take saving very seriously. Maybe because Tim was assuring them that he was working on dissuading me. I just know that at the end of the first month, they had saved “about” $400. The next month — a couple of weeks after I’d announced I was moving forward with the divorce — they’d saved “about” $800. So only the rent they hadn’t paid.
Granted, later I found out that she was obfuscating at least somewhat. When we were apartment searching, Tim asked if she could really afford something-that-now-escapes-me. She said, “Yes, I told you I’ve been putting away money.” So I don’t know why she said they only had $400/$800 — though it does explain why she’d pause before giving me the numbers.
Maybe she was considering the additional money her separate savings or fibbing in the hopes that I’d offer to pay some portion of the deposit or just stalling for more time before having to move. Whatever the reason, it means she unnecessarily caused me stress. Completely unfair given how much I was helping them: letting them pay zero rent and taking on the stress of house hunting.
The housing search
Here’s something you should never try: finding a place for under that accepts three dogs, especially for $750 or less. Phoenix area rents have gone way up since Tim and I had an apartment.
Mom and I quickly determined that there were zero apartments that would accept three dogs. So we turned our attention to houses. Hint: There aren’t a lot of houses in Phoenix for under $900. Well, there are a lot of listings for houses on Craigslist. It’s just that they’re almost all fake. I responded to something like 10 ads, and all but one turned out to be obvious scams.
So we had to keep increasing the price range until we hit $900, which we had determined was probably the safest maximum.
We found two places that would consider three dogs. One was in a mediocre to bad part of town, not near anything, and had lots of raised floor thresholds that Marc or Nadine could have tripped on. The other was only 800 square feet for three people and had carpet that the two quasi-house-trained Pomeranians would have trashed in no time.
Then suddenly things got easier — but also more maddening: Nadine declared that she was done owning dogs. I guess it’d been building for a while, but the deciding moment was when one pooped in the house and Marc, not noticing, tracked it all over the place. (Always great to hear as a landlord — especially one who’d installed new flooring only a year ago.)
I was angry at her for being so cavalier about giving up her pets. I was annoyed that she just assumed I’d help find a place for the dogs, as though I weren’t busy trying to find them a place. And I was even more upset by how much now-unnecessary stress Mom and I went through trying to find a three-dog-accepting house.
But I wanted them out, so Mom and I helped her start looking for places that would take two old (12 and 14) dogs. Practically none existed. There were two older dog sanctuaries, but they never got back to us despite multiple phone calls.
There was a ticking clock because I was desperate to get them moved. If for no other reason, Mom finally had decided she needed to go home — after almost three months down here (god love her) — and was leaving on November 11th. It was late October, and I wanted time for us to clean and repaint the guest house.
Adding to the ticking clock, Tim and Nadine found a place they really liked. (Amazing how many more options there are with just one dog.) They applied on the 27th, and on the 28th discovered they had to sign by the 31st to get the move-in special. I didn’t want them to pay for rent they weren’t using — and I wanted them out out out — so I booked the movers for the 5th, giving us one week to pack and find a home for the dogs.
Pack it up, move it out
I wasn’t too worried about packing. But I did worry about the dogs.
The Humane Society here is a no-kill shelter and only accepts adoptable dogs,which you couldn’t call two old Pomeranians, one unfixed and neither up to date on their shots. Even surrendering them to animal control would have required an appointment that could have taken months to get. Not to mention the surrender fees ($50 to $150) that I’d have had to cover.
I was becoming increasingly sure I was going to be left with two sweet-but-yappy-and-did-I-mention-not-entirely-house-trained dogs on moving day.
But through pure happenstance, Nadine found a woman at her bank who wanted the dogs. I guess miracles really do happen.
That just left the matter of packing. Mom and I started scouting the grocery store and stores’ dumpsters to get good boxes. Every time, we’d come back with a slew of boxes, but they’d be filled up almost immediately.
Tim’s graphic novels alone took up three or four boxes. Plus there were oodles of figurines and other collectibles. Then there were all four sizes of Tim’s clothes. (His weight yo-yos.)
Still, we got almost everything boxed up in about three days, and started making runs over to the apartment on the fourth day. We left the heaviest boxes, glass display cases, two small bookcases, the inversion table, heavy bag and stand, and the bed for the movers.
I was feeling pretty good about our progress, until I found out that Nadine had packed one box. One. Box.
Yes, I know she’s chronically ill and didn’t have the help that I did. (Marc did diddlysquat.) But there was still definitely some passive aggression in there.
After some polite but firm pressure from me, she picked up the pace noticeably. But it didn’t feel like she was making enough progress, even though — two days before the move — she swore she just had the glassware to take care of. The next day, the place still looked awfully full. Once we got back from our run, I went back over, bringing Mom, and we insisted on helping.
It’s a good thing we did because it took all three of us another two hours to pack everything up. Their padded bench was crammed full of blankets and some clothing. The cupboards still had food in them. The fridge and freezer were both nearly full. The crystal serviceware — oh, the crystal — needed individual wrapping and there were around 20 pieces of it. Plus mugs and regular glasses.
We did manage to get it all packed in time — and even ran it over to the apartment — but it was harrowing.
The day of the move went about as smoothly as you could hope for. It cost me a painful $504, but at least everyone got squared away.
Last few things
The new place is nice, if a bit over what I think they can afford (especially once you add in utilities). But at least the unit is right by the hot tub, which will be great for Tim’s back. And more importantly, it’s within walking distance of the park, so neither Tim nor Pandora loses their friends.
Since I paid for the move — and since the apartment already has a washer/dryer in it — I got to keep the machines already here. Granted, they’re probably on their last legs, but without Tim here I’m doing a lot less laundry. So with luck they’ll last a while, allowing me to save even more for their replacements.
The move also cost me $300 for the pet deposit and cleaning fee. They would have wiped out Tim’s account, so I chipped in. She was my pet too, so it was sort of fair.
He’s also going to take the pool table. I’d rather he have it, and besides it’s not like I’d get anything for it on Craigslist. But he can’t take it until they’ve got everything squared away, which is taking longer than expected. Point being, that will be another $200. Then there’s the cost of a new loveseat (I already have one I’m considering) and, once the pool table is gone, a dining room table. All in all, that will probably cost another $700 to $1,000.
So the move will have cost me $1,700 to $2,000 when all is said and done. (Plus the $3,500 for the lawyer — ouch.) But at least it’s over, and I can start to move on.
It’s definitely a change to have the house all to myself. It feels a little too quiet at times, and I miss the companionship of another person. It also sucks to now be the one who has to take out the trash and recycling.
But I’m slowly adjusting. Besides, it’s nice to decorate the house any way that I want without worrying about someone else’s taste. It’s nice to be able to watch whatever I feel like watching on TV, and it’s also nice not to have the set blaring when I’m trying to work. Plus it’s nice not to deal only with my own spending/use of the car.
And… That’s about it, I suppose. I’m hoping now that I’ve told the whole tale, I can really start to heal. I’m sure it’ll be a process, but that’s why God invented therapy, right?