Not In The Job Description
My best friend’s dad had the best sayings when we were growing up, including the gem: “Watch out who you’re standing next to when your biological clock strikes midnight.” Unfortunately, I did not heed this advice. After 25 years and two children, my husband informed me that he was moving out. No discussion. Period.
But marriages end, and that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I am hoping that maybe someone reading this will learn from my mistakes.
When I met my ex, I was in the middle of post-advanced-degree training and about to go on the job market. I was in my late 20’s, and this relationship seemed like it had a ton of potential. I therefore included him in my planning process and accepted a job in a part of the country that was attractive to both of us, turning down a number of other offers. He quit his job and followed me across the country. The least I could do was to let him live with me…and support him when he went back to school…right?
We decided to get married two years later because it seemed like the right thing to do before having a baby, and our biological clocks were close to midnight. Baby #1 made her appearance, and then hubby finished his degree and worked in his field for a couple of years. After Baby #2 was born, my husband was tired of working 8am-5pm and driving 40 minutes to a desk job every day. To be as encouraging as possible, I supported him when he went back to school again. Oh, and I also dropped off and picked up the kids every day, took them to soccer and swim practices, and fielded emergency calls from the school, all while working at a high-stress job.
He never found a job that he liked, and he never picked up the slack at home either. But I was superwoman, so I did it all. And although I wasn’t very happy in my marriage, largely because I was doing more than my share and getting very little emotional support, this was my life. And I loved my kids. And we do whatever we can to make our family happy, right?
Until the day that he told me he was moving out. And much like Diane Lane’s character in Under the Tuscan Sun, I found out from an attorney that I would be lucky to avoid paying alimony for the rest of my life. And that I could kiss half of my retirement account good-bye. Because the money that I worked hard to earn wasn’t really my money; it was our money. And the years that I had supported him while he looked for his passion didn’t count in my favor. In fact, they counted against me, laying a foundation for spousal support. And the fact that he didn’t sacrifice his career to raise the kids, because I did most of that, didn’t matter either.
In the end, I was able to keep my retirement account and avoid paying alimony, but I did have to give him the house, which I had bought before we got married. So in my mid 50’s, I have to take out a mortgage all over again. But hey, I can get exactly what I want this time around!
So what’s the message here? (Maybe) get a prenuptial agreement, value your own life, and try not to stay in situations where you’re giving more than you’re receiving. And above all, remember to watch out who you’re standing next to when your biological clock strikes midnight!