Whether I thought she was being reasonable was irrelevant. It was also not the time for me to give Bruce a hard time about not looking harder for his phone. It was my time to apologize and to listen.
And talk, Bruce did.
He told me more about the breakdown of their marriage. How he left after years of asking for intimacy. They didn’t have sex the last two years. They didn’t talk about anything other than her work and the kids. He said all she did in the evenings was sit on the couch and drink wine. He says he wants to be with someone who is as interested in him as he is in them, and who does more with their life.
There was a show she watched every night and I ached to hug him when he said “five hours a week she spent watching that show…she could have been talking to me. I don’t ask for much, I’m not needy. But when someone shows no interest in you whatsoever…”
He explained his children were the reason he stayed so long in his marriage. He didn’t want to hurt them. He says he tried with her to make things better but it didn’t work. He said eventually, after too many times of her saying “if you aren’t happy with how things are, then leave”, one day he replied “okay, I will”. And he did.
They don’t have a written separation agreement because they have just made it all work.
When they split, she’d scream “good luck ever finding anybody”. He said: “Ann, I dunno what she thought, maybe she never thought I’d meet anybody.”
As much as my mistake could have been amusing, it wasn’t fun for Bruce. She threatened to take away his time with the kids. He doesn’t think she’s “that person” but it’s all the leverage she has. She never wanted him to have them, she wanted them all of the time, but they are the most important thing in the world to him, and he insists on equal custody.
I was surprised to hear he has issues with anxiety. He used to be medicated for it, but lately stopped taking meds and it’s been under control. I could hear how troubling this situation was for him, both in how he was speaking and the things he said. He was open about it, explaining all his wants is to keep the peace, so he can see his children. And this situation is drama he didn’t need.
I heard how she yelled at him and wouldn’t listen to reason and did it all in front of the kids. That she created a correlation between him dating and it meaning he didn’t want to have his kids anymore. He said she was angry because she believes he isn’t telling her the truth about having a “girlfriend”. “But Ann,” he said, “when she says she wants the truth but then freaks out about it… I don’t believe her for a minute that she really wants to know.”
Of course, it would have been far better for him to have been able to tell her he was dating, if and when that became important, then her find out the way she did.
He was worried he is the one that looks like an asshole to his kids, because he’s the one being yelled at and making their mother upset. Heartbreakingly, his daughter said “but Daddy I thought you and Mommy were just doing a trial separation?”
Yikes. He’s wanted to keep the peace, and in the absence of needing to tell his children about anyone else, that’s what they’ve been led to believe.
On and on, I got insight into Bruce and his relationship with his ex-wife that would have taken weeks or months to be revealed. Some of it makes me wonder whether there can be any kind of smooth process of integrating into his life, but that is getting way ahead of myself. I don’t know if I even want to!
More important for the near term, is I also got insight into the kind of person Bruce is. And I liked it a lot.