Bruce under stress.

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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.Β 

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.Β 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 gettingΒ 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.

34 thoughts on “Bruce under stress.

  1. I like this guy Bruce, Anne. Good head on his shoulders. The phone incident could have been catastrophic and justifiably so to most people. He saw past it because he understood why. He understood YOU.

    He’s a rare breedXO

  2. He’s not through with his marriage if he hasn’t taken legal steps and his kids think the separation is temporary. He’s going to have to deal with a lot emotionally as his wife and kids adjust to the reality. And it’s so unwise to not take legal steps especially when kids are involved. His wife can stop being reasonable any time and end the current custody arrangement. I think I would want him to have his affairs fully in order before continuing to date him. I wish you could find a great guy who is truly unattached.

    • It’s definitely disappointing to have any of this potential drama still in his life. I wish too that they had it all settled. However based on everything we discussed, I understand why they didn’t take legal action. His wife can’t stop that at any time actually, they have equal custody and time with the children and he stayed in the house – she has no preferential rights. Doesn’t mean people aren’t irrational, but he isn’t in a tenuous situation in the eyes of the law.
      Of course time will tell, but I understand it’s possible to be emotionally over someone even if the legal stuff isn’t wrapped up, because it’s the situation I was in. Regardless, it’s something I can’t ignore, if we continue to progress I will need to be assured he can take those steps… but I’m not going to end with him now based on a whole lot of “what ifs”. I hope I don’t regret it πŸ™‚

      • I so like this man! He’s got a great head on his shoulders and I’m glad he spilled his guts to you about the nature of the breakdown of his marriage.
        I hate when people use the children as leverage though. So unfair to the kids. πŸ™
        My hope is that over time she will simmer down and accept that he’s got every right to date since they are separated and will likely divorce with a custody arrangement.

        • If I was in his shoes, I’d not tell her the truth about dating for the time being. It’s really none of her business anyways.
          Besides, its’ not like he’s been dating a slew of women and his kids meeting them, etc.
          You are the only one since her, and of course she’s going to raise hell about it. Sigh! (And eye rolls.)
          I’m glad he’s not going to let her reaction deter him from seeing you Ann. πŸ™‚

          • It was part of what he told me in the aftermath… that he really tries to keep the peace with her, and that it’s none of her business what he does. He said he’s a highly private person, hence (partially) why he’s not on any social media accounts. I don’t know enough about her and him to know whether, had he said “hey just so you know, I’ve started to date and I will let you know if I get to the point that I’m going to introduce anyone to our children”, if it would have been a similar disaster.

        • I like him too. For all that he’s rough around the edges, I’ve been impressed with how he handled everything. I do wish there wasn’t the drama, but I can also understand it from her point of view. She may have accepted it but not really been faced with it before. Who knows. I hope that they are actually through many of the things they have to deal with, but for now, I’m more focused on whether he’s someone I want to keep moving forward with.

  3. Why do you call her “ex-wife”. As his explanations make perfectly clear, she’s the current wife whose feelings very much concern him for whatever reason. Seems to me, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to not mislead yourself.

    • Um… she’s his ex wife because they have been separated for 2 years. He cares because he’s not a douchebag – I would care too, even 4 years out and fully divorced, if my husband was that upset with me and causing potential issues with my son. I don’t see it as a red flag in the least that he cared that there was drama. She is NOT a current wife.

      • I agree, she is still his wife. He has not made any overtures toward divorce and I’m thinking she probably still considers herself a wife. She may be a little off, but I’d be interested to hear her side of the story and he obviously is trying not to make her upset. He’s emotionally supporting her.

        • I actually don’t know what overtures either of them have made, so I’m not going to assume either way. Nor do I know what she considers herself. My belief is she was caught by surprise so had to face something she didn’t want to face. Maybe she doesn’t really want him back – it’s only Bruce’s version I’m hearing – but perhaps its (like many of us) a desire to go back to what’s known versus facing an unknown future, more than actually wanting the past. I know a lot of people who, despite not actually wanting to get together with their ex, still have a twinge when they realize someone else wants them.
          As I said above, him emotionally supporting her I don’t see as a bad thing… I think it shows he’s kind and also trying for self-preservation. If it goes beyond that (like it did with Tony) then for sure this is not something I want to be a part of. We shall see!!

      • That wasn’t my experience, and it’s not the experience of many of my friends. It also wasn’t my parents experience – they only filed for divorce 10 years later when my Mom remarried. There was no question Will was my ex before the divorce was finalized.

        I think your statement is overly simplistic. The legal component can be a non-event. For some people, the process of divorce is necessary to deal with things, for others its not. I didn’t need the divorce process to sort out custody, payouts, finances. That was our separation agreement, which is binding where I live. For many of my friends who did not have antagonistic splits, its the same. They haven’t bothered filing because their separation agreements worked it out, and its all working so there is no need to bother with the final paperwork.

        I would agree in the cases where the divorce is antagonistic, a divorce proceeding is the process by which it gets dealt with. However I still think you can call them an “ex”, it just means you are potentially dealing with drama until everything is fully sorted.

        I’d love to hear you tell some of my friends who have been officially “only” separated for many years and who have fully practically and emotionally moved on, that their exes aren’t their exes simply because the court hasn’t approved a document.

        …and no, this isn’t about Bruce. I don’t know what they’ve sorted out. I wish it was all clean for him but it’s not. And I don’t know if that will end up being an issue for me.

        • If that’s the way it is where you live, then it is what it is. No one that I know refers to their spouse as an ex until they are officially divorced, “overly simplistic ” or not. I have also been divorced and had a child at the time and never referred to my spouse at the time as an ex, but I guess that’s only in my world. And I was the one to get my divorce.

          • Yeah, it doesn’t work that way here. Separation agreements are binding and there’s an amount of time you have to wait before you can apply for a divorce. There’s also a difference whether the terms of a divorce (or the divorce itself) is agreed to by both people or not. So in the case where a former couple have laid out the basics of what they have to settle, a financial split of assets / liabilities, any payouts, child / spousal support, living arrangements and then custody, then there is actually not much else that has to happen. People also use arbitrators or mediators to sort things out to create separation agreements. Now, having said that… Bruce doesn’t have a written agreement, which I thnk is foolish but he’s not the only one I know. It can be super messy and not sure I want any of that in my life!

          • I didn’t know there were so many worlds either. It just seems clear that married =/ ex-husband, ex-wife. Their like the antithesis of each other.

  4. Ha! What I feared is confirmed. His wife has narcissistic tendancies.
    So yes, I’d say expect much more drama with her before ghe marriage is really through.
    It’s been 4 years for me (and counting).
    This said, it sounds like he REALLY is through with his marriage. As in, not even thinking of going back. And that is the most important thing.
    You’ve been reading me for a while. Don’t take anything his kids say personally. Keep in mind they are being brainwashed regularly. If it’s anything like me, he prefers to simply BE with them rather than discuss their mom. Maybe a mixture of many things. Residual fear of her and what she can do (take away the kids, even though unlikely, she’ll use ot as a threat), wanting for the kids to have at least some normalcy half of the time, and refusing to speak ill of her in front of/to them.
    It could take a while. Which doesn’t mean Bruce is not a great person worth dating. But it does mean, for you, that it may be a while before you meet his children. And his ex is probably going to try and mess his free time by changing custody arrangements any time just because she feels she can.
    The sooner there is an official agreement about custody, the stronger he’ll be in spite of her.
    Don’t give up on him, he sounds like a good man. But prepare to support him (he probably is not used to being supported) and accept it could take a while (the last of the power she holds over him).

    Only you can decide what works for you. Just keep in mind The Dancer seems to be happy he stuck with me 😊

    (And yes, I TOTALLY realize I could just be projecting my experience on his reality, which is a very uncertain thing to do over so little information. I hope for you and him I’m wrong!)

    • Thanks Dawn. I do think you’re reading a little too much into the situation to conclude she’s got narcissistic tendencies. I think she was just surprised and hurt and spoke a lot of things out of anger. It’s interesting she chose to blast him instead of letting it out with her friends and then coming back to him with something more reasonable. As in “hey I’m worried you’re going to introduce someone to our children too quickly, and that things are going to mess up the nice system we have going here.” Shows there is a lack of boundaries and emotional maturity… but I don’t know that it means she’s a narcissist.

      He DEFINITELY is the type that wouldn’t bring up dating or relationship stuff with the children if he didn’t need to, and he hasn’t needed to. Perhaps if I hadn’t made that mistake, at some point it would have happened, but it was way too early. I wish they had more of their crap sorted out but they don’t. He’s a good man, but we need to keep taking one day at a time since I don’t even know whether he’s someone I can see future potential with.

      • You are very wise to take it one day at a time.
        I’m basing my analysis on the way both reacted. She blamed him without giving him all the information he would have needed to really grasp the situation. Lying, using a ‘third person’, emotional blackmail are all pretty typical. The fact she blamed HIM and not YOU…
        The fact he prefers to not tell her anything to avoid confrontation, that he tried to downplay things… basically, the way his first reaction was, also reminds me so much of myself.
        I hope I am wrong.
        What I can say is that, if I am right, he seems to have sorted his feelings and relationship towards her pretty well, which is good for both of you.
        And I hope that, if I’m right, you can see that he is still someone worth pursuing, even if only taking my example.
        He seems to be able to sort her drama and leave it with her, and that is great news!
        Good luck continuing on your journey, with or without Bruce.

  5. Divorce and custody can be a very ugly thing. My ex threatened to take my kids from me, and there’s a point in time early on when one is vulnerable and those words seem very rooted in reality. I lost a ton of weight (which I didn’t need to lose), I couldn’t eat, sleep, and was constantly filled with anxiety. I feel for Bruce. He hasn’t passed that point yet where he knows truly that it won’t happen.

    • I don’t know whether it had been ugly before with them… I can surmise some things based on what he’s told me, but it’s a guess at this point. My suspicion is they were able to sort the minimum required out and it has been working, so he didn’t want to mess with it. At some level, now that I know I didn’t cause a relationship armageddon, I’m glad this happened because it forced the “he’s dating” realization… but if we keep seeing each other it will be important that I see some progression on his becoming fully divorced.

  6. Unreasonable exes are just that. She sounds like she has problems she really needs to address with her drinking and lack of libido and using her children to hurt their father.

    Be prepared for drama and a half with her. It’s not going to get easier. My bfs ex wife is just now coming around and it’s been 2 years.

    For the record I’ve been separated from my ex almost 2 years and we are both over it and trying to get this divorce going. Weboth are in different relationships. I’m sure it’s added drama sometimes for my bf.

    • Thanks for that perspective… interesting to hear it from someone in a similar position. I know if I continue with Bruce I won’t be the first person who is dating someone with an unreasonable (to them!) ex. One of my closest friends has been dating a man for 2 years and she was his first date post-separation. It’s been a long journey supporting him through the divorce process, even when his ex seems pretty reasonable. But she knew he was worth it, and she knew the integration into his life would be slow. I have no idea whether Bruce is that guy for me. But I’m kind of glad that I know there will be drama, because I can’t blame anyone but myself if I choose to stay with him regardless.

  7. The anxiety would most certainly have initially been caused by her with holding her affection – it seems like she didn’t want him but also does not want anyone else to enjoy him. Stick with it I say πŸ˜‰

  8. This seems to me like an incredible amount of drama and processing for someone who you are just starting to date. You are at the very easiest part with him now, the initial flush of dating and all of the great feelings of that (smile). Given how much work this has been for the two of you, it is hard for me to imagine a successful long-term relationship when you start doing the much harder stuff that comes later (holidays, birthdays, interacting with each others children, face-to-face with the ex, vacations, money, etc.). I end up wondering this…. if after all the years-long hard parts of an unsuccessful marriage and a divorce, are you sure you want to work so hard for someone who lives so far away, isn’t divorced or even close, etc.?

    Additionally, as a first-time commenter… I really enjoy your blog, both the content and style, thanks!

    • Thank you Steve… hope to see you around here more!

      I’m not sure I’d say there’s been an incredible amount of drama. I did a dumb thing that caused drama which lasted for a couple of days and has now subsided. Other than that, it’s been rather drama-free.

      The processing however? That’s just how I roll πŸ™‚
      I am 10000% agreed however that this may all be too much. He may not be practically ready to move something forward. Time will tell… I’m not getting ahead of myself either way.

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