Five years ago today, I didn’t want to go home.
Our entire lives, most of us look forward to weekends. TGIF and stuff. Weekends are fun. We associate them with doing things we want to do instead of things we have to do like go to school, or go to work.
But five years ago today, my marriage was total shit. Awful. My wife and I would go to bed or leave the house without acknowledging one another sometimes.
Maybe it’s only because I was being a massive wimp, but I’d watch her dote on our son while greeting him or saying bye to him.
Right in front of me, I had the evidence of what it looked like when my wife loved someone. Thus, the absence of any of that in her dealings with me could only mean one thing.
It was hard. I hurt all over and acted like it, which couldn’t have done me any favors. No one likes pouters who wear their “I’m Feeling Sorry for Myself” badges for everyone to see.
I imagine that’s especially true for wives who feel as if they’ve been abandoned, neglected and unheard in their marriages year after year after year after year.
Even if you didn’t mean to, when you hurt someone long enough, they lose their capacity for hiding all that fuck-you rage and/or apathy simmering beneath the surface.
One of the things I remember most from the final 6-12 months of my marriage was how the joyful anticipation of Friday night had been taken away from me.
At work, I mattered.
At work, people liked me.
At work, I didn’t feel anxious.
At home, all I had was our son, and at a time when our marriage was a complete shit-festival, you can imagine how often my wife found ways to be doing things with him. Sometimes she would invite me to things like hikes or bike rides, but it was always miserable and sometimes I wished I was dead.
Going on a family hike or bike ride DOES NOT make you a family. I needed to be a family to do family things.
I needed to be in a marriage to do marriage things.
It was broken, and everything I needed was missing. So on Friday at work, I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t look forward to weekends anymore because it felt like a prison.
I’m thinking about the loss of anticipating fun so many of us felt sitting at our classroom desks on Friday afternoons at school, and looking forward to the break from the stresses of work on Friday afternoon at our respective workplaces.
But something MUCH bigger actually happens. We lose home.
We lose the place we can retreat to, to feel loved and safe and relaxed and comfortable. This space that is ours becomes this polarizing thing. It’s supposed to feel good. Safe. Fun. Welcoming. But when your closest personal relationships with those you live with are broken, you can feel it in the very air you breathe.
Alcohol is the only thing that ever helped. But I never could drink enough to erase the pain I felt when our friends would leave, and the joy and normalcy she’d display in the company of others would vanish entirely.
I don’t know if she was faking fun and happiness for them, or intentionally communicating her angry feelings non-verbally to me. Either way, the change was always jarring and a reminder that my wife really wasn’t my wife anymore.
She was someone else.
Getting the Weekend Back
Today, I’ve reclaimed Friday. I’ve got the weekend again. Sitting here on a Friday afternoon, I can look forward to all kinds of fun possibilities with friends or my little boy.
I can feel fun again. I can breathe in the same house that just five years ago felt like a prison.
I took the hard way to get here. For much of my life, I had to learn things the hard way. It’s sort of a defining characteristic.
I’m so grateful to be able to breathe again—literally and figuratively. But that’s not without a pocket full of regrets I’m always carrying around with me.
Back when I first lost the weekend, there were two ways to recover it.
One way was to go through hell, and feel like dying for a long time before eventually healing and recovering the ability to anticipate weekend fun a half-decade later while living an entirely new life as a divorced, single parent rebuilding and reshaping his future with a whole new set of rules.
The other way was to exercise humility and demonstrate personal accountability and lead by example in my own home and marriage. The other way was to apply all of my intelligence and problem-solving skills to determining WHY my wife was feeling and acting as she was.
What if, much earlier, I’d determined how much some of my past and reoccurring behavior HURT her?
What if I learned what it means to practice intentional empathy before the impassable fissure appeared in our home?
What if I’d recovered the weekend by identifying what ACTUALLY was wrong, and done something about it when there was still time?
I don’t like being Advice Guy. I’m just some divorced person, and I don’t and can’t understand how it feels to be you in your own home and relationships.
But if you’re in that place in life where you can no longer look forward to the weekend and smile—where you can no longer feel hope regarding life’s simplest little pleasures—you probably only have two weekend-reclamation options as well.
Both options are long.
Both options are hard.
Both options are humbling.
But, when you imagine the best version of your life, who are the people standing in the photos with you? If it’s your spouse and/or children, then I hope you won’t do what I did—feel sorry for myself. Avoid the problem. Wait for her to “come around,” as if she’d eventually see things my way.
When you can’t even look forward to Friday anymore, that’s Life telling you something is wrong. That something is broken, and that the broken thing needs fixed.
It may not be fun or feel good, but a Friday you’re not looking forward to is the PERFECT opportunity to begin fixing what’s really broken.
I made my shitty weekend problem ANOTHER selfish bullet point on my Life resume. ANOTHER thing I made about me.
But I should have made it about her. I should have made it about us. And because I didn’t, my wife chose my weekend-reclamation path for me.
There’s a better way, and I hope you’ll choose it. To make the last day of the work week Friday again.