Big Thing #1

One of my biggest fears is that our friends and family will think I ended this marriage because of little things. Part of why I want to write about this is to help me gain some clarity. I still can’t decide how to best move forward. Perhaps once I see the reality in black and white in written words, I can have the confidence to do what I know in my heart that I must. This marriage is ending because of some very big things. I’m going to tell you about the first one.

Gil and I definitely argue about small things, but this is much bigger. Gil’s father died very unexpectedly just over two years ago. He was a wonderful man, and I miss him terribly. He and Gil had always been close, or at least it appeared that way. I’m still putting pieces together of a crazy, complex puzzle. I only thought the years leading up to my father-in-law’s death were trying — moving to a new town, building a house, starting a new business, living with my in-laws, having two children in an eighteen month span, finishing up my undergrad degree. There’s more, but that’s the bulk of it.

I can’t say for certain that Gil never lied to me before we moved near his parents, but once he was under his father’s spell, I became the bad guy for questioning too many things, and I was quickly shut out. I learned that the world in which my husband grew up, was one where the men ran the business and the women did not ask questions. I noticed that Gil’s mom led an isolated and somewhat lonely life. She appeared happy, for she had two grandsons who lived fairly close by, and three grown children whom she adored and spent as much time with as possible, but after living with my in-laws for over a year while building our house, I saw a sad side in Maria. I soon learned that money was unpredictable, and dry spells were often followed by outlandish gifts.

Kevin was a true romantic at heart, and even in lean times, it was obvious that he worshiped Maria and showered her with gifts when he was able. I’ve since learned that this was how Kevin behaved not just with his wife but with his children as well. Gil recalled his childhood with mixed emotions. His memories are fond, but once he starts talking, there’s a sadness and lots of confusion. They would go months without cable, but it was worth it because when “Dad got a big job, we’d get new TVs, game stations and whatever else was the latest rage.” According to Gil, living without made the reward much sweeter.

Gil never let go of these stories and hung on to the happy times. Perhaps this mentality of hope and optimism is what initially made him so very attractive to me. Regardless of the circumstances, Gil always believed something wonderful was just around the corner. He was infectious. His parents were the same way, and I learned so much from them about the beauty of celebrating, even during less than ideal circumstances.

I began to sense that something wasn’t quite right with Kevin’s business not long after we moved. I agreed to help him with some of his taxes, and Gil and I both wanted to modernize the billing system and more than anything, put a system in place that was functional. I had a good bit of experience with accounting programs for small businesses, and I was excited to contribute. I wanted to help make it better.

As I sorted and attempted to put in some sort of order, it became clear that no one was really interested in my ideas. Gil and I argued, and he would tell me that I just needed to let Kevin handle it. It was around that time that the strange silences started with Gil and Kevin. Maria and I joked about them not being able to communicate. They wouldn’t speak for days and then finally, they would get drunk and stay up until the wee hours talking and laughing. The next morning, the silence would be back — the jovial night a distant memory. It was haunting.

Less than a month after moving, Maria signed over her portion of the business to Gil. Looking back, I remember Maria mentioning that she DID NOT want any thing else in her name.

Gil beamed. He loved seeing his father proud of him. During this same time, we were struggling to make our monthly payments. Kevin had paid us 20K our first month on his payroll, and while I knew it wouldn’t be that much every month, business was going well. We live in a small college town that houses a large state university, and the school had recently announced a building plan that would stretch five to ten years. According to Kevin, this was the big break he had needed. His retirement was secured. He had more business than he had laborers, but he would work it out. He and Gil were the “Dream Team.” Three months later, we were still getting by with that same 20K, and it didn’t appear that Kevin had plans to give us more. We had money, but I began to worry about the future. I didn’t like the unpredictability.

I questioned Gil, but he told me to stop worrying and to be more appreciative. “Can’t you be happy? My parents do so much for us and all you’re doing is complaining.” I was just very confused. Gil and Kevin stayed up late drinking most nights. They worked some, but Gil slept in most days until ten or so.

I wasn’t happy. Gil had worked so hard to get to where he was in our six years of marriage. He left a demanding, but excellent job where he had quickly moved up the ranks in his field. He just seemed to lack drive now that we were living with his parents. I was also concerned about our own building project. Construction on our house was moving at a snail’s pace, and now Kevin had convinced Gil that a full unfinished basement was necessary, so of course one was added. I was beginning to see that Gil could not say no to his dad. He also appeared incapable of questioning him.

Gil and I began arguing more. We began dating less, and most of our free time was spent with Kevin and Maria. I loved them, but I missed my life. It was tough to meet people in our new town, especially with an unpredictable income. I was afraid to spend any money because I never knew when there would be more. I went back to school full-time, but when I talked about returning to work, Maria would do her best to talk me out of it. “Kevin has SO much business. It’s just a matter of time before money starts rolling in. Of course that will mean they’re working a lot more, so you need to be free, especially when those babies come along. Plus, there will be more for us to do as well with billing and stuff.”

I was still angry that no one, not even Gil, had supported me during the accounting change. They acted like I was some corporate Nazi trying to take over. I merely wanted a more efficient system. I was beginning to hate my situation.

Looking back, this was where I lost Gil. He accused me of not being supportive, but nothing about our situation felt right.

There’s more, but I have to stop tonight.

Just typing this makes me remember how painful that time was in our marriage. This divorce is because of big things. The family business is the first big thing.