We exchanged texts in a delicate burst. He said she was just a friend and of course he would have told me if anything had happened. We’ve accepted this as our first rule of thumb: If something’s going on when it comes to dating, there has to be a conversation. We agreed that this would probably be the beginning of the end of this little way of life (and that’s still our guess).
A few months later, he was cleaning up after ripping all the carpet off our old upstairs guest bedroom, now my new bedroom. It was a surprise birthday present for me to prepare the floor and be ready to paint. I was sitting on the floor, scrolling through my phone as it charged, and realized that, according to our agreement, I had to tell it that I joined Tinder that afternoon. So I did. “OK” was his entire reaction.
I never ended up having a single real date, so I never told her anything about what happened while I was on a dating app. The whole experience was so strange, theoretical and stupid. But when he read my manuscript for a collection of essays on divorce, one of the things that upset him the most was my dating app story. He said, “We had agreed that we would tell each other if we were going out with someone.” And I reminded him that getting scammed almost by an anonymous stranger is not go out together. We agreed to disagree.
As our life situation continues, a curious change has occurred: we question each other’s days and share more now than before. For the most part, we show a level of manners and appreciation more associated with a long-standing friendship than a long-standing marriage. Sometimes the four of us watch an after dinner show or movie, but more often than not we are scattered around our different shows, work, books, and FaceTimes with friends. We are a relatively self-sufficient house of four, and there is a common sense of roommate in much of our lives now.
On the one hand, I am grateful for this independence, each of us having room to move around in our own home. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I sometimes worry about how this reflects my own teenage years in a divorced household, especially when we each have dinner and retreat to our own corners. I liked having the independence to do what I wanted, but sometimes too much freedom at this age makes you wonder if anyone cares about what you do. However, very little has changed for our children other than seeing their parents learning to be true friends.
Our approach reminds me a little of an awareness I had in the aftermath of a layoff from a job that had become the cornerstone of my identity. I had worked so hard, I had given my life to it, I had left my grandchildren over dinners and weekends because of this work. But what struck me the day after I was fired was this singular thought, “Maybe I could just do what I’m good for now instead of whatever I felt bad for.” “
Our current arrangement, our prelude to a divorce, is like this. We just do what we’re good at and don’t do the things we were bad at (mostly).