Mr. Smug and I had been friends for years, we dated passionately for a year and then got pregnant. He wasn’t ready to be a father and I’d been married and divorced before so I wasn’t going to jump into anything.
He was working on a law degree in Ireland and I was fully capable of being a single mother since I was already in my mid-thirties, had a career and a great support system in Paris. He didn’t give us any money but he came to some of the appointments, attended the birth and visited once a month or so as Hidalgo grew from infancy to toddler-hood in lovely Paris. We were co-parents except I paid for everything and I was happy enough that he wanted to be involved.
As time went on and little Hidalgo grew, we felt like family and I was content. Then Mr. Smug wanted things to change. He was exhausted with traveling back and forth to Paris and wanted us to be a ‘real’ family. So after almost a year of discussion and waiting for a voluntary layoff package to be negotiated with the union (a normal part of the French system), I left my job, packed everything we owned into a container and shipped it all to Ireland.
I had a healthy savings account from the severance package, he received almost the same amount from his father so we walked in as equals. We set up a joint account, each paid an equal amount into it and did not worry for money. We talked of buying a home. We talked of a second baby. I was going to be a good housewife while we settled into our new country.
I felt some things were “off” from the beginning but I put it down to stress and adjustments for all of us in our new family life together. I practiced cooking and baking, joined the parent and child playgroup in our community, managed all of the housekeeping and took care of our young son. Mr. Smug was busy with school, exhausted with life and just needed things quiet. Sex was minimal, talking was seldom, so many missed moments of actual intimacy lost but we were good when we socialized, though he didn’t take me out very often.
It wasn’t what I wanted in a partnership but he loved our son, I loved him and wanted to work on it. I’m from a family of divorce so my knowledge of a healthy marriage comes from movies. I tried to be patient, kind, supportive and helpful. Not to push too much or demand anything. Didn’t complain, nag or all those . Cooked all of his favorite foods, cleared up after dinner without nagging him to help.
Then one day he told me he didn’t love me, didn’t think he was even capable of love but still wanted to be a family man. That’s when I knew it was not going to work no matter how I tried. But I tried anyway, for the sake of our son. Eventually I knew trying with someone who didn’t want to try was pointless so, I stopped. I asked Mr.Smug to take us to the airport so we could return to France.
In the car, Hidaglo sleeping in the back while we had some stilted, awkward conversation up front, I remembered something. Things were tense and I wanted to break it somehow. So I said “You know, whatever the terms of our separation are agreed, you can’t cut off Netflix and Spotify, it’s really important”.
He chuckled. “Of course not,” he said “I know he loves the cartoons and your music time”.
We had a light moment and then it moved on. Fast forward four months to where we are now?
A couple of weeks ago we have a big fight and Mr. Smug changed the passwords for our music and movie accounts to spite me. I was going to ignore it but then Hidalgo got Scarlet Fever and I was very upset. I asked him “Um, your child has scarlet fever. Will you allow him to watch Netflix or shall I add it to your list of petty cheap behavior”.
Our text chat (highly redacted):
Smug: Firstly, have you taken him to a doctor and has he been prescribed antibiotics?
LaParisienne: Um yes…Shall I send you copies so you pay half?
Smug: No, thanks, what did the doctor say?
LaPariesienne: No, of course not…the doc says he has scarlet fever. Passwords?
Smug: Give him a big hug and kiss from me and I’ll face time in the morning. If he needs anything during the night let me know.
So…can I have those f*#king passwords?! No, no, I couldn’t. I was so angry, sad and a little bit exhausted from being up for four nights with a child who had a high fever, a strange rash a medical diagnosis out of a Victorian novel.
From Victorian Tragedy comes humor:
I called a friend who’s pretty good at cheering me up. His proposition? “If it’s that important Erica, I’ll give you the ten dollars for Netflix. Will you stop crying now?”
And that did make me laugh. A lot. Here I was getting worked up and hysterical over another stupid thing the ex wasn’t doing but it amounted to $10, on entertainment no less. We’re not starving, have friends, family, health and a comfortable place in the city where I had only dreamed of living. I will not lose my cool over access to digital media.
But just because I’m still sort of keeping score, he did not call the next morning or give us the passwords. In the accounting of outgoing expenses I had to send to my lawyer, I put the cost of them in a separate lines because I know he’ll get the joke. He probably won’t laugh this time, but I hope he does and lightens up. We all need a good laugh sometimes.