Saturday, August 31, 2019


Here we are the last day of summertime; the last day I live in this house; the last day of being with my wife.

The new season isn’t springtime. It’s autumn.

We said goodbye today. It took less than a minute. I said it was weird. She said yes. She said she was sorry it was ending this way. I said yes.

That’s how it ends. That’s how it ended for us.

My wife  is spending the night and tomorrow morning with a friend, as I had asked. I’m grateful she agreed to do this. Maybe it’s easier for her, too. We don’t do emotions well.

I’m feeling immensely sad for the circumstance. I’m feeling sad that the full experience of being “out here” with my wife never occurred even during our marriage and especially now during our divorce.

I’m sorry my wife could not experience me or appreciate me as the man I am, as opposed to the man she wanted me to be. I could only fail at being that man.

This morning in the call with Werner Erhard one of the many things he said was you can’t have a life if you’re stuck with trying to figure out the meaning of your life. It has no meaning. Life is inherently meaningless. Things just are the way they are or the way they are not. Don’t ascribe meaning.

I get it.

This divorce has no meaning, and trying to figure out a meaning is meaningless. Oh, we can both ascribe some kind of meaning, or blame, or sadness—but it’s just the way it is. The world has given us an opportunity, an opportunity not to be figured out, or known now, or maybe never known. There’s not already an answer.

Where I go from here is all possibility. For me to be free to be and free to act. It’s up to me.

But now the days are short
I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs
And it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year



Thursday August 29, 2019

My last Thursday in the house. In three days I’m gone, forever.

All my belongings are staged in the garage, awaiting loading into the moving/storage Pod later this afternoon. My wife has left for the day, having taken Bebe with her.

The house is silent. I’m alone.

I don’t know whether I’m sad, relieved, happy, miserable, or numb. Maybe all at the same time.

I don’t know whether my wife is sad, relieved, happy, miserable, or numb. She has been especially remote, almost furtive, the past few days– for her emotional benefit or mine I don’t know. I seem not to know anything about her anymore. That she wants me gone is clear.

For someone whom I’ve loved, and love, to become so opaque and distant is a relationship tragedy. I guess it’s a blessing the emotional temperature isn’t higher. Even as it is, in this time of non-communication, her slightest irritations and barely below the surface anger, when it arises, sets my heart thumping and blood pressure pulsing. I feel it instantly.

It’s early evening. The house is quiet. My wife and Bebe are spending the night in San Jose with friends. The Pods truck broke down—so they said— and delivery of the container is delayed until tomorrow. Frustrating but not a problem. I’ve rearranged my helpers. All are available.

I miss my little dog. He is my companion. But I’ll be missing him forever too soon enough. It’s right that he stays here, but I will miss him nonetheless.

I watching season one of The Bridge again. We watched it together the first time. We both thought it was the best crime show we had ever seen. Did she not love me then? Had she fallen out of love? Did she know, then, she would divorce me?

I think she loved me once. She said she did. She does not lie. She doesn’t always say all that needs to be said, but she doesn’t lie.

Mark Twain wrote, “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”

My wife was my priority. I was never hers. She hated that she was mine.

What hope is there in a marriage like this?

What hope is there in a world like this?


Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.


My love, my wife, wasn’t true to me, only to herself. She said she had clarity of vision.

I’m happy for her that she can be so sure.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.


She had the ability to throw a lifeline but didn’t. She knew that’s what I wanted so withheld it. Because she had clarity of vision.

I’m happy for her that she can be so sure.



A day like any other: got up, made coffee; my wife went rowing in Sausalito; walked the dog. Oh yes, not like any other: I finished packing all my belongings being loaded into the moving/storage Pod. This is my last Wednesday in the house—the midpoint of the week of leaving. The ordinariness of it is surreal.

Last night I experienced the worst pain and discomfort in my hand and arm since the surgery on July 24th, now a month ago. My left thumb and pointer finger ached in pain—I would call it 7 on the 0-10 scale. My hand and arm were numb. I couldn’t bend my fingers. There was something about lying in bed that triggered the numbness and pain. Every half hour or so I was up walking around to find relief. I hope not to repeat this experience tonight.

I wonder if this is it. Nothing but being ordinary. Maybe it’s better this way. No authentic conversation; no authentic emotions.

I wonder if my wife knows what I’m going through. She’s a trained professional to know. She must know. She reads what I write. But does she really know? I realize she doesn’t care, nor should she care. If she cared she would behave differently. If she truly cared she would have sought a way to resolve her issues without dissolving our marriage. She would have talked to me about her issues in the first place in a way that was direct and workable. There was no workability in our marriage. It’s just what was—no one to blame. We both wish it had been otherwise.

I wonder if my wife will say more than goodbye. To say more than that, now, after not saying very much, would be pointless.

She has her life to return to, much as it was before she knew me. She has new projects to attend to, new goals to reach, without me. The irony, for me, is that she always had these things in her life, without me. She doesn’t believe a life is to be shared in any conventional way. Her life, my life: different. No trudging that happy road of destiny together.

I wonder if she’ll find another man to live with, or marry. I know she thinks she invested five years on me, and it was a loss, and that’s the sadness she’s experiencing. She’s not sad to not be with me. She’s sad that I took these years of opportunity away from her.

I wonder if my wife will find happiness. I wonder if I will find happiness. As Jordan Peterson says, happiness is a small boat on a very rough ocean. There’s no reason happiness should be our life’s mission.

What I do know is that rupture also spells opportunity, possibilities. It gives me the possibility to create something for myself that hadn’t existed before; the possibility of a new world opening up.

Had I stayed married to my wife, by and large, the future would have been an extension of the past, more of the same. We add bricks to our wall that fit with the pattern of the existing bricks. Shakespeare noted, life “creeps at this petty pace.”

But this divorce intervened, and my future became discontinuous. It’s not going to be an extension of the past. My job, now, is to be free—really free to be and free to act.

For this, with all the sadness, the dislocation, the rejection, the loss, I must be grateful.


This morning I gave Bebe our doodle dog the last bath I’ll ever give him. Of everything I’m losing as a result of my wife’s decision to end our marriage, Bebe is the most precious. He is sweetness incarnate. I’ve known many dogs in my life, of many breeds, both my own and others, and never have I known a dog as sweet and loving as Bebe.


We adopted Bebe when he was seven years old, from Peace of Mind Rescue in Pacific Grove. From the moment he entered the house he was at home. Today he’s nine and a half. He’s a funny little dog, much preferring to stay inside—on the softest surface he can find—than playing outside. He basically will not play with other dogs. Larger dogs frighten him. Inside, he takes every opportunity to curl up on a pile of pillows or burrow under the bed covers. When my friends visited from Melbourne earlier this year—before the declaration—they nicknamed him the Pillow Dog. And that’s just what he is.


I had asked my wife not to be home with Bebe when I leave the house forever on Sunday. No emotional farewells on the doorstep. I did not want to have Bebe watch me leave, never to return. I did not want to have to see his little face through the glass door, watching with such anticipation, as he always does.

She chose not to make this possible and instead Bebe will be with me on my last night in the house, and I will have to depart with Bebe at the door. There will be a tearful farewell after all. This isn’t what I wanted to happen. Once again, my wife has put satisfying her own needs and schedule ahead of my desires—even at this emotional time.

I think back to several months ago when I said how much I regretted losing Bebe, my wife’s response was one doesn’t “own” another sentient creature, that our dog wasn’t a possession that one loses.

As though that was supposed to make me feel better. I know it wasn’t however; it was a specific withholding of empathy. She said she knew that’s what I wanted and therefore she refused to give it to me. (This is neither a paraphrase nor out of context.)

Notwithstanding the final exit, spending my last night here with Bebe will be a joy—bittersweet but sweet nonetheless. He will nestle with me on the bed as he always does, close up by my shoulder when I’m alone.

He’s sleeping on my feet right now as I write this.

I’m going to miss him terribly.

A marriage cannot be sustained around a dog, but damn her anyway.


Last Monday

This is my last Monday in my wife’s house, the beginning of my last week here. I’m in the final stages of packing and staging my boxes and furniture in preparation for loading the moving/storage Pod on Thursday and Friday. The reality of the move is evident throughout the house. It hangs heavily in my heart.

Our carefully practiced normalcy is more like a free fall. One might mistake my packing up as for a long business trip, not for an eviction.

My wife and I spent the day almost—almost—as any other non-marriage dissolving day. She went about her day and I mine, coming together for morning coffee, preparing and eating dinner together, discussing the South End by-laws revisions as we might have last year this time, before the end was decreed. Is this the way the week will progress?

The poignant moments come when I look at our little dog Bebe. He’s the innocent among us. He doesn’t know that this time next week there will be no man in the house. Niland will be gone, never to return.

I know that my wife is simply biding her time. She would have preferred for me to have been gone long before now. I know this and sense it daily.

My schedule was agreed to in exchange for not contesting the divorce.

In truth, it has been too long living under this dark cloud of unhappiness—for both of us. The tension is barely below the surface. It’s a wonder we’ve survived.

It’s hard right now to know how I feel. I’m sad and anxious and excited all at the same time. I still regret this is happening. I still believe it was a moral failure for my wife not to give our marriage a chance of renewal.

I want the week to be over.

I want to move on.

Not Safe

My wife says it’s not safe for her to talk to me. What she means is that I might, probably will, write about our conversation. I’m doing so now. The narratives apparently frighten her because they illustrate a side of her character she would prefer remain private. I get it. Plus, she says I have misquoted her and/or taken her words out of context. Not so. If she said anything kind to me, I would record that. That she only judges and feigns misunderstanding the simplest things—like being surprised tonight that I might need the cars out of the garage in order to pack up the moving and storage Pod—is all on her turf, not mine. This is her turf, and I know she wants me gone, despite not making the leaving particularly easy. It seems that she would prefer I pack up all my earthly belongings, in her not large flat, without taking up any space she might otherwise need. Heaven help me if I impinge on yoga space (for three days…)

We are both counting days, maybe hours.

I’m writing because I need to write about what’s happening now. It’s my therapy, and cheaper than my long departed but much loved therapist Dr. Ralph. My wife thought he was a waste of money, that we only had intellectual conversations. I guess she meant she didn’t see the improvements in my behavior, unexpressed, that she hoped to see. I don’t know. She wasn’t there so how would she know what went on? Perhaps it was professional competitiveness.

I am done apologizing for all the little things she finds fault with, daily.  I apologized in spades for all the big things. Not once has she apologized to me for the suffering, the dislocation, she’s caused.

I remain grateful, which I don’t believe she accepts or understands. I don’t believe she accepts or understands that I still love her—even when I’m not happy with her. Her mind doesn’t work that way, and anyway she’s told me now many times she doesn’t love me (“I’ve fallen out of love with you.”) To love someone doesn’t mean they have to love you back.

That’s the tragedy of love.


This is my final week in my wife’s house. I’ve begun to wrap up the furniture I’m taking. Evidence of my moving out is now in every room. The oddness, the peculiar stasis of our relationship pervades the days like stale, heavy air. My wife has withdrawn even more, rarely initiating even the smallest of talk. Basically we only talk about our dog, our dog that I must leave behind.

I know she wants me gone as much as I need to be gone. Still, knowing that hurts.

I no longer have any expectations that she might say anything meaningful to me. Why would I even want that, knowing where it would be coming from?   I don’t need more judgment. She has already rendered the sentence.

I, too, have clarity of vision—it’s not my wife’s sole domain to claim as a clairvoyant. She misjudges me in her need at every turn to nullify my thoughts, to make me lesser than. I’m not paranoid; others have told me this is what they’ve seen. And what she does to them. It’s born from fear, not from cruelty. My wife is not a purposefully cruel person. Her unwillingness to extend empathy—stated as a fact—is not intended to be cruel, but to be brutal. There’s a difference.

I think we’re both worn out right now, being together too long under the dark cloud of divorce. It’s a word I hate: divorce. It’s an ugly word, to describe an ugly act.

divorce (v.)

  1. 1400, divorcen, “to put away or abandon (a spouse); to dissolve the marriage contract between by process of law,” from Old French divorcer, from divorce(see divorce(n.)). Extended sense of “release or sever from any close connection” is from early 15c

I have been abandoned; put away. I have been severed from a close connection. Unilaterally.

An ugly word to describe an ugly act: a sledgehammered acknowledgement of what could have been, but what likely shouldn’t have been, and now won’t be.

No one likes endings. Sad endings. Unhappy endings. There’s too much real sadness in the world to inflict it at home, on someone you say you once loved, who loves you. It’s the smallness of the act, its essential smallness, that renders the person inflicting it a small person. Not an authentic person, a whole person; but a small person.

I know when the world shifted for my wife, and I became in no small part collateral damage. She may see it, too—though never expressed, how could she? She became severely depressed, stopped all intimacy, and withdrew. She couldn’t accept my support and needed to work out her life alone. That’s the place she resides today: alone.

Alone is a lonely place to be.

Unspoken Words

The unspoken words in my house are palpable. Words that ought to be said but are not. Conversations that never happen, or are heard only in my head. Silent dialog.

My wife is the kind of woman who always puts the other person on his back foot. That’s the way she defends herself. Her style of communication is one that demands a responsive need to defend, apologize, or make amends. She answers questions with questions. She is always right. She plays the superior professional psychologist’s card in subtle ways she may, at this point, not even be aware. It’s her second nature to evaluate, judge, and define.

Of late her stock reply to any comment I make about politics, the state of the media, goings on at our mutual swimming and rowing club, is, “and what are you doing about it?” It’s a put-down, and is meant as one. It’s a discussion ender, not an opening.

Perhaps this is her way of telling me in so many unsaid words that she can’t wait for me to be out of her house. She no longer tells me where she’s going. She doesn’t have to, though I tell her my whereabouts. I have to ask if I want to know. There is a margin of civility.

Her excuse about my writing holds little water. I understand her intense desire for privacy. I don’t share it, but can appreciate it in others. Yet, even after I removed my chronicle from my blog she continues not to communicate.

So all bets are off.

It’s hard for me to understand how my wife might describe a love relationship. Is there underneath her deep need for independence an actual desire to be loved by someone? She rejected my love for her. My loving her was not what she wanted, or wanted in some way foreign to me, that I was unable to fulfill. She never asked me to be any way with her, except not to be so present, so there all the time. I think my loving her was a burden—that within herself there was no way she could return my love so she had, in the end, to reject it as being too much.

What I’ve found hurtful has been her inability to accept me as I am, as a whole and complete person who’s OK as he is. Since the beginning I’ve felt that my wife thinks of me as incomplete, a man needing to be better than he already is. Whatever I’ve done has been not enough. (She thinks of herself in the same way. Self-punishment and punishment of others go hand-in-hand.)

I don’t think she ever liked who I was, nevertheless finding it within herself to marry me. She said she responded to my OKCupid profile because I was a swimmer and loved books. That’s a beginning. Yet our backgrounds are entirely different, and mine, as a class and type, she condemns. When we told her good friend Lee we were getting married he spent an hour exhorting her not to marry me. In front of me he repeatedly said, “You can’t marry him.” What kind of fiancé accepts that? I should have stepped aside then and there. Lee remains her friend and I am divorced. Now I know what kind of fiancé she was.

If my wife were to talk to me, now, in these last two weeks of being together, what would I say to her? I cannot presume to know what she would say to me beyond what she’s already said.

I would say that I loved her, and love her still.

I would say that I need to be away from her, from her judgments and fault-finding.

I would say that I know in my head that a better life awaits me.

I would say that my heart yet aches.

I would say that everything I’ve said and written is true for me, without distortion, hyperbole, or exaggeration.

I would say I resent her refusal to find another way to be together.

I would say I don’t know how we could be together. But not seeking a way is a moral failure.

I would say I want to be alone for a while.

I would say I will miss her forever.




Almost as dismaying as my wife’s decision to end our marriage is her silence on her own role in its unraveling. From her lofty position as a doctor of neuropsychology she can only forensically analyze my behavior as falling short. My desire for togetherness has been judged a fault, one cause of her withdrawal. Not once has she looked in the mirror at her own psychic contributions.  Not once has she examined how she might also have been the cause in the matter.

What I have experienced over the past five years is a woman incapable, or unwilling—if there’s a difference—to share her life with a man. This has been her history over a long time. Many have told me this. Yes, my wife shares her house; she shares some of her time, on her terms. She does not share her emotions, nor her vulnerability.

Somewhere long ago she learned not to trust men, never to be vulnerable, never to be truly open and let anyone inside. During our time together she experienced many losses: of career, health, friends. I couldn’t be a solace to her. That wasn’t permitted. When she grieved, she grieved alone. I was always provisional.

Her reflexes are to attack if approached suddenly. The outside world is a threat. Once when walking from our house to the corner of the block I fell behind to tie a shoe and when I ran to catch up her startled reaction was to karate chop me. Only in the final flash did she realize that it was me and not a predator. I would have been taken down.

Her fierce need for independence couldn’t even embrace the social nicety of being introduced as my wife. That implied, she said, that she was my property, as though we lived in the 16th century.

I honestly don’t know why she said yes when I asked her to marry me. She said she loved me…but her love came bounded by so many private restrictions. Later, after she told me she no longer loved me and was ending our marriage, she said she was a better friend than a partner. I see that now in her friendships, especially with friends who are dying. If you’re dying you would want her by your side.

Why can’t she take responsibility for her own lack of communication, her hints and private resolve not letting me know her true intentions? Or her abandonment of our marriage vows, our marriage commitment? Or her never saying no she was not willing to work out a new way of being together, and letting me think for over a month we were living into a solution, not an ending?

Or accepting her role in stopping sex, or even talking to me about it. It just ended on January 20, 2016.

Or her refusal to visit the places I love; to visit Maine or Bowdoin; or to accompany me on trips to see my boys in Boston and New York. She never felt the need to be part of my family—and had little interest in me being part of hers. She never had any expectation that I should join her when visiting or having dinner with her daughter. If I wanted to, that was fine.

There was her life and there was my life and she believed that that total separation was normal, and to want more was a character flaw.

I have searched my own soul and confessed my shortcomings—to which she will not comment.

What I have come to realize belatedly is that my wife distrusts men. She may even at some deep visceral level hate men.  It comes out in a thousand little ways.  I don’t say this to be vindictive.

She may say she likes this man or that man; or that she even may love, for a time, this man or that man. But these likes and loves fall under a smothering blanket of distrust and fear. All men are guilty until they prove otherwise, at least for a time. When a man gets too close, or wants to be close, she cannot sustain the relationship. She ends it.

The men my wife likes are an odd lot. Her closest male friend (and I’m not including her former lover now gravely ill) is so self-effacing as to be barely present; another is cruel, obnoxious, and a coward; two others are gay.

How men occur to my wife—men as a class, not individuals—is that they take women’s space. They violate their bodies, take their role in society, take their jobs, their pay, their personal agency. At worst they are rapists, thieves, child molesters, serial killers. (She has an abiding interest in serial killers.) It’s not an accident of fate that her work today involves interviewing violent men, men who have committed horrible acts of aggression and violence mostly against women and children. How better to confirm one’s deepest beliefs and fears than to face them directly in the flesh, to have to listen to their chilling stories.

On the day in April when my wife told me she had not agreed to work things out and had already contacted an attorney, she said that she may likely die a lonely old woman, as though it was my fault: that our five years together had somehow stolen her opportunity to find lasting love. Were these same five years not my opportunity cost, too? Had I, too, not paid dearly? More dearly, since it’s my life being turned upside down? Her insistent assertion that her life is just as disrupted, just as impacted as mine is laughable. Only an insensitive, selfish person would say these things, would see the situation they were creating so one dimensionally.

I don’t wish her to die a lonely old woman. Having caused so much unhappiness she deserves to be happy herself. Or how vain and foolish this marriage dissolution would be.

I don’t want to die a lonely old man.

I’m not going to.


We sleep in the same bed, never touching. Our dog sleeps sprawled at our feet or between us. In the morning he often burrows down under the covers. It’s been this way for over three years, well before the February 9th declaration. Nothing new to which divorcing added a sudden unwelcome dimension. It’s been a barren bed for a long time.

Is sex important in a marriage? Does having no sex three out of the four years of being married count as actually being married? Should I have believed my wife’s reasons then, or her revised assertions now? I know how the situation occurred to me. No sex is no sex. Depending on the circumstances, I could be compassionate or resentful—but that’s my internal state, not the fact of the matter. The fact of the matter, the action, was that a deep, intimate connection went missing. And I settled for it.

In eighteen days my moving pod arrives. Another three days and I’m gone. I say goodbye to our dog; I leave the house. I wonder if she is counting the days as I am. I imagine she is.

Our final days together are a superficial re-enactment of all the other days, as though our time together will stretch on and on. Who walks the dog; who chops the onion while the other spins the lettuce; little reminders to be sure to clean out the sink; who will let the gardeners in; who buys what at our respective farmers’ markets.

I don’t know what I expected. Surely there are words of parting to be said; or not. What I realize is that I really don’t know this woman, and that what has been revealed is sadly unattractive. To know more now, at this late date, after the end has been written, is neither helpful nor nourishing in a life sustaining way. It would only subtract. Put the past in the past. I don’t need to be adding more past to the past.

Earlier in this chronicle of my unraveling marriage I conjectured about what it might be like to come back together someday, what would have to change, be different. That I still loved her.

Love is a funny, so indefinite, state of being. Yes, I do still love my wife. Or I love the memory of the woman I fell in love with. I still see that woman, fleetingly, in the woman today who is divorcing me. She’s still there, under layer upon layer of self-protection. She calls it independence.

Tonight at dinner I commented that I found it remarkable that so many people at the South End spent so much time there without their partners, not just for the sports activities, but for the now weekly social events, the happy hours, impromptu dinners, the bar that seems now always open. My wife’s predictable response was that not all people held my view of relationships, that people lived independent lives.

Independence is one thing; not living a life together is another. Maybe I am too dependent on companionship, shared experience, trudging that happy road of destiny together.

I think back to the early days of our romance. Like many athletes, my wife has a quilt sewn from the many swimming event T-shirts she had collected. One T-shirt, commemorating a South End swim, has a photo of one of her former lovers on the front, a man I know, and like. This quilt was on her bed. She was truly surprised when I said I didn’t want to sleep, much less make love, immediately under his picture. It was inconsequential to her. Was this a sign I should have noticed, or heeded? Or that I would be asked to take her first husband, still her friend, swimming in the Bay? On that day, we could have been three of my wife’s lovers, all together sitting naked in the South End sauna. Am I over sensitive to think that’s weird? This is experience I don’t have. Maybe there are men who share women over time, and even talk about it, talk about what it was like. That’s not me.

So today I’m thinking about what loving this woman means. It definitely does not mean loving the fact she’s dissolved our marriage, evicted me from her house, moved me out and moved me on. Can she be separated from these acts?

Time will tell. Not today.