Even though I continue to build my savings account, my spouse is better off financially, and I asked him to leave, but enraged, he told me: this is my house! We didn’t revisit our tabled conversation about rekindling our marriage; we continued the cycle of truce, hot and cold disagreements, power struggles, disrespect, loneliness, isolation and confusion about our relationship and empty nest roles. We had fleeting good days and rays of hope. But lately, arguments included the D-word.

Our marriage is over in every way except on paper. I do not hate my spouse, but there’s no love lost between us. I don’t know if I’m mentally ready or fully financially able to leave. And this is my house too! Why should I be the one to leave, especially when I did the most. I sacrificed blood, sweat, tears, and money by doing too much and going above and beyond my duties to try and transform this dysfunctional house into a home. We don’t want to be married, and neither wants to leave.

We stay busy with jobs and other activities to keep us sane and out of each other’s way. We rally around holidays and when the kids come home, but then it’s back to the cycle rooted in irreconcilable differences. The only thing keeping us together is our stubbornness to hold onto a house out of fondness, convenience, or reluctance to step out of the comfort zone of dysfunction. We are not spring chickens anymore, and I fear the unknown. My rose bushes and my porch are sources of comfort. The diverse neighborhood, nearby churches, stores, schools my kids attended, library and neighbors are all I have known for the past two decades. I know the traffic patterns; it’s a working-class community where the streets are empty and quiet by 9 pm. I can run out and get anything I want in 15 minutes, and store proprietors trust me if I’m short of a few dollars to come back and pay. I can rely on the priceless terms of endearment from the kind lady at the gas station. I smile at the sight of the bearded man and his loveable dog, who wags his tail in a flurry when he sees me taking my walk. I get comfort from the police and fire departments nearby. My kids grew up going to the old YMCA. I hear elementary kids walking home from school screeching sounds of joy. I depend on my beloved beach 10 minutes away, where the sounds of the lake calm down my demons.  And on my birthdays, I lounge in my beach chair reading magazines with nary a care in the world. Or the fat calico cat I see in the park every time I go. Or the librarians who hold new books for me. There’s the aroma from the pizza place where we get customized pizzas and submarines. I have a solid relationship with my community. I am grateful for my neighborhood; it serves me well, and I don’t want to leave because I know if I go, I’m not coming back unless I’m passing through.

We are tired and deserve to have a loving, meaningful, peaceful, and joyful life. And I pray we both can have that, but not with each other. We don’t belong together nor have the energy to continue to fight a losing battle. We can’t discuss the weather without arguing and the D-word flying. We go around and around, back and forth, about who should leave. The house is not big enough for us, and neither is the community. I dreamt about leaving for years, I have money saved, and the end is in sight, yet I still find myself trapped, this time in fear—the fear of being alone.