After my child confessed his problems, I picked up the phone to call my spouse. I collected myself before clicking his name in my contact list. I mentally reviewed the do’s and don’ts of talking:  open, honest, assertive, pleasant tone, and listening with no judgment, and no blaming & shaming. I prayed and vowed to come in peace. I clicked his name, the phone rang, and I heard a voice I hadn’t heard in several months.  After the greetings, I said we needed to talk about our struggling college freshman.

I explained the issues to my spouse and took responsibility for selfishly focusing on myself instead of challenging my child’s robotically positive reports. I didn’t challenge them because I was eager to move to another topic so I could feel confident about my life-changing decisions. My spouse was in touch with our son, but it was irregular. My spouse admitted he was unintentionally distant because he had difficulty trying to process the separation; he said he kept looking up the stairs for me, and then finally accepted that I was not coming down. We were separated; I was gone, left him, moved out, and closed the door on our marriage. I was surprised at his honesty and for the first time, I thought about how the separation affected him.  It appeared the separation softened his hardness. Even though my spouse made a final declaration to never speak to me again, talking honestly about the after-effects of the separation, opened the door to future conversations. I responded with compassion, but don’t regret my decision to separate, I regret the impact it had on our child.

When I left my spouse, I decided to have my youngest live with me during his college years because I knew the conditions under my spouse’s roof would be rigid and controlling with regular bursts of unprovoked anger. I feared my spouse’s resentment toward me would be taken out on our child. I never discouraged my son from visiting his dad, but honestly, I didn’t encourage it either and I was wrong for that because I left my child’s old bedroom intact for that purpose. My spouse and I admitted we were focused on ourselves in the aftermath of our separation and assumed our child was doing well. It took courage for my child to talk honestly about his pain, confusion, regrets, and failures. I’m grateful I listened without interruption, acknowledged, and empathized with my child’s feelings of anxiety.

The last thing I wanted was a dysfunctional separation. My spouse and I discussed our roles and responsibilities going forward. I’m responsible for food, shelter, college administration paperwork, monitoring grades, physical health, medical, and dental appointments, and extra gas money to visit his dad whenever he wants, however long he wants. My spouse is responsible for car maintenance & insurance, monitoring grades, clothing allowance, and daily communication, to ensure our son is focused mentally, coping emotionally, and encouragement to keep on track academically.

Our child’s responsibility is to stay in his lane as a college student, pursue his goals, focus on himself and his studies, have fun, do the right thing, know we always have his back, and stop worrying about his parents. It is all of our responsibility to keep the lines of communication open and talk honestly with each other quickly, about any issues that crop up, no matter what they are. I thank God that my spouse and I demonstrated to our child, that even though we are separated, we will always come together, united as one, to ensure his well-being.