Dividing a Family

“David is going to live with me. If you can’t agree to that, we’ll let the court decide. We’ve talked this to death. Let’s not talk about it anymore.”

“I think that the court usually places the child with the mother, all things being equal, so obviously I hope we can agree before it gets to that point.”

“I think that we’ve got to that point. David is going to live with his mom.”

“Suppose that I were going to live across the street instead of moving across the country?”

“I don’t know. That’s not going to happen.”

“But just suppose. Suppose I change my mind and stay here on the West Coast and I’m living across the street?”

“The main reason we’re divorcing is because you’re moving to the East Coast. Why go hypothetical on me?”

“Let’s talk about this. One more time. I’m the one who’s leaving. Convince me to stay.”

“I don’t want you to stay. I’m sick of talking.”

“I mean for David’s sake, not for our marriage. But never mind that. Suppose that we get a divorce, but then something comes up, whatever, to keep me right here in town. Suppose I don’t leave. How would we share David then?”

“He’s not flying across the country every week or every month, period.”

“What’s wrong with you? Answer my question.”

“OK, I don’t know. I have no idea. Maybe you’d see him on weekends. Every other weekend.”

“What? We split up but live near each other and that’s all you’d share him? Why not a fifty-fifty arrangement?”

“Because it wouldn’t be fair to the boy. He needs a home and a room in that home and a daily routine that he can count on. He needs his father, sure, but I won’t let him bounce back and forth between us like a shuttlecock.”

“So it doesn’t matter what I do. I’ll take him to the zoo or a ballgame or a movie on the weekend once in a while and that’s it.”

“Why are we even talking about this? You aren’t staying here. Your job is more important to you than your son.”

“I’ve been working all my life for this promotion. It means everything to me, professionally. Of course I was thrilled when I got it. I worked like a dog for years to get it and now it’s mine. All I have to do is relocate. But no. You won’t move. For no good reason. You could easily get a job just like your current job on the East Coast. David would be just as happy there as here, once he got used to it.

“You say that I care about my job more than my son, but it isn’t true. You care more about living here than about your son. You’re depriving him of his father and you don’t even have a decent reason for doing so.

“And it turns out that if we divorce but still live on the same block, you’ll still deprive him. I can give up what I’ve worked for and dreamed about for years and it won’t make any difference. I’ll still be cut off from the boy.”

“I made it very clear, from the start. Move back East and you’ll do so by yourself. Choose between your job and your marriage. And your son.”

“Don’t you see? That isn’t me choosing. That’s you choosing. Choosing West Coast over your marriage. Choosing against your son having a father.”

“All I know is, you chose to leave us.”

“Forget the sharing question. If I refuse the promotion and stay here, will we stay together?”

“I think it’s too late for that.”

“Why? I refuse the promotion. Life goes on as before. I’ll probably have to move to another company, but that doesn’t matter.”

“You’d be resentful. We were growing apart anyway.”

“No. I refuse the promotion and choose my child over my job, as you put it. Perhaps, having made the decision, I wouldn’t be resentful. We go to counseling, find out why we’re growing apart, and work on our marriage.”

“I’m probably too angry for that.”

“Angry that I’ve insisted on the move? That I’ve refused to give up what I’ve wanted so badly.”

“Yes.”

“But if I come to realize that I’ve made the wrong choice?”

“You don’t believe that. I don’t understand why you’re putting me through this. Just leave and get it over with.”

“I’m putting you through this because we got split on the go-or-stay question, and the argument became about my love for David versus my job, but it so happens that maybe I love David, and you too, for that matter, more than my job. Maybe, believe it or not, I haven’t made up my mind to go. Maybe I’ll stay.”

“If you make up your mind to refuse the promotion and stay, you know that I’ll have to consider accepting the move to the East Coast after all, just to be fair.”

“It’s like I said. Somehow or other, we’re in the same boat here. We got divided very early on, with you taking one side and me the other, but we should have been working together all along to make the right decision.”

“Or this is your way of tricking me into changing my mind.”

“You know me better than that. The only way for us to find out if I’m right about this situation is for me to refuse the promotion, which I’m going to do right now, with you listening. That’s why I came over.”

“Good. Do it. Then we’ll see… We are not moving to the East Coast, though. I can promise you that… But yes, deciding together is a lot better than deciding apart… We did take sides way too soon… Put down the phone for a minute… Let’s start over.”

“Honey, I’m home. I’ve got good news and bad news.”

“Tell me the good news first.”