Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Sooo... That Happened | Main | No Sex Before Marriage »

Coughing Up Blood

Sometimes I'll be going about my day - heading to work, returning to an empty house, driving through Pennsylvania countryside at seven in the morning to jam in a few hours with my kids at Serge's place before putting in eight hours at my job when an invisible fist punches through my sternum, muddles around in my stomach before reaching up and gripping my heart, squeezing until I figure I'll be coughing up blood - and it all just hits me at once: what the fuck happened?

Look, man. I don't know. I don't have all the answers and I was the other person in this thing with this guy for ten years. All I can say is that, like a bad apple, it starting rotting from the inside out. Black mush. Worms everywhere. Oh, there were/are good parts. That's how it is when you pluck up a shiny, red apple, take a big, juicy bite and then - there it is. The bruised, mushy side you hadn't noticed.

But now it's all you can see. And what do you instinctively do with the apple? You put a lot of distance between you and that apple.

He can write his stuff for the websites we write for and I can do the same and you all can speculate but in the end none of that matters much. I mean, it matters but none of that shit is indicative of the years, hours, days, minutes and seconds spent in this marriage. And I'm not interested in chronicling that, anyway.

In the end, as with all imploding marriages, it comes down to two people: me and Serge. And we both know what happened/didn't happen. It isn't scandalous stuff either. Nobody cheated on anybody, nothing like that. Sorry to disappoint. It was just a slow, sorrowful spiral and by the time I realized how I felt, how I really felt about Serge, myself and my marriage, I was nearly dead. Almost drowned from the riptide of our relationship; taking in water at the bottom of the ocean, seeing stars, hands scrabbling sand, hair tangled in seaweed, blackness taking over. Separating from Serge was me using my last burst of energy to make for the surface and breathe. That's all. I can honestly tell you I'll always be in some kind of love with Serge and I can't tell you that there isn't maybe a shot for us somewhere down the road if we both get our shit together and the timing works out.

But for now, what's happening feels right. Necessary. We were not well.

Reader Comments (25)

I remember back when you would write the most defensive posts about your marriage... How you would describe how everyone's marriage was messed up, hard, painful and I remember thinking "But mine's not. I don't think it's normal or healthy to fight so violently to suffer that much, to have to work that hard."... Maybe I'm just lucky.

My point is that, while I wouldn't wish what you are going through on anyone in this world, I also wouldn't wish that kind of marital discord on anyone either. You are so strong and you both will grow from this experience and find a healthier existence. You both deserve peace, love, understanding and growth.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaty E

I can tell you feel like people are blaming you. Any smart person who has been reading your blog for years knows that is not true. Serge is poetic but he is also a dude who hurt you. It wasn't one sided but that happened. You have a right to protect yourself - an obligation. You don't have to suffer and you decided not to. I don't really know you, but I think you did the right thing and I am really proud of you.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

@Emily - I do feel guilty and defensive about being the one who initiated the separation. For sure. It's something I'm working through. Thank you for the kind words.

July 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterMonica

Serge does have such a way with words that it makes you hang on to his every word, read between the lines, and drink up every emotion. I started reading your blog first. You are so raw and exposed at times, very guarded at others, I enjoyed your story, your honesty. I still do. I think people who read both of you, understand there are two sides to every story. I think most of your readers want the same for both of you, happiness. The two of you together just seemed so intoxicating, reading it made me long for the kind of passion the two of you had/have. It is easy to read Serge's words and think "yes! win her back, its not over!" But the truth is, we only know what we read. We don't truly know you and Serge, to most of your readers, reading this blog is like reading a book, and like with most books, we expect a happy ending. But you are real people, real emotions, real shit to deal with. There is a lot we don't know.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

It is hard. I remember feeling just as you so eloquently described above. Guilt is a powerful emotion but you are not responsible for the wreckage and now you can crawl right up on the shore and build an amazing new life in the sun.

Your children are blessed by the fact that you made these choices. You have, perhaps, given them the greatest gift of all; the gift of a happy, healthy mom.


July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJust Jill

I think what you are doing is brave. A lot of people stay in a bad marriage and are miserable. My husband and I were friends with a couple several years ago when our daughters were young( they are now adults) and we would go out with said couple. She would complain to me about how much she couldn't stand her husband and was going to,leave him when her kids were out of the house. He would say the same things to my husband. Fast forward 15 years, they are atill together, miserable as ever and still not in a good place. I ran into their daughter who is now 27 and she asked me if they were unhappy back when we were friends. She sensed it, but was never sure.

I say get out, when you know it's never going to work. Your kids will be much happier in the end. You both did the right thing.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

I just came here to echo what Katy E said. I don't have a rainbows and puppy dogs kind of marriage. Some days I wonder how I can possibly be married to this man for the rest of my life. But it's for such benign things - the way he chews his nails and makes a clicking sound makes me want to scream. All-in-all, we do have a peaceful and respectful marriage. I *think* I read here once where you said that being married was harder than being a mother. That really stuck with me and I think about it all the time, because for me, being a mother is 1000 times harder than being married. I could never wrap my head around this idea that it's normal to have such vitriol in a marriage. You should feel content and comfortable in your home. My opinion means nothing, but I do think you are doing the right thing. Your children deserve to have a mother who is strong and healthy and is willing to work hard to be the best person she can be. You and Serge are setting a wonderful example for your children. As a child who lived through a bitter, horrible divorce, and 20 years (and counting) of bullshit from two adults who act like children, I commend the two of you. As long as your children are safe and happy and feel loved, do not ever feel guilty for trying to make your life better.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

First I want to say that personally, divorce is really terrible for everyone involved. It's not just the divorce, it's the years and years and years of aftermath. Second I want you to know that probably most people suffer some form of mental health issue. Everyone has a different form, style, nuance to handle it. The point though is that you do handle it. Do something, be responsible to yourself, to your family, especially to your children and take care of yourself. Exercise, get out, enjoy friends, see a therapist, change therapists when that one starts saying the wrong thing, move forward, don't allow your mental health issue to get worse.
And addressing this post, your life is so new right now, and the grief of leaving the old life might be out of the most acute phase, but the grief is not over. Maybe you will always have some grief, but it will become less intense. Focus on those sweet kids and take care of yourself!

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTahanaS

Oh I do appreciate the apple metaphor. Spewed and spewer of the rotten apple of my past marriages, Doing something is better than stagnating and the end of one bad thing can clear the way for a new BEGINNING. I was married for 8 months once and then for 6.5 years ( divorced now for 10 years). each time to what I considered to be critical intolerant men. I am defensive and intolerant of meanness and would EXPLODE when I perceived that I was being attacked. Oversensitive. Still that way. Hard egg to crack. So.... After all of these years the second H and I remain friends. Not what he wants but as close as I get. Sad for him but such is our lives. Maybe one day I will change my mind. Anyway... I think, from my own experience, the most important factor in any healthy relationship are boundaries both individual and as a couple... the edges which define you as an individual and that which requires respect in all dealings. Although marriage takes on this oneness, 'one" in union, a family, many see this as a blend like applesauce when,in my opinion, we are more like layers of tart and sweet apples like in a pie, never meant to become mushy but to compliment each other. As the reader we see the pie and it looks so good from the outside! I have leaned that the most importantly is to add your spices. It's your story. Now I will shut my pie hole. :O

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGranny Apple

the thing to two sides to every story is that those two sides have different thoughts behind them. sometimes there just is not a melding of minds, no agreeing. we all have things going on in our heads that some people just can't get.
i think having two very thoughtful soulful people together in a relationship is a very hard situation. i get it. i'm living it. it's harder than a marriage should be.
kudos to you, really. we have to do what makes sense in our lives. being trapped in a tough situation can cloud our judgements. getting some air is good for all involved.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commentera reader

I came across the articles/blogs by both you and Serge a few days ago and I've been consumed by them ever since. I love the way both of you write and I feel like I can identify with every word. I'm currently in a terrible marriage (together for 10 years, married for almost 6) and have two children 4 and 2. When we are doing "good" (and it does happen) we want a 3rd baby and when we are really "bad", I'm grateful I haven't gotten pregnant as it would make the event of leaving just that much harder. How you followed through on leaving while with an infant is amazing You are so strong and brave to take charge of your life and should not feel guilty for it. It's a decision I struggle with daily as I don't think my husband would be as kind in a divorce and I fear he would try to take me for all that I have, my children included. They are my world. Though we are strangers, reading your stories has given me hope. Hope that it might just turn out alright, and for the better, if I can "pull the trigger"...because, god knows, my husband never will.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I feel very sorry for everyone involved. Your honesty is a reminder that this whole scenario is really just about two people that had an amazing beginning, a rocky middle, with highs and lows, and now a depressing ending (but most endings our depressing right?).
I guess one of the reasons it's weird as a faithful reader to grasp this whole thing is that just last year you were planning a 10 year anniversary with a renewal of your vows and writing blogs about how you saved your marriage, wanting a 3rd baby to complete the family, so it just makes me wonder how that positive mojo just stopped.... but that's when I remind myself that we're not that there, we're not in your head or in your house/car/village and we don't really see the dynamic that was your and Serge's relationship. We, the readers, just get glimpses and then base our opinions on how WE would have handled things (or at least I do, which tells you that I really need to get my own life)
I haven't even been married 2 years yet, and just last week I was so upset (hormones) that I contemplated telling my husband that I give up on us. This happens a couple times a year and then we're good again. It's like I let everything about him that annoys me simmer until I just say, "I might move in with a friend" and then we talk each other out of it. Because I remember that I chose him and that my happiness has to come from other places besides just him.
Thanks for continuing to write because at first it seemed so abrupt and easy (he's mentioning that you already brought up dating?!?!), but of course nothing like this is easy. And it's not black and white, and it's alright to feel everything that you're feeling.
Lastly, I just told a friend that has 3 kids and is expecting her 4th (a "Surprise" baby just 17 months after her last) JUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF first because your kids will be fine if you are.

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

Being the one to end a long term relationship is hard whether you are married or not. It is especially hard when kids are involved. Bringing kids up in a house where there is no love is much worse for them than being apart in my opinion.Through your writing I can see the love that you and Serge both have for one another still and that is what is so hard I am sure for both of you. Putting it out there for everyone to see takes a SHIT TON of guts. Thinking of you all and hoping for the best whatever that may be!!

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

It truly doesn't matter what anyone else thinks but I can see how it is tricky as you two publish your writings about your lives. You know that you made the right decision and now you can start from there.

I have commented before on your blog, and others, where the author has stated they only fight when the kids aren't around... my reply was: THEY KNOW. My parents have been married 54 years and the tension in our home's air was such that I choked on a panic disorder since age 10. I am hoping the very best for all concerned--- you will be OK!

July 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

This is so well-written and really sums up the slow rot that sets in within a marriage. The only jarring thing here is that, despite what was clearly a troubled, rocky time (yes! Interspersed with many good and happy times, I do see) you decided you'd add a new person to the mix. Having a baby is an emotional and tiring thing, no matter how loved and wanted. Why would you do that? If all was happiness and blue sky ahead when you conceived him then how, eight weeks after his birth, was it so bad that you were forced to end things or suffocate (metaphorically)?

I just find it hard to fully understand, that specific bit.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

@Caroline - When you're in a bad marriage with someone you love who might not be right for you, when you have two kids. you'll tell yourself EVERYTHING and ANYTHING to convince yourself that it's right. "This is just how marriage is." Or "We're just going through a rough spot again, it will get better." You might make up your mind that it's totally, completely over and then somehow be convinced or convince yourself to stay. "For the kids" or a million other reasons. If you are or have been married you've experienced the great highs and the low lows of sharing your life with someone else. Serge and I always discussed having three kids. It was always the plan and we're awesome parents. When Charlie was conceived I was telling myself that this was my life, that the way Serge and I often interacted was just the way marriage was and that we'd eventually figure it out. While pregnant with Charlie a series of things, some small, some big, occurred and something inside me snapped and I thought, I can't do this anymore. It's the hardest decision I've ever made, especially considering I was pregnant with the man's child. But I think having my eyes open to the true nature of our relationship while pregnant helped me realize a few things I maybe wouldn't have realized if I wasn't bringing another life into the mix. I don't think it's hard to understand at all but maybe you have to have lived it to get it. I don't know.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who

I am married and I have 3 kids, so yes, I am quite well aware of the ups and downs of married life. Obviously the die has now been cast and you and Serge have tried to work things out well for everyone concerned. It's just that over the years - I have been following you for quite a while and love your writing - there have been some very notable tensions and problems of various sorts, issues with mental health and so on that would make me question quite seriously whether my wanting another child was a good justification for having one in and of itself. I might be tempted to seek some quite in-depth counselling before making such a massive decision for example, just because it's a major financial and emotional / time / partnership commitment, this parenting thing. You guys seem like extremely loving parents, no one could doubt that, but introducing another life into a shaky and emotionally fragile relationship is something I still find hard to get around.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

<3. In those shoes -- the befuddling, confounding, absolute "how did I get here?" moments that drop into your mind and heart, what, like several times a day? At least? Much love, Monica Butler Bielanko.


July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Bernhard

Well said, Caroline. And Bonnie, I seem to recall it was only Serge who was looking ahead to an anniversary renewal. Whatever. Monica, you decided to have another baby knowing how tenuous your personal connection to him was.

Have read you for a long time, and it's been advised before in many of these comment threads, antidepressants COULD be helpful. I'm sorry your experience with them felt less than positive, but to totally dismiss their use as a tool for recovering happiness is quite short sided, in my opinion. And that opinion is formed from my own experiences with depression and different medication interventions. In the post you linked to, it referenced feeling numb but having the feeling go away. Gotta be honest. As your reader, it doesn't seem to go away for long, and even now that you've separated from the apparent "source" of your numbness, you still continue to experience it.

You're in counseling, the two of you are working toward being more respectful of each other in your interactions. If removing yourself from him was the only way you could get to that place, great, I guess. Watching from my computer sideline, I just wish that place could have been reached without imploding the family, uprooting everyone, and unleashing the incredible tsunami of pain you have both written about.

Hoping you find the happiness that has been so elusive for you.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeah M

I just have to say: it's very weird to posit that only people who are in the midst of healthy thriving marriages have babies. obviously that's the ideal, but...Seems to me, ironically enough,
Charlie is the only one in this scenario who lost nothing. He gets to just know life having two parents who are working their hardest to have healthy happy homes whether they be apart or, who knows, at some point down the line again, together. Also, this idea that people are right or wrong for each other...I mean.. what if you guys were totally right for each other for the exact amount of time you were together--that you came together to experience great passion and young(ish) love and also to work through huge amounts of old pain and dysfunction. And that process is continuing as we all write and that there may be (read: probably are) next "right" people for you to go through whatever is supposed to happen now and in the future. You know? People say life is short and it is, but it's also really long.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterE.

I've come to believe that sometimes it takes a major change for you to be able to see your life for what it is. When we are going through the normal daily patterns and rhythms of living, it is easier to tell ourselves that everything is fine, that we are happy and that nothing needs to change. Then sometime happens and suddenly our perspective is altered. We see things differently and maybe the truth shocks us. I'd love to tell you that this is all just postpartum hormones and new baby stress but I've lived long enough to guess that's not the real issue.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPB

It's funny how the universe works. It was so fucking obvious this would happen and the more you try to say things about how great your marriage was, the more obvious it was. Simply, you both have up and from your writing I can say you are THE most send-centered person! Aww, poor Monica, suffered religious childhood, patents divorced, family members are in and out if jail. Lol, it reads like something from an older black woman wringing about her time in "the projects" you're such trash. And it's funny because I've commented here before and you wouldn't let my post be public, I wonder why. Maybe because ours THAT trashy!! Lol

July 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTolduso

Oh, my goodness. Some of the people writing on here are so self-satisfied and cruel! I am in a place where I have to decide what to do about my marriage and while I won't post the whole saga here, I will say I never, ever thought I'd find myself in this place - this place of potential separation - and it is hideous and heartbreaking. We have two kids, and if I do decide to separate - well, the idea makes me feel like I can't breathe. However, I'm not sure I can breathe staying in this marriage, either. Monica's kids will be fine - they have two parents who love and are committed to them. I know one thing - I don't have any admiration for the couples who have stayed together but are totally miserable because of it. At the end of my life I don't want my major accomplishment to be that I STAYED MARRIED, DESPITE IT ALL. How awful. In this day and age it is no way to live!

July 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Stay strong. You probably know this, but men have this insane desire to get with another woman the minute a relationship ends. This other woman is never one they stay with for very long, but it seems to help them regain some of their lost Mojo. This rebound urge always leaves us women wondering, "How was he able to move on so fast?" or "How was he able to be intimate with another woman (with bigger boobs? Prettier face? Tighter body?" Better library?) so soon after we split up?" It's only a defense mechanism. They feel abandoned and inevitably go looking for surrogate nurturers. The working out is also part of the same game. "See? You can't hurt me, I'm muscle-bound and made of steel." If this should happen, just don't let it startle you.

July 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJustmy2cents

i took a short break from reading you/serge… i know you have not asked for an analysis, and you (or especially serge) may tell me to eff off upon reading this…

but it seems to me that you are both experiencing the early stages of separation/divorce, where you are overwhelmed with feelings of guilt/remorse/love/etc., while trying to make sense of a new path. the challenge is to make sure you are each choosing the right path and, unfortunately, you may not be able to assess until much later – at best.

outside of the obvious possibilities of finding different partners or staying celibate forever, getting back together (now or at some point in the future) is something surely crossing both of your minds. as dangerous as that option sounds, there may be an even worse one: the belief, for one of you, that the other was the best option combined with the inability to get over that thought.

as hurt and vulnerable as you both may be, i know, from reading you both, that you are fully aware of the randomness of this life (even if “pre-written” in some divine logs). some souls may be meant to be together forever, and some just temporarily. it is a reality that we cannot deny, unless we are too proud to admit that we, as humans, are not perfect.

as always… good luck and best wishes… may all your (good) dreams come true!

July 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>