So, I’d won one small victory in the battle to save our marriage, although at this stage it’s really a battle to keep anything permanent from happening until I can figure out what’s what with my husband and THAT WOMAN. I could say her name but that would be so rude, wouldn’t it? Even though a bitch has been posting pictures of my husband for months, probably getting highly annoyed every time I click the “Like” button as I do on any picture I come across of him, wondering why I can’t SEE that she’s fucking my husband, why I don’t throw him out of the house so she can get on with her life, why am I cockblocking her?!? I mean, that kind of deserves having your name in my bestseller about marriage and faithlessness and malignant narcissists in the age of social media madness, right? But I digress…
It’s later in the morning, the third day post-discovery. I’m at my computer trying to work, which is impossible because I can’t stop crying. Tears stream down my face, I can’t seem to stop or control them. The wound is so big and deep and full to the top with ineffable sadness that I feel like I may never stop. The torrent of unrelenting tears is the physical manifestation of my shattered heart. I have no words but my body is in full-on, drowning-in-my-tears mode.
It’s not primarily the knowledge that my husband is intimately involved with someone else that’s causing this profound, aching sorrow – she is hardly relevant to me in the aftermath of discovery, other than being the impetus behind this crisis that’s threatening to blow up our lives, our children’s lives, our marriage that we’d agreed to work on together just two months before. I don’t have the time or emotional energy to think about her right now; this is between me and my husband.
No, the cause of my unshakable grief is an excruciating fear that my husband simply doesn’t love me anymore, that it’s too late and that I lost his love before he ever started down the path of lies and betrayal and publicly trashing our marriage. In front of our friends and acquaintances, being seen with her for months at his gigs all OVER this town. It’s a big city we live in but a small, close-knit community we belong to, and a lot of them knew that my husband was living single when I wasn’t around. If he could do all of that, how could he still love me? That’s not the man I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life with…that man loves me as much as I love him and through our worst times, I have never considered getting involved with another man. I’ve thought about divorce, sometimes for months, but not having an affair. I can’t imagine being able to look at him every day and lie, I can’t imagine giving my attention or my body to another man. I thought we were on the same page about that. He’s my husband. I’m his wife. There was no ambiguity about the rules of our relationship. No dating allowed!
Now I find out he’s having a relationship with someone else, deceiving me daily, not caring that he’s lying to me. Risking everything for someone I really know nothing about, but what really matters is that he felt enough about her to go there at all, to even start a relationship with anyone. Truthfully, I never would have thought my husband was capable of such protracted deceit. The fact that he is has me reeling, shaken, totally thrown off-kilter. The foundation of our lives has a huge crack and it seems so sudden, but I know it’s not. I will never blame myself for his choice to cheat, but I know intimately and immediately the reasons he was vulnerable to her attention. Not an excuse, but there are reasons for everything. Self-awareness is both a blessing and a curse, because the things I’ve learned about myself in therapy over the past year are only adding to my distress over where we find ourselves now. There’s a voice, a feeling inside of me saying “You waited too late, he doesn’t love you anymore, it’s too late, too late…”. I’m so undone that this could be our reality.
As I sit at my desk in the common area of our home, trying unsuccessfully to stem the steady flow of tears, to distract myself with work, my husband gingerly navigates our shared space. He is pointedly avoiding me and my abject and obvious misery. I’m acutely aware of his seeming disregard for the pit of emotional hell he’s flung me into, and a spark of rage flares in me. How can he be so unmoved by my despair, my tears? I can’t think of a time in our marriage when I’ve been so overwrought. I am not a person who cries, I’m a person who fights. For so many years, my whole life really, dealing with difficult emotions and being honest in expressing how I feel has been anathema to me. I am formidable in my sarcastic rages. The cutting comment designed to hit you with some measure of truth but seething with scorn is a specialty of mine. I was fucking mean. Given that, my husband may have been just as undone as I was, but in a different way, by my naked misery, the unguarded and unchecked tears that really hadn’t stopped anytime he was near me for the two days since I’d found out he may not love me anymore. I mean, he’d yelled “Why do you care!” at me two nights before, and it wasn’t a question. It was a furious declaration. “You don’t care what I do, you don’t even NOTICE me most of the time, you don’t want me, so what is this show of grief and rage that I’m witnessing now?” were all implicit to me in that accusation. He thought I only cared because someone else was taking what I thought was mine. I may have had that coming, but it wasn’t true. It so very much wasn’t true, but this shattered wife crying copious quantities of tears over him was a completely foreign entity. I didn’t know this at the time, I just knew that I desperately wanted him to care how much I was suffering and it appeared that he didn’t. So…me weeping, him avoiding me…this was our last few days. I needed a respite from all of this anguish but I felt so entirely alone and isolated. I couldn’t find it in myself to reach out to anyone and say, I’m going through this horrible thing in my marriage and I need to talk.
Still at my desk, I glance at my email and see that I have a message from my colleague and good friend, David*. I expect it to be about work because most of our emails are, but instead it’s a personal note. Hi, haven’t seen you in a while, I’m in town this week, how are you doing?
We all know that when people ask, “How are you?” that they don’t expect a detailed list of your life’s woes or even your joys, it’s generally a perfunctory question. An empty courtesy, polite but don’t get deep with your response. Most people are secretly horrified if you tell them, like, HOW YOU ARE FOR REAL. But this was my friend asking, and it felt like a lifeline being thrown out to me – I just had to catch it. So I responded “I’m not doing well at all and I really need to talk”. I hit “send” and felt immediately anxious. What if he said oh, I’m so sorry, maybe we can get together soon? Everything feels like life or death during a crisis. Sweet friend, he emailed me back immediately and said, let’s go out to dinner tonight, I’ll meet you at that nice shopping and dining place near your house, what time is good for you? Just like that, I had dinner plans and a willing friend to pour my heart out to. More importantly, I had a reason to get out of the house, which was amazingly effective in drying my tears for at least a few hours.
I get up from my desk and start thinking ahead to the night. We actually had tickets to a George Clinton concert that night, we’d bought them months before and had planned to take our 10-year-old son. I’m obviously not going to any damn concert with that bitch’s boyfriend even if he IS my husband, but I need to tell him my plans so that he knows that wherever HE’S planning on going tonight, he’ll be taking our child with him. See what I did there? I know that he will not take our child anywhere near his side chick. I walk past him on my way to our room to start getting ready, he’s in the living room doing something with his horns, and as I pass him I say, “I’m going out tonight”.
I guess nothing will snap your wandering husband out of his indifference like going from two straight days of weeping, to “I’m going out tonight” in the space of a few minutes.
Him: Wait, where are you going?
Him: With who?
Me: That’s none of your business.
Him (incredulous, though I don’t know why): Really?
Me: Really. I don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t what I’m doing, that’s how it is now. That’s how you want it so that’s what we’re doing.
I’d turned back to him when he asked where I was going, and we were looking into each other’s eyes as we had this conversation. He didn’t hold eye contact for long, because how could he? He knew what I was saying was true and he had no reasonable defense. I was so angry at him for being such a hypocrite, thinking why do you give a damn where I’m going or with whom? I’m your wife but you’re someone else’s lover so what makes you think you have any right to question me about where I’m going or what I’m doing? For all I know you’re going to serve me with divorce papers any minute now, so you don’t get any reassurances about me or what I’m doing. See how it feels to have no idea where I am, to wonder if I’d sleep with someone just to make your heart feel ripped to shreds like mine does, although I don’t really believe that’s possible. I don’t want revenge, anyway…I want him to love me again. I want this all to end, but I’m not a fucking doormat and I don’t want him if he doesn’t want me. I don’t want him if he doesn’t love me, I don’t want him if he’s going to miss her when he ends it, I don’t want any of that. If he won’t end it then I can’t be married to him anymore, and none of that is within my control. Getting away from him for a few hours, though? Well within my control and I don’t owe him any goddamn who-what-where-when-why explanations.
Right now, I just want to get out of this house of pain, and since our conversation seems to be over I continue to our room to get ready. I’m in our bathroom, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, seeing if anything can be done about my tear-swollen eyes. Yeah, sunglasses…no way I’m going to erase the effects of so much crying with concealer right now. I feel a bit of equilibrium return as I go through the motions of getting dressed, putting on my jewelry…I look at my wedding ring sitting there in our jewelry box, my ring which is hardly ever off my finger. Seeing it now almost makes me flinch. I turn away from it, back to the mirror.
He had come into the bathroom while I was getting ready, and it was infuriating to me. I didn’t want him in there watching me, I didn’t want him near me, I wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want him to see me dressing, I didn’t WANT him there, what the fuck? Why was he invading my privacy now, after he’d so resolutely avoided me for the last two days? He pretended that he was also getting ready to go out but he could easily have waited until I was done and gone. It was unsettling to have him so close. What the hell did he want from me?
It didn’t take long for him to show his hand. As I turned away from our jewelry box and my wedding ring, he immediately asked “You’re not going to wear your wedding ring?”.
Oh my GOD. What did he just ask me?!? Is he serious right now? I fixed my eyes on him in an incredulous glare. I wanted to laugh in his face and slap him at the same time. I felt a hot surge of competing emotions. Anger that he was accosting me with this bullshit just because I was going out and he didn’t know where; amusement that he would think I didn’t know now that he was unsettled by my sudden plans; a tiny flicker of hope that maybe he did love me and was too wrapped up in the idiocy of the affair to know it. All of this added up to a rush of fury and it was ON.
Me: Are you serious?
Him: I just want to know if that’s what we’re doing now, not wearing our wedding rings.
Me: Really? What difference does it make, you’ve been wearing your ring and it obviously doesn’t mean ANYTHING so what the hell are you even talking about?
Him: It doesn’t matter to me, I just want to know what we’re doing.
Me, staring him down as I slide the ring onto my finger: Happy now?
Him: You don’t have to wear it, I was just wondering…
Me: You know what, I’m not having this conversation with you right now. I’m going out.
I lose my patience as I recognize that he just wants to start an argument with me because I’m going out. How stupid all of this is if he still cares so much what I do and whether I wear my wedding ring while doing it! How very transparent he is, trying to act so nonchalant when really, he wants me to put that ring on my finger. He wants to know where I’m going and who I’m going to be there with. I’m not going to tell him, and I’m not going to let him derail my plans. Go cry to your girlfriend about how your wife is making you jealous…let me know how that goes. That pretty much sums up how I feel about his insecurities right now.
I throw him a scathing glance and walk out the door. At least I’m not the only one wondering what the hell is going on now.