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Being okay with the friendship meant that there would be a new level of honesty in our relationship. That he would be open about his communications. However, it did not come without some rules. Rules that were meant to preserve what was left, which was very little, of my self worth. To this day, I regret how much I let his lack of love and respect for me dictate how I felt about myself.
The truth is, he wasn’t any more honest or open about his communications with her. He still deleted text messages, wrote messages when he was in the bathroom, random trips to the backyard, etc. He kept her number in his phone without a contact name assigned. As if I hadn’t memorized the number of this plague on my marriage.
During that time I witnessed many items that croseds the line – things that really should not have needed to be outlined. The texts complaining about me on Mother’s Day (a day that I thought had gone really well), the texts that spanned a 2-hour car ride, etc.
The event that really stuck out for me was my husband asking to take a walk in the woods after I put the girls to bed. I was on day 3 of being out of work for bronchitis and stomach bug. He insisted that I was always saying he should take time for himself and he used to walk in the dark before we dated, so it wasn’t as “weird” as I was making it out to be. He said he might go for a drink after, “by himself”.
Knowing that his friend was an avid drinker, I asked that he respect me and leave any space she might be if he happened upon her. He insisted that OF COURSE he would do that and started a fight in the process and left our house in anger. I felt that this was his way to have a reason to meet her for drinks (you know, to talk about his awful wife) and I told him this. I could not understand the reason he would not just agree that the right thing to do would be NOT to meet with this woman alone.
A couple of hours into his “walk” I started feeling really terrible and knew that I would need help at home since the girls still did not sleep through the night. He didn’t pick-up the phone but instead texted me back. I called him again and he picked-up after some rings. I asked him where he was and he stated he had driven to Deerfield, “at the gas station parking lot by the red roof”. He said he had a drink and wasn’t ready to come home so he drove there. When I insisted he come home to relieve me, he felt it was necessary to tell me that had it not been for my being sick, he would be staying out.
He then told me he couldn’t speak on the phone anymore because he was going to get into the car and drive. He didn’t feel it was responsible to drive while having had a drink AND adding the phone into the equation (he has bluetooth…)
He called me approximately 10 minutes later because he felt that he was actually fine to speak to me and drive. He went over a bump and said, “did you hear that? It’s the highway construction.”
He came home and without being prompted showed me his phone free of messages from his friend. Because that ought to make me feel more comfortable, right? He then put his cellphone in his top dresser drawer. Something he never did.
It wasn’t until 24 hours later, and one angry insistence that I take off my “detective’s hat” because I wasn’t going to “find anything”, that I was able to confirm my suspicions.
On April 8th, I went to intake and had to admit to a complete stranger that I was hurting because my husband no longer wanted me. That I felt ridiculed by his actions. That I would be nothing without my babies. That all of this coupled with confusion – why did he so staunchly want our marriage prior to my being away for 3 days and so obviously wanted nothing to do with me now?
On April 8th I continued to give up another piece of myself when I decided to continue to try to repair our marriage.
“I have my first appointment (with a therapist) next Tuesday. I talked to him*, I came clean on the snooping I’ve been doing, we talked about how I’ve been feeling, what made move towards separation (because we never touched on that), how I feel about her* AGAIN and how I view it. We are going to re-evaluate for now and see how things go. It may not work. But I don’t want to be without the girls and I will do whatever it takes to not lose that.” – Archived messages to a close friend.
Exactly 11 days later, with my husband’s approval, I emailed her.
An email address I had memorized as we had been friends for years. Our friendship ended after the office flirtations started becoming text messages after I had gone to bed with our toddler and nursing newborn. After the flirtation became, “My boss said I could leave early but I don’t have to pick-up my kids from daycare for a few hours. Want to meet for drinks?” It ended the day my calls were going straight to VM. The day that I texted her, “What time do you get out of work?” and minutes later, my husband was suddenly available for phone calls. It ended the moment he came home smelling of beer but denying he had met her for drinks as she suggested.
Did I feel stupid for trying to repair this despite knowing what happened years before? Did I feel stupid for sending her an email of essential forgiveness and acceptance? Did I feel stupid in trying to be okay with their “friendship” in order to keep our marriage? Yes. One hundred times yes.
I cried and begged for my marriage . I cataloged a list of things I had done wrong during our years together and promised to rectify those things. It occurred to me throughout this process, that I had been constantly working on things another person didn’t like about me for quite some time. This wasn’t new but this time it felt very much like life and death.
Despite agreeing to try, my husband would come home and barely say two words to me, he wouldn’t touch me and didn’t give me the time of day. This made me shaky; I was always nervous and extremely apologetic for things I wasn’t even sure I was doing wrong. But everything felt wrong and everything was seemingly my fault so shouldn’t I have apologized?
We were probably a week into this sham of “trying” when I saw messages go back and forth between my husband and a woman who used to be his colleague. She now works as a bookkeeping consultant for his company and for a local precinct. A woman whom I had asked to be removed from our lives consistently for the 3 years leading up to this.
Like the many times before it, I saw a married woman who was subtly crossing the line and a man who was accepting it. This time, I saw my husband tell me he was too busy to talk but continued a very lengthy conversation with the other woman. I had to accept that I didn’t feel good about how I obtained the information and I didn’t feel good with the information in front of me.
And thus began my first real emotional breakdown. I will forever be thankful to my best friend. Who brought me to get emergency counseling which in turn led me to getting weekly counseling.
It was just the beginning of an unreal three months.
“What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?
Jealous and crazy?
Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately
I’d rather be crazy” – Beyonce
I had told my husband that I didn’t miss him after returning from a conference out of state. I wondered if we should separate to work on our problems. A couple of weeks later, I was on our way to Texas with our oldest daughter and he stopped me while I was packing – he told me he wanted to work on our marriage and I agreed. I agreed with the understanding that things had to change. They had to.
The night we returned, I woke up to see my husband sitting in the corner of the room. He was upset but he wouldn’t say why. I insisted he say something and he did. He asked for a divorce. In my sleepy stupor I believed he was still talking about the plan I had suggested. It took me until the next day to realize he intended divorce with no chance at reconciliation.
I couldn’t understand what the change was because overnight it all changed. He was cold, distant and unkind. I had become aware, over the years, that I did not not know the man I married but this certainly was not the man I married.
It hurt me deeply to have him ripped away overnight. But more so was the eventual loss of 24/7 access to my kids. I did not want that to change. They were and still are, my whole world. The idea that someone got to decide that this was not my future was suffocating. The idea that a person would choose to leave me nearly destroyed me.
I called his mother (the first of many calls last spring) and asked if she could take the girls. I didn’t want them to see me crying. Because above all I didn’t want them to see us this way – rapidly imploding. That’s when she asked me the question.
In the seconds after she asked, all I could think about was how much that must have hurt him. It was the beginning of an all consuming sadness for the pain I caused another and of the blame I would shoulder for months. It was the start of a version of myself that I never want to be again – the shrinking violet.
Did you tell him you didn’t miss him?
I.. Yes, I did. But I meant.. I meant I didn’t miss our baggage. Our problems.
I’m not going to go back all the way to the beginning. To when we first re-entered each others lives. To where we decided we were something. To when we struggled to be that something. Because, we struggled every step of the way.
I’ll say this – we had moments where one tried and the other didn’t. Moments where neither of us were trying. We went to therapy and couldn’t agree whether or not we should stick that out or quit. So we quit. Because the will of one was always stronger than the will of the other.
I’ll also say that I loved him but it was hard. It was hard for the both of us – the loving.
I wasn’t perfect but I understand that I was not alone in the destruction of an establishment that so many hold sacred. I wasn’t alone in it but I felt so alone.
The first two lines you read today are pivotal to our whole ending – the breakdown. I can’t and I won’t go back now but I will leave you until later –
Honesty and respect are two things that should not be sacrificed in any relationship (friendship, marriage, etc.)
If you find yourself consistently in a situation where those two items are lacking – don’t feel bad for walking away.
Love yourself enough to recognize when you’re being undervalued, disrespected and lied to. And don’t sit on your hands while it happens.