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June 3, 2018 9:57 pm  #1


Picking Up The Pieces

My story begins on a typically hot and humid August evening in a small New Jersey town just outside of New York City. It's 2am and the air conditioner in the window is growling and heaving as it attempts to fend off the sticky, saturated air outside. I'm tossing and turning in bed while drifting in and out of sleep and suddenly I hear the faint sound of whimpering. It must be a dream. My eyes snap open and the sound is now full-blown sobbing. I look across the bed and my wife is weeping hard.

As she desperately tries to suck-in the tears the words start tumbling out of her mouth. She mentions how she went out with her new friends just last week. They were drinking until late. I remembered that night well because it was 3am and she hadn't returned home, which for a 42-year-old mother of 3 who'd never been a big partier struck me as strange. Well it was late, she sobbed. And she was drinking, she cried. And there was a woman. An artist. Somebody she'd just met. They were outside in the parking lot, she said. They kissed. They made out. My stomach began to sink.

In my half-awake state I attempted to process what she was telling me. Her crying had stopped now. This was just a mistake, she told me. Something she couldn't explain. She had no feelings for this woman but it just....happened. Those words would haunt me for a long time.

I lay awake for the rest of the night with my heart racing. She fell asleep. When morning rolled around her face was puffy and swollen from all the crying. She said she couldn't face our kids - three beautiful girls aged 7, 5 and 3. I took them to the park for the day so she could rest. While I sat on the bench listening to their innocent, carefree laughing and giggling my mind was racing away like a spooked greyhound. The air was thick and ominous and I felt sick.

We agreed to try and put it behind us. It was a blip.....a poorly-thought through drunken impulse that shouldn't de-rail an otherwise happy and healthy 7 year marriage. We're all human, I thought. This is something that we can move beyond.

That was Sunday. Monday, rolled into Tuesday, rolled into Wednesday. Life had returned to normal. But there's nothing like routine to lull somebody into a false sense of security.

On Thursday she had planned to go out with friends again. In the spirit of being understanding and not wanting to dwell on her confessed indiscretion, I didn't object. It was 2am when I was woken by the sound of the front door closing. I remember the footsteps on the stairs. Slow, deliberate. The creak of the wood on the landing. The sound of the bedroom door opening. Not our bedroom. The spare bedroom. I jolted-up, now wide awake.

Slowly I walked into the spare bedroom to find out what was happening. She was crying again. Sobbing. She'd seen the same woman. This time it seemed more serious. She had feelings for her. Genuine feelings. She didn't think our marriage could work. 

It's hard to explain what I was feeling on Friday morning as I hauled myself out of bed, kissed my three daughters and walked to the train station. Outside the world was so pristine. Clear blue skies, cheerful neighbors, co-workers full of friendly conversation. But inside I could feel a chain reaction of mini-eruptions taking place in my brain. I was watching my life - everything I had worked for and hoped for - begin to disintegrate in slow motion. And I was helpless to do anything about it. 

Or was I? We'd agreed to talk it out that night. This was my shot. This was when I could turn thing around. Convince her to join me at therapy. Counseling. Do whatever it takes to put the work in to re-enforce and salvage what we'd had.

But it was too late. We talked at length on Friday night and she made it clear where she stood. She was gay. She was in love with a woman she had known for less than three months. She didn't want to go to counseling. She didn't want to do anything. All she wanted was to be out. And she didn't waste any time acting out her wishes.

What happened next - I can safely say - was one of the most devastating times of my life. Processing the news was - in and of itself - something I was totally unprepared and ill equipped to deal with. What followed seemed like a deliberate attempt to finish me off.

After she told me she all but vanished, leaving me as the sole caretaker of our three children. It was as if I was dealing with somebody who was hooked on heroin. Her behavior was irresponsible to the point of being reckless. She spent all her waking (and sleeping) time with her new lover, affording the occasional check-in at the house to see the children. She abandoned our 7 year-old daughter's birthday party before it even started (a sleepover with two of her friends) to spend time with her new partner. She bailed-out halfway through a family vacation that we had pre-planned for over 9 months, leaving me with our three girls for the final 4 days (to add insult to injury her new partner drove up and picked her up from the house in which we were staying).

The whole thing seemed like some kind of twisted TV prank show. I kept waiting for the cameras to reveal themselves and announce this was one big set-up.

It wasn't.

She quickly moved out of the house and into an apartment. She'd never worked - by choice - for our entire marriage. She recently opened a shop which we'd plowed a considerable amount of money into, but it was nowhere close to turning a profit. I was paying for everything.

Things continued to escalate. I would return home from work and find her in our house with her new partner. It felt like she was deliberately trying to rub my nose in this great big steaming mess she'd created. By this point it was becoming extremely difficult for me to hold everything together.

We told the kids we were splitting up. She didn't have the courage to actually say the words, so I did it. In fact looking back that was the moment I lost any respect for her. She willingly made the decision to blow our family apart but didn't have the nerve to look our children in the eye and tell them. It was pathetic, but telling. 

Everything was spinning for me. I felt angry - a rage that I never knew could exist inside of me. I didn't know who or what I could trust anymore. I doubted my instincts. I doubted most things. I felt like I'd been conned - like I'd been a convenient foil for her to work out her own issues and then get discarded like a piece of trash. For a short while and at my lowest point I felt like a victim.....but then I vowed never, ever, ever to feel like that again. I'm not a victim and I will never be one.

We split custody of the girls - one week on and one week off - which worked ok for a while. I pay for a nanny and that has been a lifesaver, especially since I work full-time. Our communication remained civil in front of the children. As much as I hate her, I love my children more. That's a very important point that I keep reminding myself over and over again.

Eventually we agreed that she would move back into our marital home and I would move out to an apartment. We changed our schedule so that she has the children in the week, and I get them at weekends. This arrangement keeps the kids in the same school system and also works best for our schedules. Divorce has been discussed, but nothing initiated yet. She has en effective gun to my head because she can claim huge alimony if she wants to.

That humid August day was back in 2017 and I'm writing this story in June 2018. Almost a year has passed, but the emotions are still intense.

This story is already way too long, but I do want to share a few closing thoughts.

Firstly, it does get better. Winston Churchill once said "If you're going through hell.....keep on going". No truer statement has ever been uttered. In times of crisis you simply need to keep on moving. It's when you stop that things really fall apart. And with every step, you begin to improve.

Secondly, no matter what you think you need to remind yourself that "you can handle it". We always underestimate our ability to deal with disaster. Your shoulders are broader than you think. I'm not a religious person, but I do adhere to the notion that we all need to pick up our cross and carry it up the hill. It's the only way to make things better.

Thirdly, I've read a LOT of articles saying you need to forgive your ex in order to move on. That being angry is like drinking poison and expecting your opponent to die. This is something I do NOT agree with. I do not forgive my ex for what she has done to my family and I don't care that she has "found her true self" by coming out as gay. She found herself by destroying other people's lives and I think there's nothing admirable about that in the slightest.  I have a burning anger that I actually find quite constructive. It motivates me to keep going. I'm going to the gym and am fitter now than at any point in my life. I'm exploring new interests that I let fall by the wayside while we were married. And I'm approaching life with a new, bolder and more fearless approach. I'm doing that because the rage that I still feel around what she did is pushing me to get better, stronger and more resilient. Forgiving her for what she did feels lazy. I don't forgive her......but I've forgiven myself for choosing not to forgive her. That in and of itself has been immensely liberating.

Finally, I'll close with this. I mentioned above that at my lowest point I felt like a victim. Cast aside by a wife I had supported 100% for 7 years.....thrown into the life of a single dad with three young girls.....faced with the possibility of financial ruin through no fault of my own......all while she falls into the arms of a new partner and a supportive community who thinks she was so "brave"' and "inspiring" for coming out and finding her true self.

Well guess what? I'm not a victim, and if you're reading this - neither are you. As Buddhists like to remind us, life is suffering and what defines us as people is how we respond to challenging times. You need to believe in yourself and keep pushing forward. Take care of your responsibilities, but most importantly take care of yourself. That's been the biggest revelation for me. I spent almost 10 years doing everything for somebody else because I thought it was the right thing to do. Now I have the chance to focus on me which - in turn - will make me a better, happier and healthier father to my three kids. You can get through this. I know, because I did.

Last edited by lankylozenge (June 3, 2018 10:05 pm)

 

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