She was living with another man when we started having lunches. She started dating me before telling me or him of the other person. Along the way, that summer, she shut down our relationship so she could go “finish up” with him. She called me about six weeks later.
That opening volley should have been a red flag. But I was smitten. She was/is very pretty. I was very lonely. We hooked up soon after she moved out and she moved in with me in a matter of weeks. She made a very sensible move. She let go of the man who was unlikely to ever give her a child, something she had desperately begun to think about, and she found a man of means who was also ready for kids. Bingo.
There were a couple of wrinkles in her fantasy, however. 1. I did not make enough money to support a stay-at-home mom in the neighborhood we were committed to raising our children. 2. I suffered from occasional bouts of depression. She did too, but that’s another story all together.
So there we were, heading towards kids with some drastic changes to make. I was playing in a band, working for myself, and living in a condo that was paid for but not big enough to raise a family. What she needed was for me to get a real job, quit the band, and buy a house that could support our desired 2 kids in the neighborhood with the good schools. I caught the vision to. And so that’s what we did. I quit the band, got a full-time job, and we moved from my condo to a house in the “good schools” neighborhood. Of course we were 5 – 6 years ahead of needing those good schools, but hey, we were kids, we were in love, we were becoming parents.
So time goes along for a bit, we have two kids, a boy and then a girl, and we start having the frictions that married-with-children couples do. And a lot of that trouble had to do with money. I didn’t really think of it at the time, because we had decided to have her stay home with the kids as much as possible, while I continued the “big job” pursuit. While things went okay, the job market after 9-11 was awful. Our boat was taking on water. We spent most of the cash from the sale of the condo, and we were down to bare bones on our mortgage and house repairs.
It was about this time, and for some of those reasons, that I started a major slide into overwhelm, otherwise known as major depression. Not only was I responsible for an entire little family now, and a house payment, I also had lost my self-employment opportunity when the real estate market shut down after 9-11. Everybody had it hard, I get that, but somehow we didn’t join together as a team. Somehow we grew apart and the plan was for me to work, and work harder at finding work, and for her to … Well, we weren’t really sure what she was going to do. She didn’t know what she “wanted” to do, so I was committed to letting her fish around and figure it out. Meanwhile, our finances are swirling down the drain. But I never was one for being a stickler around money.
About the time things got really hard, she began to take lunches with a co-worker from a new group she was consulting with. Of course, I had no idea she was doing lunch with anyone. I stumbled upon a series of emails between them one afternoon while I was de-spamming our communal computer. BOOM. I was punched in the dick. She was revealing her deepest secrets, her concerns for my depression, her loneliness, and even her own inner struggles about being married to someone with depression.
I remember she came home with the kids and tried to talk to me about the evening plans. I was almost incoherent. It might have been easy to chalk that up to my struggles with depression, but this was different. Somewhere along the way she had taken out our personal love story and begun sharing it with another man. She was introducing him to the free coffee at our neighborhood library. She was doing lunches with a younger man just when her actual man needed her the most.
She came clean at this point. Not at doing anything wrong, but in acknowledging how this behavior might hurt me. She agreed to never do it again, and to end the “relationship” with this other man. But the damage had been done. She’d broken our sacred trust. And I am not sure if I ever felt 100% secure in my relationship after that. When sex went on hiatus, I remember wondering if she were seeing another man on the side, this time with physical comforts as well as mental comforts. I don’t think that was ever the case, but I’m not 100% sure.
Once the infidelity happens, even if it’s only emotional, the trust suffers. The odd thing, however, is how she made our “trust” an issue that I was mostly responsible for damaging. The “trust” issues seemed to all be about me. Not us? Our therapy sessions were less than productive as we searched for answers to MY depression and MY trust issues. She was the “okay” one.
Today, it’s easier to see how the entire relationship had been based on half-truths and omissions. I don’t have any regrets, at this point, because I look at our kids and I know we did the best we could. The best we could, however was less than 100% from her. At the moment when your partner is suffering and in need of your comfort, that is not the time to begin a “friendship” with a new person from work. A woman, maybe, but a handsome man?
I have learned a lot about trust and honesty in my life. My first and second marriages have taught me many things. I know that I will not tolerate infidelity, emotional or physical, and that TRUST is an issue that is shared. We had a trust issue in our marriage. While she was actually out doing something untrustworthy, I was the one being attacked. Perhaps the attack was the only defense she could come up with, for the way she was feeling inside.
She knew the moment I spoke of it, that afternoon when I found the email, that she had betrayed me. She never fully apologized for it. She said she wouldn’t do it again. That was as good as it ever got between us. I think that fracture is what led me towards divorce once it was offered. While I fought against the divorce, when I saw what I was up against, I gave in and complied. I guess I did the same thing at the beginning of our relationship when I first heard about the other man she was living with.
Things would be very different in my life had I walked away. I did not.
The Off Parent
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image: bathroomismine, creative commons usage
We were married over ten years. We spawned two great kids. But I’d have to say there were very few years that weren’t somewhat tumultuous. It seemed like I was always begin accused of some transgression: not doing enough of the chores, asking for sex too often, not being honest, not being responsible enough. And while these weren’t leveraged at me as an excuse for not wanting to make love, it was more often than not one of these complaints that shut her libido completely off. Zero.
What she failed to mention, well into our “lunches” that got progressively more flirty, is that she was living with a man.
But there has been a lot of time since then, and you think I’d let go of it, but some parts of the divorce and thus marriage still have big question marks for me. Could I have done more? Was I at fault? Was I a child? In trying to examine these things about my role in the relationship, I’ve come to discover there were a lot of things in her story that didn’t add up. There were some key pieces of information that were being left out at various points along the way, that have me wondering. Was it her fault? Was she dishonest from the beginning? When she told me, in couples therapy, that she’d already seen a lawyer, was it couple’s therapy or divorce counseling we’d been doing?
The first big X was when we were just getting re-acquainted with each other. We’d known each other in high school and had started “doing lunch” on a semi-weekly basis. What she failed to mention, well into our “lunches” that got progressively more flirty, is that she was living with a man. Not just dating him, but living in his house.
The second big X came during one of our hardest moments. As 9-11 had torn everyone’s financial stability to the ground and I was struggling with how I wanted to reenter the work place, she began a series of lunches with a young man she worked with. It wasn’t that she was having lunch with him, it’s that she wasn’t telling me about him. And the day I stumbled onto an email about “his depression” and “my loneliness” I knew I was discovering what emotional infidelity felt like. We weathered this one, she admitted her mistake and vowed to never do it again. But a deep fundamental trust had been broken.
So three strikes of dishonesty and deceit. And I was the one always being accused of being untrustworthy.
The final X came when she confessed to consulting with an attorney while we were in couple’s therapy. She didn’t let on that things were that bad IN therapy, and only admitted her “discovery phase” because I asked her. She was not being honest. She was not opening up in couple’s therapy. She was planning her options. She wanted to know what she was going to get if we divorced. It’s a fear she had expressed to me earlier, in some moment of wine-induced honesty. “If you leave me, I’ll have nothing.” It was a false statement, but it was an indication of just how deep her fear went.
So three strikes of dishonesty and deceit. And I was the one always being accused of being untrustworthy. Sometimes it is projection that shows up. If she was feeling unfaithful, untrustworthy, perhaps projecting those fears on to me help her deal with her own guilt.
In the dataset I see, she was withholding and misrepresenting herself all along. This is a hard nut to swallow at this point. But it’s easier than trying to figure out what I did wrong. Because I was the partner who was still ALL-IN at the end. She’d made a decision to leave, made plans to cover her needs, and then with the backing of the State of Texas, she ripped my world in two.
I was given a 1/3 – 2/3 parenting schedule. (Called the Standard Possession Order). I was given the non-custodial parent role, that comes with a large child support payment. And I was asked to leave the house I funded. Because it was “in the best interest of the kids.”
What was not in the best interest of anyone was the bad deal I got. Rather than cooperating during tough times, she decided to file on me after three months of being late. I was telling her she would get paid. I was showing her my bank statements and my pursuit of new business. But she was impatient and entitled. So she let the dogs loose on her ex-husband. And while this big X doesn’t show up on the chart, it’s the biggest one. I can never trust her again. Perhaps my biggest mistake was trusting her after she told me she was living with a guy.
The Off Parent
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I didn’t know it when we started going to lunches together, but the woman who would eventually become my wife and the mother of my children was living with another man. I’m certain that he didn’t know she was seeing me across town at some organic restaurant and sharing smiles and flirts and “catching up.” And years later, as things were getting tough in my marriage, I didn’t know that she was having lunches with a younger man across town. She didn’t tell either of us about her lunches with other men.
I caught on when I read an email that looked like spam to be deleted from the family computer. It wasn’t spam. It was an explicitly intimate letter about their lunch, their trip to our local library, and a few of the deep topics they discussed, including my depression and her unhappiness.
The real crux of her secrecy was how it came out in other ways, and ultimately how the issue of trust was paraded out over and over again as “my” issue.
I guess that’s how it starts. Emotional infidelity might eventually lead to a sexual affair, and most likely to divorce. But we were struggling, that’s for sure, but in my mind we were struggling together, to get through tough emotional and financial times. The break in our team effort, the inclusion of this stranger, a man I’d never met, felt almost unbearable. I WAS struggling with depression. And I was in one of the deepest periods when I came across this letter. I entered a period of deep detachment.
I confronted her. We went to therapy. We worked through it. Sort of. She apologized. She said she understood how this could be hurtful to me. She never owned the infidelity aspect of what she’d done, but she said she’d never do it again.
Years later as our sex life wained, and I was asking and trying to unlock the combination to her sexual desire, the ideas of this “other man” haunted me. What was preventing her, really, in this obviously unhappy state, from seeking satisfaction outside the marriage? How was I supposed to understand the total lack of intimacy with me, and not imagine that she was being open and sharing with someone. Maybe her therapist. Maybe another man.
And throughout the course of our marriage there were casual dates with her ex-husband that she didn’t tell me about. So in some corner of her mind her “lunches” were none of my business. I didn’t get it.
The real crux of her secrecy was how it came out in other ways, and ultimately how the issue of trust was paraded out over and over again as “my” issue. When I got a speeding ticket and didn’t tell her, I was being deceitful. All these little things kept adding up and dominating our couple’s counseling. My problems. My depression. And until the tail end of our marriage, as I was gainfully employed and beginning to feel some of my natural self-confidence back, I just went along with the story that I had a lot of issues to work through. But wait…
I did begin to speak up that Christmas and January/February before she asked for the divorce in March. I had started asking about closeness. I had started challenging her isolation and anger issues as she pointed them at me. I began to hear her “fuck you” outbursts when they came at random times. And at this time I was unwilling to bow down to the plea that I was the problem. It wasn’t me, baby, it was WE. We had a problem and it was time to either put up (“Let me out of the glass box,” I would say.) or break up. Even as I would like to put the “asking for divorce” on her shoulders, I was pressing the issue of closeness.
In the final moment of exposure and truth, I expressed my love and desire and my hope that we could rebuild from ground zero.
And in my expressions of passion mixed with righteous anger, I was saying, “Either things change, or I’m outta here.” My flaw was, I was fighting to say in the marriage, I was fighting from a belief that the foundation of our family was more important that any “issue” we had between is. I was stripping the relationship back down to its core to examine the fundamentals. “How can we go months without kissing? How is that okay with you?”
And in that last moment, I still believed we were in therapy to join together again. However, I also knew that our therapist was not a marriage counselor, he was working to get us actually hearing each other. He was trying to get us to the reality of our relationship, and not biasing our conversations in any way, but allowing us to sort through the issues. In these last sessions I believe we began to hear one another. And in the final moment of exposure and truth, I expressed my love and desire and my hope that we could rebuild from ground zero.
My then-wife expressed her dissatisfaction with our relationship and how I was not changing enough to give her hope that things could be different. She was talking about trust. She was claiming the high ground at that last second, and pointing the finger at me, saying I was not honest enough. Her statement of clarity at the end of our marriage was that she did not see any hope that I was going to become (change to become) the man she needed.
The Off Parent
Note: I think this poem unlocked the feelings to make this post possible: love and what was missing
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image: winter depression, gerald gabernig, creative commons usage
So people are having a lot of affairs. Maybe part of the reason divorce is so high, is we’re just not wired for sex and love with only one person. I mean, we’re not swans. And look how happy they appear! Okay, so men and women are looking for sex outside their primary relationship. Hmmm. There’s even a site all about it, to facilitate your cheating. And it’s no surprise that the same site, AshelyMadison, has plenty of spicy content to keep you titillated.
Let’s dig into some of the data and see what arises, so to speak. Those numbers in the graphic above are pretty wild. 56% of men and 34% of women claim to be in a “happy” or “very happy” marriage, and yet they cheat. WHAT? I don’t get it. I mean, I understand chemistry and lust and unfulfilled sexual desires, but… CHEATING?
Okay, so maybe I’m wired more like a swan, or maybe I’m clinging to more sexually conservative times. Maybe the modern relationships are about being open and okay with multiple partners. Recently, I heard a first-date talk about “her lover Jim and her lover Eric.” I was like… What? And she was sexy as hell, mind you, but I didn’t compute. I mean, of course I did, but… (Okay, enough about me, let’s keep digging in the dirt of the data.)
I’m pretty sure this holds true for me, as well. A sexual affair would be unforgivable. And an emotional one, which I experienced being on the losing end of, might be forgivable. (see: Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds) But it wasn’t easy. And now I see that the emotional affair was even more deep for her than for me. Ouch! Is kissing or texting cheating? In my book, absolutely. What do you think? Okay, so let’s say you’re into cheating, what’s that look like? Let’s see what the cheating site to end all cheating sites says.
Having a fuck buddy is the thing that dreams are made of for a lot of men. A woman who doesn’t expect commitments and is willing to put out is a wet dream that many men have been chasing for years. The fallacy to this is that men think that women aren’t interested in this kind of relationship which is dead wrong. Women, especially the high-powered women of today, are interested in saving time and many of them have put aside their relationship goals in order to focus on their career. Having a sex friend allows them to achieve the release that they need without having to jump through the same relationship hoops that men loathe jumping through when they just want a good time. – AshleyMadison
If you’re going to do it, get down to it. But don’t spend too much time and energy on it. And don’t worry too much about becoming friends. That’s not what it’s about.
The most important rule being that this relationship is about sex and nothing else. While you can be friendly, the whole point of this arrangement is to not have to spend too much time on it. – AshleyMadison
So there you have it. If you want sex outside of your marriage, for whatever reason. If you think you want to keep your “happy” marriage and still get a little on the side… Well, not to pass judgement, but, I think you’re a bit insane. However, that decision is up to you. And when your partner finds out, up to the two of you to determine just how “open” your marriage will be.
Remember that you don’t have any claim on them and they don’t have any claim on you. The less intimacy you have with a fuck buddy, the better. You don’t want any emotional intimacy in this relationship as that leads to the development of feelings. Instead, focus on that physical intimacy that you’ve been craving. — AshleyMadison
Ack. This isn’t for me. The emotional slip caused me irreparable damage. While she admitted she was wrong and promised not to contact this person again, I was wounded. I don’t know how deeply it went, but often my dreams were about her being plundered by some other dude. And she wasn’t giving it to me. My logic said she was getting it somewhere. I know that’s not necessarily so, and with our sexless/touchless period, I’m sure she wasn’t looking for anything sexual. And I certainly wasn’t getting any.
I wasn’t looking outside the marriage for anything. I was committed up until the point that the divorce was finalized. I was unhappy. I could’ve used AshleyMadison, perhaps, to stave off my sexual cravings. But in my book, my marriage was about the trust and bond between the two of us. Emotional infidelity or sexual infidelity was like murder to me. And it eventually killed our marriage.
[Note: I’m not providing links to AshleyMadison, although I’m sure I could derive some affiliate marketing bucks from them, but I don’t agree with their idea of cheating as fun. Ever.]
The Off Parent
It’s an odd feeling when you pass the old lover of your ex-wife. The guy she was living with when you reconnected with your high school friend. “It’s just lunch,” we said, but our hearts were moving much quicker than our bodies or circumstances could accommodate. But I didn’t know she was living with someone. Dating, sure, but like moved in, and sleeping there, hardly at her apartment? I did not know this until much later.
I passed him yesterday evening in the grocery store. I’m not sure he recognized me, but the flash in my mind was clear.
I understand now, a bit more, how women often have to qualify “lunch” if they accept it. Or help. Or consulting. While I did not expect anything to develop, just in that two or three lunches, and everything was above-board. We hugged at the end, like friends, like when we met again at the coffee shop. But my energies were in dire need of a connection. And I can’t speak for her, but I would bet money, she was not telling him that she was eating lunch with an old friend from high school. See. Because I learned years later, when we were married, that she did these kind of things.
A number of times she would have lunch with her previous husband. I guess it didn’t ever occur to her to say, “Hey I’m going to lunch with XXX.” And on the flip side, it never occurred to me NOT to tell her when my ex called or wanted to do coffee. It never occurred to me not to be upfront with who I was having lunch with.
Then, during an awfully low period, my then-wife, lunched with another man. A younger man who was attractive and very interested in some kind of relationship with my then-wife. She thought nothing of joining him for lunch, showing him our local library where he could chill and get a free cup of coffee. But I’ve already dealt with this episode. (See: Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds)
So when this much-older-now guy passed me in the store I thought, just for a second, you poor bastard. Of course, today, I was ultimately referring to myself.
The Off Parent
The moment you are told your partner wants a divorce, is not the beginning of the process. Likely the process has been festering on their side for quite some time, and the EVENT that causes the “divorce” talk is merely the reason given.
In my case my ex-y rarely shared her “feelings” with me, unless they were anger and it was about some way that I had done her wrong, by not doing what she expected or wanted. By the time she said, “I’m not sure I still love you,” in couples therapy the damage had already been done. But it was done by her NOT sharing her “feelings” with me. She chose to complain to another man in a form of emotional infidelity, she had been speaking with her counselor for years, and was close to consulting a lawyer, but she still don’t turn to me and fight for what she wanted.
I tried to comply with low sexual activity, I tried to be a better husband, make more money, do more chores, but it never got better. And she never got UN-MAD.
Rather she EXITED the relationship in many different ways. Withholding sex is a crucial way of punishing and isolating your mate, and it was not uncommon for my then-wife to go without sex or an expressed sexual desire for months. MONTHS! Of course, she would say anger was not conducive to feeling sexual or close. But her anger would also go on for MONTHS.
After the triggering event [your mate will probably be a trigger to your anger on a number of different issues] the anger should dissipate or be redirected at the core issue that is plaguing the individual who is angry. If her therapist was not working with her on HER anger, well… I didn’t have much respect for her therapist the several times we met her together. She seemed too soft. The Rodgers “You are wonderful” kind of therapist. And if her client was so fucking angry, don’t you think they should’ve been working on THAT? Of course, it was ME that she was mad about. (That was sarcasm.)
So, I think back and discover that she had EXITED the relationship YEARS before she asked for the divorce. I tried to comply with low sexual activity, I tried to be a better husband, make more money, do more chores, but it never got better. And she never got UN-MAD.
I don’t harbor much anger towards my ex-y now, but… Occasionally… I regret not escalating my own dissatisfaction in couples therapy more often. It seemed that most of our sessions were about MY ISSUES, and how I was constantly disappointing or “lying” to her. [Is not telling your wife about a speeding ticket a major transgression?]
And when I think those thoughts I wonder what things might be like if we’d still been working together at this point. If we were collaboratively trying to figure out this money thing, rather than ME vs HER. Oh well. I contradict that regret when I remember her anger and unwillingness to crack open and share what was going on in her life. It was easy to focus on me. My depression. My employment. My lies. My problems. Rather than understand what was going on for her. So that’s where we devoted a lot of our therapy together. GROSS.
So today, I still remember that YOU EXITED the relationship with another man. And you EXITED by not sharing your feelings with me. And ultimately you EXITED the relationship by deciding NOT work on the relationship but to consult a lawyer. So today, in this moment of reflection, I say fuck you. And then I let it go.
The Off Parent
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I don’t think I ever caught her cheating on me. I’m going to assume that she told me the truth about things when confronted. But, without taking her clothes off, there was a moment, a very painful moment, that I can now see was really an affair. It didn’t wreck our marriage, but it put a huge hole in my trust. And when things got difficult it was occasionally hard for me to not imagine she was seeing him, or someone, for lunch again.
After all, she was in a relationship when we ran into each other again. And she took some lunches and even a date with me before calling it off with me, so she could go figure if she was IN or OUT with the other guy.
IF I had owned that this behavior was a problem, I MIGHT have avoided the marriage and divorce all together. That of course, is not the way things worked out. She called me about six weeks after asking for a “moment of silence” and simply said, “We’re done.” My first question, “What are you doing tonight? Wanna go over to a friend’s and watch a movie with us?” “Sure.” Swoon. Remove brain from cranium and move to other head. Again, water under the bridge, but looking back, to uncover my mistakes, this was the biggest one. IF she was willing to have lunches with ME, while still living with HIM… (I didn’t really know the status of their relationship at the time.) I just don’t think that was very CLEAR. For the other guy or me.
Jump cut about 4 years later and we’re married with a child in the crib. Wow. A wonderful life.
It was from a younger man, who she had recently started working with as part of a freelance team. He was thanking her for sharing the local library with him as a place for coffee and respite within our community.
And then we were unjustly interrupted, like everyone else, by the prosperity ending 911 tragedy. The comfy lifestyle and happy home became a source of stress and “oh my goodness.” And unfortunately, my self-employment viability came crashing to the ground as my clients all FROZE all business. I struggled. I got depressed. I got on medication. I hated life. I loved my wife and kid. But I was suddenly not sure how I was going to support them or the lifestyle I had hoped to accomplish at this point in my life.
So we soldiered along and the second child was born into this rough world. We got what we wanted, a boy AND a girl. Happy bouncing babies. Not so happy and bouncing parents.
One day, during this “rough patch” I came home and pulled up a browser on her computer. We always used whatever computer was on the desk at the time. (this was before universal wifi everywhere) And her gmail account was open. Nonchalantly, I noticed some spam in her inbox, and as I was the gatekeeper, I clicked on one of the spammy messages.
It was not spam.
It was from a younger man, who she had recently started working with as part of a freelance team. He was thanking her for sharing the local library with him as a place for coffee and respite within our community. He was talking to her about “dealing with your husband’s depression” and “let’s do it again soon.”
In my fragile mental state I almost cracked. I can see how this kind of thing would make people go mad. At that point I was not all that comfortable with my anger, so I turned it inward and go sad. And fat. And what hope I had was lost to my wrong-headed fantasies about their tryst.
I did tell her and she apologized and said she saw how this would hurt me and that she would stop. She claimed to be unaware of how it “might have affected me” since she was innocent of any real transgression, but she would abide by my wishes and not see this guy for lunches any more. And she would tell him as well.
I am getting clearer and clearer in my request for a relationship. And ultimately I am attempting to learn about my heart, my communication styles, and my needs.
But the wound was slow to heal for me. She seemed to move right along, except when I would bring it up in counseling. But even then, it wasn’t anything all that important, other than how I perceived it. She said. I’m certain she understood how it hurt me, as I expressed this fairly well. But she was unwilling to really dig into what had made her share intimate details of our lives with a stranger. How she would turn to him for comfort rather than explore the pain with me. We were already in therapy. What was she doing with THAT time?
I took screenshots of all of the messages and put them away somewhere. But later, as I was purging my own pain and guilt, I deleted them. I would not want to look back on them now. But this experience does allow me to reflect on several things.
- My ex-y was having honesty issues, even with me, when we met.
- While she wasn’t very expressive of her emotions, they did exist.
- The warning flare around her intention in going to lunch with me while living with another man, should have been a deal killer. But she was/is very beautiful. I fell for her charms and did not listen to the concerns I should have been hearing.
It reminds me a little bit of the woman, who more recently stopped responding with positive reinforcements when I asked her to do things. Truth is, she liked to drink. And though I occasionally have a glass of wine or a beer, it’s not part of my normal day. Giving up alcohol for Lent would be trivial, not a hardship. (ice cream would be hard)
I am getting clearer and clearer in my request for a relationship. And I am honing my listening skills. And ultimately I am attempting to learn about my heart, my communication styles, and my needs. THEN, and only after I have some clarity for myself, am I open to having a new relationship enter my life. The one I am ready for.
The Off Parent
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image via creative commons: how to make an angry face out of someone’s body