[This post is a continuation of this thought: You Are Ahead By a Century]
Perhaps the mere fact that my then-wife must’ve been “planning” her exit rather than talking to me in couples therapy about it… I mean, why didn’t she tell our therapist she was thinking about divorce? Why didn’t she tell me, so we could work on that. It seems the whole premise of collaborative is “we’ve worked on it and we agree we’d be better off alone.”
When the other person goes to see a lawyer, WHILE YOU’RE IN COUPLES THERAPY, the idea of collaboration is BS. She was collaborative to the extent that I would agree to her terms and conditions. Other than that, she was sort of taking advantage of my good nature, my conflict aversion, and my willingness to see the best in her.
Was she manipulative? Certainly the divorce was pre-meditated. As in murdering our family in cold blood, BEFORE we had a chance to talk about it in therapy.
See, I asked, point-blank, during a particularly confusing couples session.
“Have you been to see an attorney?”
She looked shocked, embarrassed, and mad all in the same second.
“I have. I’m sorry.”
I should’ve shouted, “Then what the fuck are we doing here, paying $120 an hour to talk about our relationship. You’ve already moved on to your ‘options.’”
What I said was, “Oh, that puts a different spin on things. Now I feel pretty hopeless.”
I did feel hopeless. It’s as if the months leading up to the confession had been a lie. How long ago did you go see a lawyer sweetheart? I mean shouldn’t we have been talking through that idea right here, instead of dropping the revelation on me… Or me having to figure it out and ask you. That’s not how this couple’s therapy is supposed to work.
But something about honesty and letting me know in advance was not in her best interest. And there were minor indications that this might be our fate earlier in the relationship. There were signs that I should’ve walked away from the relationship. But I was infatuated too soon to let go.
At the outset of our relationship we started a series of casual lunches. We’d known each other in high school, so in my mind we were just catching up. But early on the tone of the lunches and the texts in between got very flirty. The part she forgot to mention, she was living with a man.
And later in the course of our marriage, when I was having a rough time, she also shared a few lunches with a coworker and a few very deep and connected emails about my depression and her loneliness. Um, that’s called emotional infidelity, folks.
There were other things too. Like when I’d learn two weeks after the fact that she’d gone to lunch with her ex-husband. What? Why not just tell me, like I told her, when my crazy ex called me to have coffee. What was she afraid to tell me about? Why would you withhold that little detail from your discussions, if you are going for 100% honesty and transparency? Well, you wouldn’t.
And yet it was HONESTY that she was killing me on in therapy. Like I was hiding a mistress or late-night drug habit. I couldn’t understand the urgency, when I failed to tell her that I’d gotten a speeding ticket. To her it was as if I’d cheated on her or developed a closet drinking habit.
Week after week in therapy we skipped around about how unreliable I was. How I didn’t do enough chores and it made her too tired for sex. How I was the one with the honesty problem. Maybe it was her projection. I was simply doing my best at minding my own business, sharing what seemed appropriate (like a lunch with my ex-wife) and getting hammered for not being trustworthy. Really?
The issue I really wanted discussed was why I was unable to convince her to have sex for months at a time. And how that was OKAY with her, but me forgetting to bring home the dry cleaning was a fucking disaster. The crisis seemed manufactured to deflect the deeper issue.
And that’s how things are today. Crisis after crisis is manufactured to illicit some response, to get something she wants. And I’m better at spotting a false alarm these days. I simply don’t respond for the first 3 – 4 text messages. It really is NOT a crisis, it’s just her way of driving the conversation and demanding that I respond to her. It’s as if she were saying, “You’re not responsible if you don’t help take our daughter to the doctor this afternoon, with no notice, and it’s a really big deal, so you should pay attention.”
I’m no longer paying attention to the crisis. I am listening for the message underneath the crisis. You never help with doctor’s appointments. You never help with the kids. Our daughter is in crisis. I’m in crisis. You need to take care of your responsibility.
If I understand this perspective now, that the crisis is her way of controlling the situation, I begin to see how and why her “divorce attorney” revelation was sprung on me. The crisis was created immediately. The imbalance in power was complete. I reeled for months while she planned, strategized, and got me into parenting plan discussions, and financial split discussions, before I was ready to even consider that we were heading towards divorce.
We weren’t “heading” towards divorce. We were divorced, she just hadn’t told me yet. I have taken years to catch up. And today, 6-years later, I’m just starting to put the picture together. She sprung the divorce on me. It was to her advantage NOT to talk about the relationship in the couple’s therapy, she was already planning her escape.
The Off Parent
This post continues here: Where the Sidewalk Ends
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- You Are Ahead by a Century
- The Painful Business of Divorce
- Your Contempt for Me is Hurting All of Us
- The Humans Of Divorce, Dear AG’s Office Special Cases Officer Mr. McK!
- And Just As We Reach A Calm Moment
- What I Still Fail to Understand About My Ex-wife
- When Kids, Money, and Divorce Collide
- Trusting Your Unreliable Ex
image: a few good months before the end, the author, creative commons usage
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.
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.
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
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory
- Waiting for the Other Person to Change
- My Funny Man Divorce: A Little Bill Murray a Touch of Robin Williams Mixed w/ Ferris Bueller
- The Divorce Whisperer
- Of Course You’re Not Happy With Me, We’re Divorced
image: winter depression, gerald gabernig, creative commons usage
I am guessing this is going to sound cliché. But clichés are there because they are based on repeatedly being shown as truths. What do you think about this statement?
After the heat wore off. After the kids were born. After the work of keeping up a house and mortgage payment became real. Sex became more and more infrequent.
We went through some interesting therapy sessions and ideas about how to reconnect sexually.
- I wasn’t asking the right way
- I was asking too much
- I always asked at the wrong time
- There was always something that needed to be done, before we could have sex
- I didn’t help around the house enough
- I needed to try seducing rather than asking, touch rather than request
Ultimately, once the sexual shift had happened there was only one period of relief.
I had just gotten a vasectomy. (A good sign, anyway, that we were doing it at all, so we would even want to keep having sex. It was kind of a right of passage from fathering to fucking.
And the weeks following the surgery, after the swelling and pain had gone away, we had a sexual renaissance. You see, when you have a vaz there is a period afterwards where you are required to have 30 ejaculations before you can get tested for viable sperm. And if it’s all clear after that, you can begin nekkid sex without risk.
The ex-y even admitted to having an achievement complex, and we joked about her wanting the 30 gold stars in 45 days. And sure enough, the wind would blow and she was into getting me off. Perhaps it relieved the pressure on her to participate if it was about my orgasm and not making love.
We did it in the shower. She did me orally, manually, and seemingly with ease and enjoyment. Later we would look back on these weeks as “when it was good again.” At least, that’s what I remember saying about it. I certainly see it as the last hurrah of our marriage.
And then the goal was achieved. I was certified sperm free. And the sexual fire fizzled and went out. Almost as if a switch had been thrown. I couldn’t ask right, or provide enough house support (me or a maid) or money in the bank. There was ALWAYS something preventing us from doing it. I wanted to figure out how to have another vasectomy, or something. But nothing I tried worked.
Then, right at the end, when I had my moment of truth, I asked her. Well, it came out kind of sideways. I had bought a book “Your Sex-Starved Marriage” and she found it under the bed. It was as if she had found porn or something. She was angry. Of course I was accusing her of being the problem, that’s why I got the book. But she had plenty of ammo as to why it wasn’t all her.
She blamed it on stress, overwork, chores, things. But in reality she was no longer IN the marriage with me. She was already contemplating her departure, and those thoughts were crowding out the passion and love for me. Rather than demand closeness and touch, I withdrew into my own self-care miasma. But I sublimated my anger and desire. I compromised and let her slip further away from me. She was too far gone. And when I was finally angry it was a bit too late.
How does that phrase go? “You cannot prepare for love and war at the same time.”
The Off Parent
- Good Sex: Getting It Together About Getting In On
- Losing Everything in Divorce; Learning to Carry On
- Sex is Fun: Should You Settle for Apathetic Sex?
- Zen and the Art of Lovemaking – Won’t Save Your Marriage
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
image: creative commons usage: nude and captured