The Day the Wave Hit
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014. The day of my tsunami.
I’m sitting on the floor of Little Girl’s room, wrestling and playing with the babies, when Honey walks in. He tells me he needs to go back out of state soon for work to ‘keep our medical insurance going.’ I start to cry. Quietly, I say ‘Honey, you’ve been gone for more than half of the last 4 years. You’ve been gone for the last 5 months, and only been home for 14 days. No way! These kids need you, Baby. I need you. I’ll get a job, and we’ll just wait for you to find something local. We can make it until then!’ He uncharacteristically and unceremoniously tells me ‘No, I need to go back.’
I get quiet. ‘I don’t get it.’, I said. ‘Why does it feel like I’m the only one doing everything possible to keep this family together? Your bags have been packed and sitting in the corner since you got home!’
I start to feel uncharacteristically filled with anger, so I tell him I need to go on a drive. While I’m gone, I sit in my car in the parking lot of my church in total confusion, and I cry. And I pray. And I ponder aloud in my car ‘What is going ON here?’
Around an hour later, I come home. I’ve clearly been crying, yet he looks at me dead-eyed. For the second time in 14 days I ask him ‘Honey, what’s going on here?! I don’t understand.’ And then joking, I say ‘What? Are you divorcing me?’ Emotionless, he simply responds ‘Yes.’
I immediately turn my head away, inhaling a staggered breath which catches and stays there. I remember immediately thinking ‘I didn’t know pain like this existed.’ The wound was so immediate and so crushing that it took the breath out of my lungs. This is when I first realized that a broken heart really does feel broken. The physical pain was excruciating. It didn’t abate until more than a week later. But it’s returned, to a lesser degree, dozens of times in my ‘fetal position moments’ on the floor in the months that followed.
Immediately, it doesn’t compute. I’ve been a great wife to him. I’m not saying this out of some self deluded over-confidence, I just was. I treated this man as well as a wife can treat a husband. I showered him with praise. Love. Admiration. Trust. Benefit of the doubt. Depth. Intelligence. Sarcastic hilarity. Laughter. I told everyone I knew that I was married to my soul mate. I was GOOD to him. Kind. Supportive. I loved him. I put he and the kids first. I didn’t get it then. Pretty sure I do now.
You’ve been away before. So what’s different about this trip, Honey? Why did this time of being away suddenly enlighten you to the fact that you were unhappy?
I’ve had a chance to think a lot about it over these last 5 months.
Uh-huh. I see. That makes no sense. I’ve talked to you every single day, and you’ve never said one word. Why are you suddenly so ready to leave me and shatter our family with no counseling, no effort, no warning this was coming? Are you having an affair?!
Uh, ok. Then we need to go to counseling and figure this out. Do I not deserve that chance? Do your babies not deserve to grow up with their family together? How could you do that to us?
It’s nothing you did wrong. You were a great wife. It’s me. There’s something seriously wrong with me. I’m broken inside. I can’t talk about negative things.
Oh, ok. That also makes no sense. If I was a ‘great wife’ according to you, then why are you leaving me? Furthermore, if the root of the problem is that you can’t talk about negative things, that tells me something negative exists, so it can’t be that I ‘did nothing wrong’. If I did or said something…or I unintentionally became too negative without realizing it when all this bad crap started to happen in our lives…why can’t I be given the chance to correct it? Don’t I deserve to even know what the hell ‘it’ is??
You didn’t do anything wrong. This is my doing.
Then you’re having an affair.
No, I’m not.
I don’t get this.
And this excruciating back and forth went on for 5 hours. It took five hours of ridiculous lies on his behalf and emotional trauma on my behalf before I finally got this man to admit that he was having an affair. I even got a name out of him. A first name, and that was it. But I had that at least.
Are you….are you in love with her?
Are you going to continue seeing her?
(Shrug, sheepish hands in the air) Yah, I guess, I mean…
You guess?! That’s nice. So she lives on the east coast. And you know I’m not staying here, I’m going to have to go to the west coast where there’s actually people who can help us. So you’re just going to go live 2,000 miles away and never see your children?
I’m going to visit as often as I can.
Visit?! These are your fucking children, Honey! What the hell do you mean, visit? You’re just walking away from raising them? I’m raising our kids alone? Without you? Without help? Who the hell are you? Who the hell have I been married to?!
I told him get out of my sight, to go sleep in the basement guest room. Once he left, I felt like my body was literally going to explode. I was violently shaking, and my mind was in panic mode. All it could think was ‘how can I stop this from happening?’ There was nothing else beyond that thought, it was all that mattered in that moment. I felt violently sick, and the room was spinning.
The panic feeling in the pit of my stomach was all-consuming. It was my number one goal to get my reality back to just like it was 24 hours ago, and any other outcome was simply unacceptable to me. I was beside myself and not thinking clearly, because if I had been, my thoughts would have been on kicking him squarely in the balls. Hard. At the time, I would never have conceived of hurting him. I’m not a violent person, and I’ve never raised a hand to anyone. Let alone my husband who I loved. But knowing what I know now? I would have taken that one chance that I’d never get again to reward the body part that had seen fit to do all the thinking for my husband, and to let it know I didn’t effing appreciate it.
He went to the basement and slept. This enraged me beyond measure. So I went down there and woke him up.
I sat on the edge of the bed and just started talking, and he was forced out of his peaceful slumber only to stare blankly at me. He had no guilt. He had no remorse, no shame. He was just annoyed that I’d woken him up and was still yammering on about how ‘this can’t be happening’ and ‘my soul is tearing into pieces’, and some other nonsense he wasn’t paying much attention to. I probably sounded like Charlie Brown parents to him at that point. Oh how he wanted to lay his head back on that pillow. I could see it. But there was no way on earth that I was going to let that happen.
Honey had always had it easy. He never appreciated it, either. In terms of the logistics, I did 95% of all of the work related to running a home, and a good 90% of the child care for 2 babies in diapers. I gave him grace on being sloppy hundreds of times when others wouldn’t have. I did all of the banking, budgeting, bill-paying, unending medical insurance disputes, random errands, kid’s doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, holiday decorating…you name it. The man didn’t even have to (and didn’t) remember cards or gifts for his own family’s birthdays, let alone mine. I would always find something thoughtful, wrap it, mail it, and he’d get the thank you.
All he had to do was show up to his own life. Show up and everything was handled. Show up and be fed a hot meal, and relax on the couch as I cleaned up. Yet, we almost never fought. Of course now, I wish we had. He took all of it for granted. Every bit. It’s been so long since I’ve felt taken care of by a man. Since I’ve felt cherished or appreciated in a way that wasn’t just words (and words that were lies, at that). I’ve been walking in the desert for what feels like decades. I served and I served and I served this man. I am weary.
I wasn’t going to let this be easy. There was no way in hell that I was going to let him lay his head down and relax. He just informed me that my life was never going to be relaxing ever again, and that I was now alone in the world with 2 babies from here on out. So, no. He’s NOT sleeping.
And all of that aside? He’d never ONCE told me he was unhappy. Quite the contrary. He’d told me he loved me and smiled to my face all the way until the proverbial knife slipped between my should blades. Do you know on how many levels that messes with a persons head? I mean, the incalculable damage done to every other part of life aside, does anyone out there really get what that does to a person’s soul? If you are one of the lucky ones to never have to experience this, let me enlighten you.
First, it is so deeply humiliating that someone would think so little of you as to play you like a marionette in their own jacked up puppet show. Second, it makes you wonder why it is you’ve been locking the door all these years to keep the bad guys out of your house when it turns out you’ve been sleeping next to one. And lastly, it causes a wound that will never, ever heal. Not time, not a new love in your life, not ANYTHING this world has to offer can repair a tear that jagged. Nope. This sucker will be with me until my dying breath. Because marriage (even one that was a fraud and you just don’t know it) is a one-flesh relationship. I was joined to him to my marrow.
It hurt as deeply as if he’d ripped me in half. Which, essentially, he did.
So, it occurred to me recently that perhaps one of the reasons (and there are many) that I can’t seem to even get in the same solar system as the word ‘forgiveness’ as it pertains to Honey is that I was robbed of a real chance to have my say. He dug in the blade when his bags were already packed. He was just waiting for that tipping point that would somehow make it okay for him to walk out the door and drive away. Some moment where, in my hysterics about the bomb he’d dropped while sobbing on the floor, he could quietly retreat in his cowardice. Just staying long enough to where he didn’t have to witness the full measure of what he’d just laid upon his wife and babies. But at some point, he knew he had to flee the crime scene, so to speak. He didn’t want to stick around and deal with the unpleasant consequences.
And he certainly didn’t want to have to navigate any more questions from the ‘obstacle to his happiness’ that I’d apparently become.
Yet, as I think back on what I DID get a chance to say, I realized something . I said some amazingly good things. A vast array of truth-clad bits of knowledge were dropped on him that night. Logic prevailed. Arguments for saving our family were made. I was, for all intents and purposes, the best trial lawyer money could buy..working pro-bono on behalf of my two tiny clients sleeping down the hall. I was pleading for our very lives. He looked right at me and heard it all, but to me it looked as though he was watching a cartoon in his head, and contemplating about eating a burrito.
In other words, he looked disturbingly unphased by my compelling assertions that people just don’t do this to their families.
Let’s say, purely for the sake of argument, that I was mugged. Someone came up to me in the street and roughed me up and robbed me of my things. I lay on the sidewalk bleeding, realizing that the attacker had just gotten my keys to my house, my cell phone with all my memories and photos on it, my cash, my driver’s license showing my identity, my tickets to a show I’d been planning to surprise my spouse with, etc. I feel my jaw…broken. I feel my arm…bleeding. And in this moment, when I’ve just had my world ripped apart and lost everything of value, the attacker comes back to try to calmly talk to me as if he didn’t just assault me. How, in this moment, do you think you would react? Would you be reasonable? Would you scream and recoil at his presence and the danger you feel it represents to you? Would you curse, and scream for him to get away from you? Would you call him a sick monster and want to flee? I’m betting it wouldn’t be the first option.
But I have to see my mugger again. I’m tied to him for life. I will have to be the ‘adult’, and act calmly and rationally for their sake. I will have to tell my children that he loves them, and is a good person. I will have to suck it up. I will have to be ‘reasonable’. I will have to lie. Because I will have to pretend he didn’t rob me of everything that meant anything to me, and leave me for dead. And I will, because anything else is unacceptable to me where it involves my children. I’d die for them. So dying in hundreds (or thousands) of these small ways over the course of a lifetime is a sacrifice I’m simply going to bear. Just as I now bear the role of mommy, daddy, provider, spider-killer (when it’s actually me who needs one), protector, advocate, breakfast-lunch-and-dinner maker…everything. I’m now their everything. The partner that signed up for the 7 full time jobs that encompasses just one child bailed. He didn’t just bail. He moved 2,000 miles away from their smiling faces. On purpose. Did not see that coming.
Now, for those of you who have literally been attacked by a spouse or partner rather than figuratively, it’s not my intent to liken my situation to yours insensitively. It’s not the same, and I can’t even begin to get on your level, or know about the terrible things you’ve had to deal with. From my perspective, this is just the best I can explain it. It felt like I had everything of value taken was away. Violently. My identity was stolen. My future plans were taken and used for someone else. My babies were totally disregarded and robbed of things too numerous to list. And in that traumatizing event, his actions clearly showed me that I was not valued as his wife, as his friend, as his biggest advocate, as the mother of his babies…. hell, even as a human being. Because if you value someone, you simply do not do what Honey did, especially in the way that he did it. While lying on the ground in shock, he didn’t even care if I was breathing at the end of it all. I didn’t matter to him.
20 hours. From the moment the word ‘divorce’ was out there, to the moment he walked out the door forever. Before he did, Little Man said ‘Wait, Daddy! Where are you going? I want to come too! I’ll get my shoes!’ and ran to his room for them. He came back out as I was sobbing, recording this moment for my private ‘horror-reel’ as I call it. It’s a movie of these sickening moments that plays again and again in my head, causing unending trauma in the most random of places. Grocery store checkout lines. Dental chairs. Those moments right before sleep takes you under. And so far, I haven’t been able to do a damn thing to stop this incredibly shitty movie from playing whenever it so chooses.
Little Man tried to leave with Honey. Honey literally had to shake him off his leg to get his luggage. No tears, no emotion. Then, it happened. The door closed. Oh my God, the pain. THE PAIN.
Once it shut, I screamed ‘YOU ARE ABANDONING YOUR FAMILY!!’ He opened it again. A sudden sickening and fleeting feeling of hope coursed through me, which only served to enhance my humiliation. He looked right at me, visibly shaken for the first time. As coldly as a robot, he said ‘I’m going there for work. I love my children.’, as though I had somehow not been present for the part where I learned that she existed.
And then he closed it, and then he was gone.
I collapsed on the ground, and I lost it. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stand. I’d had 1 1/2 hours of sleep, and more trauma and tears in one night than I’d had throughout my entire lifetime. The babies. The poor babies, crawling there next to me. Honey hadn’t even had the decency to get his mom to watch them before letting this drama play out in front of them. For leaving me utterly destroyed with them seeing me that way. For expecting I’d just be able to rise to my knees and change a diaper or make a grilled cheese sandwich as though I didn’t just learn I’d never have my husband in my life ever again.
This thoughtlessness, above all others, is probably the most despicable to me. Proverbs 23:7…’For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ Honeys heart, or lack thereof, was on full display to me for the first time in 14 years. And I simply couldn’t accept what I was seeing.