Saturday, January 25, 2014

Post Mortem of a Marriage: First Wives Club

This picture is of me and Darling Hubby, seventeen years ago today. I am singing Alanis Morrisette's "Head Over Feet" to him. I had heard the song on her album and wanted him to hear it. The song described how he made me feel so perfectly. It would not become popular for a few more months.

When asked how we met, people told us that we had the sweetest story.

A little background. I had known D/H for a long time.  We both graduated from the same high school though given our age difference of five years, had just missed one another. His family went to my church.  Our grandmothers stood elbow to elbow in the choir every Sunday. As I sang in the youth choir, he sang in the children's choir. Our parents had all gone to school together. He and my little brother had several friends in common. I knew his people and he knew mine. Typical small town stuff.

My group from our small hometown, ran into his group from the same small town at a local watering hole, that was popular 17 years ago, but has long since shut down. I wasn't supposed to be there. I had decided to go and have one beer and if I ran into anyone that I knew, I would have two then call it a night. He wasn't supposed to be there. He had been at his parents house for dinner, when the neighbor invited him to come along. We ran into each other in the hall inside. Chatting with two of my little brother's friends, Darling Hubby got my attention by opening his wallet to a picture of Tigger and Kit-Kat, stuck it in my face, and blurted out, "These are my kids!"  The first words he had spoken to me in probably ten years and that was what he led with.

I had just ended a disappointing relationship with UPS Guy, that ended because I was a mother. UPS Guy just couldn't deal with that. I wasn't really looking for anyone. The breakup had been painful.  A minister friend, who called me out of the blue, had just prayed the night before that God would "send me my heart's desire"  I was looking for the "package deal," someone with children, just like me. And here he was. A sign from God. Over the years, I told everyone that he had the best pick up line I'd ever heard. Some weeks later, for Valentine's Day, D/H gave me a gold necklace that had "I Love You" stamped into the gold. The designer's tag read "Heart's Desire." Only then did I tell him of the minister's prayer. Another sign from God that we were meant to be.

I always left out the part about running into an old flame that night, who stopped to speak to us and hugged me. As Old Flame walked away, D/H turned to me and asked how I had known him. He told me of his distaste for this young man. Later in the evening, he returned from a restroom visit, agitated and red-faced.  He related a story that I didn't really believe, but he was so adamant that it had happened,  I was swayed into believing that it could have happened.

He said that he had run into Old Flame while in the restroom. That O/F had asked him point blank, "What are you doing here with that slut?!" D/H had, of course, defended me. "I ought to go back and kick his ass." he had said. He also got the male group of friends at our table riled up and they too wanted to kick O/F's ass, but thankfully he had left.  Over the years that D/H and I were dating, we would run into O/F here and there. Tensions were always high, and I was often afraid that things would get ugly and people would really get hurt. Finally one night, I had had enough and insisted that they mend their fences over a beer, which they did.

I had wondered about this for a long time. I remember how shocked I was that O/F had said this about me. We had parted amicably and there was no ill will between us, but D/H was so convincing, I couldn't help but believe him. I decided to contact O/F. He was easy to find. The conversation that followed shook me to my core.

O/F told me that he had also always wondered why things would turn tense when we ran into each other. Why D/H would become aggressive and in turn, he would have no choice but take a defensive posture. He was shocked to learn that I had been told this lie. "You were always special to me, " he had said, "I would never had said that about you, even if I had hated your guts." He went on to say that it was very sad that D/H had to go to such lengths for attention from a nice girl.

This was the lie that endeared me to him, and was the catalyst for our entire relationship. Darling Hubby, my defender, my knight in shining armor,  riding in on the white horse to save the day.

What do you do when you suddenly realize that your whole relationship was a lie?
It started with a lie, lies carried it along. and then it ended with a lie.

You find out if your situation was similar to the first go 'round.


I had an appointment on the other side of town today and had an hour to kill, so I decided to drop by the office of The First Mrs. D/H. She was glad to see me and was glad that I was fairing okay. I asked her if I could ask her a few questions about the time that they were together and see if what I was being told was the truth or not.  She agreed.

I was told that he was "separated from service" from the Army because she was writing bad checks on post, and in the Army, a crime by one's spouse was as good as a crime by the soldier. LIE

TRUTH: Taking all the money out of the checking account to go party with the other soldiers, while your wife is unknowingly trying to buy groceries or pay the utilities will also get you drummed out of the army.

I was told that their marriage had broken up because she had been unfaithful. LIE

TRUTH: He had actually cheated on her with a girl that he had worked with. (Sound  familiar?) After they separated, only then did she see her high school boyfriend, but then decided her family was more important and went back. I had known a version of this story, where the timeline of events was flipped to his favor. After all, there is a little vein of truth in every lie, otherwise it wouldn't be plausible.

She said that she even thought that her and D/H would get back together during the breakup that led to our relationship. He has wanted to see the kids and invited them over. She brought dinner from McDonalds. They had a nice visit. I vividly remember this dinner, as I was there. When they "unexpectedly" showed up, D/H asked me to hide in his bedroom. I hid there for nearly 2 hours.

I was told that she went out for cigarettes one night, and was later caught in bed with the aforementioned 18 year old friend. She had said "this isn't what it looks like" and the boy was so scared he jumped from the second floor balcony to escape. LIE

TRUTH: Yes, she told him that she was going for cigarettes, because that was the only way she could leave, and D/H stay with his own children. She was found at the apartment of those friends sometime later, but with a large group of people. He attempted to show his ass, and was shown the door.

I was told that she sat on her behind, refusing to work, all while he worked two and three jobs to support them. LIE

TRUTH: He didn't want her to work, but stay home with the children. When the opportunity did arise for her to work in the evenings, he refused to watch his own children.

I was told that she wouldn't let him see the kids. LIE

TRUTH: She would have gladly let him see the kids, but he never called to see them or even ask about them. She said about the same time that she found out about me, was about the time he started calling her about the kids.

I was told that the trailer that they lived in while they were married was apparently  demolished by her drunk, drugged up, crack-head friends that were partying with her after he moved out. I had seen this place with my own eyes, as we cleaned it up to be sold.  Large holes in the walls, carpet torn up, broken mirrors, etc...   LIE

TRUTH: The damage was actually caused by D/H, who would come home, at all hours, in a drunken stupor and lose control.  She had no money to repair it, so everything stayed as it was.

That he had heard that she was telling people all over town that she was coming after us to get her kids back. LIE

TRUTH: The course of events that led to our later gaining custody were tragically true. She was grateful that they had a place to go that was safe, and said that it had been the best at the time. But when she was finally in a good place again and wanted to speak to D/H about it, he refused to speak to her. She said that at that point, all she could do was be patient and pray that it would eventually work itself out.

Some very familiar truths emerged as we talked. I had learned that he had been very controlling, wasting money, mooching off their friends, drinking heavily (another familiar story) and/or becoming violent only to promise to "change/go to church/stop drinking, etc...,  limiting her friends,  limiting access to money or the use of the car. Red Flags went up. More Warning Signs.  Though D/H had NEVER been physically abusive toward me, I too had ignored the signals that something was not quite right.  Had I had a passive abuser under my roof all this time?

When we would have an argument, he would eventually come to me, head down, sullen, and tell me that I was right. He wouldn't come right away, but he would eventually, feeding me the same lines about changing or doing things as I had suggested. Always.

I thought about how easily duped I had been. I didn't mind helping him pay bills, or buy things. I had even been dumb enough to pay his attorney the final payment on his divorce, several hundred dollars, so he could finally be free of her. My guess is that he realized that he drove this gravy train for as long as he could.

I had been harder to control. I was a strong, opinionated woman. I had built my confidence back with each crisis that we faced and won. Little victories that kept the bond between us firmly cemented. I never realized the pattern of crisis vs. victories until now. Even his four bleeding ulcers in as many years had become suspect. They always seemed to appear at times when things were tough and I now know that they were most likely caused by bouts of binge drinking with his buddies. I was recently embarrassed to learn that D/H would make a habit of never having any money at our local hangout and would cajole others into buying drinks for him. Often. Because I was trying to get his drinking under control, I would limit the amount of money I would bring with us, in hopes he would stop when the money ran out. But that never seemed to stop him. No wonder people would dread hanging out with us.

I had insisted from the start that we maintain our own bank accounts, something that saved me from financial ruin in my first marriage, just as it had protected me now. We never maintained a joint account, even separate from our own, though I had suggested it several times, to use to pay bills and make the house payment. He said that we would manage just fine with what we had.  We divided up the bills and each month he'd give me what he had to pay the mortgage.  There were many times when he would be short and I'd have to pony up the extra. But when utilities were behind, or worse, shut off, I became insistent that we open an account and both put money into it . He'd angrily remark how he would just give me ALL of his check and I could handle all of it myself. But he never did that. His money was his money, and my money was my money, and as they say, the twain shall never meet. I resigned myself to the fact that I had spoiled him in the beginning and that I had made him irresponsible. But it turned out to be much more sinister: controlling the cash flow (or the lack thereof) in the household was the only way to bring me under some sort of control. 

Every year, I'd sit with him before the tax preparer, seeing his W2 and be shocked that he made as much money as he did, but had nothing to show for it. I began to resent the fact that he never had money, constantly had his hand out, mooched off our friends and family, but would never tell me where it was all going. What he was telling me wasn't adding up to the evidence I was finding. He started hiding the bills so I wouldn't see them. I'd ask for them but he said that he'd "gone paperless" and didn't have time to pull them up for me. I was constantly having to fork over money. Each time he'd ask if I'd buy gas, or tobacco, or even toilet paper, the first thought in my head was always "Didn't I just buy that?". And yet every year we filed a tax form that showed we should have been living a more than comfortable life.

I listened to the woman I was let to believe was "a monster" in disbelief. All I could do was profusely apologize for all the nasty things that I thought about her all these years. I was shaking, I was so angry.  "It's okay," she had said, "you had no idea that you were being manipulated."  Tears welled up in my eyes. How could I have been so stupid?

She told me how much happier that she is now, and that I will be too. She promised to pray for me. "God has a plan for you, and you are going to be so much happier and better off without him."


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