In one of my many long conversations with girlfriends, one of them commented to me Don’t be surprised when people start crawling out of the woodwork. What she meant, of course, was other men. To which I responded by internally dry-heaving with a bit of fake gagging for extra emphasis. No, thank you. I’m done with men. Done.
Except, another favorite phase of well-intentioned people who find out you’re the jilted spouse: You’ll find someone else, you wait and see. In fact, everyone seems to hint around to this, in some form or another. You’ll find happiness again, it wasn’t meant to be with him, better now than later…you’re still young! That one is a favorite, because I am not young. I’m youngish, as in, my 91-year-old grandmother probably thinks I’m young but my kids definitely know I’m old as shit.
So it seems, if I am surmising correctly, that the great tragedy here is not the betrayal, the trauma, the stressful effects on my children, the financial ramifications, or really even, my own happiness. The great tragedy, it seems, is that I no longer have someone: a husband, a lover, a boyfriend, a best friend, a partner. A spouse. A man who loves me so much, he not only looks at me with passion, he looks at a photograph of me like a man who’s been away at war too long.
Except. Does that even exist anymore? Are there good men who have unwavering devotion and love and everything The Notebook was written about woven into the threads of their very soul, for a woman? Are there men who think, of women, the way a quote I once read goes? Something along the lines of, she’s the kind of woman you go to war with…the kind of woman you marry? The kind of love in which you see that person in their entirety–everything–and you know that she would battle for your life and make you a cup of coffee, all in the same breath?
Because, although no men have come crawling out of the woodwork, there is another type of person who has come crawling out…unhappy women. Honest to God, I am asking you. Is there anyone who is happy? Anyone with a marriage that is solid and good and strong and not only works but has this tiny bit of fire still burning, even if its kindled to a point of just…compassion and caring and trust and familiarity?
For example, just a random sampling…
The friend who leaned across her kitchen table on her elbows, swirling her tea as if the future could be told, and said listen, that could be us next week. It’s not good.
The friend who is stunningly gorgeous with a big heart and a ton of drive, married to an equally gorgeous successful husband who also has a good heart, who said to me Eh. Sometimes I need a break from him. I’m not sure people are meant to be together forever anyhow. I think you have more than one soul mate.
The friend who made a comment about weight loss to which I sarcastically responded “Divorce Diet for the win!” (Stress will do to you what no diet and exercise can quite accomplish. The calorie burning dedication of a tortured mind is impressive.) She responded. Yeah. I’ll have to ask you about that. Don’t tell anyone, but we’re having problems. This person…one of the ones I thought was a sure thing.
Another girl, these men. All they think about is themselves. We’re struggling too…
And yet another: you’re strong for walking. I found out my husband had an affair with another woman. He asked me if I wanted him to leave and I said no. So we’re working on it. The look of sadness and misery on her face was likely comparable to mine. Because of this, because of this thing we call infidelity, there is a no-win situation. You either stay and make the marriage work. And be miserably reminded every day. Or you leave and the marriage breaks. But you still get reminded every day because the asshole switches from being magnanimous and dropping off take-out for the kids (Super Dad! Hold the presses!) and just being a plain old asshole and sending you nasty texts threatening the financial outcome of the divorce. (Or is that just me?)
My mom’s friend, who recently divorced her husband of 30 years. I didn’t love him like he wanted me to.
And just last night, my sweet friend who is one of those special people who has stepped above the nature of our acquaintance to be incredibly supportive. She’s very different from me, and to be honest, there were times I looked at her family and life with wistfulness. It seemed very comfortable and easy and safe and maybe a little boring but they always seemed happy. We were speaking in a roundabout way and I came to the above subject…is anyone happy? And she unequivocally sat up, put her hand over her heart, and stated firmly, I’m not. Not even close.
And then all the stories of cheaters. The people who have been in my shoes and moved on and assured me that yes, you will too. My two best girlfriends: both of them had their first marriage end because of cheating. A relative with a tale eerily similar to mine. My pet-sitter. The random friend of a friend I met at a girls night whose story could have been told my me.
I have always said, and will continue to say: I would never cheat. I say this, because my heart was only ever broken once before: in the throes of young love, and I was left for someone else. I, obviously, moved on. But I never quite forgot that feeling of utter loss and betrayal. And, in case you’re wondering, that feeling after 2 decades and 2 kids is magnified times a million.
But I also would have told you, 51 days ago, that my husband would never cheat on me. I never once worried about that. He would never do that. Besides, he wasn’t exactly a flirtatious guy. He was never a man who started at hot women in the bar. He wasn’t a man who wasn’t getting laid very often (quite to the contrary, thank you very much.) But I guess I forgot to consider the he’s a man whose high school girlfriend will move back into the picture and strike up feelings of teenage lust and make him think that is where he went wrong in life. I forgot to consider that scenario, for sure.
So is the great tragedy that we are all flawed? Dishonesty is not new, but has it always been so rampant? Love is not new, but has it always been so disappointing? I will tell you, many of the men mentioned in the above examples of marriage gone sour? They’re good men. Men who are good fathers. Men who take care of their wives. Men who do work that places heavy burdens on their souls. So is it the women? Are we all expecting the love story of Jack and Kate and being horribly disappointed that instead of jumping off the sinking ship and being willing to die together, our spouse is still inside the dining room, flirting with a first class passenger?
Maybe the great tragedy in my own marriage was not that I didn’t love my husband (because I absolutely, for certain, did.) It was not that he didn’t love me, because even a pyschopath couldn’t fake that for nearly half their life. Perhaps the tragedy was two-fold: me, for expecting the moon and settling for a life in which every decision was made centered around him, and being okay with that because I was comfortable and safe. Him, for not seeing the depths of my love in just that: that everything I did was for him. Supported every choice he made, gave him two children and raised them, made our house a home and in the interim folded his socks the way he liked them and went out on dates every weekend and listened to his drunken ramblings about life and built up his ego and had lots of intimacy. The kind of woman you go to war with, the kind of woman you marry.
So, fuck him. Good luck finding another wife like me.
Once upon a time, my sister’s friend left her first marriage. She was probably the first friend I knew to get divorced…this was back in the young age of early to mid 20’s. I remember her saying she came to her decision to leave because somewhere along the line, I stopped believing in love.
This, perhaps, is the greatest tragedy of all.