Hindsight is 20/20, so they say. I would wager a guess that this is never more true than when someone betrays someone else.
Because, while looking into a crystal ball of the future, everything is unwritten. Everything is a guess, a hope, a mystery, a goal. Everything is roses, hopes and dreams. No one thinks about next year, or ten years from now, or when they’re old and their children have grown and thinks, boy I hope I’m miserable. Looking ahead, you think, things will be better. By then I’ll be so damn grown-up I’ll have life grasped by the balls. And I’ll probably have more money, and more time to travel, and me and my partner will be tighter and more bonded than ever before. The kids will be successful and I’ll probably have more than one dog.
But looking back. There is nothing you can do to shroud the truth. There is no way to paint the facts of what happened last week, last month, a year ago or 17 years ago in any other color. Not in the same way you could when your future involved this flawed and terrible person. The things you told yourself about the person who would ultimately betray you in the worst possible way: he’s immature. He’s moody. He’s a difficult man. He has emotional wounds from his childhood. NONE of those things seem valid anymore.
Because the bottom, gritty, hard truth is that screwing someone else while you’re still married is a choice. It’s a conscious choice. A choice that one knows will greatly wound the woman who is sitting at home with his children. A choice that exposes one’s character so brightly that it reverberates and shines on every action of the past like a beacon of truth. A modern day Pandora’s box.
Isn’t that what a mistress is, after all? Pandora and her box (no dirty pun intended)? Once opened, all the evils of the world are released, and hope is trapped inside, unavailable to mortal men. All he is left with is the bitterness and pain of his soon-to-be ex-wife, the disappointment and hurt of his children, the imminent dent in his finances and the fact that maybe, just maybe, the grass won’t be greener on the other side. His hope that this would all turn out like a Meg Ryan movie in which romance would win and we’d be one big blended family and he’d keep his money, the respect of his children, and his ex-wife in the wings just is not happening.
Back to my point, though. Turning around, going back in time…so many things are now crystal clear. Things that happened, things he said or did, that I blew off. Glossed over. Things that bothered me, to my core as a human being, but I made excuses for to myself and others. And the times I did let him know my disappointment in his actions–which were always selfish, self-serving, and immature–I accepted his reason or excuse or logic or simply told myself everyone is flawed. Everything makes mistakes, myself included.
Except…my mistakes are not and never have been about hurting others. They have never been about blaming other people for my own shortcomings. My mistakes did not come from conscious acts of selfish behavior…but his did. And I never saw.
Like the time we rented an old house. And, late one night while drunk, he tripped over a loose board and ended up with an ER visit crutches. And instead of just…okay, I fell while drunk, better tell the landlord to fix the floor he proceeded to press charges against the landlord for having an unsafe property. And me? Well, since the landlord became irate when he learned of this (rightfully so) I concluded that he was, in fact, an asshole and my ex (we’ll start calling him PC…I’ll explain another day) was justified.
Or when our former best friends inexplicably dropped us. Broke up with us. There was never a real reason, but it wasn’t a gradual drifting apart either. When I approached the wife of the couple via email, I got a very cordial, vague response along the lines of We wish you well in life, take care! I spoke of them as having dropped us, no explanation, and how it hurt me. PC talked about it too…how betrayed he felt that they just dropped off the face of the Earth. It was a sore point with both of us. Losing our best friends and not knowing why. And when I best friends, I truly mean that: the kind of people who are in your wedding and at the birth of your first child. The kind of people you vacation with every summer.
But the truth is: PC became extremely drunk at a party at their house, a party that included neighbors and a few work friends. There were 3 babies sound asleep upstairs. PC proceeded to become lewd, vulgar, let the F word fly, made ridiculous comments and then when I finally convinced him to go to bed he crashed and banged around enough that it woke our own baby, who I carried downstairs and tried to comfort. I remember my girlfriend breaking into tears at my baby’s sobs.
The next morning, he slept in til noon while we all took care of our children, went for a hike, and pretended like all was okay. When he awoke, he stormed into the car and barely said good-bye. As if he had some right to be angry at us. At me.
Looking back, of course. Of course that was the catalyst that ended that relationship.
The many, many times he left me somewhere with 2 kids and didn’t bother to help with getting them home, packing up our gear, or staying where we were and helping out. Sporting events, the pool, weekend trips, even just a birthday party. He always dumped the dirty work on me. And me, oh well he has to work. Oh well he’s going out after this so might as well have two cars. Oh, well, he’s ‘superstitious’ that we only win games when we take 2 cars. When I should have been saying oh well, he’s a fucking asshole.
The time that my grandmother turned 90 and there was a huge, planned for months birthday party/family reunion. That despite everything, he could not manage to be off work for that one day. And although he did grace us with his presence, he only stayed for an hour. Told me he had to get back because some famous ball player was signing autographs in our town and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity” And in my head, I’m going, “My grandmother’s 90th birthday party with 50+ extended family members (your children’s family members) is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
When I expressed my disappointment, the reaction was “Hey, I didn’t have to come at all.” Think about that.
How he never, ever got up in the morning to just…participate in life, unless it was a benefit to him. When it was a game, or he wanted to go fishing, or we were leaving to go somewhere HE wanted to go…no issues. Every single time it was something important to me, he’d lay in bed. He’d push it to the last minute. I’d start out nice, waking him. I’d be getting ready, taking care of kids, packing bags or the car, whatever. I’d become increasingly irritated. I’d remind him that I asked him the night before not to do this, and that he’d agreed. I’d point out that we needed to leave in X minutes but he wasn’t even up. And then he would snap at me. Tell me I was nagging. Insist I’m up! as if the fact that you’re speaking overrides the fact that you’re still in bed with your eyes closed. And then we’d wait, and inevitably leave past the time that I wanted to. He’d get in the car…suddenly magnanimous. “I’LL drive! Kids, you want to stop for donuts?” Chastising me not to “ruin” the day by being in a bad mood.
That happened every. single. time. And despite how badly it bothered me, I simply blew it off as one of his flaws, sleeping in. As though he were a teenage boy and not a man, a father and a husband. A grown up fucking human being.
He never helped me when I was sick and balked at caring for me after the two times I had surgery. One time our daughter started puking moments after the babysitter arrived. So…obviously, we weren’t going out. Except…that only applied to me. Babysitter went home, he went out, I stayed and held our sweet, feverish, puking 2-year-old. He never even offered to help, never even paused on his way out the door except to say good luck and make gross puking faces.
He never supported the things that were important to me (unless someone else was complimenting me…then he chimed in). He treated my writing as a waste of time. I remember him commenting about how I spent all this time writing but You have nothing to show for it. Publish something…then I’ll be impressed. At the time? I took that as his way of pushing me to do better.
He told me he went out all the time to decompress and watch sports “because you don’t like sports”. Except when I’d get irritated at being alone, night after night, in particular this past summer. Then, his reasons changed. This is why I don’t want to be here, all you do is bitch at me. Or, you have nothing to talk about. All you want to do is Facebook and Netflix and text your girlfriends. Well, what else did you expect me to do at home, alone, every fucking night?
I see it now though. He was looking for reasons to dislike me. Reasons to make his own miserable existence no fault of his own, but of mine. Blame me for the unhappiness. Blame me for being the reason he was “driven” to pursue his 20 year lust for her. Blame me for not being the type of woman he wanted (or says he wants): ambitious, interesting, and someone with an actual job. So instead of me, he picked her.
And it is hard not to feel like a fool. Hard not to feel stupid for missing or pushing under the rug so. many. things. I remember early in our relationship, I dumped him. I remember the fallout and how terribly sad and scared I was to be single but…there was this immense feeling of relief. And I should have held onto that. Instead, two weeks later we were back together and better than ever thanks to a sweet little book about love, with highlighted passages and handwritten thoughts. Thanks to a mix tape and a renewed sense of affection and attention that would wane again soon enough.
The biggest foolishness of all seems to stem from the how did I not see feeling. The why am I so surprised he did this feeling. For years, he’s been doing things and saying things and treating people INCLUDING ME in ways that peeled back the facade just enough to reveal his true colors. And instead of ripping that facade off, facing it, and walking away I instead chose to tape it back together, make excuses, and continue on until the ultimate lie revealed itself.
And like Pandora’s box, the evil has all been released in the form of hindsight. In the form of the fallout. Right now it seems that hope is locked away…but maybe I’m interpreting the myth wrong. Maybe, hope is lost for him. Maybe, just maybe, the unleashing of all of these truths are simply the beginning of a path of previously unattainable hope. For me.