I am getting a doctorate in public policy and think that is all wonderful. I am also a chump. My husband abruptly walked out with two duffel bags shortly after my first semester in the program ended. That was three days before Christmas. He left everything– his belongings, the house, and me. I was not born yesterday. I sniffed out the bullshit and found out who she was. After the initial shock wore off, I think my intelligence was just as insulted as I was.
I never confronted him. I was in a vulnerable position financially and decided to let my attorneys have a field day with what I knew when the timing was right. Except that I live in a no-fault divorce state who does not like to “punish” offending parties.
My husband was kind of special. Based on conversations I have had with four mental health professionals, all signs point to antisocial personality disorder, that is, he is a sociopath, particularly based on some of the abuses that occurred during the marriage. He also had a past of abruptly ending relationships, but I chalked it up to young immaturity. He didn’t milk this cow for free. He married it.
The crotch jockey thinks she is special. She works in politics in a low-level position that most 21 year olds would envy, except that she is approaching the age where her eggs are starting to shrivel up and she looks like an ill-dressed man. We both know Washington is Hollywood for ugly people (in the word’s of my best friend, a Georgetown alumna, who thought I was being too hard on the “I’m a doctoral student, she’s in politics” pity-party).
I am younger, better educated by a couple of graduate programs, speak several foreign languages, and a hell of a lot more attractive. I also have character and a soul, two qualities that she and my ex-husband lack.
After a hellacious separation, where he broke into our home, played games with attorneys, changed the PSA constantly, pleaded poverty while taking cruises, and “lost” his job the week we should have filed, I finally told him, via my attorney, that I wanted the check he promised me and my car, but that he could take the rest of his “assets” and shove them up his ass. Otherwise, I would see him and the crotch jockey both in court because if I was going down, we all were. The issue was resolved within 30 minutes and 30 days later, we were divorced.
I never quit my doctorate. It has been difficult and some steep obstacles, which I attribute to some of the residuals due to the divorce, but I am still sticking with it. This is a lifelong goal, I work my ass off, and I will never put myself in the position of believing someone when they say, “Don’t worry. I got you covered.”
This week, I marked a high achievement in my career. Not the magical unicorn of having my committee sign off on my dissertation, but a fine milestone nonetheless. I was high off of the travel, praise, and excitement.
Then I learned my ex remarried.
It is not him. It is not her. I reached the point of meh. Their affair, their relationship, none of it has anything to do with me. I learned a long time ago not to take it personally.
But damn if it is not unfair. Neither of them suffered any consequences for their actions. They continued to hump along around the world and in my old bed.
The luxury vehicles, first-class travel, waterfront home, financial security is what you get when you have an affair. No wonder people do it.
Things have not been that way for me. I am the used good. Living on a graduate stipend is painful and the studio apartment is nothing like my warm house. I also have not been able to travel internationally as I love doing. If divorce bruises your ego, working on a doctorate is like drop-kicking it on a daily basis. I am still in therapy working on the trauma of the abandonment and abuse. You’re life changes drastically when you have to sleep with a baseball bat to protect yourself because your nice husband turned into a total lunatic of “Sleeping with the Enemy” proportions.
Cognitively, I know that he is a psychopath who is prepping his next victim. She has absolutely no self-esteem because people with self-esteem don’t fuck married men. They do not matter, they are irrelevant, and it has nothing to do with me. I wanted them to marry. I did not think it was fair that she got to have her fun with him with no consequence. I wanted her to have the full effect.
But I don’t get it. Who does this kind of thing? We’ve been divorced less than a year. What kind of crazy assholes do such a thing? I logically cannot follow.
And damn if it is not unfair. I am so tired of being told “it gets better”. I am tired of being told, “You’re beautiful and intelligent! You have such a bright future.” I am beginning to wonder if I will ever find a job, finish the doctorate, and enjoy some sort of stability in my life. I do not miss him, but I do miss being a Mrs.
It also kills me, just kills me, that she made sure we switched places. That she became me and I became her. That I have to listen to that biological clock getting louder. That I have to walk these mean streets alone. That I have to put my nose to the grindstone.
I was so smart during the divorce. Laser sharp. Did not miss a beat. Maintained an impeccable poker face. Played my hand with perfect timing. But I am the chump.
I am the chump.
Anyway, any thoughts would be appreciated. I should not care. I feel like a total idiot for bawling. It is just everyone keeps saying it gets better. But when?
I still would love to know about think tanks and your path.
Dr. I Can’t Believe I’m a Chump
Dear Dr. Chump,
Think tanks and my path? It was quite awhile ago that I worked at Washington think tanks as an editor. It wasn’t glamorous at all. I edited hundreds of sentences like “It aspires to a position of synthesis.” And when I would query the author, “Hey, this makes no sense whatsoever,” he recast the sentence to read: “It aspires to a position of synthesis with respect to other values.”
Gee thanks, that’s so much better…
Can you imagine the psychic pain of editing reports on the flat tax — or worse, a Newt Gingrich speech in which every sentence began “frankly”? It was on how the CIA needed greater powers of secrecy. My college self would die to know that I got paid to make Newt Gingrich appear articulate.
As for Georgetown, Jesuits pay crap wages. It’s a pretty place to work, with some great students, but the director of our program was diplomat’s son who used to lock himself in his office every day with his cocker spaniel and never fund raised a cent.
No, I don’t miss working in D.C. I like the line about Hollywood as run by ugly people. I’ve also heard Washington D.C. is a town run by first born children and high school class presidents.
Anyway, I was sprung from 16 years of toiling as an Editor of Turgid Pretentiousness, when I married my serial cheater and moved to Pennsylvania. I found life as a ag journalist writing about square dancing tractors and dairy princesses much more to my liking.
But enough about me. I can see how the metro Washington area would be an especially difficult place to be a chump. It’s a city of strivers, of status seekers, of astoundingly over qualified people with impressive degrees from impressive places. It’s also crazy expensive. It would be hard to take an ego hit like infidelity in that place, I get it.
But Doc, you have your studio apartment and your integrity! You’re not comforted by that?There’s no denying that losing a marriage and the financial “security” that goes with it, is a loss of status. But you need to take the long view toward your new life.
When I first got divorced, in the metro DC area as a matter of fact, among the Stepford wives of North Arlington, a dear much older friend took me out to dinner to meet a friend of hers. They had met as faculty wives at Princeton. Both women were super smart and accomplished in their own right, both had degrees from Oxford. But coming up in the 1950s, their “achievement” was to land impressive academic husbands. By the 1970s, they had the life, the children, the homes, the dinner parties. (My friend said she should’ve divorced over the dinner parties alone.) And those men left them for other women.
The loss of status was immediate. My friend went from ski holidays with Richard Holbrooke to raising two teenage daughters alone in a split level. She wasn’t on anyone’s A list.
Her friend, if I recall the story correctly, had it worse. She had 6 children. Her husband was a physicist. My friend’s ex at least had money and she got support and alimony. This woman got next to nothing — with six kids.
Now it was the end of the 1990s, and they were taking me, a freshly minted divorcee in her mid-30s out to dinner. The woman with the six kids? She got a degree in special education and became a world expert on working with developmental disabilities through care of animals. She runs an acclaimed equestrian program for autistic children.
My friend, after kids left for college, sold the split level and moved to D.C. She had a career as an editor, and then retired and reinvented herself as a photographer. She’s the one who just got remarried at 76, whose wedding I attended last Thanksgiving. She met her husband photographing wild life.
I don’t know what happened to the physicist. I doubt his 6 children speak to him. My friend’s ex has been slowly dying of Parkinson’s for the last decade. She says she feels blessed she missed out on nursing a narcissistic man through a long illness.
There are so many ways to have a meaningful, interesting life, Doc. So many ways to succeed without the status of “married.” That woman who “stole” your husband, as you know yourself, got a sociopathic cheater. And I can tell you from personal experience, that men like that are usually hollow cores of “success.” There is never security with someone so deceitful and chaotic.
You have to make your own way. It’s the honest way — and the most secure way to get the success you rightly deserve. You’ve navigated this beautifully so far, keep going. There is NO shame in being a chump. NONE. You’re just grieving the loss of what you thought your life would be. The path you thought you were on, versus the path you have to bushwhack through alone right now.
It can be a really beautiful journey, so have some faith. You might wind up alone writing about dairy princesses, or photographing wild life, or starting an equestrian program for autistic kids. You might find the sort of man who you can really lean back and count on when he says “Don’t worry. I got this covered.” It’s a long road and it’s full of possibilities. You just escaped a sociopath. Time to heave a sigh of relief that the Big Bad Wolf ran after some other girl in a red hood.
When does it get better? On Tuesday. Tuesday is coming. Keep walking.