Approximately, five weeks ago, on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I learned that my husband of 19 years was having an emotional affair with a co-worker. (The OW is 21 years-old and in an open relationship with her fiancé.)
The EA began this past November and would have gone beyond sexting and kissing had she not put the brakes on it, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on his part. He was trying to get her to commit to a hotel date, but his manic episodes at work were giving her pause.
My STBX and I had never had issues like this in the past. He was diagnosed with bipolar and NPD, but we mostly struggled with his manic episodes and his chronic job hopping; monogamy was never an issue before. We were best friends since I was 19. I stood by his side thoughout all his health issues including in our 20s when his apnea was so bad, it escalated to numerous instances of incontinence.
I know they were in the process of recalibrating his meds, but it was like November rolled around; he turned 40, and he just snapped. Prior to this, all of his friends would tell me how much he loved me/the kids, but this past November, he started acting erratic even when discussing our family with them and not wanting to spend any time with us.
In the sexts I found, he refers to me as a cockblock at times because apparently I was (unknowingly) interrupting their sexting on numerous occasions. He even stole our teenager’s Soft Kitty pins and gave them to her. (The OW didn’t know they belonged to my daughter.) He also told her he would leave us for her. He used the same pet names on her that held only specific meaning only for us.
The oddest part is that I gained a significant amount of weight from our dating years back when I was 117 pounds to weighing about 235 pounds a few years ago. But this past year, I managed to lose to 149 by clean eating. I even encouraged him to do the same and he lost 30 pounds. I’m probably looking the healthiest I have since we got married; I also got a second job, so he wouldn’t feel the pressure of providing for our family all on him, yet now is when he decides to cheat? He would also get so angry when people would compliment me. He’d ask why he wasn’t getting any compliments. Looking back, it must have been his NPD, but I just shrugged it off as insecurity at the time.
I only learned of the EA because I discovered his fake Facebook account with their sexts. Shell shocked, I instinctively contacted a friend of his from his work whom I knew would not lie to me to confirm the validity of these messages. Not only did this particular friend confirm my nightmare and was so disgusted by his lies, she went ahead and contacted the OW to let her know she had been lied to as well since my STBX had told her we were separated. The OW (who is only four years older than our daughter) immediately broke things off with him, wrote me a lengthy letter of apology and informed me that she was going to be filing a sexual harassment claim against him at work because he was essentially stalking her as she is a subordinate. She made good on her claims, but he was only given a slap on the wrist (extended probation) and they avoid each other like the plague these days. He blames her for everything that happened between them now in true NPD fashion.
That same week of D-Day, I was able to remain calm enough to obtain a lawyer. I got a separation agreement that gave me primary physical and legal custody of our two kids (17 year-old daughter and six year-old son). It also included a stipulation that stated he cannot introduce our minors to anyone of the opposite sex; I also set nothing in stone about visitation other than a statement than it must be mutually agreed upon. The lawyer recommended this because it would give me the advantage since I have primary custody. I also enrolled my kids and I in therapy that same week and we moved into my parents while I save up for a home. (Our old family home was a rental, so we don’t have many assets.) I separated our bank accounts. And for the first time in my life, I went on Zoloft because I don’t have the option to miss work or I will lose my jobs. (I’m an adjunct English instructor and an item bank writer.) I applied for life insurance and placed my mom as the beneficiary, so that my children will have some stability if I die, and I’m in the process of looking into a will.
I’m trying to keep NC as much as possible, but there are times we have talked such as this past Saturday for the division of the tax return where he spent the entire time pleading for reconciliation because of course (lack of CAKE).
I can’t believe this is my life now. I’m struggling in both my jobs. The Zoloft isn’t helping with this. I joined a church group for divorced parents that meets weekly; I’m attempting exercise again, but I can’t seem to concentrate. I have this indiscernible anxiety in the pit of my stomach all the time. I liken the experience to having this condition that feels like waking up every day battling a virus that has chronic flare-ups. How did you function? How did you work? How did your brain stop long enough for you to do that?
I keep thinking …
“WTF happened in November? Why’d he do this now? He just got a supervisor position. We were finally turning a corner as a family.”
Do the triggers ever end?! I invested so much if my identity in being a wife/mother/the family dream that I feel so lost.
The pain is finite. Yes, the triggers end, you learn to function, and life does return to a new kind of normal.
But that’s not what I wanted to say, Cass. What I want to say is: YOU DID ALL THAT IN FIVE WEEKS?
Seriously?! You lawyered up, you divided assets, you got your kids in therapy, you got on anti-depressants, you changed your life insurance, you’re changing your will, you moved in with your parents, you joined a church support group, and you exercise? AND YOU WORK TWO JOBS? And you HAVE THE KIDS? Did I forget something? Oh yeah, you lost nearly 100 pounds.
Please put the cape away, Super Cass. Gotham will live another day. I think you’re entitled to a breakdown, or at the very least an uninterrupted flop on the sofa.
I’m not a pharmacologist, but I don’t think they make anti-depressants strong enough for all the shit on your plate, okay? Zoloft isn’t doing it for you? Chemicals have limits, dear. (Of course if you have concerns about Zoloft’s efficacy talk to you doctor. Usually people have to cycle through a few anti-depressants to find one that fits.)
From where I sit, you’ve been carrying one hell of a burden propping Mr. NPD-Can’t-Keep-a-Job-Pees-His-Pants into respectable adulthood and you just laid that burden down. Yeah, it’s going to feel weird and disorienting. You’ve let go of the lead balloon. What possibly could fill his place?
I dunno. Sanity?
You can’t concentrate because IT’S BEEN 5 WEEKS. You’re still in shock, okay? Give yourself a break. Most of us are still babbling idiots at the 5 week mark. I know I was. How did I function? How did any of us? I had a kid to raise. I had deadlines. Nothing like 32 empty newspaper pages coming at you every week to fill. I somehow went into autopilot and I did it.
We do what we have to do. When in crisis, we rise to the occasion.
You’ve more than risen to the occasion, okay? Look Cass, now’s your time to take care of YOU. To grieve, to be kind to yourself, to surround yourself with loving support. Quit expecting perfection. Don’t even expect an attention span until at least a year. You’re going to slog through this shit like everyone else, until one day (it’s a Tuesday), you feel lighter. You’ll look back and go “OMG, that was my LIFE? I put up with that shit? I lived with that chaos?” and you’ll marvel.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2016 ? — “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, free at last.”
Keep being mighty, Cass. You’re doing just fine.
(Was looking for the Soul Stirrers version of Free At Last, but Paul Foster rocking this one out will do nicely.)