Would love some tough love. One night after making a healthy gluten-free meal for my husband, kid, and kid’s sleepover friend, hubs and I had a quickie in the shower while the kids were outside. Fifteen minutes later I am walking into the den with my dinner (you know…feed everyone else then care for yourself mentality), I walk up behind the asshat and he is messaging “someone” and quickly shut the phone. I asked who it was and he stuttered (yes, stuttered) his friend’s name. I said “No who was it?” He said, white faced and shaky, “I am having an affair.”
The bottom fell out, the kid came up screaming at his dad, “What have you done to my mom??!!” Our family was forever changed in that instant. He chose to tell his wife of fifteen years he is having an affair AFTER sex and WHILE our son was home with a friend over.
Fast forward to 36 days later, he has filed for divorce (wants no separation and had the balls to tell me this marriage is not reconcilable — let me mention I didn’t even ASK for his ass back!) and I am the one picking up the broken pieces of this family for my son (who refuses to see his dad AT ALL). So here is where the tough love need comes in.
What the fuck is wrong with me that I am sitting here thinking, “If I hadn’t been so co-dependent our marriage would have worked?” Regardless that he neglected me emotionally and treated me like a sex object for 13 years (our marriage was actually great when it started), and that he used to call me a crazy bitch in front of our kid.
Why am I taking this on? Is this really how co-dependents think? “If only I…” ????
I want to slap my own face right now and really this feeling is coming from absolute rejection… He fucked around on me, he traumatized our child, he has been lying and cheating, yet HE wants out??? I feel unloved and empty and can’t believe I am letting this asshole make me FEEL anything less than HAPPY HE’S GONE.
Words of tough love, advice would be welcome.
Dear Worth More,
“If only…” is the bargaining stage of grief. You’re trying to make sense of the whiplash of going from 15 years of marriage, sex, and gluten-free dinners to total rejection in 10 minutes flat. “If only…” is reconstructing the crash scene and trying to find the black box of blame. If only I wasn’t so co-dependent. If only I hadn’t asked to see his cell phone. If only I had served gluten that day…
Control is a very seductive commodity when your world’s been shattered. It’s far more palatable to think that you had some hand in this tragedy than to accept that your husband has the sociopathic ability to fuck you in the shower one minute and text his mistress the next.
So a chump bargains. I brought this on myself somehow. And you tell yourself that if only you could reverse course, or be different, you could prevent Scary Things From Ever Happening. Bargaining says your investment wasn’t a total waste. Bargaining says maybe there is something here to be salvaged (like friendship!) Bargaining is the crazy mindfuck that allows people to sleep with their exes. (Okay, we can’t be married anymore, but maybe we can just enjoy the sex…)
And even though bargaining comes with humiliation (the pick me dance, the desperate demands for closure, the endless loops of self-recimination), it keeps you from those scary feelings of powerlessness. Better to feel humiliation and a sense of CONTROL than utter loss.
Maybe you were too codependent. Maybe you buttered his gluten-free toast and folded his underwear in perfect squares and sublimated your every need to the greater good of family unity. Maybe your thighs are chubby. Maybe you hold embarrassing political views. Maybe your family is absolutely insufferable and your children are below average.
That doesn’t make what he did your fault. Your codependency, real or imagined, did not compel your husband to live a double life. And then, once discovered, to walk out on his family. That’s on him. We have no superpowers of abandonment and rejection. (As I’ve written before, if we did, then we could concentrate really hard and make people hit us or drive them to drink.)
Your husband could’ve spoken up. He could’ve behaved with integrity and had difficult conversations with you, a therapist, or a divorce attorney. He could’ve not taken THAT moment of all moments to announce his affair. He had a big decision tree with thousands of possible decisions and he did NOT have to make those hurtful choices.
Love and committing our lives to someone makes us vulnerable. Intimacy means vulnerability, there’s no way around that. But ethical people guard that trust. They are careful with our hearts. They do not gamble them in a two-bit crap shoot for easy pussy.
If you want to change your codependent ways and unchump, more power to you. I’m all in favor of self-improvement. But don’t mistake it for causality. People far more fabulous than you are cheated on every day, and people far more odious are committed to.
We only control ourselves. That’s scary and it’s also empowering. On the scary side, that means you can’t save a marriage single-handedly. Or change a cheater’s character by reading RIC books, or dragging them by their ears to therapy. You just get to save you. YOU decide who gets the honor of your love. YOU decide who is worthy and who is not. YOU decide who gets the mental real estate in your head and who is a squatter who needs evicting.
The way he treated you was appalling and unacceptable. He’s a coward who ran. Yes, Worth More you ARE worth more. Act on that self-worth — cut him out of your life and communicate through scheduling software and lawyers. The feelings will follow.