My husband died unexpectedly about a month ago. I was devastated and my world fell apart completely. I thought he adored me. He demonstrated it to me with big acts and through little gestures; from thoughtful little efforts towards me to lovely dates and long evenings in each other’s company chatting over dinner and drinks. Friends thought of us as that awesome couple who were really connected and it seemed like we spent all of our free time together. (Note the key word: seemed). I remember that in that time of anguish, the one comforting thought I had was, “Even though we were together for only 15 years and I have to suffer this loss at a young age, at least I was fortunate enough to be deeply loved by someone.” I’ll bet you know what’s coming next…
Yes, about three days later I hacked into his super locked-down computer and discovered that not only had he been cheating with regular Craigslist hook ups, but he had mistresses, he watched a lot of sketchy porn (including some with ‘teen’ in the title), and he visited prostitutes now and then. He did a combination of the above pretty much regularly for seven years of our relationship. It was organized and methodical. Not only did he do these things unbeknownst to me, but he would bring it all very close to home. He even arranged with an ex mistress, a neighbor, for her to befriend me and gave her updates on my life (like my new favorite gardening show — she was into gardening too). I don’t know what the motive was here because it was over according to their text conversations — and I guess it doesn’t matter. He secretly tangled up his secret double life with our life; but made sure I was placated and he built my confidence up so I felt very secure and thoroughly believed that I was his one and only. I trusted him completely and felt very lucky to have a husband so devoted to me. We had our issues, but it seemed like normal married people stuff. Of course the odd things make more sense now that the veil was lifted, but most of the time he maintained this really lovely persona and I am still shocked by his even-keeled cunning over such a long span of time.
All along he would do things like tickle my feet and text his mistress with the phone angled away from me so I couldn’t see. (He was always on call for work and was in a band so had excuses for needing to chat). He constantly bugged me to spend more time with him so we took a long day at the beach and I found that he had been taking pictures of our picnic spread and texting his mistress while laying right next to me during our quality time together. But worst of all, he would offer to ‘host’ in his Craigslist ads, which means he was bringing random women from the internet as well as his mistresses into my home and into our bed. He also sent them photos of me and of our pets, told them intimate things about me that I had confided in him and gave them updates on my day to day life. I was living in a fishbowl without knowing it — pretty much solid for seven years. Sentimental trinkets and such sit on my dressing table next to the bed and they all were seen and maybe touched by these women. For me my bedroom is truly may sanctuary and I feel that my life and my space were profoundly violated. They used my space and I was unwise to it the whole time.
So now, instead of planning a funeral and mourning him, I am instead changing my locks (sooo many weird strangers must have been in my home), scheduling a day to get tested for STDs, and mourning the loss of a life that turned out to be a complete fiction. As I come to terms with realizing that my ally in life was not at all concerned about my well being and did not have my back but was the one with the dagger, I keep coming back to one sticking point.
I don’t want to move and I don’t want to rearrange, I don’t wish to buy new things (okay, I got new sheets even though the damage is done and I slept in his filth for who knows how long) or repaint (I like the color I chose) but making changes just for the sake of it will feel like they “won” and I don’t think he has the right to win this one. I am just not sure how to handle the feeling of having my innermost world violated. I expect this will sting for a while, but I am anxious to move on with my life. Any thoughts on how to reclaim one’s space?
P.S. We didn’t have any kids, thank goodness. We were trying though. We were going through IUI and adoption information sessions. (I’m 43, he was 47). He was actually willing to bring a child into our life! He also gave the current mistress updates on what the adoption sessions were like and when our IUI appointments were. I can only imagine that he would have done this well into old age. That level of selfishness boggles my mind.
You don’t have to do one. damn. thing. you don’t want to do.
You don’t want to move? Don’t move. You want your dresser things arranged just so? Leave it. You like your paint color? KEEP IT.
For 15 years this monster stole your reality, denied your agency, and humiliated you. He built you up with those “thoughtful little gestures” just so he could tear you down. Secretly, behind your back. He lulled you into a false sense of security… so he could violate you.
Infidelity is abuse. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. What this man did to you is SICK.
I found that he had been taking pictures of our picnic spread and texting his mistress while laying right next to me during our quality time together.
He’s getting off on duping you, while goading the OW into the Pick Me Dance — trying to humiliate her too. See what a tasty lunch I have with my wife? Don’t you want the goodies I give her? Dance motherfucker DANCE!
Or triangulating with your neighbor to befriend you, when he knows he fucked her? Inserting her in your life? Encouraging intimacy? He’s raping you. Your vulnerability and powerlessness gave him a big, raging hard-on.
This is how sociopaths hurt you — at great remove. It’s not a hand-to-hand, in your face, kind of combat. No, it’s a cruise missile, dispatched with guided precision to destroy you.
If someone’s got a knife to your face? You know they mean to harm you. But a sociopath drops the bomb from 30, 000 feet and you never know what hit you. One minute you’re there at the breakfast table drinking your coffee, the next minute… oblivion. These freaks never get their hands dirty if they can help it.
But they do relish their bombs.
That was your life, Birdie. This man had a big arsenal of hurt, and he lorded it over you each day. He had you in his sights, he knew he was destroying you, but how much longer could he tease out the beautiful feelings of POWER? How close to disaster could he skirt? Ooh… while tickling your feet? THAT close. You don’t know do you? Chump.
And now he’s dead, thank you Jesus.
I am anxious to move on with my life. Any thoughts on how to reclaim one’s space?
Yes. Just claim it. Enjoy your powers of agency.
You can exercise those powers however you choose. You can tell people the truth of what you discovered and deny his sainted memory. You can go forward with the adoption if you want to. (Why should you be denied motherhood because you’re short one cheating fuckwit?) You can stay in your house, or move to Siberia. It’s YOUR CHOICE!
If it were me, I’d probably sell all his shit — every last thing — and put it in a Do Whatever I Want fund. I would probably confront that gardening neighbor too, and let her know you know. Not much to say, but don’t let her enjoy the power trip of your cluelessness.
What I would do, however, is disabuse yourself of the notion that “they win.” No — there’s no game, just the mindfuckery and abuse they hid from you, but now the Evil Puppetmaster is dead.
Your story was always yours. You were always real, Birdie. You were always invested and had a loving heart. These fuckers can try and twist reality, and make chumps of us, but it does not change the content of our souls.
The only space worth reclaiming is the space in our heads. Resist untangling his sociopathic skein. He stole years of your life, and now he is justly dead. There’s no nuance to his life story — he was a sociopathic motherfucker, a BAD PERSON, and he’s out of your life. His story is OVER.
But your new life is just beginning. Grab it. Every day you know the truth and you outlive him — you won.