When your husband is dating another woman, what is the etiquette? Are there special Hallmark card? Is there a ceremony or a special title? Maybe even a badge.
No my husband and I are not separated nor are we living in separate residences. His mail still comes to this address and I still wash his clothes, fold it and put it away because as my daughter says, I'm too nice.
Last year at this time, I thought his distance and his crankiness were just fall out from his tendency towards melancholy. When asked about his mood, I was tossed the usual bone, "I'm tired or work is stressful." Nothing too specific but just reasonable enough silence me.
Then the discovery- a love note and condoms. Instead of the "I love you," I regularly received, I now get the Liar's Top 40 Playlist.
I could pack up and leave... but I have three children and an infirm mother to care for. My husband who wooed me with the dream of having a "partner" to share his life with has cut me off financially and put me on limited allowance which is based on his discretion. I've essentially become the slave living in the big House which creates all kinds of scary nightmares seeing that he is white and I am black.
The hardest part of all of this is the fact that I've been in this play before except the other time around I played the role of the other woman. He of course kept the role of the tortured victim of a vengeful wife. I too was struggling through a difficult marriage. I understood his pain. Ha! Ha! I viewed myself as his guardian angel, protector of his delicate nature. I was going to give him the life he desperately needed to create his art. I'm left feeling like the mark in a con-game.
I could deal with the egg on my face if it wasn't for the fact that there are children involved- my three and his step-daughter. My husband is rarely around for his biological son except maybe on the weekend when spending time with him extends to keeping the kid on electronics while he stares blindly into a computer screen. Then at some point taking him out to either a movie, to get pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich at a local cafe. Recently he started taking hims bowling (twice) but who knows how long that will last, his father is too distracted these days.
At seven he's starting to become aware of how involved the fathers around us are in their children's lives. He recently went to a friend's house for the day and he was amazed at how involved his friend's father was his kids. "He wasn't on the computer at all," he said.
I am humbled and and horribly embarrassed to realize the pain I caused his first wife for believing his vilification of her. Now I am the demon as he whispers words of love into this married woman's ear.
My youngest son wonders why Daddy is always at "work" instead of spending time with him. But work these days for him consists of seeing this woman. My husband has a strong need to be a "hero". He could have volunteered in our local ambulance corps or fire department. He could have even become the big brother for some kid who doesn't have a father. But instead he has found another black woman he can "rescue" until he grows bored. He is helping her build her business, dedicating his time and energy to her while much needed repairs languish to our house. Our life has become his prison he must escape from.
But I'm not supposed to write about any of this because he considers himself "a private person." (these are his exact words). Well then perhaps he shouldn't have hurt a writer for what else is a writer going to do but write about it. The pain I felt after discovering my husband's infidelity and the subsequent lies, coldness and cruelty is even hard for me as a writer to describe. The best description is to imagine what it would feel like to be disemboweled and then have everything shoved back in and stitched up with a dull knitting needle. And I don't even think I'm even coming close the pain. It left a metallic taste in my mouth.
When your husband is dating another woman, no one is willing to help you with this load. Friends nod, offer support and then run the other way with a vague, "Call me sometime or Try not to think about it." Yeah, good luck with that. I get it. I understand. If you're happily ensconced in a good relationship why blacken it with another person's pain.
I'm reminded of giving birth to my first-born and there was this moment where I let out this primal scream-moan that rose from deep within my DNA, passed down from one long chain of ancestral mother to the next. I'd never felt anything freeing and soaring before. Just as the pain dissolved around me, I opened my eyes to my doctor, labor nurse and then husband all shushing me. I learned in that moment people have a hard time with raw emotion.
It's no different being on the other end of a broken heart. Everybody would really appreciate it you would just kind of keep it to yourself. When your husband dates another woman, it would just be better for everyone if you would just suck it up and maybe think about something else. I could amuse myself with cat videos on YouTube.
The lead up to Valentine's Day was a real bitch. One more "Every kiss begins with Kay Jewelery" commercial and I was going to lose it. In a moment of insanity, I joined an online dating website. Why should I be trapped in celibacy? Why should I be the one taking care of hearth and home while he's out seeing musicals? (her influence. I should add here he's a cipher who takes on the likes of the woman he's courting. I turned him onto running and music because his first wife didn't let him listen to music... but I digress here).
So I filled out the extensive questionnaire and noted that I was married. I didn't want to lie. I wanted to go into an affair with honest, after all. Once I posted my profile I was bombarded with attention. I felt like that moment in "Dirty Dancing" when Patrick Swayze's character says, "No one puts baby in the corner," and leads her up to the dance floor for the grand finale. At first I felt a glow but that quickly turned into that cold chill you get right before you throw up.
It was all these married men, looking to "rekindle" or "reignite" the passion that was missing from their lives. I imagined them typing away on the keyboard in search of women desperate enough to respond while their wives were off alone in their house. I never want to be with someone who would need to make up a lie to be with me. I'm worth so much more than that. Twelve years ago, I didn't know this.
My father cheated on my mother and it killed her spiritually. My father was her second marriage. My mother was single for more than twelve years before she met my father. I imagine her fear at having her heart broken again or exposing her son to a man who wasn't going to be a real father to him (his biological father took no interest after their divorce) kept her cautious. Then she lost her heart to my father. I can understand why, he was devilishly handsome and was as charming as could be.
But the lies were discovered soon after they married- yes, he had been married before, yes he did have children. My mother loved him, believed his excuses and then I came along and they were happy for a number of years but he couldn't sustain it. It took its toll on my mother. She went from being a vibrant social woman who loved to read and go to the theater to someone who only visited her friends on the phone and watched television incessantly. She gave up, swallowed her pain and it fed on her. I swore I would never be like her.
So there I was married to the "man of my dreams." We had so many similarities we could have been twins. We were even born in the same obscure hospital. He was quiet, sensitive, caring and not just honest but honorable (at least that was how I saw him). Ours was a fairy tale romance... Well maybe not a fairy tale but more like a Lifetime 3am movie, with that actress and that actor who look like the people who played on that show you only saw once when channel surfing. It was worthy of a couple of "Oh how romantic," in the retelling.
The inconsistencies were apparent pretty early on. They weren't bold faced lies like my father but more like excuses: his odd behavior was the result of allergic reactions to food, his dislike of being around other artists, his lack of friends. Then there were the crazy omens going on in my life, like the universe was doing everything in it's power to get me out this crazy romance, as we created a life together. Within a year of meeting him- my father died, my beloved dog Jack became sick. She died within two weeks of moving into our new house, and then (and this was one of the hardest to process) my best friend at the time who was more sister than friend stopped being my friend. I realize now, everything that anchored me to myself (outside of my kids) was gone. I was cast off and I was adrift for years until the universe decided to have a go at me again to knock some sense into my head- that would be the love letter, condoms and the trail of steaming smelly lies.
When your husband is dating another woman, you do some major excavation, digging deep down to discover that you are not a victim, you are not a mark, you are so much more than a woman whose husband is dating another woman. You pick yourself up because despite his behavior towards you, you must always remember your dignity. You hug your children. You write because writing has never let you down. And you trust. You trust in love, in knowledge and curiosity, in magic, in hope, in truth. You trust in music, in smiles and laughter. You make certain you smile in the mirror the first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed for who can resist a smile?
When your husband is dating another woman, you send out loving compassion to this woman and to her husband and children. You send out loving compassion to your husband even through the pain he inflicts on your life and the lives around you. My oldest son said one day as we drove in the car, "I look at him and I see what I never want to be." Amen. Lesson learned.
And the most important lesson you learn when your husband is dating another woman is that this pain is a gift, a blessing. It is a door opening into a life of what you love, what you desire because when you live with a man who can betray you so deeply, you know exactly what you don't want in your life and what you will never tolerate. Been there and never going back again.
So for now I write and seek out the life I love. I hold my children and always let them know I am that anchor they can count on. I laugh. I smile. I savor life. Yes, there are moments of real fear but then I take a deep breath and know that someday soon I will never be the wife of a man who is dating another woman.