Wednesday, April 21, 2010

D-Day Minus 40: WTF????

After the boys and I returned from our Virginia vacation, life settled into the usual summer routine. Susan and I continued to text each other, and our families saw each other at the weekly hockey games. Brad and Mitch were also still getting together for their adult hockey games each Wednesday. I didn’t know it at the time, but Brad and Susan had begun emailing and instant messaging each other. Had I known about it, I probably wouldn’t have thought much about it, because I trusted Brad.

In September, Susan found this class on reincarnation and asked me if I would take it with her. I don’t know how I feel about reincarnation; parts of it make sense to me and other parts it doesn’t, so the idea of the class was interesting. And it would give us something else to talk about besides family and hockey. The classes were on Sunday afternoons. Afterwards we would walk on the beach and chat. I enjoyed that because we had a chance to get to try to know each other better.

We also went shopping one time that fall. On this trip Susan told me about an old friend of Mitch’s. Apparently they were very close but had a big argument and now they don’t speak at all. This guy had even lived with them for a while. In the midst of the story, Susan mentioned that Mitch felt this guy had feelings for her. I was going to ask if that was part of the reason for the falling out, but I didn’t get a chance to. I still don’t know that answer.

In mid-October Susan asked me if I wanted to go to dinner. She thought that since Mitch and Brad got together weekly, we should too. Truthfully I was ambivalent about it. The thought of meeting weekly seemed like a lot, since we already saw each other every weekend at the hockey games. I liked her, but I never got the feeling that we were going to be really close. Really we are very different. So this felt a bit forced. In fact the shopping trip we took really was forced on me and I went into that kicking and screaming. Brad set it up with Susan. I complained that I didn’t need play dates scheduled for me. But it really seemed important to him, so I went.

Anyway, I agreed to a dinner out. Susan seemed nervous, almost uncomfortable. Towards the end of the dinner, she excused herself and went to the rest room. When she returned she said she had something that she wanted to share with me. She was visibly nervous and admitted it. I put on my poker face and prepared myself for whatever it was.

“Mitch and I don’t have a traditional relationship.” She said. Oh God, where was this going? She went on to tell me that four years prior, Mitch confessed to an affair with Nancy. When he told Susan, he stated that he was in love with both Nancy and Susan, and couldn’t imagine life without either of them. So Susan made a decision to share Mitch with Nancy. Mitch spends alternating nights at Nancy’s house and sneaks back in the house before the children wake up. They name the nights “S night” and “N night”. Susan was so nervous telling me this that I knew she really needed me to be ok with it. And actually I was. I was a shocked, yes, but I’m not na├»ve to think that all families are exactly the same. And my feeling is that if no one is being hurt, then why judge it harshly? They’ve found something that worked for them, so who am I to condemn it? Was it something that I could imagine being part of? Absolutely not. But their family choices don’t have to be the same as mine.

Susan told me that I was the first person she had talked to about their situation. Since Mitch has his own business he was terrified that this could ruin his reputation and his career. And, since Nancy works for him, it could take their entire family down financially. I assured her that their secret was safe with me.

I asked her a few questions, but really my mind was reeling from this revelation. She said that this type of relationship is called polyamory. It means that there is an equal loving feeling between several people, not just two. In their case it was a triangle. Her love for Mitch and Nancy were equal. And Mitch’s love for her and Nancy were equal. I questioned this, because to me it sounded more like they were two spokes connected to Mitch, not an equal triangle. She admitted that I was right, and that she and Nancy didn’t have as strong a connection as Mitch wanted them to have. In fact, watching her talk about Nancy was very interesting, because it was clear that there were issues between them.

As Susan and I were getting into our cars, she told me that she thought Mitch may have mentioned something to Brad but she wasn’t sure. And that I should feel free to discuss it with him. I thanked her for her honesty, and her trust in me for revealing her secret. As I was heading home I thought; “Oh my God! I knew there was something weird at that dinner in July! Wait until I tell Brad! “ But when I told him, I found out he already knew. In fact he had known for a while, but hadn’t told me because he didn’t think it was his story to tell. This revelation freaked me out more than anything else I had heard that evening. I thought we told each other everything. What else don’t I know?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

D-Day Plus 21: The Epiphany

It had been about three weeks since Brad had told me about his feelings for Susan and I was reeling. I was in shock and hurting so incredibly much. The pain was intense. I had no idea I would feel actual physical pain. My skin felt burnt and my stomach ached. I thought my heart was truly breaking into tiny pieces inside my chest. I was going through the motions: taking care of the kids, going to work, grocery shopping, laundry, etc, etc but I was a mess inside. I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours a night for three weeks and I couldn’t keep anything but tea and soup down. I was pretending that everything was normal; when in reality my whole life had been drastically changed. I must have looked like a zombie.

We were going to the Christmas party put on by my work. It was at a really nice hotel in downtown St Pete. Brad and I dressed up and headed downtown. When we entered the restaurant I saw all my co-workers and their spouses. Everyone looked so dressed up and festive. Everyone looked so happy. I wondered how many of them were faking their happiness like I was. And it hit me: I wasn’t special anymore.

You see, my relationship with Brad had always made me feel extraordinary. I knew we had something really special. Sometimes I wondered what I had done to be so lucky. How did I get such a phenomenal husband? He was the absolute love of my life. I could literally feel myself light up when he walked in the room. Wow, someone somewhere must be looking out for me.

Sometimes I felt smug about it. I would look at other couples and laugh to myself about how much better our relationship was. I thought we had it all.

So, when I looked around the restaurant that night, I had an epiphany. I realized I wasn’t special at all. I was ordinary. Actually I was less than ordinary, because I had a husband who felt he needed another woman in his life to fulfill him. I was a failure. And my heart broke a little more.

As we were walking to the car afterwards, I started crying. Brad asked me what my problem was, so I told him. He became angry and told me to stop bringing this stuff up all the time. We drove home in silence.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

D-Day Minus 135 – making connections

I headed up to Virginia a few weeks after that first dinner. My parents live there and the boys went up to visit them for a few weeks and take sailing lessons. I went up to visit and bring them home. Brad stayed with the dogs and finished up some of the house jobs that we had started. We wanted to surprise the boys by completely renovating their bedrooms, which turned out to be a bigger task than we anticipated. In fact we spent all of our time alone working on the rooms instead of doing something fun or romantic. We should have made time for us.

While up in Virginia, my parents, the boys and I drove to DC to see the sights. In the middle of this sightseeing trip I received a text from an unknown number. It was from Susan. Brad had given her my number and she wanted to say hello. This began my friendship with her. We became texting buddies – usually texting each other 3-5 times per day.

I’m a quiet person, I’m really quite shy and private. And I had just gotten a phone with a QWERTY keyboard, so texting was pretty new to me. Susan’s initial texts were a bit surprising and uncomfortable. I didn’t really know what to say. But I learned that texting meant I didn’t have to say much at all. Short, simple comments are all that are needed. I found it fun and easy and very light.

We learned about each other bit by bit. Really we didn’t have much in common; she considers herself a girly-girl who loves pink, whereas I am the exact opposite. Pink is my least favorite color and I never had much patience with girly-girl types. I work out of the house, and she is a stay-at-home mom. I love to run whereas she hates exercise. I read and watched the news daily, but she hates the news because it is too sad, scary and ugly. But we were both hockey moms and wives, and our husbands and our sons were friends. So we chatted about them. Looking back, I now realize I was a really good source of information.

While I was gone Brad had a hockey game. Mitch was playing too, and Susan came to watch and cheer them on. During the game some words were exchanged between the two benches. Apparently Brad was insulted and let his temper flare as he stormed off the ice. He headed into the locker room to change and go home. Susan followed him to see what had happened. He was furious and she managed to calm him. While they talked he was ripping his uniform off and stuffing it into his bag, not even thinking about the fact that he was stripping in front of her until the last minute. This apparently was an awkward but intriguing moment for them. It was the moment that their initial connection was made. The incident eased the tension that Brad felt from the game and he ended up going out with everyone for drinks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thoughts on Anger

We never fought in our marriage. Not ever. We didn’t know how to. And this became a real problem, because infidelity is a huge issue that a couple has to tackle. Both parties have to feel safe communicating their feelings honestly, and both have to be able to accept the other party’s comments. We were a mess.

I’ve said this before – I’m not good at anger. Actually it’s more than that. I suck at anger. I mean it. I think it’s because I end up feeling worse afterwards. Not immediately afterwards, but a day or so later I feel I have to apologize to everyone who may have had to witness my tantrum. And I feel childish afterwards. It just doesn’t work for me, and isn’t worth it.

Brad is on the other end of the spectrum. He’s a master at anger. Apparently he had a terrible temper as a child, which is a really scary thought, because his temper now is, well, terrifying. Once when we had been living together for about six months or so we got into an argument. We were living in an apartment at the time. He threw his wine glass at the sliding glass door. It shattered. The plate glass window exploded. The wine glass was obliterated.

I learned quickly that making him feel bad about himself is a no-no. That is the worst thing you can do to him. Doesn’t matter what the subject is - money, friends, sex, kids, jobs, household stuff – whatever. If he feels that he’s being accused of being a bad guy he comes out guns blazing. His attacks are vicious, and he leaves his victims barely breathing. My discomfort at displaying anger increased, because now I was afraid of angering him. So I shut up. Or rather I swallowed the feelings and shut down.

One time a friend of his sent an email chiding him that he was losing his athletic touch. Granted the email had a few more zingers than it needed but it was meant to be funny, not mean. But Brad was terribly offended and felt foolish (which is another form of feeling bad about himself). He was furious. He went off. And that was the end of their relationship.

So where am I going with this? What happens to a couple of such extremes? Well, it worked, because I just backed off, and he controlled the house. If I didn’t like something, or was hurt by his behavior, I couldn’t tell him, so I didn’t. And if he didn’t like the way things were going he’d yell, scream and break something to regain what he felt was the upper hand.

We were really good at communicating through humor. When I was angry I could still use jokes to get through the day. And I could diffuse him with laughter too. It removed the stress.

Please don’t think that we lived together with him forever simmering and me simpering. Our life was really terrific 99% of the time. But we never learned how to handle conflict. I never learned to speak my mind confidently and he never learned to take responsibility. So when we found ourselves in the middle of this affair, neither of us was prepared to work our way through it because we had never learned how to fight. And it is so necessary if a marriage is going to survive.

Monday, March 1, 2010

D-Day minus 149: The First Dinner

In World War II D-Day was the defining battle that turned the war around. In my life D-Day is the day I learned of the affair. It is the day that changed my marriage and my life.

It’s amazing to me that things spiraled out of control and turned so horribly wrong in such a short time. My husband (I will call him Brad) and I met when we were just kids, 15 and 16 years old. We dated for 9 ½ years and married when we were 25 and 26. We lived a comfortable middle class suburban life. After five years of marriage our first son was born and 4 ½ years later our second son joined our family. Throughout the years we had a myriad of dogs and cats, and moved several times. Our marriage was strong. Our friendship was strong. We really were best friends.
Obviously things changed. I think they started changing about 3 ½ years ago, and will delve into that shortly. This entry is about July 2, 2008: our first dinner with our new friends.

Our oldest son (I’ll call him Liam) is an avid hockey player. He loves it, which is funny, because he’s a pretty quiet, easy-going guy. But on the ice, he’s tough and strong and unfazed by the roughhousing and bullying going on around him. In fact he thrives on it. When he skates, the joy is noticeable. I think he is more comfortable on skates than he is in sneakers.

Brad was not a hockey player. He played pond hockey growing up, however his sport of choice was always basketball. But watching Liam play hockey intrigued him. Brad is not comfortable being a spectator – he has to get involved. So he volunteered to help the coach. This evolved into becoming an assistant coach, then becoming the head coach of our son’s team, and finally signing up to play hockey in the adult league. This is his style. He jokes that he has an addictive personality. I think the term obsessive fits too.

Anyway, adult hockey took place on Wednesday evenings. Off he’d go with his body bag loaded with several hundred dollars worth of shiny new hockey equipment. Afterwards, he and another player ( I’ll call him Mitch) who also happened to be an assistant hockey coach of our son’s team would go somewhere and grab a beer. Mitch’s son played on Liam’s team. He’s a terrific kid, and he and Liam get along really well. Brad and Mitch would have a beer and solve the world’s problems. They both were interested in Buddhism and investigating Zen and meditation and they bonded quickly. Brad looked forward to those beers almost as much as he looked forward to playing hockey.

On July 2, Mitch and his wife “Susan” invited Brad and me over to their house. Brad was so excited. He really enjoyed his time with Mitch and loved the idea of all of us becoming friends. I was happy too. Dinner was great. Delicious food, light conversation, lots of laughter. It was just adults too, which is a rare occurrence. There were five of us: Brad, me, Mitch, Susan, and “Nancy”, who is a friend of theirs. We chatted about safe topics since we were all getting to know each other and someone pulled out some Tarot cards. None of us knew how to use them and we were trying to follow the directions but really we were making a mess of the readings. It was a great first get together.

At the end of the evening we were standing by the door saying our “we-must-do-this-again-soon”s. Mitch was standing in the middle of the three, with Nancy on his right and Susan on his left, and I thought “Wow, it’s like he has two wives”. I got a chuckle out of my thought and shared it with my husband in the car on the way home. He wasn’t too happy with my comment. These are nice people and I shouldn’t be making fun of them.

But it’s a thought that revisited me just a few months later.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

D-Day Plus 457: My First Post

D-Day Plus 457: My First Post

Yesterday my soon-to-be-ex-husband sent me the hardship letter that he composed for the short sale of our house. There it was, in black and white, depicting our separation and the impending divorce. Only it wasn't exactly right. As in "correct". It was so watered down, missing all the true elements of what really happened. What really got us here. And it hurt and made me mad, all over again.

Anger is new to me. I've always sucked at it. And in my marriage I just gave anger up altogether because it wasn't worth the effort. I felt worse afterwards instead of better. So I swallowed it. The problem is, when you deny yourself anger, I think you deny yourself other feelings too - the extreme feelings are blocked and you end up just allowing and experiencing the "safe" feelings. Not a good thing. Not something I recommend.

Anyway, D-Day for me was November 28, 2008. Four hundred and fifty-seven days ago. Two days after Thanksgiving. The day my husband told me that he had "feelings" for his best friend's wife. The two had a connection. And he wanted my permission to "explore" that connection. He said he still loved me, and that this was something that he wanted to develop as well. When I asked him what he meant by that, he said he thought we could decide this together.

I was in shock. And tremendous pain. Actual, physical pain. How could this happen? How did this happen? Get me out of this!!!! As you can imagine, I said no. I told him (through tears and hiccups and snot) that if this was what he needed, then he would have to explore it without me. He hugged me and said that it was fine.

The betrayal was immense. This woman he had developed a connection with was a friend of mine. Our families spent the weekends together. Our children were friends who played sports together. And all the while, behind my back, there was a "connection" being developed. So when I received an email from her inviting us to her son's birthday party, I asked my husband if he wanted me to tell her that we weren't going or if he wanted to do it. He couldn't believe that I didn't want to go. That I didn't want to spend any more time with these people. And then he became furious. That fury, combined with the betrayal, was the beginning of our end.

With this blog, I plan to tell the real story of what happened. The hardship letter being used for the short sale is a pitiful version. It is a lie. And the truth needs to be told. I've been silent and mild-mannered for too long. So, even though my wings have been broken, I'm picking up a broomstick and flying forward.