The other night a friend asked me what went wrong with Mark’s first marriage. (Forget not that I am wife number two).
“I have no idea,” I replied, “I only know what he told me, and I’m pretty sure I can’t believe a whole lotta stuff he said.”
I was told that the first wife had Borderline Personality Disorder and wouldn’t medicate, that she physically attacked him and had to spend the night in jail. That might be true. It very well might not because of this one little truth: cheaters are liars. They have to be. Infidelity isn’t viable without omissions, half truths, and outright lies.
I’ve been learning recently that the Wasband’s misinformation campaign about me and our marriage started long before I discovered he was cheating on me with my now-boyfriend’s wife. I think it generally happens that way, but what’s unique about my post-affair/divorced life is that I get to learn about the all lies since my boyfriend Jim and my ex-husband Mark were besties. They spent hours sharing personal information (that Mark went on to use in playing a role in shattering Jim’s family).
Before he knew me as me, Jim thought I would be mean and self centered. It’s what he was told. Though I can be both of those things if I want to, they aren’t my character. I’m nasty as hell when someone has wronged a person I love. And I am not so much self-centered as I have a strong sense of self, the lack of which was the impetus for my husband cheating on me. He is 37, rents a room next door to his girlfriend’s house that was purchased outright with my boyfriend’s money, and he is still trying to find himself.
During their close friendship, Mark told Jim that I refused to have children because I didn’t want to ruin my perfect breasts. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my thoughts on having kids and nowhere will you see a mention of destroying my perfect breasts, which, while bitsy, truly are an excellent example of God at His finest.
After my marital misfortunate reached its culmination, I learned that my marriage was in grave danger long before the affair came to light. I did know that the marriage had some opportunity areas, but I had alerted Mark that things would be tough during school, and I’d asked for his support while I got a Masters degree, ran a tidy graphic art side business, and held the full time job that paid our bills. I knew he wanted more attention, and I failed in that my priorities were off. I’m not taking blame for his choices, but they weren’t made in a vacuum, and I do take responsibility for myself, a thing that I know my boyfriend finds attractive because he has never seen it in a significant other. When I own up to error and apologize, he stares at me like I have sprouted horns and a beak, snacked on my sisters, and started singing show tunes all at once. The ‘rents done raised me good.
So while I knew that the marriage needed work, I was not aware that my husband had already thrown in the towel and been strategizing his exodus for months.
When the Wasband told me via cross-country video chat that he was having an affair with Jim’s wife, I was wounded and appalled, but I wasn’t shocked. I could see how it happened. However, if my spouse had told me that he was leaving without another woman involved I would have been utterly dumbfounded. Leaving because of an affair could make sense because there was a carrot—a woman who was needy enough and had money enough to make it so neither of them had to get a job.
He had to have another woman in order to escape. He wasn’t strong enough to leave our marriage without piggybacking his way out. Sometimes a marriage isn’t going to work. I get that. But do the split cleanly. An affair is the coward’s egress from a relationship.
Prior to his infidelity there were arguments here and there, and Mark had threatened to leave a couple times—once over my not wanting kids and the other because I wasn’t interested in being as spiritual as he believed he was—but we always managed to figure it out. Or rather, like the dumbass I can sometimes be, I tried to be sincere about changing myself into what he wanted.
The real problem though was who I fundamentally am.
I have been consistent over the years, and my husband took issue with that. He knew what I was when he picked me up, but I suppose he thought I’d morph into someone else or that he could fix me into what he wanted: a barefoot stay-at-home mom who wasn’t interested in thinking for herself, didn’t travel, and wore her hair in pigtails. That just isn’t me or anyone I associate with (all my people—whether they be stay-at-home mas or not—think for themselves) Instead, I’m stuck with a career. I want more education. I have more pencil skirts that pairs of jeans and heels than ballet flats. My mornings aren’t oatmeal and packing lunches; they’re bagels on the way out the door and packing my yoga bag. And the biggest problem of all—I am independent.
I wanted my husband, but I didn’t need him.
One of the post-affair times he “decided” to leave me Mark said, “You’re a stronger woman that Carrie. She’s weak. You’ll be fine without me. She won’t.”
I was raised to be a strong woman. Not angry-man-hating-feminist strong, but independent and an asset rather than a drag on the ticket. While I’m proud of that, it has some drawbacks. I’m not a crier, which can make me appear heartless. And apparently people need to feel needed. Shrink Nancy says that I un-needed myself out of a marriage. Thus while many people try to become independent, I am trying to learn to need, or, rather, to be okay with needing.
I’ve never wanted to be pregnant, to have a baby, to be a mommy. But what I did want was what was next for me and my husband, whatever we deemed that to be. A child? All right. Let’s do that and learn how to crush it. I could figure out how to be happy brainwashing a little someone. However what ended up being next for us was dissolution so that my husband could be with a woman who is no longer equipped to have the children he wanted.
Then, as now, the Wasband spends a lot of time lying. Lied to me. Lies to her. Lies to himself. He didn’t leave the marriage because he woke up one morning and didn’t recognize the wife laying next to him. He left because every time he looked in the mirror, he didn’t recognize himself. He didn’t leave because I’m not a mom. He went because he could no longer live with someone who knew what they wanted, who they are, and has vocabulary and guts enough to call a spade a spade.
This whole divorce thing, it was never about me. And I strongly suspect that dissolving the first marriage wasn't about her. Some people just can’t live with themselves, so they run from job to job and person to person, telling lie after lie, desperate for comfort in their own skin. But when one rotten choice follows another, the chances that contentment will come are essentially none.