Tag Archives: infidelity

Bless My Stupid Heart

A Woman Reading by Camille Corot courtesy Met OASC

A Woman Reading
by Camille Corot
courtesy Met OASC

Fifteen years ago, I kept a journal of sorts for a writing exercise. Each morning, I wrote three pages of stream of consciousness writing. This afternoon, I read it for the first time since then.

Oh, bless my stupid little heart.

I thought he was my best friend. I thought he loved me. I thought I couldn’t live without us.

I was writing those words while Fartbuster was sneaking around and cheating on our marriage. I was so clueless. So much of it was devoted to me trying to convince myself that it was all going to be OK. So much of it was explaining away how he treated me. So much of it was about how my insecurity was the REAL problem. So much of it was me trying to be the reason it was going wrong so that I could be the one to fix it.

One morning, I wrote about how the night before, someone had rung the doorbell at 7:45 p.m. I had found myself hoping that it was Fartbuster, surprising me with a big bouquet and a spontaneous laugh. No, it was a teenage boy selling the newspaper. And in my writing, I chastised myself for being “tough” on Fartbuster when he did finally get home at 8:30. Eight thirty on a Wednesday night and I beat myself up instead of him.

One morning, I wrote about how he was helping out around the house more. How I had returned home from a Saturday outing with a friend to find that he had washed the sheets. Now I wonder what he was washing away. My heart is tightening up in fury now, just thinking about that Saturday, fifteen years ago.

It hurt my heart to read that journal. I skimmed. I fumed. This woman I am now, this wiser woman wanted to judge my younger self for being so dumb. I gave my younger self some grace. Trusting someone you’re supposed to trust isn’t a bad choice. Being a lying asshole is a bad choice.

She wised up, eventually. That mess didn’t ruin her. I’ve come so far, but I’d still like to give her a hug and a good talking to.

Fartbuster Lost It

RingPutI told y’all how Monday was kind of weird because of that wedding ring memory, right?  Well, it got even weirder when I came home from work.  G met me at the door of our bedroom with the words, “I’ve got some bad news.  Not big bad news…”  He held up his left hand.  “I lost my ring.”

I shit you not.  My body went cold because that’s not the first time a fellow who’s wearing my ring confesses that he’s “lost it.”

Guess who?  C’mon, guess.

FARTBUSTER.

About a month before I found out that Fartbuster had been having an affair, he met me at the door as I walked in from the garage.  He was picking at the skin of his palms, all sweaty looking and panicky.  “Don’t freak out–I lost my ring at lunch today.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say so I stayed quiet.  Funny how the only thing I could hold in my mind at that moment was the door mat from that fall.  Funny how that betrayal came right back to mind.

“I think what happened was I took it off to wash my hands in the bathroom and I stuck it in my pocket but it must not have gone all the way down in there and it fell out. But I didn’t hear it maybe because the water was running.  When I was getting in my car after lunch I realized that it wasn’t there.  I looked EVERYWHERE–in that bathroom, under the table, I asked them to look in the kitchen.  I was an hour late getting back to work because I didn’t want to stop looking for it.  I left my number with the restaurant manager.  We even looked in the parking lot.”

I still couldn’t say anything because all the blood in my body had gone to my head to pound between my ears.

“I’m sorry.  I’ll go back and look tomorrow.”

I shrugged.

“Are you mad?”

“I’m sad.  That was a beautiful ring.”  Handmade and special ordered from an artisan in California.  A wide band made of alternating braided gold.  Even with Tony the Jeweler giving me the family discount, that ring had cost me $1500.

ringI was sad.  Maybe I had been sad since the summer before, when we took that miserable trip to England.  Or since that August, when he came home with the lipstick on his collar.  The door mat had made me more angry than sad, but sad at the heart of it.  I had been sad back in October, when I planted those daffodils in the backyard and wondered if we would still be married when they bloomed.  Had I been sad since January, when he had lost his job?  It had been a sad year.

That ring was never found.  A couple of weeks later, we went down to Tony’s and ordered a new one.  I thought it would be a fresh start for us.

A few days later, Fartbuster told me that he wanted to move out and “get his head together.”  I STILL didn’t know about the affair. But I was pretty sure it wasn’t the time to lay out another thousand dollars on a wedding ring.  I was too embarrassed to call Tony myself and cancel the order. Big Gay took care of that for me.

So a few weeks later, when Fartbuster came clean about the affair and I threw my own heavy gold wedding ring at his head, his finger was already bare. I remember saying, “Oh!  Now I know what happened to your ring!” and he said, “No!  I wasn’t lying about that.  About that.”

Yeah, G didn’t know WHAT can of worms he was opening up when he told me “I lost my ring.”  I kept quiet, working through all these thoughts.  That was the same day I had been visited by the memory of Richard’s wedding ring–now here I was reliving a deja vu ring scene from ANOTHER marriage!

Luckily, while I was tracing my way through all that mental drama, G found his ring in the sofa cushions.  Sometimes, if I keep my mouth shut, things work out on their own!

I Should Have Slugged Him: My Husband Confesses to an Affair

woman slapping manThis story contains scenes that some readers may find disturbing.  It contains strong language, mild violence, and mockery of a Braves legend.  Baseball fans and cuckolds are strongly cautioned.  Intended for immature audiences only.

Here’s the story of the April night in the year 2000 when I found out why Fartbuster had moved out of our house.  We had been separated for three weeks.  I was parking my car in the middle of the garage and already cooking for one.  He and I talked every day and cried just about every day.  I just couldn’t get it through my head WHY he had moved in with his friend downtown when he was telling me every day how much he wanted to be back together.

So one night he came over for dinner and drama.  We were sitting on the couch with our dogs–pretty normal night.  He started crying first, which usually meant that I would end up crying most.

“I’m not good enough for you.  You deserve better.”  He sobbed.  I patted his knee and assured him that that was not the case.  He was a WONDERFUL person.  Ominously, he peeped at me out of the wet corner of his eye and said, “You don’t know everything.”  

I didn’t say a word.  My heart stopped then raced to catch itself.  “What don’t I know?”

“I had an affair.”

Well.  What’s a wife supposed to say to that?

This wife, being a bit of a codependent class clown typemade a joke.  A bad joke.  The dissolution of our marriage happened just a few months after the public meltdown of Chipper Jones’ first marriage–when he confessed to fathering a child with a Hooters waitress.  I don’t follow baseball, but Chipper had been married to a girl I knew from college.  I had felt so awful for her when he was busted–the situation was terrible enough, but imagine having the world discussing your cheating husband on drive time radio shows and Entertainment Tonight?  So to lighten the mood in our living room that night–oh, when will I ever learn???–I said:

“At least you didn’t get a Hooters waitress pregnant, right?”

He froze.

I froze.  

Holy shit.

I lifted my hand off his knee.  He hopped up off the couch and got a safe distance away before he turned to face me.  “Not exactly…but pretty close.”

Every sound in the world was replaced by the buzzing inside my head, a metallic hum that seemed to begin deep in my bones and rattle through my body.  “Ah,” I whispered.  “She doesn’t work at Hooters.”

“Yeah.”  He stared at me to make sure I had put two and two together.  Or one and one and gotten three.

He started babbling about how he had cheated but knew it was wrong and he had ended it but then she had turned up saying she was pregnant and that was why he had moved out–to clear things up with her.  He planned to come back to me as if nothing had ever happened.  As if.  His fancy German therapist had pointed out the problem with this logic and had suggested that Fartbuster come clean to me if he ever hoped to patch our marriage back together.  I had to know the truth.

And now I did.

Like you might expect, I stomped and screamed and shrieked while he stood there with a hangdog expression in the middle of the living room.  The dogs hightailed it for the bedroom.  I tore off my heavy gold wedding band and beaned at his head, but I telegraphed my pitch and he had time to dodge it.  He scooped the ring from the floor after it bounced off the fireplace and held it between his hands.  He was still crying.

I dropped into a chair as my fury dissolved into anguish.  It was my turn to cry.

He approached me hesitantly.  It’s hard to know if you can comfort someone when you’re the one who dealt the blow.

“Don’t you dare lay a finger on me,” I snarled.  Then I hung my head and sobbed.  He knelt on the floor before me, so still and just a foot away, my wedding ring still in his hand.

We sat frozen there for a long time, like some mockery of a marriage proposal–him on bended knee with a ring and me weeping.

He reached out slowly and touched my hair.  I let him.

I whimpered, “This hurts so bad. …. I want you to hurt like this.  ….I want to hit you.”

He stretched his arms open wide and smiled.  “Do it!  Hit me!  I’d feel better if you did.”

We both laughed as he continued to encourage me to punch him.  “C’mon…this is your chance…”

“No.  I’m not going to.”  Laughing with him like that, like old times, minutes after he confessed to pulling a Chipper?  My fury flamed back.  “I don’t want you to feel better.  I don’t want you to think that makes up for any of this.”  I snatched the ring out of his hand.  “And I’m keeping this.  I can always melt it down and make a pair of earrings.”

Well.  That was the beginning of a long journey–a year it took us to finally go our separate ways.  I think back sometimes to that moment, that choice I made to withhold my fist and not beat the shit out of him.  I didn’t want his atonement to be that easy.  A punch in the face was nothing compared to the punch in the gut that he had dealt me with his confession.  I took the high road that night, but there were many many times in that year when I wished I had walloped him.  Swung for the fence.  Smashed a tater.  Blasted a homer.  Belted him.  Slugged him.  Knocked a four-bagger.  Hammer time.

But if I had, I would have chipped away at the awful burden that he had to carry.  If I had hit him, he would have walked to first.

 

P.S.  – The ex-Mrs. Jones, Karin Luis, has flown far far above where she ever could have gotten with that turkey.  She’s a therapist, author, and speaker who focuses on women’s resiliency and spiritual development. She is co-auther of the book The Fatherless Daughter Project. Check her out on Facebook as “Dr. Karin” or on her website.

Goals, Outcomes, and Daffodils

daffodils in snow

As I left my office yesterday afternoon to walk to the car, my heart was equal parts heavy and joyful.  Heavy for a friend whose life is in a tangle right now.  She’s sad and confused and overwhelmed.  I remember those sunless days in my own past and ache for her.  I know she’ll figure it out and find herself on the other side of this, but right now she has no place to rest.  The path ahead seems so long and dark and she’s having a hard time believing that she will find her way.

The other part of my heart was joyful, because yesterday I reached a goal I had set for myself a few months back.  February 4th marks the one year anniversary of Baddest Mother Ever.  I wanted to reach 100,000 page views on the site in that first year.  That happened yesterday!  Thank you so much for reading and sharing and building this community.  I feel great joy that I have stuck with this and it is growing.

These are the thoughts that were on my mind when I looked down into the snow and saw green shoots of daffodils peeking up into the frigid air.  Those shoots took me right back to a time in my life when I had no idea what my future would look like.  My birthday is in late October, right around the time you plant spring bulbs so that they can sleep through the winter and surprise you in the spring.  I got a big bag of daffodil bulbs from my mom for a birthday present about a month after Fartbuster came home with lipstick on his collar that first time.  I hadn’t told anyone about our situation because I was ashamed of my husband’s behavior.  One bright Sunday afternoon, I took my bag of bulbs and a trowel out to the backyard and started planting them around the pine trees and along the fence.  On my own and with time to think, my thoughts gravitated back to our marriage, my trust in him, and whether we would ever get back on track and feel normal again.  With each bulb that I tucked into the earth, I wondered, “Will I still be living here to see these come up in the spring?  Will I be married?  Will we make it?”

I tried to bury my fear and sadness with the bulbs.  I committed to a goal–I would be in that house in the spring to watch these flowers bloom.

Well, I reached my goal–I was in that house in the spring when the daffodils bloomed, but Fartbuster wasn’t there.  My marriage was gone.  That’s the difference between a goal and an outcome.  A goal is a milestone along the path.  An outcome is the result of all those goals…with a measure of dumb luck thrown in.  So yes, I reached my goal of seeing the daffodils bloom, but the outcome wasn’t what I had imagined.  Simply achieving the goal didn’t predict the outcome.

We don’t always get to control the outcome.  We control the goals.  I planted the daffodils at just the right depth and I added bone meal.  I tucked them into the warming red dirt and I covered them with a layer of pine straw.  But that’s as far as I could influence the outcome.  Floods or freezes or insects could have taken it from there and the outcome would have been out of my hands.  Same thing with my marriage to Fartbuster.  My goals, like going to counseling and working on my own self, were reached.  Instead of saving my marriage, I saved my self.

So if you’re walking briskly through the cold wind, with your chin tucked to your chest, look around for that little shoot of green.  That daffodil has something to tell you.

The Secret of the Five S’s

mr-rightHere’s a GREAT piece of advice my mom shared with me when I was divorced from Fartbuster and starting to date again.  It’s known as “The Five S’s.”   That is blatant misuse of an apostrophe to try to make a plural, so let’s spell out the name of the letter “Ess” then make it a plural…Esses.  But after that glass of wine (and the one before it) that comes out more like Essesssessess.

With the Five Essesses, it’s all or nothing.  Whether I was scouting around for a Friday night date or a life partner, I had to make sure he fit ALL FIVE of these criteria:

SINGLE:  Well, duh.  Though Fartbuster didn’t let marriage stop him from dating.  When we were separated, I got “approached” by a married man.  I said, “Good grief.  I’ve already got ONE cheating husband in my life–why would I want someone else’s too?”

STRAIGHT:  If you’re straight, that is.  If you’re gay, they should be gay, too.  I’ve spent some time dating members of The Other Team and it’s fun while it lasts–especially when there was dancing involved–but it’s not going to pan out over the long term.

SANE:  This one takes a little looking around under the hood.  Do they have long term friendships?  Can they be alone?  Can they be in company?  Is their past littered with broken relationships?  Is everyone “out to get them?”  Any arrest records…and why?  How do they treat things that are smaller and sweeter than themselves?

SOBER:  I don’t care if you’re a drinker, a tee-totaler, in recovery or allergic to gin–as long as you are in charge of it.

SOLVENT:  I’m not saying wealthy.  Just solvent.  Bills are paid.  Living within your means.  Not going to ruin my credit score by association.

It took me a while to find Richard (all 5, no question) and then another while to find G (all 5, plus the Secret S:  Sexy Accent).  Along the way I met some other Esses:  Skint, Stalker, Snoopy, Stressy, Skoal, Stupid, Stingy, Swagger, Slob.  

So in hindsight….Fartbuster?  Single.  Straight.  Sober.  A little weak on solvent and a lot weak on sane.  And there was the sixth S:  skank.

Gaslighting or “Am I Losing My MIND???

gaslight memeHave you ever heard the psychological term “gaslighting?”  I only discovered it a couple of years ago but it sure…well, it made a light go off in my brain!

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser manipulates situations repeatedly to trick the victim into distrusting his or her own memory and perceptions. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse. It makes victims question the very instincts that they have counted on their whole lives, making them unsure of anything.  (Read more about gaslighting at HealthyPlace.com)

The term originates from a 1938 play (later a 1944 movie starring Ingrid Bergman) about a husband who is trying to drive his wife insane by making her think that she can’t trust her own senses.  When she sees the gaslights go dim, he convinces her that she’s just imagining it.  When she hears footsteps, he mocks her.  His manipulations make her distrust her own perception of reality.

Here’s the clearest example I can recall of gaslighting from Fartbuster (and for safety’s sake, don’t try this at home–putting a Fartbuster too close to an actual gas light may cause explosions.):

One night he and I were embroiled in an argument.  Now remember, at the time, he had a pregnant girlfriend waiting in the wings.  I knew nothing about her and didn’t even know he was cheating.  He kept telling me he was unhappy at work, tired of being out of shape, uncomfortable with his family, not where he ought to be professionally for as smart as he was yadda yadda yadda…  As we were talking, he sat on the couch in the sunroom and cradled our little dachsie, Zoe.  His hands were so gentle with her and it broke my heart.  I pointed to the dog and sobbed, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you–some gentleness, some caring.”  He snarled back at me, “You know the difference between you and Zoe?  She TRUSTS ME.  You don’t.”

He was right.  I didn’t trust him.  I had this strange sense of insecurity but clearly it was all in my mind.  WHY COULDN’T I TRUST HIM???

Well, duh.  Because he was a lying sonofabitch.  Imagine what kind of crazy nuts it takes to look at your wife and blame her for not trusting you when you have a pregnant girlfriend on the line!

So I’ve been thinking about gaslighting today because I got so many messages from readers who identified with yesterday’s post about getting yourself back after you’ve been in a crazy relationship.  I hear you.  I hear you.  The following list contains some of the questions that author and psychoanalyst Dr. Robin Stern uses to identify gaslighting situations:

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  2. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
  3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
  4. You’re always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
  5. You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
  6. You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
  7. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
  8. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  9. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
  10. You have trouble making simple decisions.
  11. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  12. You feel hopeless and joyless.
  13. You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  14. You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
  15. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.

Hell, I mentioned 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 AND 15 just in yesterday’s post!  It’s #11 that gets me…I tried so hard to become someone else.  I can’t believe I fell for that shit.  Yeah, yeah, I got out, but MAN, what I wouldn’t give for the chance to go back to that conversation in the sunroom and LIGHT HIM UP.  

Most Like an Arch This Marriage

Tintern Abbey, East End Columns via Wikimedia Commons

Tintern Abbey, East End Columns
via Wikimedia Commons

This is the poem that Fartbuster selected for our wedding ceremony.  I remember when he read it to me the first time, as we sat on a purple velvet settee in The Bookmonger, in Montgomery, Alabama (one of those treasure trove used books stores that has gone the way of the dinosaur).  He read it to me, sotto voce, from a book of John Ciardi poems and I felt honored to be marrying a man who was so wise and sensitive.

Most Like an Arch This Marriage

BY JOHN CIARDI

Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.
Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
Two joined abeyances become a term
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.
Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
at piling stone on stone apart from you
is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss
I am no more than upright and unset.
It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.

Oh, twenty-six year old me…honey, honey, honey.  Bless your heart.  Or to quote Jake’s last line to Brett from The Sun Also Rises:  “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It was pretty to think so, to think that ours would be the kind of marriage like an arch, leaning in to the point of falling, but catching each other in the all-bearing point.  Raised by our own weight.  Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Wellllll…What words did this young poet have for me when we were finally alone together after the wedding?  Granted, we had been living together for a couple of years, so it’s not as if I was expecting a pulse-quickening night of romantic discovery.  And we were staying in a local chain hotel before driving to Charleston the next day for the real honeymoon.  But this is what I got from my new husband, the erstwhile poet.  

He flopped out on the bed with the basket of snacks sent by the caterer and started grazing.  I shimmied out of my wedding dress then went to the bathroom to pry off my foundation undergarments.  I wasn’t feeling shy–it’s just that my cousin, Shannon, had poured about 2 pounds of birdseed down my back as we left the reception and most of it was valiantly contained by my foundation undergarment.  I figured it would be a kindness to the maid if I unleashed all that birdseed on the tile floor instead of the carpet.  So off I went to the bathroom.  When I came back out, shed of the birdseed and my single girl inhibitions (as IF), Fartbuster was still snacking and had turned on the television.  To Beavis and Butthead.  beavis and butthead

BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD.  

I looked at him.  I looked at the TV.  I looked back at him and he finally noticed me standing there.  I said, “REALLY? Beavis and Butthead?”  And this was his reply, gentle reader:

“C’mon!  It’s a NEW ONE.”

Poems are pretty.  John Ciardi’s vision of marriage is a lovely one.  Marriage does require bending towards each other, trusting that the other half of the arch will meet you in the middle.  The trust that grounds marriage is a falling towards, leaning over, reaching out.  If your partner isn’t there when you do that…you fall flat on your face.

But to tell the god’s honest truth?  Falling on your face isn’t the worst thing that can happen.  As the old Japanese saying goes:  “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”