The Three Emotions I’m “Giving Up” in my Post-Divorce Life

These last 7 months have been a time of great introspection for me. In the big timeline of events, it was Nov 2011 when I started to suspect that Catherine was becoming disengaged from our marriage. By Dec 2011 I’d started to suspect she was either “ripe” for an affair, or actually having one. And then, of course, by late Jan 2012, we had the “big blow-up” when she was lying to me about “forgetting” her phone’s PIN code and the rest is more or less history. Recent history anyway… well, recently blogged about in previous posts so I won’t go over it again here… you get my point.

As I’ve gone through this experience I keep asking myself, “What should I have done differently?” And, let me tell you, friendly readers, there are plenty of things I should’ve done differently. Stupid fights over stupid subjects now seem so trivial when compared against the damage we are about to inflict upon our children. Petty positions I would dig in on just because I was spiteful about Catherine’s behavior towards me. The last 3 years of our marriage was a vicious cycle of: Catherine is disenchanted with me for her own reasons and therefore becomes distant; I get pissed off, so I become angry and spiteful; Catherine refuses to have sex with me because she’s distant AND NOW combined with my angry spiteful behavior; I become more spiteful and antagonistic, etc.  In Sept 2010 I tried to break out of this behavior: I “pressed the reset button”. I told her I did not want to spend the next 2 years like I’d spent the previous two years. I completely changed my attitude. I stopped arguing over stupid things, I reigned in the anger, I tried to make my marriage work again. She was skeptical, and thought this was “temporary behavior” but I assured her it was not. Drastic situations (like a man trying to save his marriage) required drastic action.  To say she was skeptical would be putting it mildly, but after about 6-7 months she did start to turn around and our marriage was… better. The intimacy was still essentially gone but we’d become, essentially, comfortable roommates.

And yet, it was not enough. Whatever damage between us that had been created long ago—and to believe her it goes ALL the way back to when our oldest Mary was born—had taken hold.

So what about those 3 emotions? I’m getting there.

First I must finish this current tangent of what would I have done differently: as mentioned plenty in terms of the petty arguments, but I think most significantly: I would’ve gone to counseling with her much earlier than I did. I’d actually suggested counseling with her back in Sept 2010, but she blew it off saying, “You just want to go there to get more sex!” Which, while being absolutely true, I know now is just a symptom of something deeper I was trying to cure. I desperately wanted her to want me again—to think of me as a man and husband, to want to spend intimate time with me. For many reasons, her seeing me that was gone, and of course, eventually she satisfied her own sexual feelings with another man. Ugh.

And while there plenty of things I would do differently with Catherine if I had a time machine, I don’t have a time machine. So the best I can do is offer up 3 emotions I will NOT be bringing into any future relationship with the next maiden who I am fortunate enough to date.

Discarded Emotion Number 1: Guilt.

This is a bit of a weird one, as I don’t necessarily feel guilty for a lot of my own actions—don’t get me wrong I’m no saint and there are some regrets—but not anything I feel I did morally wrong that I feel “guilty” about. No, the guilt I’m referring to is the guilt that I actually used to try to manipulate Catherine during some of the darker times in the pre-Jan 2011 marriage days into love and/or sex. She was obviously distancing herself from me and I was so frustrated. I try to use logic with her to describe, “Can’t you see… you’re my wife, and you’re my only source! If I want a burrito and you don’t want to make one for me, I can go to Taco Bell, but if I need sex, where do you expect me to get it!” Overly simplified, but the conversations went a lot like that, followed by me storming off to bed angry or giving her the stink eye, or in most cases, just going into a day-long depression.

I have learned, my friends, that you cannot guilt someone into loving you or being intimate with you. It will not happen. And even if you might get a pity-fuck from it, it’s a shallow win. Ms. Next Henry Dater, whoever you are, I commit to you, that if we start having similar problems like the ones that Catherine and I had where you just “don’t see me that way” we’ll start working that problem early and if it cannot be worked out I will do my best to part as friends. I dug in for far too long with Catherine because we have two wonderful children together and I my head is just wired to DO ANYTHING to stay together. That strategy failed me on a monumental level.

Discarded Emotion Number 2: Jealousy.

Generally speaking, I’m typically not a jealous person by nature. Sadly, I am a skeptical (Catherine would probably say suspicious) person by nature. To be candid, the only time I felt jealous was in the very beginning of the relationship with Catherine before it became “serious” (so approximately Jan 2000 through May 2000). And while jealousy did not play a big factor in my relationship with Catherine during the course of our marriage, I think the jealousy I exhibited very early in the relationship did set the tone for some of the foundational ways that Catherine perceived me. I would ask “Who is this guy in this old photo?” or “What are your feelings about insert-ex-boyfriend’s-name-here?”

Much later, when we would argue she would say how I’m such a suspicious person (which I would argue I’m not… I actually was never suspicious of any of Catherine’s behavior until Nov 2011, a full 10 years into our marriage; and of course, she as having an affair now wasn’t she?) Bottom line: I have yet to see how jealousy brings anything productive to a relationship, and indeed, can be very harmful.

Anyway, over the next 12 months I will be finding myself in situations where I am attracted to others. To be honest, as I slowly start to recover I’m slowly becoming friends with and interacting with women now whom I’m finding myself becoming attracted to. And while I have not yet gone on any dates—Hell, I can’t even fathom how logistically I could have date at this point—I will accept that any woman whom I’m attracted to is… well… attractive, and will therefore will have many suitors and a past of her own. And while sometimes we can’t just turn off emotions that we’re feeling, I’m going to do my best to not bring jealousy to the table to my next relationship.

Discarded Emotion Number 3: Insecurity.

Insecurity is Jealousy’s big brother. I will admit to you, dear readers, this one will be the hardest to part with, but not from my lack of trying. Ironically, I would like to think this would be an easy one to discard. Generally speaking, I’m a confident person: I know I can be funny and witty, I am fortunate enough to have over a dozen very close friends whom I can count on—and they can count on—to be there for me no matter what happens. I have a family who loves me (excluding Catherine, of course… well, even Catherine says she loves me, but just thinks we’re incompatible). I’ve been told I’m handsome in the past, sometimes even by women who were not related to me J. While there’s always someone “smarter” out there, I would nonetheless put myself in “smart” category. I’ve got a great job which pays well, I’m good at, and my co-workers appreciate. I’m a good dad who is always there for, and dotes on, engages with, and is 100% committed to his two smart, funny and beautiful daughters. While I wouldn’t define myself as “athletic”, I play ice hockey regularly, and spend lots of times doing outdoor activities. I don’t typically have to “market” myself and list my positives, my friends, and it doesn’t come easy—I’m very cognizant there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance that I do not want to be on the wrong side of.

And yet… and yet… deep down there are demons of insecurity. Am I not “cool” enough for her? Will my body not please her? Am I too short? Is 45 too old? Do girls really like guys with all those tattoos?  Am I clever enough for her? Will future Ms. Henry Dater find my sex to be clumsy and awkward and unsatisfying?

I have chatty demons that for whatever reasons constantly try to undermine my confidence, and dear readers, for the life of me I do not know why. I have no clue what possible benefit—aside from perhaps providing me unhealthy motivation to try to do better in whatever area I’m stressing on—that these chatty demons bring to the table. In the past (and sometimes in the very recent past… we’re not talking ancient history now…) these insecurities have made me question my value, perhaps even seek out validation. A big part of the reason I’m writing Divorced D20 Blog is to try to expose some of this, be a much more “transparent” version of me. In real life, I’ve often said how I sometimes feel like I’m “on stage” and that only a very close few get to see the real me. Well, the real me is insecure, and insecure about a lot of things. Now you know. I don’t think having an adulterous wife who lied to me for the last 6 months is going to help me achieve the goal of losing insecurity… but I will try my friends. I don’t know how, but I will try to make progress. I’m making slow strides now. Whenever I feel myself become insecure (or indeed even jealous) I am just trying to recognize it for what it is, hear what I’m insecure about… and then do nothing about it. I don’t think my insecure feelings and chatty demons contributed significantly to the downfall of my marriage, but I sure as hell know they will prevent me from moving forward which I desperately want to do.

-“Henry”-

#divorce #adultery #marriage #dating #relationships #recovery

Part 3: The Aftermath

Hello readers.

So it’s been about a month since I’ve updated. I’ve actually gotten some pings via Twitter and some of my “in real life” friends asking for an update to the blog to see how things are going between Catherine and I. Let’s first get current with the facts, and then I can dive into some of the more emotional parts of the process I’m going through:

  • The kids still do not yet know about the upcoming divorce. I suspect that they suspect–after all, little Mary and Elizabeth are incredibly bright girls–but they have not officially heard the words from us. The plan is that we will tell them on June 3. Why June 3? It was close to the end of their school year, but late enough that it wouldn’t affect any of their year-end activities. It also gives them a few weeks to be able to discuss the devastating news with their friends and teachers.
  • I’m still living in the house (probably obviously, as I just mentioned we haven’t told the girls yet, but worth mentioning.) Many of my friends ask, “What’s it like living there? Is it awkward? Are you mad all the time? Is it strained?” All of the above, my friends, all of the above… We don’t fight in front of the kids, and in fact we’re always quite civil when they’re around. The only real difference they may pickup on is a lack of physical intimacy (no more hand holding, kisses goodbye, etc.), I don’t give her any terms of endearment (no “I love you” as I leave the house), and the big one: I now sleep in the other room. While this would seem like it might raise eyebrows of the girls, I had a tendency to sleep in different rooms of the house when things were good just because I’m a weird sleeper and I stay up late a lot.
  • The divorce paperwork is in process. We have, without engaging lawyers,  agreed to most of the terms related to money, custody, and property. I was mostly concerned about the first two (what will I be left to live on after paying child support, and will I get to see my girls as much as I possibly can?)
  • She tells me that she has not seen “Him” since I made the discovery in early April. That night she even said, “Oh no.. it’s over now…” but of course I didn’t believe her. The short version is, she stopped returning his texts and apparently was going to give him a “We need to talk, but we can’t do it face to face” and he apparently told her he wasn’t interested and to not contact him. It still seems odd (and of course, I don’t totally believe anything she says anymore) but her schedule is very different so I don’t think she’s seeing him. But readers, to be clear where MY head is: I assume that she’ll be sleeping with SOMEONE on July 1 just as soon as I’m out of the house. Any other pretension will just drive me crazy. I am assuming she’s down that path for my own sanity to not just keep wondering when she might be.
  • The girls are doing well. Of course, they don’t yet “officially” know (and at times, while I think they may suspect there is stress, I don’t think they suspect a divorce… if they did I’m sure they’d be questioning me about it.)
  • The plan is I’ll be moving in with one of my close childhood friends, let’s call him “Charles”. He lives a total bachelor lifestyle which will take some getting used to.

So, Henry, how are you holding up?

Well, since last we spoke the conversations between Catherine and I have been increasingly strained. I think this is due in large part to my own personal  transition which has gone from “Oh my God, the marriage has suffered this horrible obstacle, what can we do to get past this?” to one more of, “She lied. She cheated. She lied some more. She cheated some more. She was done with you almost 8 months ago. Get out now, start your new life. Minimize the damage to your children that your lying, cheating wife has dragged into their lives.”

While we are very cordial and “family-like” (probably more accurate to describe as “roommate-like”) when the kids are around, at night it can be a different story. We sit in the living room like we’ve done for so many months and we talk and talk and talk… but instead of my pleading with her as there was in Jan, the tone is now more of me venting. I talk about the pain I am going through, the overwhelming sense of loss I have: the house i’d created, the lifestyle I’d built, the future I’d planned, all gone. Even my past: when I think about any event that happened between the months of Nov 2011 through April 2012 it is immediately tainted with my thoughts of, “Oh yeah, she was fucking someone else at this point…”

She is feeling remorse, shame and regret. She is a private person, and the fact that all my friends and family now know of her infidelity is very painful for her to bear. And yet… AND YET… I don’t think she feels enough pain. One of the common threads in our conversations is always how I feel cheapened by the fact that she didn’t do more to “throw herself on her sword” when her infidelity finally came to  light. In her words, she knows she’s done some terrible things and she always just repeats, “I’ve made such a huge mess and I just need to get through this…” Getting through this for her is, of course, divorcing me and trying to move on with her life without me, and all the guilt I represent hanging over her.

And so what’s next for Henry?

Well, as I mentioned, we tell the girls on June 3 and then I move out June 28: two milestones that hang in front of me that reek of emotional cancer and heartbreak. It infuriates me that I have to introduce this emotional poison into my girls lives. I pray that they will indeed be as resilient as all my good-intentioned friends and family tell me they will be.

I’m not dating. First off, I’m still living in the house with Catherine so that would be odd at best. Second, despite me not owing her anything at this point, I wouldn’t want to see her dating right there in front of (although let’s be clear, I will assume she’s doing so on June 29). Third, I’m still a bit of an emotional mess. When I think of what it would take to actually be genuine with someone in a date-like setting it just feels alien and wrong. And while I know the math says that I’ve effectively been separated since December 2011 (which is the last time we slept together), and felt like the divorce started in late Jan 2012, the real coffin nail for me came on Apr 5 so that’s the date that I think my emotional side is working from.

I am trying to get my self-confidence back from its tattered shambles. I have had a couple of “business/personal lunches” with female colleagues just to see how weird it would be (and as suspected, it was weird.) I have several friend-girls from school and work and even a couple of ex-girlfriends who have been surprisingly emotionally supportive for me during these past several weeks. I have a new-found internet friend who has become increasingly emotionally (and recently even cyber-romance suggestively) supportive as well which has done wonders for my confidence. All of my friends–old and new–have really helped me to see that there will be light at the end of this tunnel, even if this tunnel exit seems an incredibly long distance from here.

The next 3 weeks will go by in a blur (I’m on a long business trip out of the country, followed by a sporting tournament I must travel out of state for) and then right after that it will be June and we’ll be telling the girls. I suspect time will either slow down or speed up dramatically once we have That Conversation. I will no doubt be checking in again shortly after that horrific milestone.

Thanks again to all my old friends, new friends, new Twitter friends, who have reached out via this blog. It is indeed very helpful.