So, right off the bat I’m going to let you know that what I’m about about to write has little or nothing to do with quilting or sewing.
But it’s my blog and I’ll write about what I want to…
And to be quite honest, it’s been on my mind to talk about for a long time. And a blog is a great way to get things off your chest.
Today on Facebook I saw that yet another friend of mine is getting divorced. And it’s not a situation like, “Oh we just couldn’t work things out.” Not that I find that excusable. At all. But it’s a situation with an unfaithful spouse. A spouse who neglected his wife, children, and home to go about his own selfish desires. And I am just sickened.
I feel so desperately for this friend as she describes her feelings of worthlessness. I’ve been there and done that. And there are few words that can adequately describe the way this situation feels and what it does to destroy you.
Infidelity is a purely selfish action. If anyone out there ever told you marriage was easy, they lied. It doesn’t matter how wonderful and amazing your spouse is — marriage is tough stuff. Throw a few kids in the mix and things get a little more difficult. But there is no excuse for being unfaithful, no matter how awful or terrible things get. Because you have no idea what it does to someone when you put them through all of that. But of course the offending party isn’t thinking how it’s going to affect their spouse and their children, because like I said it is a purely selfish action.
I have touched on this here before. I spent eight years in a terrible marriage. And what it did to me can never be erased. I dealt with abuse, infidelity, lying…and things became so bad that not only was I emotionally burdened, but I became physically burdened as well. I felt so worthless and helpless that my body started to shut down on me.
At one point in time, I was incredibly thin. It wasn’t something I ever tried to be. I just was. I was almost 5’9″ and I weighed 120 lbs. I felt confident about my appearance, if nothing else. And then I got married. Right off the bat, things were bad. In fact, I knew before we were married that I was making a huge mistake. But I ignored the signs and signals and married him anyway.
Within the first few weeks of marriage I was so depressed that I never wanted to get out of bed. I didn’t want to do anything. I remember thinking to myself that I had only been married a few weeks and I was supposed to be experiencing “wedded bliss.” I thought we were supposed to be a team, supposed to be enjoying that honeymoon period. I viewed him as my equal and my partner. He viewed me as an object and as someone who was supposed to be at his beck and call. I felt so helpless.
I immediately thought having a baby would make things better. So, I wasted no time getting pregnant. And gained 85 pounds with that first pregnancy.
So young. So naive.
I had no idea how difficult being a mother would be, especially with a spouse who was supportive in no way whatsoever. And I was completely unprepared for what it would do to my appearance. So there went the one thing that I even felt remotely confident about.
He made claims (and I blindly agreed with him) about what a fantastic father he was. Mainly because he would change a diaper. Or watch the baby for a few hours while I went to a church activity. But when it came to being a team, forget about it. He had his own ideas about how our children were going to be raised and everything I did was WRONG. Being a parent wasn’t enjoyable for me, because there was one more thing that I couldn’t do right.
It was shortly after the birth of our first child that he confessed that he had gone looking at pornography. He told me it was only once or twice. And then he blamed it on ME. It was my fault. I basically forced him into it because, “I was pregnant and wasn’t in the mood often enough to meet his needs.” Or being married “wasn’t what he thought it would be, and he thought that his wife would be in the mood all the time.”
And I believed him. I believed that it was only one or two times. I believed that it was my fault. I believed that we were married and that our mutual faith, prayer, and devotion would get us through it. I believed that there was nothing else fishy about the whole thing.
Those were just a few of the lies I was told.
So I went about cancelling the internet. Besides, he was a student and could go to the university and use it for free. My depression deepened. I searched for ways to make myself happy. I bought stuff I didn’t need (Which of course, I had to hide. Pfft, I couldn’t even buy toilet paper without getting chewed out.) took up a million hobbies, and put on a front for everyone that we were amazingly happy.
But I was freaking exhausted.
To top it off, I had a really difficult baby. I would later learn that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, but at the time I was a brand new mother and didn’t know what to do. Breast-feeding didn’t work for us, so he was formula-fed. Every single time he woke up at night (which was MANY times), he would get fed. Not by me. I would strongly encourage the ex to let him cry it out. But he would go feed him. And then I would get a huge guilt trip. Every. Single. Time.
One night he just wouldn’t stop crying. Ok, many nights he just wouldn’t stop crying. But one night in particular has been burned in my brain.
It was shortly after the confession. I was trying to console our baby. I was trying soft soothing motions and sounds, but it wasn’t working. Then I had the baby torn from my arms. He began “shushing” him in a terribly violent way. I was terrified. As if that wasn’t bad enough he started pacing rapidly back and forth and when he still wouldn’t calm down, he threw his pacifier across the room. The baby was then handed back to me and he stormed out the front door.
I. Was. Terrified.
This was NOT the first time I had seen this sort of grown-up temper tantrum. As a matter of fact, the night before our wedding I witnessed a similar display. It was one of the warning signs I mentioned. And there were other times too. And it wasn’t like I was un-terrified those times. But the fact that it involved our child that made it so much more terrifying. And to top if off, I had no freaking clue where he went.
An hour or so later he returned. I had managed to calm the baby, and had put him in his crib. When asked where he went, the ex-husband proceeded to tell me that he felt couldn’t handle “not getting enough sleep” and drove to a bridge where he sat in the car and contemplated suicide.
What the heck was I supposed to do with that information?
I continued to play the role of supportive wife for the next seven-ish years, all the while becoming more and more despondent. We had repeat incidents. He would tell me how his life was meaningless and how he no plans or goals for his future. It would always be my fault. He would make straight up crazy decisions about our life and I would continue to be supportive. I would try my darndest to please him and no matter what, I couldn’t. I found myself constantly defending his crazy actions and racking my brain trying to justify his insanity.
And to top it off, I had NO IDEA what was really going on.
Insert baby number two. Born in the dead of winter. No sunshine. Already one difficult baby. But I had desperately wanted this second baby. I thought it would fix things?????
Ex-husband did NOT want another baby.
We went through a similar routine day in and day out. I wanted some help at home. But I was TEN times more miserable when he was there than when he wasn’t. It wasn’t like he DID much of anything. He had at the time…I think…three classes. That he never studied for. And no job. But somehow that was so stressful for him that he couldn’t help me with anything.
I had been seeing a therapist. I started taking anti-depressants. It wasn’t helping. Partly because for therapy to work you have to be willing to talk about what is ACTUALLY going on. But I never let on to anyone that my marriage was a complete and total disaster. I think part of that was that I didn’t really know or fully understand the complexity of what was going on, but it was more that I couldn’t admit that my marriage was a big giant failure.
My body really began to shut down on me. I told my physician that my anti-depressants weren’t working. She said that I apparently needed a stronger dose. I felt worse than before. I stopped sleeping. After a particularly rough day that followed a night of zero sleep, I made a trip to the doctor.
I sat sobbing on the exam table. She basically talked me into confessing that I was suicidal. Which I wasn’t. And then she admitted me to the hospital.
It was one of the worst weeks of my entire life. I was sleep deprived. In a hospital with people who legitimately belonged there. Lying to doctors…and myself…telling them there was no reason at home for me to be feeling the way that I did.
All the while, he was busy guilt-tripping me because he had to take time from his busy schedule to stay with the kids. I was busy feeling AWFUL because all I wanted to do was be home with my babies. And to sleep. And to feel normal. Or to know what normal even was.
They slapped me with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. Which I vehemently denied. What I really had was an abusive, seriously insane husband. Add that to dead-of-winter, sleep deprivation, and post-partum depression (Which at the time, I also denied. Remember, I was busy putting on a front that I was a perfect Molly Mormon housewife and I had nothing to be depressed about ever.). They sent me home with some strong meds and told me I should be feeling better in no time.
But things went downhill from there. There were huge blow-ups. The ex seemed to positively LOVE having my “Bipolar Disorder” to blame everything on. He would constantly sit me down and have these talks with me about how he just thought that “we got married too young” and how “being bipolar made me hate sex,” and made me “spend too much money.” He never came out and said that he wanted a divorce. He just implied that we made a bad decision. And that it was my fault.
I would cry a lot. And I wouldn’t sleep. I needed someone…anyone…to talk with. But I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone about how terrible things were.
When I would go to talk to therapists, they would encourage me to do things for myself. But every time I did something for myself, I was reminded how I was inconveniencing the ex. How my quilting made too much mess. How having hobbies (or any life at all) was a waste of money.
Then one day a HUGE blow-up happened. Epic proportions. I had something planned. I needed to get out of the house. We had one car at the time. I was going to take the kids with me and go to my mom’s for the afternoon (she lived an hour away at the time). He had made plans too. But instead of him and the other person taking his car (he and his wife had two cars), he insisted that they take our ONE car that we shared. And then this thing that they were doing, somehow ended up taking five hours. As I sat at home, desperate for a few hours away, I grew increasingly upset and impatient. By the time he had finally arrived home, it was near my children’s bedtime and my mother called and said I should just stay at home because she would be going to bed soon too. And something inside of me just snapped. I mean, I frigging lost any cool and composure that had ever existed. EVER.
After my massive blow-up, it took him days to speak to me again. I wrote little notes everywhere, convinced that I was the one with the problem. I went to the doctor and had my meds increased. And then I just had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to go back to school. Something somewhere deep inside of me told me that I needed to go to school. And so I did it. I did everything I needed to do to go back to school. I put together a portfolio and got accepted into an art program.
About the same time, the ex had become so irritated with my inability to behave like a porn star for him, that he began shoving information in my face about how birth control makes women hate sex. And then he dropped a bombshell on me. He didn’t want any more kids. And he didn’t think that I was a good mother, so he thought it was best that he get a vasectomy.
I didn’t want this at all. But he had already done all the research. He was more than willing to have it done. And it doesn’t really make sense to have more kids with someone who doesn’t want to have kids with you, now does it?
So I swallowed my emotions. I didn’t express my feelings of unhappiness about this. After all, the meds the doctors gave me made it unsafe for me to have any more children. And I wanted to be a good mother to the two I had. And apparently I wasn’t a good mother to them. He was always informing me that I wasn’t a good nurturer and how he felt like he had to play the mother and the father role. Especially now that I was back in school.
Buuuuuuut, I loved school. And I was really doing great. I wasn’t going to give that up for anything. It felt so good. But then his condescending, horrible family interfered with that one thing I had that was mine.
First, it was his oldest brother. He never really paid any attention to what we were doing. But he happened to be passing through a town we lived in. And there was a live broadcast from our church on, so he decided he would come watch it. He took that time to make me very aware of what a waste of time art school was.
Then another ridiculous brother came to visit. Not us, of course. Sure he dropped in to see us, since he was in town, but that wasn’t his primary purpose. And of course, he pointed out how it had “never taken him that much time and effort to complete an assignment.” He then stated that I was “doing something wrong,” and attacked every possible area of my life that he possibly could.
This wasn’t the first time that his family members had made personal attacks on my character, appearance, life choices, etc.
Once, he was really ill. Like, on his deathbed ill. Meningitis. He had EIGHT siblings. I tried to get one…JUST ONE…to come help me out while he was on his deathbed. One of his sisters decided that there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I take care of my kids? Whenever her husband got sick she had to just take it up a notch. She actually asked me “if there was something she needed to know about me?”
So, anyway, back to the school thing…
I changed my major to something practical. Accounting.
It became very apparent that there was no way that the ex was EVER going to be able to support our family. His student loan bill every month ate up more than half of our income.
And he felt like it was really unjust that he had to pay that.
And then to top things off, he decided he hated his chosen career field. It was the fault of the town we lived in. It was his college professors who left him unprepared.
Looking for someone to blame for everything.
Again, the blame all ended up on me.
I ended up justifying everything he was doing. All the time. Always sticking up for him. Trying to build him up and do something, anything, that would make him happy.
And then we moved. Again. I think we lived in some eleven places in less than eight years of marriage. And don’t even get me started on how many different cars we had.
But this time we moved to the town where the oldest brother lived. He was in a leadership position for our church. I didn’t like this brother much, and I really didn’t like his wife. And we ended up staying in their basement so we could save money.
Ugh. It was a nightmare. It just added fuel to the fire.
The day after we moved there, the ex-husband had to go to a work conference out of town. And the brother and sister-in-law had to go out of town too. And they left me not only several of their kids, but another of his siblings dropped several of her children off for the week too.
Here I was in a strange town, with these “family members” of mine who were complete strangers, and no help at all taking care of NINE kids!!! The brother-in-law was like, “oh here’s $75 to help take care of all of these kids for the whole entire week.”
<Insert another epic blow-up here>
To make matters worse, I got pulled over for missing a stoplight while moving there and the ex-husband made a major stink about that. On top of the fact that he didn’t enjoy the fact that taking care of NINE little terrors by myself for a week had about given me a nervous breakdown…which I might add, was a job that I didn’t volunteer for in any way…and decided that I was wrong to be upset.
Then he decided I needed to get a job. He decided for me that school wasn’t an option.
It didn’t matter that I had always planned on being a stay-at-home mom. Besides, he had already done such a fantastic job of convincing me that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom, that it made no difference anyway. And it didn’t matter that he was a school-teacher and did absolutely nothing over the summer.
So we lived out of boxes in his brother’s basement for several months. I worked in the food court in the mall. It was terrible. I was a straight-A accounting student, mother of two, working at a job for high school kids. I never actually was allowed to touch a cent of the little money I was earning. And while I worked, my husband played (read: looked at porn)on the laptop that my scholarship paid for, played Wii, and let the kids do whatever the heck they wanted all day long.
I got fed up with the situation and enrolled in school again. This, of course, led to more blow-ups. He couldn’t control this area of my life. He was enraged that I was going to school. I wasn’t allowed to quit my job.
We moved out of the brother’s basement. I was working at least 30 hours a week and had 18 credit hours of upper-level accounting courses. I would come home from work, go to sleep. Wake up to get kids ready for school, take a cat-nap, and then do school work all day. As soon as the ex came home from work, I would go to work and then start the cycle over again.
In the course of this terrible cycle, I had never had time to unpack our belongings, let alone decorate our place. Pay you no mind that he was perfectly capable of doing this when he came home from work. Dishes didn’t get done. Neither did laundry. Except for my greasy work clothes. These were left up to me, though. I was constantly being berated for not taking care of our home, not doing a good enough job of parenting, and he kept asking “what the heck I did all day?” Really????? I then got asked to take on a minor leadership role in our church and that just sent me over the edge.
This led to the first threat of divorce, which just floored me.
We didn’t change to a local bank when we moved, and the closest bank branch was 45 minutes away. I enlisted a new-found friend to make the trip with me one day, and mentioned that if we wanted to go 15 minutes further there was a Target….which didn’t exist in our town. She agreed and we were on our merry way. I deposited my paycheck and we headed to Target. Right next door was a wonderful discovery…HomeGoods. I had never been there and the friend raved about how great it was. So in we went. And then I made the horrible mistake of buying a picture frame, with money that I had earned no less.
When I came home, and the picture frame was discovered, it became not just a point of contention, but a reason to divorce me. He wrote me some big nasty letter and told me that he didn’t think this would work out. I was hysterical. I did everything I could. I had the friend come over and help me unpack. I tried to do everything possible to please him. The threat seemed forgotten. By him, at least.
I became worse than ever. I put on a million pounds. I couldn’t sleep. I finally received my financial aid check from school. I went down to one day a week at the job. I talked to my boss and told him that it was affecting my marriage and I needed to work less. My kids got the swine flu and I quit altogether after that.
Things continually got worse. I became OBSESSED with TV shows and characters. It was my coping mechanism. I stopped going to church. I stopped doing anything I cared about. I just plowed my way through school and watched LOST approximately 7,968,234 times. One time I went three days without sleeping. I had to go to the hospital. They (he) blamed it on bipolar disorder…an illness which I didn’t actually have. They tossed some Xanax at me and left it at that.
My busy-body ex-SIL decided to tell people at church that I had bipolar disorder which made it near impossible to make friends. There’s a certain stigma attached to mental illnesses. Add to it that there was a girl in the congregation who actually had bipolar disorder and was notorious for doing crazy things. That left me with zero friends whatsoever.
I tried to find things that made me happy. One day I decided I wanted to cut my hair. It was something that always made me feel better. The ex had decided that I wasn’t allowed to possess a debit card. Or a check book. Or have any access to our bank account. He had to give me permission to use money.
He made a deal with me. If I would perform some despicable act for him, he would *let* me get my hair cut. I agreed. I was desperate. I would go get my hair cut. But there was a catch. I was only allotted a ridiculously small amount, which wouldn’t pay for me to go anywhere but Wal-mart. They did a hack-job on my hair. I came home and he instantly criticized it (not the first time). It looked like it had been cut with a weed-whacker. I ended up having to find someone at church who would fix it for free. Oh it was a terrible situation.
And then I was still berated. And the despicable act never took place. He made me feel like I was the gross one, and then berated me because he took the kids out to play in the snow and I wasn’t there for the whole thing.
The worst part was that I didn’t realize what was going on. I had no idea that I was being abused. Emotionally. Sexually. Verbally.
I had no idea that he was exercising complete dominion over me. Any time I came remotely close to making friends, he informed me that they didn’t really like me. That I was being used (?????). And I believed him.
I had no say in the way our children were being parented. No matter how I was to parent, I was wrong. I eventually became a by-stander in my relationship with my children. He had me convinced that I was a terrible mother. I loved my children so much and all I wanted was to do right by them, but he made no qualms about telling me how bad I was at being a parent.
Any time there was money involved in anything, I was told that I had a spending addiction. I couldn’t buy anything at all without creating a severe problem. Groceries, clothing, fast food…forget it. So he decided the best way to take care of that was to take away any purchasing power I had at all.
Sex was never anything but a weapon in our relationship. He could find more ways to abuse me with this than any other. And this was the easiest way for him to convince me that I had a problem. Being conservative Christian types, he knew that I would never go to anyone about it.
Over the course of that last year, so much craziness occurred I don’t even begin to understand. One time when I still worked at the food court, he called to tell me that he had just severely beaten our autistic child because he bit the wood in the bunk bed that they had just gotten. He would come home from work every single day telling me how he was going to quit, and he would frequently show me job applications for random jobs that he would surely hate more than the career field that he spent TEN years in college for. Another time, after being given antibiotics for strep-throat, he left work because he “felt weird.” He went to the emergency room where they told him he had an allergy to penicillin and that he’d had a psychotic episode as a result. Then they threw a whole bunch of Xanax at him.
A small silver lining in my otherwise bleak existence was a time when he made another “deal” with me. I was working on a quilt. I needed something to finish the quilt. It was during my Christmas break and I was using scraps from a quilt I had made my mother (To clarify, Christmas time was the only time I could actually get away with buying material. Or quilting. Not that he didn’t cause a problem. But I could get away with it.) I was allowed ten. whole. dollars. But I took it. And I went to the amazing quilt shop nearby. I showed them the quilt I had just made my mother. And they offered me a job. They needed someone to work one day a week. For barter. Which meant I got paid in fabric. It was seriously the ONLY highlight in my life at that time. I loved that time. I actually was able to have the materials I wanted to quilt. I learned so much working there. But of course, I was forced to give this up eventually too.
One day, after a vicious stream of summer course-work the ex decided he was going to take the kids to his sister’s for a few days to give me some time to rest. I was grateful. I had pulled two all-nighters in the same week and was exhausted. When I woke up from a much needed nap, he and the kids were gone and there was a letter taped to our front door. I carefully read the letter and was completely exasperated. The letter was a confession of an extreme sexual addiction. I didn’t know what to do or think. I cried. A LOT. I asked him many questions, none of which left me feeling like anything less than awful. He convinced me that he was never unfaithful, per se, but upon further investigation I realized that was a lie.
I’m sure at that moment, he was expecting me to leave the marriage and he would just get everything he wanted. But instead, I continued to play the role of supportive wife. I told him that our marriage was too valuable to me and that I would do what I needed to do to help him get over this addiction. So we went to counseling. Which was a failure. Because after two or three session, he was complaining about how all the focus was on him and his problems (Ummm, duh?!). When we talked about how things that had occurred had made me feel, I was making him feel bad (oh, brother). And then he decided he was cured of a 15-year-long addiction. After three sessions.
The whole time frame from this confession to the end was only two months. For the first time ever, I had confided in a friend about the problems. Not everything was brought to light, but the fact that I told anyone at all was a huge step. She stood by my side and was my support while I tried to make things work.
One night I called her bawling, asking her if it was all worth it, after a particularly horrible incident where he threw one of the kids’ Hot Wheels at me. For suggesting that he come to a friends’ house for dinner with us. Things continued in a similar fashion for those two months. He would claim to be working on things, but would lash out on me because he was “never going to stop feeling guilty” and that was supposedly my fault.
And then came another letter. I had finished my brutal load of summer courses and was using my one-week break to work on some creative projects. While he and the kids were in the backyard, he and my neighbor were discussing my creativity and he told her he was “probably going to divorce me over it.” She thought he was joking.
But he wasn’t. I asked him to help me with the kids’ dressers which I was painting. He sighed and then grabbed his journal that he had been keeping. In it, he had written me a seven-page letter, detailing all of my positive and negative qualities, the fact that I would never be able to “satisfy” him, and how, despite my positive qualities, he couldn’t get over the fact that he despised me and how much of an inconvenience I was to him.
I wish I could just say that everything ended there. That he just grabbed his things and left. But no. It was a bitter, miserably long ordeal that unfortunately still seems to creep into my life. The lies were constantly unraveling and I still am not sure of what was real and what was fake. Our entire marriage was riddled with infidelity, the full extent of which I’ll never be sure. Nor do I really care to be.
Eventually, he was excommunicated from our church by his own brother for adultery. I sought the help of a counselor and a psychiatrist and the diagnosis of bipolar disorder was dismissed. I no longer needed medication (not that I ever did, or that it ever helped). I started sleeping. I made amazing friends and eventually got remarried to an amazing man.
It’s been a really long battle, but every day I heal a little more. While the ex still tries to interfere with my life, the fact that I’ve had an amazing group of people, in particular my husband Daniel, who have helped me to realize my worth has made his influence increasingly minimal.
I pointed out my weight because I wanted to show the physical toll that stress had on me. The left was shortly before I got married and the right is a month before I got divorced. During the insanity of the last year of our marriage, I came close to 200 pounds. There is a 75 pound difference between the picture on the left and on the right.
My main reason for this post is to let others know that they’re not alone. Reading about yet another one of my friends just broke my heart. This blog post doesn’t even begin to detail the horror that I went through, nor will I ever be able to write something that will. It just needed to be shared to let other women know that you NEED to talk to someone. That you’re not alone. And that you shouldn’t just “put up with it” because that’s what a good wife does, or whatever reason it is that you continue to do so. If this sounds like anything that you have been enduring, find someone to confide in, and let them help you. I promise that there is someone out there who deserves you, and I promise that you deserve to be happy.
I just want to end by sharing this quote. I’ve never watched this show, but I saw this on Pinterest and I love it.