Part Two- Standing-and falling- on my own

Working it Out

Our first year of marriage I started out working nearly full time in a fabric store. One of my classes had a practical requirement, so I had to fit in some hours volunteering at a local daycare. By the end of the semester, that became a full time job for me and I was able to quit the fabric store.

One day, for some reason after we had been married about six months, I logged onto P.’s email account. I found a completely empty inbox. The sent box contained at least one message. One message is all I needed to read. It was to some woman. It read: I love you @>—->——-For those that don’t know, the last thing is an internet version of a rose. I can’t even remember if there were other emails, I just remember changing his password and logging off. My heart plummeted. Even just typing this out, my stomach is in knots. I had to go to work, while there I vented to a friend. She agreed I needed to confront. When I came home, I stormed into the apartment. P. was shocked. He said it was nothing, just someone he met in a chat room. It was a game, she wasn’t real to him. He had no problem with me monitoring his emails or ending it.

She became real when he got a picture and card from her a couple of weeks later. She had discovered where he worked and sent it there. It freaked him out.

But the lesson I learned was that my newlywed husband didn’t love me. He couldn’t, or he wouldn’t have been able to betray me like that, right? I also learned that he thought internet flirtations were ok as long as they were online.

I further felt devalued when I found a letter he wrote to his ‘crush teacher’. You know, the young teacher in high school that the guys all have a thing for? J.W. was that teacher and apparently nearly had an inappropriate encounter with P. while he was in school. P. kept in contact with her now and then. This particular letter detailed all of his accomplishments. And, on the back of page two, two small sentences. “I also got married this year. You’d like her, she’s nice.” I was a foot note in his life. Yet I loved him desperately.

Our relationship, our marriage, became me feeling unloved. Like I had to earn the love. Then resentment would build up and I’d blow up at P. I have a quick mind when it comes to words and I can be very caustic. P. would feel left behind, confused, attacked. He’d lash out physically. He’d shove me, grab me, pull me. On two occasions he lifted me off the ground by the neck. I never called it abuse. An abused wife had bruises and broken bones.

It became my fault. I’m a bitch, I’m a nag, I’m too controlling. I accepted it. I have always been harder on myself than anyone else. I was a combination of the proud, independent woman I had always dreamed of being when my stepmother was controlling me, and the weak girl-woman that so desperately wanted her husband’s love. I resented it, I held it in and lashed out about other things. I kept the core of who I was secret and protected.

My Failings

Our marriage limped along. I didn’t feel safe to be vulnerable. I tested P. by refusing to clean, wanting to see what it took for him to pitch in. I would push and push and push, wanting to see emotion from him. There wasn’t the love there used to be. It was either nothing or anger.I began to get involved with an online role play community. I had a few flirtations that made me feel better some. I reasoned P. said it was ok, right? It did make me feel stronger. People saw me, just me and liked me. I felt like I wasn’t pretending online, but now I know I probably was. At least some, everyone does. I thought then that I was being genuine where I wasn’t safe with my own husband.

By this time I had quit my first daycare. It was too stressful. A friend convinced me to apply at the Christian daycare down the road. I started working there in ‘95. I was surrounded- mostly- by people who were caring. Who saw something in me. When P. came to pick me up, he was cheerful and outgoing. They adored him, laughed with him. I was fake though. Work was an escape, school was an escape and soon my online friends became an escape.

Emboldened by the feeling that I wasn’t a worthless bitch, I began to insist that “something” be done. P. at first declared that it was financial pressures and so our problems would eventually go away when we were financially secure. Eventually it became, “It’s your fault, you make me do it because you are such a bitch.” I started researching divorce in our state. I discovered we would have to have one year of separation before dissolution was granted. One year? They should have required a one year wait before the marriage, that would prevent problems!

P. didn’t realize anything was wrong. He went away the summer of ‘97 for training. He sent me gifts for my birthday but to me they were things you would send a sister, not a wife you loved. He remained distant, argumentative. So finally, one day I told him on the phone that we needed to separate. That we would use the one year as a deadline and if he didn’t stop physically hurting me, we’d get divorced. No more putting things off.

When P. came home from training, he told me he’d leave, but if he left it would be forever. He didn’t see how we could work on things while we were apart. I didn’t see how we could work on things together when we failed so miserably to date. So he left. I didn’t hear from him at all.

I had some friends come visit. One put it off, he was supposed to come with my female friend as they lived nearby. He claimed his work schedule prevented him. So when T. finally came, it was just the two of us. When we were alone and kissed, it felt wrong. I felt obligated though, as though I had led him on and thus couldn’t say no.

We had sex. It was shameful fumbling. He couldn’t maintain an erection and never ‘finished’. I died a little inside. I thought it would make me feel better. P. had told me he had made out w/ another woman after I told him I wanted to separate. I took that and his refusal to talk after he left as extreme rejection. I convinced myself that the obligation I felt to have sex with T. was more than it was. But it was really just a girl trying to find worth somewhere because she felt worthless inside. It backfired.

I kept up the act though, acted like I was enjoying T.’s company. We started making cookies and watching a movie. There was a knock at the door. A glowering P. stood in the threshold. I went for a walk with him, assured him T. was just a friend who had come at the wrong time. I was amazed that of all days, P. comes back in my life that day. It had been weeks, months since P. had contacted me. This was a Sign.

When I got back, T. nervously said he should probably leave. He paid to have his flight switched to as early as possible. Relieved to have him gone and resentful that he would run when he feared P. would beat me, I offered to drive him to the airport as soon as possible. I began falling asleep at the wheel. I got a hotel room halfway there. We slept with a pillow between us that I had wordlessly placed there and T. just accepted. I dropped him off at the airport and sped home.

The Honeymoon

The last time I saw or spoke to T. he was walking into the airport. I changed my email address, stopped the role playing, threw myself into work. I kept getting phone calls I assumed were him (this was before the days of caller ID), to the point I had to unplug my phone. I only recently learned some of those calls may have been P. I had my number changed and unlisted, but gave it to P.Six months after we separated, we reconciled. At one point P. found the receipt for the hotel and asked if I had had sex with T. there. I told myself it wasn’t a lie to say no. I began pushing the shameful memory as deep into my subconscious as I could.

We got along better than ever. P. had stopped hurting me physically and for the most part had stopped the verbal stuff too. He had graduated in ‘96 and was trying for a ‘real’ job while working on classes towards a Masters. I graduated soon after we reconciled. At the beginning of the school year, I got my first job teaching high school. P. began training as a police officer. Things were looking up.

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