Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Trials of Divorce - Wounds Reopened

This post was originally published July 9,2016 

My friend Jim finalized his divorce with Elizabeth almost four years ago.  They are in their late sixties and divorced after forty one years of marriage. I've about decided the main culprit was the horrible recession we've been through and Jim's dramatic income drop.  An attorney friend shared with me how the recession has precipitated a large uptick in divorces later in life.  So Jim recently shared some heartbreaking new developments as he works his way through the long process of losing a person he's known and loved for nearly fifty years.

Here are Jim's comments:

Well I'm nearing the four year mark since the divorce.  Liz left the house in August 2012 and never came back.  She ceased all communication after that, except through her attorney.  You know that our marriage had been through a long gradual decline mostly of her doing for ten years, but when she finally told me she didn't love me anymore and repeatedly refused to seek counseling, I decided all hope was lost.  We got through the process fairly quickly, but during that period I discovered, quite accidentally, that she'd been having dinners and drinks in unusual places.  Initially I asked her about these multiple meetings at an out of the way fish joint in a low income area.  The discussion escalated when I joked about her meeting someone there.  Her response, in an elevated tone, was "well what difference does it make know anyway?".  My first immediate thought .. guilty.   Further investigations revealed that she'd been seeing a guy who was a coworker.  At some point an investigative firm supplied me with photos of these two having dinner and details of meeting occurrences and locations.  There was never any proof of an actual love affair, but my "old school" mind knew it was wrong and I was crushed!  I never challenged Liz about these meetings on the advice of my lawyer, creating added stress as she'd come home late from her evening dinner rendezvous.  Of course I didn't want to believe it and tried my best to suppress my concerns.  But at the mediation hearing my lawyer told me in over twenty years of handling divorces, he'd only handled two cases where he was sure neither spouse was having an affair.  Other divorced friends advised if she was having an affair, it probably wasn't her first.
But as time passed I began to feel better and the sting of the breakup with so many bad memories was waning.  This spring I was elated about the impending birth of my first grand baby.  There was a big shower being thrown by Liz's friends nearby and two of my sisters and an Aunt were traveling in for the Sunday event.  My daughter-in-law's parents were hosting a dinner the night before the shower and they invited my guests and I to attend.  Normally Liz and I were never invited to the same family function since Liz hadn't communicated with me at all since she left home.  This time I insisted they invite Liz to the "shower eve" dinner.  Liz and I both needed to break the ice before baby delivery day!  Liz came and talked her head off with my relatives.  They were all laughing and smiling.  She even joked a little with me.  I kept my distance but was encouraged by all this interaction.  After the shower Liz invited my sisters over to tour her home and later in the week spent the day with my Aunt.  On the day the baby arrived, Liz sat next to me and we talked for hours about a variety of things.  It seemed almost normal.  It's frustrating having your lifetime best friend cut off all communications.  Sadly she knew that doing so hurt me.  One week after the birth we all went to dinner with my sons and daughter-in-law and the new baby.  Liz sat across the table from me and once again we chit chatted a little.  I was thinking how easier things might be if she would at least speak to me to discuss the sons we'd raised together.  Every Christmas since the divorce, the whole family sans me goes to the Christmas Eve service that's been a family tradition for decades.  I cherished those times and it's always killed me to now sit home alone on that special night.  I thought maybe this Christmas would be different and perhaps we can have occasional family gatherings.
So last week my youngest sister Sharon flew in to get her first look at her five week old niece and my new granddaughter.  I had other things planned for Sis while she was hear.  Wednesday my son suggested maybe we have dinner Thursday night and he'd ask "Mom" to join us.  I'm thinking "great" let's keep this civility thing going.  The next day Liz backed out saying she was having her hair done that night.
 That Saturday night Sis and I decided to get some light dinner and headed out.  In the car she mentioned "Oh, Liz has posted something from a Birthday party she's at.  Looks like a big group".  We got to the restaurant and as we chatted waiting for our food I asked Sis to show me the FB photo.  I glanced down and found Liz.  To my dismay there standing next to her was her new guy. Her coworker who'd been in all the investigator photos.  I was shocked and felt like I'd had the air knocked out of me. So it was true! Over the years I'd about decided that maybe I had overreacted to their meetings.  She didn't appear to be seeing anyone now and had never mentioned anyone to my sons.  But now this one photo reopened deep wounds that had been healing for four years.  Turns out Liz hadn't posted the pic.  One of her friends tagged both Liz and "Slick" in the post, so it appeared her covey of girlfriends had met this guy before.  Suddenly all of the facts that had me suspicious of her cheating on me came pouring back.
We got home and eventually I went to bed.  I laid awake for hours.  I knew a day would come when Liz found someone and I'd occasionally have to be at gatherings with the two of them there.   I could deal with that.  Her love faded for me and this was her life now.  I did not want her back!  But this guy? Who always had his sunglasses stuck in his hair like some bad dream from the eighties? He was tall, something she had always wanted, but God he was not handsome. I'd never seen a guy in a pirate suit with an eye patch until I found his Facebook page.  And many of his clan could have been extras in the movie Deliverance!  Friends who'd seen his photos agreed with me that he just had this creepy, sleazy look about him. So she had been involved with this guy.  Meeting her and and then sending her back home to me.  And the girl I loved had stooped so low to slink off into the night with some scruffy faced work associate for her emotional and physical needs?  Honestly it seems she was looking for some warped version of Eat Pray Love, a movie she obsessed over.  I guess she just planned to juggle her two lives as long as she could.  I can't imagine ever looking her in the face again.

Sunday morning Sis and I discussed the previous night's revelations.  We found that Liz had already deleted the photo.
"Slick" was really big into guns.  Months before the divorce stuff started, Liz announced out of the blue one Friday night that she'd be gone most of the next day to get a concealed gun permit.  I was shocked.  She'd never mentioned anything about it.  It was so unlike her.  And we owned no handguns!  And when I expressed my surprise, she just blew up and became very defensive.  That pattern repeated itself anytime I got too close to what I'd later learn was the truth. Now I'm certain "Slick" was behind the concealed gun test and was probably with her that day.
I thought back to the confrontation about the many meetings at the crappy "hole in the wall" restaurant in Richardson.  I was certain now that she was meeting "Slick" there.  Usually it happened on nights when I worked late.
One of my sons finally confided in me that way back in 2009-2010 he suspected his Mom of having a boyfriend.  Anytime he asked to borrow her Mac, she'd hurriedly close any open widow.  He noticed that she seemed super secretive about her IPhone, and guarded it with her life.  "Slick" had divorced his first wife in the late 90's and began working at my wife's place in 1997.  So it's likely they'd been carrying on for several years before our divorce.
I noticed after she'd moved to her own bedroom,  that on many nights she'd steal away early evening with her Mac. A very good chance that this was the beginning of her little secret communications with "Slick". 
  We went ahead with our plans Sunday and met my son and his wife with baby Rachel at their church.  I was so glad we did.  The solace of the chapel was comforting.  We had a wonderful lunch and headed north arriving around three.
None of these discoveries really surprised me. but all of a sudden I felt embarrassed and humiliated.  My instincts were right and their little meetings set strategically just far enough away from work had been going on since at least mid 2010.  I thought back to one night in this two year period when their company was having a seminar in a downtown hotel.  Liz decided that they'd finish so late  that it would be easier just to stay overnight in the hotel.  Flags went up, but I didn't want to hear about the "jealous" husband thing from Liz.  "Slick" would have been working this show and I'd bet big money they made a romantic evening out of it.
The confirmation of these two in a full blown relationship for what has now been at least five years generated a flashback to our nine hour marathon mediation day in 2012.  Investigators  had supplied me with photos of these two sitting in bars and restaurants along with details of their multiple meetings over a two week period.  My attorney advised that we not bring this evidence up.  Doing so, he said, would only disrupt the day's negotiations and might force progression to a costly court hearing.  I agreed, but he then asked me to bring the bar photos just in case.  The next day he did something without my knowledge early morning before the start of the day long meeting. He quietly sat down with the mediator and Liz's attorney telling them that I had convincing evidence of a boyfriend but we'd decided to not disclose the evidence in the interest of settling that day.  Most divorce judges in Collin County frowned on the spouse involved in the adulterous affair.  I was told later that the two women then approached Liz about having a boyfriend and, when confronted she denied it, but then broke down sobbing.  As the negotiations wore on, sometime before lunch the mediator walked in and said "Jim we're making no progress on your request to keep the house.  Liz is just adamant about keeping the home she raised her children in"  It had been a tense day.  I was exhausted from months of daily pressures of the divorce and the discoveries of my wife's affair, but now I was furious.  I had a folder on the conference table with all the bar and parking lot photos and other evidence.  I looked at the mediator and as I put my fist on top of that folder I stated very firmly "I'm the one who has paid for that home and have loved and raised my sons under that roof!"  Tapping the envelope firmly with my finger I said "And this son-of-a -bitch will not be bedding down my wife in this home!"  And  thankfully I did get the house.  So there was at least one consolation. Liz wasn't cavorting with "Slick" in the little home that for years was the center of so much family love.  I wish she'd just told me the truth years ago.  By now I'd be over it and she wouldn't feel compelled to hide with 'Slick" in the shadows anymore.  Liz was raised in a strict Christian home and even today is always touting her faith and how blessed her life has been.  I guess her faith couldn't keep her from cheating on her husband and then lying about it.  But she still makes it to her church pew every Sunday morning unless "Slick" has stayed over at her new home that weekend.
It's interesting that even though she's been carrying on with this guy at least six years, she's never mentioned him to her adult sons, even when she goes on vacations with him.  She also avoids showing photos of them together, and I've never revealed the investigative photos of the her & her new man.  Is she that embarrassed of "Slick", the tall man she always wanted? Or perhaps her Christian upbringing and, at some point, having to explain her whoring around to her sons is just more than even she can handle.
   So now, although I'm not totally back to square one, I know there is a new healing process coming.  I honestly feel no anger at my ex.  I only feel hurt and embarrassed.  Maybe a little too trusting the last few years and angry at the state of my own life at this late date.  I had been nothing more than a nuisance to her for years before the divorce.  At one point she told me that when I smiled real big for photos my eyes were almost shut!  Try not and smile so big, she said!  So it took a full year post divorce before a female friend told me to smile more because I had a beautiful smile.  And I do and I love it!
More than a few friends have asked and commented.. "I guess by now you've forgiven her, being a Christian and all.."  My response is no I haven't forgiven her and doubt I ever will in this life.
  A close friend told me "Well Jim... the good news is you were right all along.  But it's also the bad news".  I am now sixty eight and I know that four years of hurt and anguish will have lasting effects on my health and longevity.  Lately friends have been telling me how happy I looked with my new granddaughter and I have been.  I was also hopeful that I could see more of my family all together.  But the rest of my life begins today and I begin a second healing process and keep looking forward.  I've learned after four years I do have some great qualities and I have developed a new group of friends that are sincere caring people.  Life goes on...

I know people all over the world have these kinds of experiences every day, but you can sense the broken despair in Jim's words.  After posting I ran into a friend who's a nationally known marriage/ divorce counselor who's written several books on his area of expertise.  He shared some interesting new statistics on affairs that occurred during marriage.  Only seven percent of folks that cheated on their spouse ended up marrying the person they were having the affair with.  Of this small group that married, an amazing 74% ended up divorcing their new spouse within five years.  I'll try and find the actual studies and reference them at a later date.
  My parents provided loving care for each other  until their deaths.  They were such a great example of unconditional love long after the good looks faded.  It takes great mutual commitment to achieve that level of devotion.  My dear Father facing the end stages of Alzheimer's disease in his last year asked for a checkbook on what would be his last Christmas Eve.  He'd figured out it was Christmas and he wanted to write a check out for his love as he did every Christmas for decades. It seems today that unconditional love according to traditional wedding vows is becoming rarer with each new generation.


John Sullivan

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