Carol stood in the hallway across from me. She was crying and trembling, trying to get the words out.
“I was just so happy to be done. I was so happy to come home yesterday and be here with you. I want you. I want to be home with you. It’s over and I was so, so happy to get out of there. I told you about it. I told you so you’d know. Because I know you should know. I just had to get out of there and I didn’t want to make a scene. I just want to be with you. This is where I want to be.”
The words were coming out all broken up by sobs. She was a mess.
“Okay, calm down,” I whispered, not wanting the kids to hear. Then I went back to Sarah to continue playing a game with her.
A few minutes later, I got up again and went out to our hallway. I told Carol what we needed from the store. She closed the distance and grabbed me, pulled me close, and buried her face in my neck.
“I love you. I just wanted to get out of there without making a scene. So I hugged them all. He was just there too. Him and Jennifer. I really just wanted to go without drama. I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” I said robotically. Sarah entered the hallway, so I put my arms around Carol to appear to be sharing in a genuine hug.
The day before, Carol had finished her last day at work. She was thrilled. She showed me a card she got from her fellow managers. She said everyone gave her a hug. She said that both Rick and Jennifer showed up to say their goodbyes and while Rick was acting dickish at first, he was sad so she gave both him and Jennifer hugs on the way out.
I was livid.
I told her, “That’s extremely inappropriate,” and spent the rest of the evening keeping my distance. Some may think I overreacted and some may think I underreacted. I figured it was the final straw. On her last day of work, she just had to give him a hug. The man who destroyed her marriage, her family, her self respect, and her ability to trust any man in the future. As far as I was concerned, it was one last gut punch to our marriage for good measure.
I spent the evening thinking about how we would manage the kids during our separation. With her new work hours, it may work out better now, I thought. I looked online at houses for sale. The market is still terrible, looks like I’ll be downgrading big time. I thought about Carol starting her new job single and devastated. I thought about devoting my free time as a single man to recording music and working out. The idea was just as appealing as before but I would sure miss seeing the kids everyday. I knew I’d miss Carol too.
I thought about the kids learning of us separating again. That would be so unfair for them. No, it’d have to be for good this time. The flip flopping between married and split up parents would ruin them. They would have no stability or security. But I wasn’t sure it was for good. I wasn’t sure if I was overreacting but still, I didn’t want to think of it as anything but a deliberate smack in the face.
She. Fucking. Hugged. Him.
This will not stand!
But still, I wasn’t sure. The voice deep inside kept saying, Are you sure you’re not overreacting? Can you be sure about that right now? No, I wasn’t.
“There’s room on this couch for you,” Carol said, inviting me to snuggle with her, hoping I wasn’t so angry with her anymore.
“Nah, I’m good,” I replied.
I was now very late and dark. I’d been dwelling and planning for hours. Soon it would be bedtime. The couch seemed like a good option. Or maybe she’d fall asleep on the couch and I’d just take the bed. No, the kids would get up in the morning and see one of us on the couch and they’d be worried.
We went to bed together. Carol reached over and put her hand on me. I didn’t respond but I didn’t shake her off either. She knew I was angry and I knew she was quite upset. If I did anything like pushing her hand away, that would set her over the edge and the kids would see a crying mommy on the couch in the morning.
I couldn’t sleep as my mind continued to work overtime. I felt our marriage was pretty much done. I couldn’t keep dealing with this kind of shit anymore. She did too much to me, to us, how could it ever be repaired? I was tired of the triggers and I wanted off this rollercoaster. But still, I was furious, and you don’t make big decisions when you’re in a highly emotional state.
Separation was off the table. That would be just plain cruel for the kids. I wasn’t sure which way I was going to go and they didn’t need to witness their parents break up, make up game. What if I just told her I needed some space? If could we step back from the sex and affection and spend a little time apart within our marriage, I thought. I just needed time to think. Finally, I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, Carol snuggled up to me again. I was annoyed, and got up to use the washroom to get away from her. I came back to the bedroom and browsed my phone for a while. I would speak about it only if she did first. Finally, I got up and said, “So, you wanna just start our day then?” She nodded.
Later, I took a shower. I entered the bedroom wrapped in my towel to get my clothes. Carol was there again, laying on the bed.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Waiting for you,” she replied.
“Look, I don’t know what game you’re trying to play but I’m just too old and tired to play, okay? If you’re just trying to push my buttons to see what you can get away with or you have feelings for him still… I’m just too old to deal with this high school bullshit. I’m not playing these games with you. I’m done with the drama.”
“I just wanted to get out of there. That’s all. He and Jennifer were both there and we hugged. I hugged everyone as I left. It’s over now. No more drama. I won’t ever have to see him again.”
“Until he’s sad and needs a hug?” I asked sarcastically.
She left the room as I gestured that I didn’t want to change in front of her.
It wasn’t much later when I felt I had to talk to her about who was going to go shopping. After all, we still had our responsibilities. That was when I saw her sobbing in the hallway and she tried to explain. After that, she went shopping and visited her mother.
The day before was the end of a chapter, the end of her job with him. She was so happy, and I took that happiness away. I crushed it under my anger. The next day, she would start her new job after having one day at home of sadness and stress. Maybe I was overreacting? I still didn’t know.
Later, Carol came home and we did chores around the house for a while before sitting down to relax for a bit. Carol sat next to me. After a while, I rested my head in her lap and she ran her fingers through my hair, something old Carol never did. New Carol likes to touch me. I wasn’t thinking of anything anymore, I just wanted to be with her. Later that night, we did a whole lot of making out and touching like when we first started dating.
I don’t feel like I make a conscious decision to be with her. I just do it. When I’m not thinking about things, I just go to her.
So here I am. Still here with Carol, the woman who used to be my wife. We were always married on paper but in my heart, we stopped being married years ago. I just didn’t know it until last year.
Now we’re back together and I say we’re married and I wear my old ring, but it feels like I haven’t made that commitment in my heart yet.
And you know what? I really do want to be able to make that commitment again. But I’m still very on guard, very ready to be angry, and very unable to put the past in the past.
I really want to get there but it cannot be forced or faked. I can only get there by continuing this path one step at a time.