Jack, Carol, Jennifer, Rick

It’s been a very eventful final few weeks for Carol at work. I decided I wouldn’t post about it until it was all done and over with. In the meantime, I’d been thinking a lot about Jennifer, sympathizing with her, so I thought I’d post about her. Then I wanted to get the grand finale out of the way.

Before I get into the last few weeks, I want to talk a bit more about Jennifer from my perspective and what my relationship with her and Rick was like.

I like Jennifer. She’s a good person. I know this because I have good instincts. She is a bubbly, kind of airheaded person but I know that’s only the surface. Deep inside she is hurting and longing for good people to support her.

In the last year or so before I discovered the infidelity, Carol insisted that the four of us, myself, Carol, Jennifer, and Rick hang out more together. I agreed. We were in the beginning stages of planning a few trips. In my mind, it was time to start being around them more so I could keep a closer eye on things. I was in the beginning stages of understanding that I must wear a mask of my own to infiltrate and gather information.

The asshole had been around too long and was too close with Carol, so it was time to just become a part of it and see what’s going on in that side of her life. Besides, Carol kept pushing more and more for us to hang out as couples. Weird, huh? Was she looking for my approval of her affair partner? Or was my presence required for her safety? In life, I’ve learned that often it’s a bit of both.

Update: I’ve since asked Carol what her reasoning was. She knew I liked the idea of hanging out with other couples so she used that to try to push me to be around Jennifer and Rick more so she wouldn’t have to be alone with him. She was not looking for my approval, knowing that I would never like him. She knew even then that he was not a good person and had a unlikeable personality.

I found it tolerable to be around them because I liked Jennifer. A few of my hobbies and interests were quite enthralling to her. All I could say was, “You like my quirky interests and want to be part of this world? Great! Join in!”

And so we planned. All 4 of us would go to the things I like to go to alone much of the time. We would all go camping in Rick’s new RV next summer. Last year, we planned to go to a concert together but after we got the tickets, the incident happened, changing the plans. Carol and I used their tickets on a few family members and a friend instead.

While all this planning was going on, we’d visit Jennifer and Rick with some frequency. We’d drink and chat and the kids would all play together. Then we’d get home and I’d mercilessly mock every line of bullshit that came from Rick’s mouth. He was a talker, always trying to project some image of greatness, but he was so full of shit and his background made for the most unfortunate accent I ever heard, increasing the hilarity as far as I was concerned.

Then I’d say, “When we go to x, at least Jennifer will be there. Gives me someone to have an actual conversation with.”

“What are you talking about? Jennifer is a complete ditz!” Carol would say.

“Have you heard Rick talk? He tries to tell stories to make himself look good but he’s too stupid to realize that he comes off as the idiot in his own stories. And he can’t talk for shit either. Talk about getting hit in the head too much. Jennifer at least appears to share our interests.”

Rick never raised his voice in my presence. (I told this to Carol recently and she was surprised. It appears I got a special version of his customer service persona.) He most certainly did not belittle Carol or Jennifer when I was around. What I saw was a stupid, bumbling idiot with an aura that really rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t like him and I knew I’d never like him. He really had no chance anyway as he was the guy who put my wife through work hell while she was pregnant. He was hiding his dark side from me. He wasn’t showing me so much as a glimpse of his work behaviour, the behaviour that left Carol a sobbing mess at home. I figured it just was a matter of time. If we went away for a weekend together, he’d slip up at some point and I’d see the real him.

Then the incident happened and I was not surprised but still shocked. In spite of being suspicious, I still couldn’t believe Carol would go so far.

Carol sat on the couch across from me, telling me it just happened. “He’s just… a really good friend.”

Really good friend? Are you fucking serious, Carol? What he’s done to you, how he’s made you feel over the years? All the crying on my shoulder, the threats of quitting, hoping he gets fired by his parents?”

“Well, I don’t tell you about all the times he’s nice. See… we can yell and scream at each other at work and in an hour, everything will be fine.”

Fine? Look at you now! Is this where healthy, normal friendship gets you? Are you listening to yourself? You don’t want to be married to me, fine. But Rick has been so toxic to your life and now sleeping with him ensures maximum damage to all areas of your life, including your job that you love so much. You may hate me and the kids, but you’d never put your job at risk like that. You got some serious damage going on. You must really hate yourself to let him fuck you. You need professional help.”

And so, the months of detox began. At first she flat out denied the things he did to her and how he made her feel but the problem was, I was always there to comfort her when those things happened. I was the one she vented to about him. I just had to keep jogging her memory.

“Remember when you cried cause he did x?”

“Yeah, okay but…”

“Then when y happened? How about z?”

And so on and so on until the pile of shit that he somehow got her to believe didn’t exist was sitting there in front of her, too large and too odorous to deny. She went from making excuses for him like a battered wife to realizing just how abusive he really was.

Let me answer a question now. Is Carol trying to spin a victim narrative? No, she was in complete denial and had to be subjected to some serious deprogramming by me, her friends and witnesses, and our counsellors.

Since then, I’ve asked Carol how she could not believe that Rick actually did those things to her. I asked her if he had somehow convinced her that it was me who did those things to her. She replied that she knew what he did to her but he spent a lot of time minimizing, convincing her that what he’d done to her wasn’t a big deal.

A major part in clearing the cobwebs out of Carol’s head was having time away from him while Rick took extra time away from work and refused to speak to her. The realization that she was used and controlled was slow and painful but she finally got to see the truth of the situation. Many don’t get that far.

Recently, Carol has begun to understand and sympathize with Jennifer much more. She always believed that Jennifer was stupid and staying with Rick is just a foolish choice that she can easily get out of it she wanted to. Now Carol understands that Jennifer is trapped. Carol wasn’t even married to the guy and she somehow let him pull her into his control. Imagine how much more trapped Jennifer is.

I’ve seen Jennifer a few times since the incident. All I could do was give her a kind smile and ask her how she was doing.

Let me finish this up with a conversation between Carol and I this week:

“I think about Jennifer still. I want to tell her that she’s so much more than what she believes she is and that she deserves better,” I said.

“I’ve told her that while I was training her last week. She really impressed me with her abilities at work. She is stronger than she thinks she is. But her smiles and cheeriness, do you think that’s fake?” Carol asked.

“Yes, but it comes from a place of hurt and need for companionship. She is a good person who wants to smile. She needs a good friend.”

“I wish I had become her friend, instead of Rick’s,” Carol said, thoughtfully.

“Me too, honey.”

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