Reflecting on Last Year

Last year at around this time, things were pretty rocky between Carol and I. Hell, you could say that for a lot of times in a lot of years but this time we were in the final months leading up to The Incident.

We had the big fight over Carol wanting to vacation with her parents. How different it is to look back at it with the insight I have now. So many of these conflicts were attempts by Carol to make me angry, to make me be mean, so she could justify her actions in her mind. And in the background was Rick, encouraging her, “You should go on that trip, you deserve it, your husband needs to understand you need you time.” It was in his best interest to create or exacerbate any marital issues between Carol and I.

In my mind, Carol was a very lazy, non-sexual person. She told me that all of this was normal: it’s natural that she doesn’t feel so strongly about us anymore, she’s not affectionate, she’s not a cuddler, she always yells so I shouldn’t get offended. There was always an excuse. I had settled for this. I wasn’t happy about it but sometimes things were still good, even great, and when they weren’t, she told me there was nothing to worry about, it’s just the way she is now. So when she told me she wanted a divorce, I was floored.

Here I was, hanging in there, keeping the family together, learning to accept a life without affection, kindness or respect. A life of hanging out in separate rooms, and infrequent and boring sex. Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer, sometimes I was counting the years left until the kids would be grown, and sometimes I still saw myself growing old with Carol, capturing those magical moments more frequently after we moved onto the next stage of our lives.

Now, after putting no effort into us aside from pushing me away, she wanted to end it. She told me that it was her anger after this argument that made her cross the line into a physical affair. I’ve since discovered that that was a lie. She was already years deep into her affair during this argument where she even dared to say, “What do you think I’m going to do, cheat on you?” Well, maybe she wouldn’t have cheated on me while on vacation with her parents. That was her thing to do at work and home.

After the argument, she cried and apologized. I’m not sure why. In our separation discussion, she said it was because I “always” threw the kids in her face but that wasn’t it, at least not all of it. Maybe she suddenly saw the reality of what she was asking for in her anger. Maybe Rick convinced her not to divorce. After all, her moving on from me might’ve meant moving on to a new guy and happiness. Better for him if she was miserable and with me. That was the Carol he knew how to manipulate. That was the Carol he could convince to be his side ho.

Yes, she took it back but the damage was done. I now knew just how much she didn’t care for our marriage. We had a second big fight that started with her not-so-jokingly teasing me when I was already quite irritated. It seemed she needed a more “unreasonable” reaction from me. In the vacation argument, I gave her lecture that gave her pause. I held up a mirror to her. That was not what she was looking for. This time, I gave her what she was looking for: anger that she could view as unjustified. Later, I wondered if that was what finally pushed her over the edge. Now, I know she was already over the edge long ago. No amount of anger or cruelty she could get out of me would ever be enough to justify her years of betrayal, but she would try anyway.

So, those arguments happened in February and March of last year and in the middle of it all, Carol came up to me one day and announced that it was a good thing she didn’t go on vacation with her mom because her and I would be going to the same place next year for her friends’ wedding. Hooray, how nice it is to be actually included in my spouse’s activities, I thought. This vacation is coming up in May.

What is the point of this reflection today? I didn’t even intend to write about this. I thought I’d write about the weekend party or the differences in our relationship now versus then. Well, it is about how different we were as a couple last year. I put up with a lot of shit from her. Why? For one, I was determined to not have my kids deal with divorcing parents. I settled for less than I deserved for my kids but also, I felt worthless. I felt worthless because I had so much taken away from me from sickness. Who would want a guy who has to avoid all these foods and sunlight? Who would want a guy who can’t be in top physical shape anymore because of his chronic health issues?

All this was made worse by Carol’s attitude toward me. No matter how hard I fought to be as normal as possible, it didn’t matter to her. I wasn’t worthy of her affection or support. I was just there, a guy trying to do more than the average husband that in her mind, required no maintenance or nurturing. It didn’t matter what I did or said, it wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough. If I left her, who would want me? She didn’t want me so why would anyone else? There was no choice but to stay. We had history. We had kids together. And I figured I might as well stay enjoy the occasional spark of joy and love with her than to have nothing at all.

I was unworthy.

Now I know that was a lie.

After the incident, I came out of my shell and forced myself to be social again. It was better than sitting in an empty house on the nights Carol had the kids. I couldn’t stand that place. We hadn’t even been there a year and it was already filled with too many memories. Memories of a failed marriage, a broken family, and soul crushing betrayal.

So out I went, and it was out there that I discovered that what I came to believe about myself was a lie. I wasn’t unworthy. I wasn’t doomed to be alone. I wasn’t even antisocial. With nothing to lose, I spoke candidly of my life and struggles, with women I had known for years and women I had known for hours. They liked me. They understood. They cared. All I had to do was be myself.

All these years, I believed I was ugly, too sick, out of shape, socially inept and unlikeable. Turns out Carol just didn’t want to like me. She was not where she thought she wanted to be in life. Then she crossed a line and I had to become a bad guy in her eyes, in order to justify her actions.

Now I’ve rediscovered myself. I’ve found myself again. I’m confident and comfortable with myself now. I’m not going to be that weak person anymore.

I know I am worthy of love and companionship and many women would be happy to have me. Carol knows that I’m a good man to have and, perhaps even more importantly, she knows that other women know it too.

I choose Carol. I will unchoose Carol if she ever again treats me like I’m lesser.

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