So… the conversation with Nancy:
Some of it was expected, some of it wasn’t. Oddly, the parts that weren’t expected were parts that could have had a larger impact on me but for my emotional steps over the last several days. Opening up about my feelings/rage… realizing what is and is not my responsibility in this “new relationship”… all of that. I’ll do this in a slightly narrative format, con su permiso:
I got home and knew she’d be there. After all, I encouraged her to be at the house before I got there so she could spend some time with the dog. She was doing some push mowing in the backyard and playing with the dog when I got home. I went straight to my schedule of activities. I emptied the dishwasher, refilled the dishwasher, and started some laundry. I could tell that Nancy was very solemn, almost morose, and encouraged her to talk when she wanted to. But I also informed her that certain things about the day to day wouldn’t change so if she wanted to go on the walk with Nala and I and talk there, that would be okay. She not only agreed to go on the walk but requested to hold the leash. So that’s good.
Of course, the walk/talk had lots and lots of tears from her the whole time. None from me, though.
After our talk on Saturday where I told her exactly how I felt about her behavior and choices; she went to see her boyfriend and could not hide her emotional state. Her boyfriend, again, said that conversations like this happen only because “your husband still loves you” and he wasn’t going to be a third wheel and so broke up with her again. I interjected that, while his reasoning was flawed, his actions were just. Nancy needs to learn how to spend some time alone, to figure out her own life, before just trying to rush into someone else’s. She cried harder and said, “At 40, I know I can’t lie to myself anymore. I mean, I know that this is me falling back into a pattern. This is just me running to another relationship because it is easier than fixing my stuff. But a part of me really liked him. He was a good guy and I really liked him.” And she broke down crying harder. My response was to say, “I’m sorry I can’t show more sympathy about that but… shouldn’t that have been how you felt about your marriage failing?” This opened up another avenue of conversation.
She began discussing how when she met me, she thought I was interesting and was attracted to me; but maybe she shouldn’t have made a move without knowing more. I kept prying, trying to figure out what she was alluding to without saying. Ultimately, she circled the topic so long that I had to just take a stab at guessing what she wasn’t saying and said, “So, Nancy, it sounds like what you’re saying is that you never loved me.” She cried hard for a minute and sobbingly said, “I don’t know. I mean, I don’t think so but I don’t know.” So… at least some minor confirmation that this woman into whom I put so much time, energy, effort, and resources into (at least now) claims she never loved me.
This sent her into a sort of self-pitying spiral. She’s terrified (understandably) because she’s now realizing that she hasn’t actually done anything for herself in 20 years. She has no friends, no money, no idea of what to do for a job, is convinced that she absolutely cannot work and go to school at the same time, and is unwilling to take a job she feels is “beneath her”. All the while, she doesn’t know where she should live because she knows this small community probably isn’t the best for her, but she refuses to move back to her hometown and declare herself a failure, but she doesn’t know where to go or what to do. There was… I would say… a good solid 30 to 40 minutes of the walk where she devolved into aggressive self-pity. And I didn’t mock or argue or speak much. For almost 10 years as her husband I encouraged, supported, attempted to provide resources… I was telling her that it was time to move, to do something, to begin her life and she refused, turned it into arguments, turned it into reasons to be mean to me. So… fuck it. If she wants to devolve into self pity, I’ll let her. And now, she’s responsible for getting herself out of it. To actually, finally, do something. Though I will say… when she started looping on how she had “no idea what to do or where to go and no one to rely on”… I did have to say, “That is of your own doing. You used to have someone for that.” Very pointedly meaning, “If you didn’t want to be in a ‘what do I do now’ situation, you should have been a wife and functioning adult for the last 10 years.”
So that walk was about two hours. I expected the boyfriend break up… aggravatingly, I expected Nancy to be more distraught about that then the marriage failing… I expected a lot of tears and fear. But for some reason (call me overly optimistic) I don’t know… I didn’t expect so much of it to be self-pitying. Like… I get that she probably doesn’t understand this but… she is exactly where her choices and actions have placed her. I know that realization is hard and upsetting but… if your choices GOT you here, your choices GET YOU OUT. And she still seems to think of herself as some leaf adrift on a sea of fate. Like… no, woman. You aren’t some lifeless piece of debris being buffeted about by forces unknown. You have made active choices that led you here. Time to make some active choices to lead you out. And without doing any sort of “husband concern or husband compassion” I tried to encourage that perspective. Basically, laid it out for her that… one of the reasons for Separation and not Divorce was that… it was clear to everyone (my family, our marriage counselor, etc)… that Nancy was in a very “comfortably numb” situation. That nothing would change as long as you were comfortable; and you needed change because what was going on was not healthy. Not healthy for me, not healthy for the marriage, and not healthy for her. SO… separation and move out. Because it is only through DISCOMFORT that we begin to make changes. Which is why her boyfriend breaking up with her, which of course sucks, is honestly for the best. Because running to someone else, especially someone with kids, in an attempt to keep yourself at “comfortably numb” is beyond unhealthy to the level of sick. At 40 years old, it is time to be uncomfortable. It is time to sit in discomfort and make the changes that are needed.
Is she going to make these difficult transitions and finally become someone? I don’t know. Far too much of me doesn’t think so. And that’s sad. Because the vows of marriage mean/meant a lot to me. The woman I proposed to was pretty cool. The woman she could become is pretty amazing. Instead, the woman I proposed to died and was replaced with a void of nothing. The woman she could become is still out there; she still exists. But I don’t know if Nancy is ever going to meet her. And that’s a tragedy worthy of a better wordsmith than I.
After the walk, Nancy just kind of hung out on the couch. The same couch where she spent hours and hours playing cell phone games and watching TV and doing homework and running away from her life. I figured it was okay. This wasn’t me sitting with my wife; this wasn’t me sitting with my ex wife… it was barely even me sitting with a friend. It was simply me giving some food, shelter, and distraction to a lost traveler… a broken person that needed a momentary port in the storm of her life. So I did laundry, made food, and just let Nancy sit on the couch, watching TV, playing on her phone, and crying.
I am almost certain to file for divorce by the end of the year. We need the legal and financial elements of all of this done. She’s never going to separate from my bank account because she honestly needs it to live. And cutting her off from it isn’t a cruelty because she needs to figure out how to live. I realize in a very real way it was never my responsibility to take care of Nancy. Not really. We live in the 21st Century and a husband and wife are a team; not a protectorate like the 14th or 15th Century. But a husband is responsible for caring for his wife; just as a wife is responsible for caring for her husband. And as hard as it is to say, because I so longed to be a husband for so many years, I’m actually relieved in some ways that this is ending. After everything we’ve been through, everything we’ve gone through, everything she’s put me through… all of the caring and helping and assisting that was One Way for so long… feeling helpless to help my wife deal with her shit because she refused to do any of that work? And then… after ALL of that… after everything we’ve gone through over the last many years… her total shut down and devotion to rage after we got married; her complete mental break after “getting a job in a field she was interested in”; her complete shutdown when she could finally live a life doing whatever she wanted to do… after ALL of that… for her to (1) feel worse about losing a boyfriend than a husband; and (2) feel such epic levels of helplessness and self-pity… there is genuine relief that I don’t have to feel responsible for this person anymore.
Again… I’ll confess openly and without shame:
I’ve got some pain that goes with all of this, too.
The Nancy that was supposed to be my wife… I love her and I’ll miss her. It is very much the idea of “We can’t be together because I’m in love with another woman. And that woman is who you were before we got married.” And it sucks that she’s gone. And I’m going to have to spend a lot of energy repeatedly telling myself, convincing myself that I didn’t cause this because that’s where my brain goes. It goes quickly to, “She wasn’t like this until she married YOU. What did you do to her?!” But… I know it isn’t like that. The more I think about it in retrospect, the more I understand logically exactly how things broke down for her, with her, within her.
And there’s some pain about being “forced” to start over again so many years later. I mean… if I had the body I did when I was 21 still? Or the dating opportunities of Law School? Forget about it! 21 year old me could have bounced back from a break up and started hitting the clubs with a lot more confidence! And law school?? Between Social Outings put on by the school and clubs; the nightlife of Omaha; and the bevvy of 20 to 35 year old attractive, intelligent law students? I wouldn’t have even worried about “if” I was going to get back on the horse!! But things are much different now. I am considerably heavier than I was at 21. And as far as Omaha Nightlife; Law School Social Events; or a bevvy of 20 to 35 year old attractive, intelligent women? None of that seems to be within 200 miles of here. So… there’s some pain there over the lost time and opportunities.
And of course, there’s the pain of being alone. I can handle it better now, at least the inner monologue kind of pain. The literal physical pain of working full time, trying to manage a house, care of a dog, care for a lawn, cook, etcetera… that’s a different story (three days back at work and 5 days of consecutive dog walking and my body is already screaming with pain again). But the idea of “being alone with my thoughts?” I’m not kicking myself about the relationship anymore. I’m not obsessing about what I could have done differently. I honestly and truly gave my marriage everything I had to try to make it work. I don’t need to blame myself for it. But the inner thoughts that will start to get to me more and more? The ones about how long I’ll be single. The ones about what I may have to settle with/on. The ones that chip away at my self-worth and self-esteem because strangers don’t think I’m worth getting to know. Those are the thoughts I’ll have to be careful about.