Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Other Women

This topic has been on my mind for a long time. I want to relate it because I continue to believe that I should stop this blog or change its direction. And I want these feelings down for the record. May 1st is my goal for blog shut down.

My husband was married for 12 years when his wife had an affair with her boss for about 9 months - he never knew and when he found out was devastated. They had all been friends including the wife of the boss for many years and often socialized together. I was 10 years younger than my husband and the two wives and 20 years younger than the boss - the new kid on the block. I also had not had children yet.

To my husband, my being age 30 to his 40, made me somewhat of a trophy wife. When we went out together people often thought I was my husband's daughter. The two couples had kids - lets just say I didn't know then what I know now. But what I did and still know was how unacceptable having an affair was to my conscience. I witnessed what the long-term ramifications were over the years. They are far reaching and in the end even had an impact on my two children.

I have to say that I didn't and still don't hold much respect for an educated and professional woman who conducted herself in such a dishonest manner. If I were married and considering an affair I would be honest about it. It was the deception that really tormented my husband. But I relate all of this just for some background in terms of what I really want to discuss.

What bothered me was the fact that my husband's first wife made no effort to save her marriage. She wanted out and got out. And I'm not even sure there was ever a real reason she wanted out in the first place. My husband was a very hard working, decent, honorable man. He was the main caregiver for their son during the early infant years and then when the wife returned to school in pursuit of a doctorate. At the time of the divorce, their son was nine. There was never any emotional, physical or substance abuse involved.

My husband begged for counseling which the wife flatly refused to do. She left their home on Thanksgiving (really, could she have made it any worse?) and my husband started back dating in December. He and I met through the old way they used to conduct personals - by print ads published in the newspaper and where you first corresponded by mail. We had our first date in early February and married on October 20th. And the wife was furious! Her divorce had been finalized in July but it was still dragging out with her boss/lover. They ended up marrying in January.

I'll leave mention out of the early years of our marriage when the ex caused a great deal of strain with unfair visitation requests and the like. In fact, she was also furious when I got pregnant because she felt that the old agreement in place during her marriage (to only have one child) should still be upheld by my husband! She became very bitter when I had our second son.

Cut ahead to the recent past. I meet Sam whose wife left him under similar conditions, although he denies she had an affair. He also has a son, age nine. Again, similar circumstances - her desire for a divorce comes out of the blue, she refuses counseling. As I started to get to know Sam I was struck by the deja vu quality of the situation. And like my husband, Sam had been the main caregiver for his son through the years, taking six months off when his son was born to stay at home and then working jobs that allowed him to be off with his son in the afternoons after school.

I would characterize both wives as being strong, driven, independent and career-orientated women. I, on the other hand, am more dependent, less driven and not that interested in career goals. I am more focused on family and doing for others.

I could say that perhaps these women are more selfish than I, that they look out for their own interests more than I do. I just know that divorce is not always the answer and I would have made an attempt at counseling. Again, I don't feel Sam really ever got a specific reason as to why his wife wanted the divorce. Both women had never given the men any warning prior to their announcements that they were leaving their marriages ahead of time. To me, that is probably the worst aspect of all because it showed that good, open and honest communication was not in place - and that is necessary for any relationship to be successful.

Sam's ex-wife got remarried as soon as the divorce was final and relocated some months later out-of-state taking Sam's son who has since been diagnosed with Autism. In my case with my husband, the ex and her new husband ended up living down the block and there were problems related to the proximity of our lives/homes. We were always running into one another and sometimes that was uncomfortable because we had no space or distance between us. So I'm not sure living nearby is always the best option either - but I suppose for the children it is.

I ended up getting my Master's Degree in counseling because I wanted to work with families struggling with blended family adjustment. That was because of the horrors I witnessed as the result of this divorce and broken family. But again I regress. What truly gets me more than anything about these women is that they went from one husband to the next without missing a beat. In fact, my husband's first wife had been briefly married before and the ink on that divorce wasn't even dry before she was engaged to my husband.

I know comparisons are totally fruitless and I know I get too caught up in the unfairness of life. But it upsets me to no end to see women that I think have been less than honorable go on with their lives without much regard for the consequences, especially toward their children. This is all along the lines of the bad people getting the prize when they don't deserve it. Although my husband's wife was very attractive and had a high ranking/well paying job in administration, Sam's wife is just average in looks and even overweight - yet she managed to marry a man 10 years her junior!

AND THIS IS THE REAL KICKER - THESE WOMEN HAVE NEVER HAD TO SLEEP ALONE! That is what really upsets me here. They went from one man to another without ever having to experience the loneliness and discomfort of a big Queen or King bed when there is only one person sleeping in it.

Sleeping alone is what is slowly killing me, I think. I have reached the point where I can't stand it anymore. I don't feel I ever get a good night's of sleep - this has been going on for years and is taking a huge toll on my physical and emotional health. I just don't feel comfortable, safe or secure sleeping alone. Every night it is like I am only half sleeping because my brain and hearing doesn't completely shut off. I am never fully rested. What a sad realization to be making about my life as a widow because sleep is something we take so for granted. And yet it is also so necessary and vital for our well being.

I remember the distress I felt when I first learned that Sam's wife had gotten remarried. The first thought I had was of outrage that she had gotten the turn that should have gone to a still single widow out there who wanted to get remarried. The widows had paid their dues but not this woman. And that she gotten a man who loved her and was willing to marry her while I still struggle with men who don't want marriage or commitment - and that he was so much younger! It was a lot for me to swallow.

As much as I dislike what these women did to my husband and Sam and their sons (and even me and my sons too) I do now look at their actions and decisions in a new way. Yes, they were selfish and perhaps unthinking of others. But they went after what they wanted and got it. They had an advantage of still being married and not having to move from their homes or deal with financial crisis because of that. Add those hardships to the mix along with some exhaustion and depression from having to deal with solo parenting and grief/loss and you have some pretty depleted women like me - barely able to have the energy to go out on dates, yet not wanting to sleep alone anymore. Looking back, I wish I had thrown myself into the dating arena sooner then I did while I still had money to afford haircuts, clothes and manicures - and still some hope, energy and optimism besides - plus fewer gray hairs. But beating myself up over that is wasted energy that needs to be focused elsewhere.

I've been struggling the past weeks with the awareness of how damaging my negativity is and not knowing how to redirect it. Do I just let myself slide into a deep depression and stay there awhile? Do I make myself think and act as positively as possible, even though in the beginning it will be forced? Do I just forget about grieving, period? Give myself a break from self-reflection, healing and growth? Looking back and observing the actions of these two women, so similar to one another has provided me with some insight into my quest for these answers. Throughout my life I have always taken care of others and put my needs and desires aside. Maybe it is time to be a bit selfish - not in destructive and damaging ways but to make a point of really caring for myself, my needs and desires. To not do anything I really don't want to do. To focus on healing myself mentally and physically as best I can with the limitations of our finances and being an only parent.

One of my other close girlfriends and I chatted and caught up on the phone the other day. I have always been amazed by her energy and she is older than I am. She works full time, has three kids (one away in college). She too divorced last year. But throughout her life as a married woman and now newly single woman, she has always made time for herself. In fact, she goes out every Friday night with girlfriends and Saturday nights are reserved for her guy friend, whom she has been seeing almost a year now. When we last talked, I brought up how even years ago I was amazed that she made herself such a priority since I struggle to do that for myself. She replied that she knew early on that to be a good parent, she'd have to devote time for herself and as long as her kids are safe and taken care of she feels as though she has done her job.

I know that even years ago I questioned that she wasn't spending as much quality time with her kids that I thought she should. But she is a different person than I am and we have unique personalities and life histories. I have always been a more involved parent. I would never have sought a divorce without undergoing some pretty heavy duty therapy/marriage counseling. And she, like the two woman I've depicted here, refused any counseling with her husband. Even though I would never have acted in the ways these woman did, nor will I ever agree with their decisions, I can take something worthwhile from them. They did think of themselves and even put themselves first. For me to do that even some of the time would be a huge risk and change in my life!

So, I have come to the realization that for me, my future path will not involve dissolving into deep despair or depression - nor will it involve faking my way into optimism and hope. Rather, I'm going to take the next few weeks/months and devote them to healing my mind, body and soul. And that will center on thinking of my needs and trying to devote as much as attention as I can to them. I don't want to ponder so much about grief and loss anymore. I want a break from it. I need a break from it. I have started some self-study in the area of happiness, positive thinking and overcoming negativity. And I have found some points that have struck home for me that will be helpful. So in a way, the next step for me on this journey is to continue that study and see where it leads me. Not to forget about the great amount of grief and loss that has occurred in my life the past few years, but to transcend that and focus on a different level - if that makes any sense.

I might continue to blog with that as my goal - it would be a good way to keep track of my progress - but I think it would need to be a different and new blog and not part of this one. It would almost be breaking free of the issues and feelings that have been a part of this blog.

Anyway, I have always wanted to post about this topic and the two ex-wives of the men I was involved with - how similar the situations were, even down to the ages of the two sons. But a prior post would have just centered on the selfishness of these women and the unfairness of life in general. Now, I see it all in a new light. Not that I will ever agree with the divorces that resulted. But I can see that I can make some choices that involve what is good for me. Life shouldn't be all about what makes us happy, nor should it be about just making other people happy. These women have shown me that I need to spend some time and attention on me for awhile - I've never really done that EVER. And it is time. And I think it is what will end up being a very healing component in my life right now. And hopefully that will lead to other big changes in my life involving renewed hope and optimism AND not having to sleep alone!


  1. I think this could be a good way to proceed. I don't see anything selfish in trying to determine what is good or right for you, in taking care of yourself, and in trying to make the best possible plan for your future. Although I was always a very independent minded person, I lived for my husband -- well, we lived entirely for each other -- and his well-being was always my greatest concern. When he became ill, I became even more fiercely involved with trying to keep him well and comfortable. Now that I'm alone, it has been painful to try to find a way to exist -- a way to begin to care about myself - for myself. In the first year, I didn't really care much at all. I guess it was needed.. that time of not really caring and feeling sad, depressed and so on. However, after about a year, I realized that there was no one to care for me, or about me -- I have no children and not too many close friends or family. I took stock of the situation and decided to just start trying to figure out a logical path. In my case, I don't think I want another relationship as losing my husband was just too devastating and it seems like I just keep coming up against cancer -- my husband, my father, 4 of my dogs, and I had surgery to try to stop a almost-cancerous condition. Life just feels way to fragile to me now, and I don't ever want to be hurt like this again. However, I've made a conscious decision to start letting people into my life -- neighbours, friends, fellow artists, and whatever -- maybe to become one of those old sages whose door is always open for others. I know that might seem a little odd or strange, but I've always admired the kind of person who is at home with their own mind and will let others who are in need come and spend a little time and share a little of their world. Maybe, as widowed people, what we have to do is try to imagine the life we want to have now that our previous lives have been so unfairly destroyed -- and just try to do what is necessary to make our new lives happen. I don't really know if this can be done, but it's the approach I'm working on these day. Good luck with whatever you do. Take care. bev

  2. Hope you will not give up on your blogging...I KNOW that you have touched many with your raw honesty as you have written so well and deeply about widowhood and divorce. I know others have read, identify, and heal along with you. I applaud your new course and wish you continued healing, revelations and the ability to share the process with us.
    I've been "the other woman" and also, the woman left behind....neither place is good. Pain, pain, pain.
    Thank you, thank you!