Dave, my husband of 12 years, has blindsided me by admitting to years of affairs, and the news that he met someone named Allison in Las Vegas and he wants an immediate divorce.
In the days that follow, as I struggle to make sense of this sudden, shocking news, I get Dave to agree to see a counselor with me.
“While we figure this out, you can’t be in contact with her,” I say.
He nods, “Yes, Allison agrees that we shouldn’t talk for awhile.”
I’m speechless, incensed that the woman he spent 12 hours with a week ago is now calling the shots in our marriage. I’m even more confused when he tells me that Allison’s number has been entered in his phone under the name Ken (his boss.) His nonchalance about sharing every detail with me adds to a surreal sense that I’m disappearing, that the 20 years we’ve been together were somehow in my imagination.
But I’m not imagining anything the next day when I see the name Ken pop up on his cell phone. Dave is dressing in the bedroom. His phone was left on the dining room table. Before stopping to consider what I’m doing, I grab the phone and run into the front office, locking the door behind me.
Her incoming message reads: “You didn’t answer my question. Welcome to reality.”
The familiarity of her message baffles me. This is what rapturous, swept-off-your-feet love looks like? It has the tone of a bicker between two long-married people. I could bicker with Dave this way, if that’s what he wants.
I hit reply but Dave has realized I have his phone. He’s at the door, pounding and telling me to open up. I step into the closet and begin punching at the letters. My hand is shaking so hard I fumble the words and have to figure out how to back up. Dave is yelling now. I nearly drop the phone but finally manage to type my response: “This is Dave’s wife. Are you or are you not going to leave my husband alone? Should I send you a pic of our kids?” There is no emoticon for what I’m feeling so I leave it at that and hit OK. I remain in the closet, waiting until my heart stops racing and Dave gives up and walks away.
There is no reply from the phone in my hand.
I know Dave can’t leave for work without his phone, so I try calming myself before opening the door. One look at him, though, and venom rises in me. I practically hurl the phone at him.
“Be a man!,” I snarl. “Pick her or me and stop jerking me around!”
This time when Dave walks out the door, all I feel is relief.
I end up going to the therapy session alone and the therapist warns me not to give Dave an ultimatum. She says he has to feel safe enough to tell me the truth and I shouldn’t say what I don’t mean. She gives me phrases to use with him like “I’m curious about…” Or “I want to understand…” I do not feel supported, and I do not like this therapist. I shift into divorce, rather than reconciliation, mode. I research information on “wandering spouses” and follow the advice I find to “resign” as wife, which means withdrawing emotional support and communicating only business matters via email.
Soon after, Dave and I are in the dining room. He’s on the computer researching divorce information and he keeps asking me for help. It’s like he wants me to be his secretary. I’d like to type a report called “How to Divorce My Wife without Raising a Fucking Finger” and throw it at him. I question him about Allison. How old is she? Is she pregnant? He won’t answer. He doesn’t think he owes me anything and I see how I’ve been trained by him to accept so little. I feel helpless and want to rage at him. Pure hatred surges in me. I deserve better than this!
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