The story is usually related the same way after a divorce.
You hear all about the new girlfriend/wife of the divorced guy, and how she and he are dealing with his crazy bitch of an ex-wife. How challenging his kids are – they don’t even give her a chance – and she tries so hard.
You always hear how miserable his first marriage was, sometimes for the entire length of it supposedly, which could be twenty years or more. But he “stuck it out” for the kids, out of kindness, out of sympathy, etc.
What a great husband/father he was all of that time, too. She just didn’t appreciate him!
Poor divorced guy, so glad he’s happy now, he deserves to be! He and his new girlfriend/wife are so perfect for each other! Did you see the new house they’re building together? Have you heard about the fabulous vacation they’re going on? Did you see the ring he bought for her?
They are so perfect for each other, and so happy! Isn’t it great??
But, that’s only one side of the story. That’s the “happy ending” side. Everyone loves a happy ending, don’t they?
It’s not the whole story, though. No, there are always two sides, or more, to every story. People tend to leave out the not so pretty parts, the sad and painful parts, the other half of the story that may not be such a happy ending. It makes people uncomfortable to really look at it, and admit it’s there.
But it’s there, and it’s horrible and crushing. It’s devastating.
I am living that other side of the story, right here right now, everyday.
I was his wife of over twenty years that went wherever his career took him, all the while telling him how awesome he was, how he deserved more. I believed in him, he was smarter than the others, and he was more than worthy to take on a bigger job each time.
I moved to foreign countries and different states, sometimes with babies, to further his career. I supported him emotionally and built up his self image. I was his fan club.
I was the one that spent many lonely days and nights alone, raising our children and running our house, while he usually worked (or was gone) fourteen hours a day. Sometimes he would go out for drinks with people from work, or just stay later shooting the breeze, instead of coming home to his family before his kids were in bed.
I was the one that handled most of the moving details, moves in and moves out. Sure, he found the moving company, through his relocation department, but I handled the grunt work. I got us ready for move in and move out day. I checked the receiving list to make sure nothing was missing, once while he slept off a hangover and hid in a back bedroom.
I unpacked hundreds of boxes, over the course of twelve years, pretty much on my own and usually with small children to care for at the same time.
I lived with less back then with the promise of more later. More time, more money, more attention, more love. More time for us.
I researched for the necessities of our lives: finding local shopping, doctors and dentists, repairmen, installations of various household essentials, language lessons, fun things to do, etc. And, I made friends for us and our children in each new place we landed.
I planned all of our vacations, too. All of them. Taking care of the details, as usual.
Meanwhile, he went to work each day, and took care of only himself. He was a great provider, that’s true, he worked his way up and makes a very good living. As he moved up the corporate ladder, he bought more expensive suits and shoes for himself, he started collecting expensive watches, he went to nice restaurants for lunch with work friends.
He would talk about the new, trendy restaurant he just tried, following it with “I’ll take you there sometime.” Sometime didn’t usually happen.
I shopped at Target and Macy’s for myself and the kids, and ate lunch alone at home most days. He would invite me to meet him for lunch sometimes, in the early days once the kids were a bit older and in school, but the invites were usually few and far between.
He usually left the house by 6:30 or 7:00 am and came home after 8pm each day. Too early, and too late, to spend any quality time with his boys. Too tired to be with me in any real way, to connect, after a long day.
I made our family part of the community in each destination we landed, joining clubs and groups to have a social life. And throughout it all, I also played the corporate wife, too. I put on the LBD and smiled and made polite conversation at company dinners and events, at big dinner tables in a room of 400 people. Once, I even “studied” the WSJ before an event so I could talk intelligently about something other than my boring, stay-at-home mom existence. I didn’t want to embarrass him.
I hosted his colleagues and their wives for barbecues, holiday parties and wine tastings. I hosted his friends and family that would visit while we lived abroad, acting as the tour guide and personal assistant, while he went to work. Too busy and important to take time off.
I was a SAHM, but I worked for twenty years. Maybe I didn’t get a paycheck to prove it, I don’t have a W-2 to show, but I worked. And I worked hard to fulfill my role(s) and to take on some of his role, too. I was the one at the ballgames, karate practices and swim meets. I was the one out camping and riding bikes with our boys.
And now, now that things were finally getting a little bit easier, and we were more financially comfortable, and he possibly had more control over his work life, I was dismissed.
Pushed out. Let go. Shown the door.
My services were no longer needed or desired, because he could (and will) replace me with a newer, younger model (yes, it’s that cliche)
For the first time in our entire marriage I had not gone along with the normal program. I stood my ground not to move our boys once more – two were in high school and the other in middle school, the timing was not right for them to handle it well.
We had moved enough.
I offered multiple alternative solutions, one being for him to commute only for a couple of years then I would move, solutions that would make our marriage work and save our family. He would have to put in some effort to make it work, obviously, do some of the heavy lifting in our relationship finally. Put someone else’s needs ahead of his own. I told him that other husbands and fathers did this for their families.
Not him. That’s not his thing.
That’s when he fired me. Yes, that’s what it felt like. Or evicted, from my life.
All it took, after twenty years of marriage and twenty five years together, was for me to say “no” for the first time and mean it. No, to save my sanity, and the sanity and wellbeing of our kids. For the first time, I didn’t go along with the expected program, where I agree to move and handle all of the details, to end up living a lonely existence, once more, in a new location while he does what he’s always done.
But his new girlfriend, or possibly soon to be new wife, gets to enjoy the fruits of my labor now. I did the heavy lifting in our relationship, and our lives, for over twenty years. Telling myself that it would all be worth it in the end.
I kept my head down and pushed forward through each new challenge, gritting my teeth with determination to prove how strong we were, holding on tightly to the life I thought we had together. So that in the end, we would have the life that we dreamed of, the relationship I longed for, because we did it together. Because we were a great team.
Because he loved me.
She wasn’t the one to oversee construction projects in and around our current house for the last five years (I can practically qualify as a foreman on any construction project now) She wasn’t the one who lived through the dust, the noise and the daily disturbance of her life with strange workers going in and out of her home while she was there alone.
She wasn’t the one making major decisions on her own, while her husband made himself unavailable, but would be quick to point out her mistakes or how she disappointed him with her decisions.
She didn’t move to a foreign country and have to learn the culture, the language and make friends from scratch each time. She didn’t sit at home alone most days, raising babies and small children, pretty much on her own waiting for him to come through the door and hopefully be happy to see her.
She didn’t have to reinvent herself every three to five years to fit into his image, to make the next move, to put on the “happy family” costume.
No, she just gets to enjoy the end result now. She gets to live my life. No effort necessary.
She will live in my home, a house that I worked to make a home for for my family, a house that I designed and personally touched in so many areas. She will come in and take over my life, just pick up where I left off. She will fill the vacancy without any guilt, too.
He’s the beaten down divorced guy. His ex-wife is a crazy bitch, remember?
No, no guilt. She will get the “good stuff”. The nice dinners, the date nights, the big vacations and probably his full attention now that he has more time to give. She will get the more available version once he retires, possibly in ten years. But for now, he’s willing to commute for her, to work at it. Not for me or our children.
For her and our luxurious home.
She may be his trophy wife, but the house is also his trophy. Proving to his family and friends that he’s made it, he’s a success. She’s just more window dressing, more bragging rights, and that’s what he wants now.
The life that I was promised, that I hoped for, through the many years of struggle, challenge, loneliness, and sometimes deep hurt and pain. That life belongs to someone else now.
She gets my happy ending, and she didn’t have to lift a thing.