My friend, wary and weary of men, came over recently for coffee and told me the details of her marriage which had gone wrong some years before I met her. I knew nothing of it.
Plunging into the middle of the story, she described a situation where her husband had declared firmly to her that he didn’t know where Connie (an old flame turned friend) was vacationing but it turned out that he did have a copy of her itinerary. She found it in his papers while she was straightening up. Once again she looked through his email. She’d done this several times over the past few months. This single time he hadn’t signed himself out and she was able to read the messages he’d stored on his computer. Turned out the affair wasn’t something new but had been going on for years and years. A reckless romantic, he’d saved the correspondence.
She’d been barely suspicious, just mildly aware over the past few months that he was hiding something. She was floored at the reality. Later he described the incident as so emotionally devastating for her, it was like she was being sprayed with a high-pressure fire hose.
The state of wrongness in the marriage had been developing for years at a slow pace. Coldness oozed into the relationship like the fog that moved into the valley where they lived. At the beginning, she described a kindness and care from him but over the years most of the affection from him had evaporated and been replaced by a curious mental cruelty.
The details of his betrayal aren’t necessary for the purpose of this story; she found out that he was in love with Connie and pursued her relentlessly over the years. The only reason he hadn’t left my friend is because his love wasn’t reciprocated in kind. Connie didn’t know he was married and liked him well enough but suffered from commitophobia. She retreated quickly from any relationship that began to demand more from her than the most superficial participation. She liked being admired and being loved in a vague unreal way. They occasionally had sex but she toyed with him. She willingly accepted his many gifts and his attention which was welcomed during her needy times and summarily rejected at others.
What amazed my friend was the level of lying she discovered used in the correspondence. He r husband had re-invented himself over and over again in an attempt to please the woman. The correspondence, email by email, revealed one new improved version of her husband after the other. He was braver on paper than his real self, more interesting, sensitive, unselfish, better read, more loving, family oriented with a very active, crowded social calendar. All lies.
Even with all the fantasy improvements, she was still only mildly interested in him.
He continued his pursuit of Connie until my friend discovered the relationship. He finally ended it when he suddenly realized that his marriage, valued marginally while he was in the throes of the romantic relationship but he realized, of immense value to him with his family, his finances and his personal comfort, was hanging by a thread,
What makes this a story different from all the millions of sad stories of infidelity?
She was angry in the morning when he left. So angry that she muttered to herself as she was washing the dishes; outside when she watered the garden. He’d slept in the guest room the night before, complaining that she was keeping the light on too late. This was something he did frequently to her – keep her awake for hours with his light on. Her list of petty complaints about his behavior was miles long— from muttering to her, talking nonsensically, his pretentiousness and snobbery, his constant criticisms of his brothers and their families, his inability to listen, the constant interruptions in conversations. There was something wrong with their relationship and she’d begun to think seriously about divorcing him. Day after day, she was left angry and smoldering after he left the house. Her time alone allowed her to regenerate but soon she would be spending all her days in his company and she feared she’d be unable to sustain herself against the waves of anger.
I don’t know why she decided to look at his computer that day. One always wonders about the small things that happen which end up having devastating effects on people’s lives. Was it something she heard on television? A passing remark from somebody? She sat down at his desk and found he’d signed off his AOL account but his mail cache was still visible. She looked through a couple of his emails mostly from his brother, pharmaceutical company ads and then there was one that popped out. It was from email@example.com. As she read it she realized it was from Connie…the tone was immediately recognizable as intimate. Still, she thought to herself – they have been friends for a long time. But then she realized Connie was thanking him for the flowers. Flowers???
His reply to her began, “I had a bad ass dream last night.” He went on to describe this dream in some detail. It shocked her because it’s not the kind of conversation he would have with a casual friend. He was very discreet about exposing his feelings. This disclosure was an intimacy and unmistakeable. She put cheddarc in the search box of the mail and out it spewed..
daily emails, sometimes twice daily back over the year, the former year and the year before that. She started to read…”I hope you made it home last night. I was so worried about you driving when you were tired.”
“Thanks so much for the beautiful birthday flowers. As always, they are my favorites.”
And from him, “I realized today it’s been six years. SIX YEARS since we met. Takes my breath away.”
Six years?? She knew he’d met Connie before he met her, but after they began their relationship, it was agreed that they were exclusive. She knew he met Connie for lunch once in a while, but she really believed they were only casual friends.
Shocked from her everyday anger into fury, she continued to read quickly down the list and then she called him.
“I read through your email history today. You’d better bet back here right away.”
As she sat waiting for him, the anger continued to burn. Finally, she started to gather up his belongings and throw them into the car. Anger is a red hot motivator and it didn’t take long to swoop and fling and throw. She peeled out of the garage and went up to his car wash where he was still engaged. As she pulled onto the property, he came out on the road. She paused, rolled down her window and screamed, “Fuck you.” A little further up the road, she opened the back of the SUV and threw everything out , turned the car around and went back home. He was right behind her and they confronted in the garage.
“You despicable creep. Years and years of that relationship!”
“It’s all bullshit,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of bullshit.”
As he spoke, she worked her wedding ring off her finger, turned around and threw it down the hillside. She asked him to give her his ring also to throw away.
“This is what I think of our marriage. This is what you thought of our marriage. Get out of my life and never darken my door again.”
He tried to speak – she screamed at him and slammed into the house, passing him as she went. She continued on, throwing every trace of him into boxes and stacking them up at the door. She didn’t think she could stand the sight of him ever again.
Ironically of all the many criticisms she had of him, infidelity was not one of them. Funny, how many women sick of their marriages, cannot imagine how anyone else could see anything in them. She was now in this place and actually flabbergasted that a woman of means and resources would find him attractive.
Does murder cross the mind of every woman scorned?