Getting Back To Me
The day had been relatively peaceful. He and I caught a moment’s conversation on the porch before I went in to dig into the evening’s routine. The children were playing quietly. Nothing gave me a clue to the words that would soon escape his lips.
“I want a divorce.” I looked at him. So many times before did just such a threat hover in the air, bringing tears to my eyes and pushing me “back in line.” The last major incident had come shortly after our second child, my first son, had been born. Both timing and luck had been incredibly bad. I had lost a job that paid quite well and everything had gone downhill. We lost our house and ended up living in the back of the little store of our business. He had begun spending more and more time over a female friend’s house in the evenings while I struggled to create the semblance of a home for our two year old daughter and infant son.
My husband had felt it my fault that we were in the condition we were and I believed him. I was grappling with college, convinced that a degree was the only thing that was going to economically save us, and the store he handled wasn’t making much money, so I took a job as a homemaker while he kept the children in the back of the store during the day.
I thought such a position would not be difficult and would afford me time to study. There was no way I could have known I would end up changing a sixty-five year old man’s diaper and being his vindictive wife’s “girl.” Then I had to come home to my husband’s moodiness and implied accusation.
“I can’t take this anymore,” he said to me one evening. The tears welled up in my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I told him. “I’m doing the best I can do.” He told me that as soon as we got of the mess we were in, he was leaving me. I got upset and raised my voice at him. He slapped me and walked out the door. My daughter watched in stunned silence.
I quieted my tears and comforted her but it was a moment she was never to forget. Her father had hit her mother, it was an additional characteristic to add to her assessment of him.
Things began to improve and his words disappeared from my psyche. We had the wherewithal to move to a new city and start again. I got a job as a bookkeeper, bought a piece of a car and attended classes while he, once again, watched the children. He began sleeping a lot and staying in a state of lethargy. He had been collecting disability from social security and sunk into the reality he had created for himself. I tried to get him to see that while our daughter knew him to be productive, our son was just witnessing a man with no spirit and that could be detrimental to him.
One day he casually mentioned looking for a job. My heart skipped a beat and I looked to see how serious he was. Then I pounced, grabbing every opportunity to support his efforts. I had managed to get a computer and had been doing some free lance desktop publishing, so I created his resume. I helped him look through the papers. His family didn’t think it was a good idea for him to work since he had steady income under social security. These were the same people, though, who had convinced him he was crazy in the first place and had encouraged his drinking, making him apply for disability originally for problems stemming from his stint in the army.
I was able to get him to stop listening to them. He decided to look for maintenance work because he was good at it. He had always worked on our various homes and had done such work earlier in life. He went on a few interviews but nothing came of them. We thought perhaps his Spanish accent hurt his chances. While he was from Puerto Rico, people were skeptical about his citizenship.
I continued to support his efforts and he stuck to it, finally getting a job at a large housing complex. He was ecstatic. He began talking about having another baby. I was in my late thirties, had two children by him and an older daughter, but the idea appealed to me, so I became pregnant once again. Life was grand. We had a little extra money coming in, my publishing business was picking up. We were doing pretty well.
He began to pressure me about taking more responsibility in the house. At first I tried, as this had been an age-old battle with us. My car had died and I wasn’t in school at the time. I went out on free lance jobs and my business was picking up momentum, but I tried to fit into the mold of his desires.
He would always say his mother fixed three meals a day, kept the house clean, and worked. I would always reply that I was not his mother. Then I would remember the warnings of cultural difference I had been given and again I would try to do it all. He began teasing about getting a second wife.
Finally I suggested we seriously look at the issue of another wife. It was obvious I was not going to meet all of his needs in the home, including satisfying his libido, and meet my own needs and those of our children as well. I had been in a polygamous relationship before and it was not alien to the tradition he and I followed spiritually. A second wife could bring fresh energy to the household and allow our endeavors to be more productive as a unit.
He was excited by the idea but could only focus on the sexual innuendoes of such a possibility. He kept asking how I would feel with him making love to another woman. I told him I would have no problem with it. I think he began to feel I no longer loved him.
We continued to discuss it. I told him it was imperative that I be a part of the selection process. He went wild, though. The first woman he started eyeing was a co-worker who was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend and extremely overweight due to a lack of self-confidence. I explained to him that we didn’t need another child to raise, that we were looking for someone to enhance the household as opposed to being an additional burden. He claimed she would change. My intuition said she wouldn’t. It wasn’t until he discovered she was selling drugs did he agree to let it go.
His next pick was a girl in her early twenties with two young children. When I met her, it was my sense that we could best relate as teachers to student. This was affirmed spiritually. He was convinced, though, that she was the one. I appreciate his humanitarianism but I will not forget my husband’s failure to inform me of some of the issues she was working on.
Our baby had been born and I had secured a part time job. She had agreed to watch the children while we worked and we would pay her. It was during this time I discovered her children had ringworm. She had never taken them to the doctor. I took her to the health food store and showed her what she needed to purchase. Then I discovered her three year old daughter had been vaginally and anally raped by a friend’s seven year old son. She hadn’t taken her daughter to the doctor because she didn’t want to get the boy in trouble. When I told her that he and his mother, who was aware of his tendencies, needed counseling, she stated that she herself had had counseling as a child and didn’t think it was a good idea.
When I talked to my husband about these things, he said he was working with her and she was getting better, to trust him. I didn’t like it, but I did. She and her children began spending more time in our house. I really did begin to like her and wanted to be supportive. I knew she could never be a second wife but felt that perhaps we could help her get her life together.
I encouraged my husband to try for a job that had become available. He applied and got the job, receiving an increase in salary. We decided to buy a house and invited her to live in it until she could get herself situated. She would watch the children, straighten up and cook dinner while we worked. I had just given birth and my vaginal wall had collapsed so I couldn’t lift anything. My husband and the girl moved everything into the house. It was then I began to open my eyes to what was going on around me.
He had begun drinking again. He and she were constantly talking and I would get little more than a grunt from either of them. The household items were placed without any input from me. Her bedroom was perfected while my bed still lay in pieces on the floor.
When I discovered that she had set my kitchen up, I knew it was time to talk. It was then I came to know that my husband was still looking at this child as a potential wife and had assigned himself as our go-between. Whenever I attempted to talk to her, he interjected himself into the conversation.
Shortly thereafter, he came to me to say that she was feeling like she was an outsider, with watching the children all the time and that I needed to start doing more around the house so she wouldn’t feel so bad. He wanted me to start by cooking his dinner when I came home from work in the evening.
I saw red. I knew I had made many mistakes, the first one by allowing the girl to move in to the house in the first place. And I knew that his food was very important to him. But I saw red. I reminded him that she was there, with free room and board, to do just that and I wasn’t going to have her sitting around doing nothing all day. She had agreed to the arrangement and that I would talk to her. He said that he would.
A few days later we were standing on the porch with the words “divorce” echoing in my ears. I saw the young girl who had taken over my home and saw the cockiness of his demeanor now that he had steady work and knew he was serious this time.
But I asked anyway. “Divorce? Do you realize what you are saying?” He replied that he did. I pushed past him and rushed to my room where I had isolated myself in recent days and began packing my personal belongings. He came into my room and asked what I was doing. I told him I was going to my mother’s to think things out. My older son was asleep so I took my daughter and the baby to my mother’s house.
My mother dried my tears, heard my fears and basically let me pour my heart out. I began to comb my daughter’s hair which had not been properly cared for in a while and saw that she, too, had ringworm. I then began to panic. I thought I had been monitoring what was going on closely enough without usurping my husband’s authority but if this had occurred, what else had happened? I questioned her as carefully as I could and felt satisfied. I spent a sleepless night until dawn finally came. I rushed out of my mother’s apartment to the house, where I got my son and brought him back with me.
The next few months were the most emotionally torn centuries ever spent on the fact of the planet, so it seemed to me. I somehow managed to get by on remote. To this day, I still find files at work that I have no idea how they were created or the work completed within them. Ironically, I worked for a divorce attorney so the pain was intensified as each new case came in and its sordid details revealed.
I suppose in the back of my mind, I kept thinking the man would come to his senses and actually wanted him to, so I ended up being a lot more tolerant than the situation called for. Many decisions that appeared logical and elementary to one outside the drama appeared monumental to me. I agonized three months before deciding that I and our three children should get the house and that he and his new friend should move.
I had just wanted to run from the situation and hide until my wounds were healed but forced myself to attempt getting my life back in order. The next months were far from steady. There were incidents of emotional and sexual abuse. I finally was able, though, to get my house to myself and my three children. I slowly discovered that a single mother could, indeed, survive with three small children and not have to eat beans every night. (It wouldn’t have worked in my house anyway. My children can’t stand beans!) We don’t have cable but that has turned out to be a blessing. My children had been slowly dissolving into couch potatoes and the lack of television forces them to read more and find other activities to keep them stimulated. We don’t wear designer clothes but the few things we have are neat and clean. I have discovered that all of us older ones were somewhat lacking in the self-esteem department. I have been focusing on making us feel better about ourselves and that is working wonderfully, especially for my eight year old daughter. Even her teachers remark on the change in her demeanor.
I slowly began rediscovering the parts of me that had been buried during my marriage. The biggest shock was realizing how much of my creativity had been rechanneled into having babies. I had to accept the fact that I had allowed my husband to validate my existence for me and because he had not appreciated my writing or other creative pursuits that I pushed them aside. I had truly become one of those kitchen, barefoot and pregnant type of women.
I was also afforded the opportunity to view how I have cheated myself in the relationships I have chosen up to this point in my life. I have chosen not just mates, but friends and associates, who did little to motivate or encourage my development. I believe I enjoyed the role of little dictator, surrounding myself with people I could manipulate without realizing that I was actually the one being manipulated. I always found myself in relationships where I did a heck of lot of giving but received very little. While I consider my children to be indeed a most wonderful blessing, I have never been one of those who desired to live their lives through their children.
I am slowly beginning to know myself a little better and am even getting to the point of liking myself. I am also realizing that this is the first time in my life that I did not have some sort of male in my life, either a husband, mate or “friend”. The truly wonderful thing is that after I get past the superficial yearnings, I find I am really enjoying being in control of my life on my terms. I miss the companionship but am beginning to realize I can be fun to be around. I still find myself missing my ex-spouse at times but I can hear the words of my godmother echoing in my head, “You deserve better!”
You know, she’s right. I do. I deserve me.