Tania El Koury at Forest Fringe Weekender

Image by TheArches via Flickr

That is the best word for what I’m feeling now.  Exhaustion.  I’m mentally and physically drained.  Even the blogging the last few days has worn me out.  It seems that each new day brings something else for me to stress over and worry about.

Here’s the latest drama (and let me apologize for my continued rant.  These are password protected so that not everyone is exposed to my daily dose of insanity.)

The X and I have had a (mostly) friendly working relationship since the separation.  Though it has taken some time, and a lot of convincing on my part, he now realizes that this is the best thing for everyone including the kids and that what he needs to do is to focus on himself and get some therapy.  He had a “plan.”  He was going to get a job, go back to therapy, take some anger management classes, get his license back, save his money and move back here to Virginia to be closer to his kids.  With a little help he was looking at the positive sides of being single, of how to maximize all his free time into something productive.  And then.  And then.

And then comes the morning when my email inbox is FILLED with message after message from him.  From 10 pm until nearly 4am the next morning.  Wedding pictures with the caption ” this was the best day of your life.”  Long, rambling emails filled with how he cannot live without me.  His insistence that we try again.  Long plans about how we should stay separated and get couples counseling to fix this.  Lines about how he “knows” that I still love him, that I want him back.  Interspersed with all this is the usual blame.  If I had just done/not done than we wouldn’t be here.  I should’ve/could’ve/would’ve.  It’s still all my fault, and its my job to fix it.  I made it through half of his tirades before I gave up.

We were back to square one.  Again.  Then came the emails asking me why I wasn’t responding to his emails.  I sent him one, very brief reply which turned around and bit me in the ass.  My reply wasn’t long enough.  I didn’t answer his questions.  Was I ten?  Could I not hold an adult conversation?!  I didn’t know what to do, and I was actually beginning to have an anxiety attack over some of the veiled threats.  I forwarded a copy of his last email to TBA (who is away on business) and one to my mother.  I’ve kept copies of each email he’s sent, but the more drastic ones I also send to my parents if I should ever need someone outside this house to corroborate my story.

I ended up sending him an email right before bed.  I was as plain as I dared to be.  I told him in very plain language with bolded words and underlines that I DID NOT want him back.  I did not want to try again, go to counseling, or rehash the same arguments over and over.  I then explained that the only two topics I wanted to discuss with him either on the phone or via email were the kids and the divorce papers.  I hit send and hoped for the best.

I wake up to a very well written and long email detailing how I was 100% correct and he was just having a rough night and has since joined a mens divorce support group.  That he is researching why he reacted the way he did and looking for answers for his emotional breakdown.  He reassured me again that he was not going to take the house or the money for the children’s support (oh…did I forget to mention how he threatened to have us tossed out of the house?  Yeah.  Classy guy.)  Right now, its calm.  I can’t help but have that knot of anxiety though for next time.  And there will be a next time.  I don’t know when or how or what will set him off, but the Drama isn’t done yet.


In the meanwhile…

115: No More Dirty Looks

In the meanwhile, I changed my Facebook relationship status to “it’s complicated.” I know, it’s a huge step in social media 😉 This was in September, after our first “I want a divorce” talk and I didn’t change it to “separated” because I thought that would be tasteless with the X still living in the house. Virginia doesn’t have a “legal” separation, by the way. If you aren’t living together as a married couple, you’re separated. I figured that if it mattered I’d change it in December. I digress, though and it’s kind of irrelevant.

Several days after my Facebook status went from “married” to “it’s complicated,” I received a message on Facebook from an old college friend. It was a short note, basically telling me that he was halfway through a divorce himself and if I wanted someone to talk to or vent at he was at the “been there, done that” stage. He offered an ear and support. I’m going to call him TBA for now, because I have to call him something.

There were several weeks of sporadic Facebook messages. He needed someone to talk to that was outside his immediate circle of friends and family and so did I. Sometimes you need an unbiased opinion. I’m going to point out here an important fact: this was totally innocent. TBA knew exactly what was going on in the house. He knew I was still married and the house was filled with Drama. There was no flirting. I was gritting my teeth biding my time until the X left in December, but I wasn’t doing or saying anything that I wouldn’t have if I’d still been happily married. Does that make sense?

We started talking, first via Facebook and then through text. About our divorces at the beginning, mostly. We complained about our other halves and lamented about things not being easier. I told him about my three kids ( he has none) and filled him in on our home school program. We chatted about random things and mutual friends and had discussions about Aristophanes and Socrates and Plato. (TBA and I went to a school with a Great Books curriculum, and something always seemed relevant to what was happening at that moment of our lives.). He’d tell me about bad dates and I’d fill him in on funny kid quips. Eventually, slowly, something changed.

We figured out that we were compatible.

We tried to find things to disagree on and couldn’t. We found that we could have a healthy debate without either party being offended or taking it personally. He made me laugh, which was a rare thing at the time. We found we had the same tastes in movies and books and music. TBA and I hadn’t been in the same area code in 14 years, and it was almost like picking up right where we left off. That being said, he lives a time zone and a 13 hour drive away, so we both assumed that romance was off the table.

I made a decision towards the end of November. Looking back, I don’t know if it was the “right” decision, but I stand by it with no regrets. I asked TBA to fly to Virginia in December and spend a long weekend. I was facing the prospect of 4-6 weeks alone in the house, and the invitation was innocent. I didn’t hide the fact that he was coming from my friends or my family. I did NOT tell the X due to his volatile nature. The plan with TBA was to decompress, de-stress. Drink some wine, watch old movies, debate politics and discuss philosophy. We jokingly called it an “immersion cohabitation experiment” to see if we really were as compatible as it seemed we were. Writing it makes it seem tawdry, somehow, as if I knew or planned all along what would happen.

Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can.

There was three and a half seconds of awkwardness when he stepped off the plane. It took me time to adjust to how tall he was. After that? It was easy. “We” were easy. There were no awkward pauses in the conversation and the silences were comfortable. We just kind of slid into a relationship. A weekend turned into a week. A week turned into two. Then he stayed to meet (and impress the crap out of) my parents. Christmas was next, and neither of us wanted to be alone. It. Just. Happened.

I had done everything for everyone for so long that I had forgotten how nice it was for someone to make you a cup of tea or start a load of laundry or cook dinner. I took him to my friends homes and he just fit in. TBA was social and funny and everyone loved him. He wanted us to go out and do things, he encouraged me to dress up and feel pretty. TBA was cool with sitting home in sweatpants all day and watching kung fu movies, too. More than once we sat up until the sun rose singing to the oldies on Pandora. I felt like I had an equal partner in the house for the first time in years.

There is more, so much more.  There was daily drama from the X the entire time he was here.  There’s the story of the blowup when the X and TBA got on the phone.  The adventure of fetching the children from the Great White North and and anxiety that TBA had over meeting the kids.  So much more.  It has to wait, though.  Its late, and the children wake up early.

So the drama begins … or continues.

Animation. Frontal lobe (red) of left cerebral...

Image via Wikipedia

Oh my. You know, there’s so much to catch up on the last few months that I literally do not know where to begin. Here’s the deal:

At the end of September, one month from our ninth wedding anniversary, I called it quits. It was not a decision I made lightly. You see, four years ago my then DH had a stroke. The stroke left him with frontal lobe damage. The frontal lobe controls emotion. The emotions he lost control of were rage, and anger, and general pissiness.  In addition, he lost the use of (most) of his right arm, had to stop driving (though we’ll get to that) and lost some mobility in his right leg.

Yes, he went to PT. And OT. He got to the point that he could move his arm from the shoulder.  He went from a wheelchair to a three-legged cane to a regular can to using nothing at all most of the time.  He saw different mental health professionals to deal with his emotional issues. Yes, they tried numerous medications in varying doses and combinations. The truth is, none of the doctors he saw or medications he took really helped. Some of it took the edge off.

So, four years ago I was left with an incredibly difficult decision.  You see, it’s not as if our marriage was all sunshine and puppies and puffy pink hearts before the stroke.  It really, really, wasn’t.  He worked away four or five days a week, and when he was home we fought.  A lot.  Over lots of things.  I was already trying to plan my out, because I was tired of living with the stress of it all.  In October, I found out I was pregnant with my youngest.  In November, he had a stroke and landed in the hospital for a month.  I did what I thought a good wife would do, and I stayed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to be the primary care giver for someone in your family.  I don’t know if you understand how difficult it can be to view your husband as a nurse would.  To make sure they take their medications, to cut their food, to shower and dress them.  To deal with the insane rages over simple things such as a fork being placed too far from their plate.  He was an angry, angry man.  To be honest, he had a RIGHT to be angry at what the stroke took away from him, but this rage was something different.  You know that little filter that sits comfortably between your brain and mouth and reminds you that you’re talking to a three year old and not to be too harsh?  That was gone.  The one that reminds you that your spouse can’t read your mind?  That one was gone, too.  Even the one that normally screams “Hey!  Calling your wife a whore at full volume in the middle of Target?  Poor decision, bud.”

I stayed.  I dealt with the anger.  I hoped he’d get better.  Did I try to tell him how I felt?  Abso-fucking-lutely.  Did it help?  Not in the least bit.  If I tried to talk to him about how “I” was feeling, or how scared the children were of his rages, I would set him off.  It was always “poor me, the put upon wife” and how I was a “martyr” for putting up with him.  It did me no good to talk to him, because it always ended the same way — with him screaming and red-faced, reminding me that he had a stroke, damn it!   He gained over 200 pounds in four years, and my every attempt to get him to eat better or exercise was met with a wall of hate and excuses.

The turning point came one day this past June.  I was at a new low of miserable.  He had become hooked on World of Warcraft and spent hours and hours every day on the computer, ignoring everything else around him. We had slept in separate bedroom for a year, there was no affection left between us, and in my mind we were just going through the motions for the kids.  His parents had come down for a two-week visit, and in a span of 24 hours he screamed out the window of our vehicle at a car next to us (their music was too loud), went off on me when I was driving and his parents and kids were in the vehicle, berated (loudly) our waiter in a restaurant for being too slow and not speaking english well enough, and terrified our oldest son because he said “excuse me” instead of “waiting for me to get out-of-the-way.”  The day was so stressful, in fact, that HIS FATHER pulled him outside to talk to him about his attitude.  We had a knock down, drag out fight a few days later that lasted for HOURS and solved nothing at all.  This was literally NOT the person I had married.

I took a step back and looked at my life and the life my kids were living.  We were in a house with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  No one ever knew what kind of mood he would be in or if he would be approachable.  The kids had a shell-shocked, terrified look on their face every time they did something that “might” be wrong.  My oldest was starting to act like my husband.  I realized that enough was enough.  I was DONE.

I told the husband that he needed to do something to make this better.  See a therapist (he had stopped going), try a new medication, go back to the nutritionist…DO SOMETHING TO SHOW ME THAT YOU WANT TO CHANGE.  He spent the next day calling psychiatrists, and then?  Didn’t call one of them back.  Not one.  Not until a month later I mentioned something, he got mad, and called ‘one’ back out of spite.  That didn’t show me that he wanted to change.  Just weeks before his mother came down for a visit, I told him I wanted a divorce.  I was done.

Now, he has a blog: http://www.angrydadrants.blogspot.com So that you don’t all think this is a one-sided story, I urge you to check it out.  I’m copying this directly from his blog:

“I had bouts of unbridled rage just because my kid spilled a drink or my wife didn’t want to go to the store when I did.  At first I would even justify these rages in my head.  “She knows I’ll go off, why does she push me?” or even “if that kid had been paying more attention he wouldn’t have spilled his milk”.  It took a while (unfortunately a long while) for me to realize that I had become ScaryDad.  When my kids even thought one of them had messed up they would all huddle on the couch, cover their ears and start apologizing.  I had become a monster.  While this was going on, the fights between my wife and I got progressively worse.”

It was decided between us that he would take the children and head to Maine to spend Christmas with his parents.  He was to find an apartment while he was up there, and when he returned in January (5 weeks later)  he would gather his things and move out.  I found a lawyer and had copies of the divorce papers in hand before he left with my children.  Though he wasn’t excited about the idea of getting divorced, he understood my point as much as possible and agreed that it was an unhealthy household to raise three kids in.  Then the drama started.

He played as if he didn’t know that he wasn’t welcome to come back with the kids.  He told me that if I was a “good” wife, or a “better” wife that I’d be helping him instead of leaving him.  He called me selfish.  He told me I was damaging the kids.  I’m a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad person.  My children will hate me some day.  I spent hours on the phone with him some nights listening to him flop between begging me to take him back and calling me every vile name in the book.  This, surprisingly, did not make me want to take him back.

I have the kids here at the house with me, now.  He’s 800 miles away in Maine.  We have had some fairly civil conversations the last few weeks.  We hashed out the details of the divorce papers, worked out a custody arrangement, and he actually got to the point of telling me that he understood why I had to move on.  Last night he flooded my email with letter after letter telling me how he couldn’t live without me, sending me copies of our wedding photos, insisting that I still love him.  His suggestion was that we stay separated and go though couples counseling to “find the love I know is still there.”  I don’t know in how many ways I can tell this man that it is over.  The stress is killing me.  I don’t know what else to do, but I’m profoundly grateful to be 14 hours away from the man.

By the by…the kids?  They are like different little children without him here.  The house is calm.  The kids are calm.  They don’t break down in anxiety for not knowing how to do something or for spilling milk or forgetting to brush their teeth.  Do they miss their dad?  Sure.  They call him every other day and chat with him on the webcam.  Do they miss the anger and stress that having their dad in the house produced?  I’d have to say no.  Nope.  My six-year-old tells me that I look happy.  My oldest actually smiles and his stuttering is decreasing.  I don’t feel the need to take Xanax every three hours any more.  It’s a win-win in this house…but still….

I don’t know what he’s going to do next.  I don’t know what his next move will be.  Who will call me?  Jekyll?  Hyde?  I have to wait and see.

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