An Intriguing New Friend: Mary’s Story (Part I)

I met a woman yesterday at a kid’s birthday party. I’ll call her Mary. Mary came in with two beautiful daughters, who were seven and three years old. She impressed me as a tall, shapely, attractive woman, wearing a sexy opened dress, but with a slightly sad and disconnected expression. I immediately separated her from the others, because she did not have that peaceful look of the mother-hen spending a pleasant afternoon sitting out at a kid’s party. Her rather reveling dress and constant clutching and typing on her phone were dead giveaways. She must be having an affair, I thought.

After the party was over, it came as a nice surprise that the very woman I was so intrigued by happened to need a ride home with her girls and just happened to live in my neighborhood. I gladly offered to get her home, and asked how she got to the party in the first place, since it was quite a far shot from our hood. She declared, “My ex husband drove us here, but he would not take us back.”

As soon as we settled into the privacy of my car she literally spilled out her story. She went right into an unprompted monologue. “I am divorced, you know!” In her voice I felt the urgency; she needed to share, to get a shot of relief, support, and validation in my eyes.

Her tone reminded me of a confession at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, very a matter of fact, somber, and regretful, as she continued with no interruptions:

“He had an affair. This was three years ago. Imagine, he left me only four months after I gave birth to our second child. I was in a very vulnerable state. I gained a massive amount of weigh. I was 200 pounds, bloated from the childbirth. I had just returned to work then, and I was really stressed, still breast-feeding my daughter and even my best friend’s son (his mother did not have any milk). I was breast feeding at home and pumping at work. Then, he just walked in one day and said he did not love me anymore, did not want to live with me, so he packed his bag and left.

I was devastated, at first, as I tried to understand what happened. What have I done wrong?”

At this point, I felt a chill going down my spine as I remembered this time in my own life… after the birth of my first child. Moving around in a daze without sleep, pumping at work, driving home in mad traffic – it was hell! This became merged with the stress of a separate instance in my life, some years later, when my husband declared that his life did not turn out as he envisioned, it was all my fault and as a result, he HATED me! My heart was going out to her.

She continued:

“Later, in a few months, I got a glimpse of a text message on his phone and I finally pieced it all together – he left me for a woman working in his office. The office, that I worked so hard to help him get off the ground, and the very woman whom, ironically, I myself helped to hire. He is a such-n-such-professional, and the other woman clearly only wanted him to get the partnership in the business. I myself was, at one time, going to go for a graduate degree, even passed the prerequisite exam, but he discouraged me! He said, ‘We do not need two professionals in one family.’

“Now, he owes me everything! Of course, I am ok now, just a few months after he left, I was already in a relationship. I have friends, my life is better now. I have a lot of options now. I can go on vacations with kids and without kids. When we were married everything was monotonous, dull and only about the children. We went out on a date only once a year for our anniversary.

“His affair ended, by the way. She threw him out. He crawled back to us after two years. Statistically, affairs last two years on the average, (she looked at me convincingly and divulged knowingly.) He wanted to try to get back together ‘for the sake of the family,’ and even moved back into our apartment. It lasted a week, then I kicked him out! The damage was already done with the kids and in my heart when he left. By then we had become strangers. Not only was I not at all attracted to him, I could not even stand him in the house. Now, he lives alone; he rents his own apartment three blocks away. Now he realizes that no one really needs him and he is bored and unrequited. Now, he is all about children and family. I kept all the friends, they were all on my side (she said this with especial personal pride) and he is all alone!

“It has been three years and, get this, we have not finalized our divorce yet. But it is really over of course. He is just scared to pay out a big chunk for my portion in the business, so he is just dragging it along. It is ok I guess,” she concluded. “He pays me sufficiently now and he is really helping me out big time.”

She finished with a reassuring crescendo. Who was she trying to convince? Me? Herself?

As she laid it all out, she seemed to be almost on an autopilot. She has probably told this same story before so many times, to friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers willing to listen.

Why is she doing this, you ask?

She thinks everyone can see her problem, and she feels a compulsion to defend herself from their “judgment.”

She thinks it is her mission to convince all others that she she is really 100% right, and that he (her ungrateful, cheating, monster of an ex) is 100% to blame. And from the first glance, and according to the canons of the marital laws, it would certainly seem so. If we try to look deeper, no one knows the whole story, except maybe their therapist. In a family break up, and even a betrayal, there is no right and wrong – no winners and losers – there is just a story of two people and their lives. Somewhere they lost it, perhaps got lost themselves – this is life. No use crying over spilled milk.

You will say, “Well, this woman has told you exactly that – she is fine! She is better off now!” Yes, but I did not ask, and did not need to hear the gory details in order to support and accept her. She does not have to defend herself or hide behind a tower of her story which seemingly protects her while it keeps her hostage. I want her to free herself from her own judgment.

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How It All Got Started

I was a career mom, very family oriented and dedicated. Very selfless really, as far as the proportion of time I dedicated to myself, as opposed to dedicating to pleasing everyone in my family, from the smallest details to the largest challenges, in order to make their life easier, fun and amazing every day. I saw myself as a champion mom and a creative and resourceful you-can-have-it-all woman, building my happily-ever-after scenario. As far as my career was concerned, I was at the top of my game after a decade as a branding and packaging designer, a fine artist and a business entrepreneur. As far as family life was concerned, I was raising two active boys, while looking forward to having a third one and working on plans to build a big and beautiful house.

Sounds perfect… but it has all come to a screeching halt. What has gone wrong? My marriage has fallen apart. But why? How? What have I done wrong? Why was I not warned? Or was I warned and missed the memo? How could this have happened to me? Is he the worst man on earth for doing this to me? What to do next? These are the types of questions I have spent the last three years pondering from various angles with diminishing anguish. Changing my perspective brought me towards enlightenment.

The realization of our marriage being on the brink of a full catastrophe was evident after some dramatic events which escalated over a few months, with roots and signs going back years– possibly even all the way back to the day we got married, 16 years ago. It probably happens in other families and it might have similar cocktails of the negative factors such as: loss of love, disappointment in self and the spouse,  hate, shame, infidelity, middle-age crisis, jealousy, depression, feeling trapped, lonely, and a variety of other factors such as financial, health, and other life circumstances. The condition seems to be like a land mine in which one spouse has been getting ready to explode and the other one, possibly quite unaware of this taking place or seeing it from a different perspective, is slowly but surely about to step on it. Once it explodes, their world will shatter and one will be the instigator and the other will, inevitably, feel like the victim of the blast.

When I finally stepped on this land mine, I got blasted with an explosion of abusive language, demeaning me and likening me to an evil piece of trash, who, according to my husband, ruined his life. His campaign could be summed up by a slogan – I am not happy, it must be all your fault! I HATE YOU – YOU ARE A FUCKING BITCH!

Was I in shock?..  YES.. Devastated? Of course.. Lost? Very much so. It took me a while and a lot of therapy to separate my self and my self-image and self esteem from my marriage and status. This journey of rebuilding myself after 18 yeas as a separate being – reorienting my dreams, needs and wants away from my husband and our previous life patterns – felt like a rebirth. I really had to ask myself: Who am I? What do I need and want? What makes me happy? I, a woman of some ripe age, had no idea. Sad, but true. I had to start somewhere. And I decided that starting by pushing off the lowest point to climb back up was the only way to go. I was faced by the statement that I HATE YOU – YOU ARE A FUCKING BITCH was the reward I got for 16 years of dedication, love and endless energy I poured into my husband. I helped his career and life gave him children, never complained, was always positive, evened out his explosive temper, and yes took his abuse. I did it for the sake of the family, or at least my idea of one.

With all the uncertainty around me and so much confusion and hurt, fear and anger – one thing was certain: I am NOT a FUCKING BITCH! The question remained whether I should become one! After all, my other life strategy led me to a dead end. I tried to examine the meaning my husband put in to this statement and what I would associate with it, trying to understand myself and who I am.

At first came this image of an uncompromising, glorified selfish bitch with gluttonous self indulgence, no human values, and no human worth. Well, this certainly was not me. In my mind, I was quite the opposite. I was selfless. Now the real question was why? Why was I so selfless and why did I not get the recognition or the gratitude I was expecting? It took time to get to some answers and I tried various strategies, from family counseling to creative outlets, some more impulsive than others. I was taking chances.. I was making bold changes… I was going to get to the bottom of my own motivations and nature. I was going to finally look myself fearlessly in the face and deal with who I really am, not who I thought I was supposed to be for the sake of others.

I tried on the FUCKING BITCH role, then the fabulous bitch role, went through several stages and came out on the path of enlightenment as a “fabulous being” — As an someone I truly felt I was on the inside, after stripping off all the layers of pain, past hurt, unrealistic goals, fake confidence. On this road, I do not see myself as an example, but maybe as  a guide who has made it out of the dark situation and wants to share the experience with other women in similar situations and give them support and hope, if I can.  This has motivated me to start the Fiona Fab Club and friends! This is the place for the women (and men too!) to support each other in being themselves, coming out strong and in control, being labeled BITCHES if the world is not ready to deal with us and being OK with it! This is the club and the channel for us, speaking candidly to each other, accepting ourselves as we are and facing our challenges together.

Hi, my name is Fiona B. :)

This channel is meant to support and champion anyone who is having relationship issues with a long term partner. There are a lot of people out there feeling unhappy and stuck in their relationship and in life. They might feel lonely and longing for love – tangled up in their habitual attachment with various degrees of unhappiness. They could have been pushed to lie or cheat in order to make their stale marriage bearable. Many are considering a separation or a divorce, and possibly even have made the initial decision, but are unclear and fearful about what the future holds. Some people are already going a full-steam ahead and or possibly getting over the divorce or a separation with a long term partner and are looking to find a new love or a renewed purpose.

I experienced these struggles and watched many friends deal with similar issues. Yet we are labeled the “broken” ones. We are the less-than-perfect or even down-right “dysfunctional” and until we fix or get a new “perfect” family or relationship, we are doomed to feel inferior and ashamed. We want to be good, and even perfect and, when our life, desires, problems, relationship with our partner has grown cold over time, what are we to do? So much love and respect has been lost. What can we do?

This is what I want to talk about; about our fears, feelings, issues, trials and tribulations, real family life – all of which is NOTHING to be ashamed of. And even if our marriage or a long term partnership is already dead and ready for the divorce graveyard, there is no failure or shame in that.