This Woman's Experience is a series of blog posts about what growing up, and life in general, was like for women who were born before 1965. It's intended to show the young women of today how it used to be. We can't go, and we can't let them, go backward.
When I was in my early twenties, I divorced my first husband after three years of marriage. He had this rather bad habit of sleeping with just about any woman he liked the looks of - if he could.
If you've read this series so far, you know that it was drilled into me to be a 'good wife' and overlook a lot. We got married, had a two-week honeymoon (That was its own disaster - a story for another day), and immediately moved from New Jersey to the panhandle of Florida.
The problems began right away. He'd say he had to work late, then come in at 2 AM reeking of beer, saying he and another guy he'd been working with were just too wired afterward to go home and sleep. Oh, a young alcoholic, you'll no doubt surmise. This was in the late seventies. There were no cell phones, no internet. I didn't dare call his work to ask to speak to him. I was afraid to. I told myself at the time it was because I didn't want to seem like an insecure wife and cause his buddies to tease him about his 'nagging' spouse. Years later, I acknowledged the real reason was I was afraid of what I'd find out. Which I eventually did find out anyway. Get ready for a shocker - he wasn't working late.
The beer ploy had been concocted and perfected by him and his friends when they were in college. Clearly, it only worked when they'd managed to find girlfriends/spouses like me - women with zero confidence or self-worth.
He'd make dates and take women out after work. Or he'd go to a bar and pick one up, then go back to her place - or do it in the car if she had nowhere for them to go. And he'd make sure to have beer, but doubly made sure his clothes smelled of it, too, to cover up any perfume or other - eh-hem - residual odors.
We moved six times in those few years of marriage. Everywhere we lived, weird circumstances happened that he'd explain away. I, being too intimidated, too insecure, too whatever - would buy the stupid explanation and just internalize the hurt. Squash it far down and pretend I didn't know what I was starting to understand very well.
At the same time, he began calling me horrible names, criticized my looks (called me a whale body), and refused to have sex with me. (in retrospect, that was a blessing, as Lord knows what diseases he might have steeped himself in.)
Women called the house giggling and asking to speak with him. Women would show up at our front door and, when I answered it, would have shocked expressions on their faces and mumble some hasty response like, "Oh, I must have the wrong apartment." Once, my ex ran past me to answer the door, stepped outside with the woman, took a few minutes talking to her, then came back and told me she was looking for - whatever else - and he merely tried to help her out. A stronger woman would have said bullshit to herself and gone right out there with her arms crossed and wedge herself into their 'conversation'.
I was too afraid to do that. To find out what was going on. I pushed it back, way back, in my brain and pretended everything was fine. I understand too well - now - the reasons I did that.
There are so many stories I could tell about that man and his cheating, but the blog post would be way too long. Some were actually pretty hilarious in hindsight, though not this one - I found a fake fingernail between the sheets of our bed when I felt something against my leg. (I didn't have fake fingernails.) I'll never forget what it looked like - lavender/purplish polish, and it had been chewed a bit. When I confronted him about it, he blamed it on our roommate (one of his college buddies who had his own room and bathroom on the other side of the apartment.) I knew that was bullshit, but accepted his excuse and kept that fake fingernail in the bottom of my jewelry box for years to prove to myself I hadn't imagined it.
After three years of his baloney, I finally left him. It wasn't easy. Thank God we were in Hawaii by then. I loved it there.
The point of this is not to garner pity for me. Legions of people have far worse happen to them - mine don't even tip the scale. I am long over all these things, made my changes, and am a different person now.
The point of this is to illustrate the bad choices a person makes when they are insecure and don't think they matter at all. They'll put up with almost anything, because they don't feel they deserve anything better. Insecurity begets more insecurity, which begets really, really, stupid life choices.
By the way, I wasn't done with my stupid life choices. I went on to make many more before I realized I could change my life.
Don't belittle or denigrate your children - especially not your daughters. It has life-long, drastic consequences. Thank you.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.