they say there’s three sides to every story. his, hers, and the truth. all i know is this is mine. as best as i can tell it. my experiences. my perspective. my truth. i wish i could write his here too…but i’ve never heard it.
i was pretty boy crazy growing up. i kissed a lot of them. like…a lot. never ever did it go further than a date or two. all i could see were flaws and problems, like glowing neon signs above their heads. nice guys, pot heads, talented ones, smart ones, quiet ones, older guys, younger guys, preacher’s kids, old friends, bad boys… it didn’t matter. give me two weeks and i’d be sick of them. they left me all sorts of mementos. love notes, poems, teddy bears, mixed tapes, necklaces with hearts. gross. gross. gross. the more romantic and harder they tried, the faster i ran. then there was leo.
i met him the day i moved into my apartment. it was the summer before my sophomore year in college. i was 19. it was hot and he was coming back from the pool. board shorts and no shirt. he was big and buff and tan and he had one of his nipples pierced. my roommate had gone home for the summer. i phoned her immediately to call “dibs.”
as i write this, i’m sitting next to my journal from that time. it’s filled with scribbled entries about heartbreak and tear stained apology notes from him. it’s me falling in love and desperately trying over and over and over to get him to love me back. inside, is a confession of giving leo my virginity because i was afraid i would lose him and all the guilt that followed.
the journal ends with an entry just 2 months after our wedding. there’s a line in it that is so filled with foreshadowing that it’s terrifying. i could go on and on about what dating him was like, but this line sums it all up perfectly. it sounds so hopeful. it’s devastating.
i no longer have to worry about unequal or unbalanced feelings. i know that he is in this for life. –june 29, 2004
the beginning of our marriage was super sweet. or at least, that’s what i was determined it would be. from the outside looking in, we were perfect. we built the most darling little house near the school where i was teaching. i got up early every saturday to clean and meal plan and make my grocery list. i poured over cook books and magazines and filled my new recipe box with handwritten recipes i would try out each evening. i started collecting aprons (no, seriously) and i threw beautiful little dinner parties at our table that only sat four. we got a puppy and we went for walks together after dinner. my floors were always shiny and dinner was hot and ready when he walked in the door.
what you couldn’t see was that i was scared to death that something was very, very wrong. he yelled. a lot. he yelled when i made the smoothie wrong or when i painted the new crown molding outside and dust dried all over it. i felt like i was constantly making mistakes. i felt stupid and incapable. i was in charge of paying the bills early on but i frustrated him so badly that he took it over and i never had access to our bank accounts again.
our dating sex life was bumbling and awkward and inexperienced. he was ticklish and didn’t like being touched. but marriage! marriage was what God had planned for us and i just knew that our sex life would be without guilt and shame and we would be free to be lovers and partners. but he got too drunk at our wedding for the wedding night of my dreams. we only had sex once on our honeymoon. once. we had sex so infrequently those first few years that each time we did, it hurt and felt like the first time. i tried lingerie, sexy dances, and naughty notes. i dyed my hair. i grew it out, i cut it. i tried working out harder. i even went to see a plastic surgeon. breast implants so i could be sexier, lipo so i could be thinner. nothing worked and my already fragile self esteem began to nose dive.
my hormones were all over the place then. they screamed at me to have a baby. it’s all i could think about. and it made perfect sense. a baby would fix everything. thankfully, it only took one try to get pregnant. we decided to move to a bigger house before the baby came and to be closer to his parents. i was busy, working full time, growing a baby, and setting up a new house. he was working a ton, gaining new responsibilities and longer hours. he went to the gym every night after work. our bigger house meant a bigger yard so the weekends were spent mowing and edging and washing cars. i hardly ever saw him. building a crib and painting the nursery were tense. he yelled. i cried.
my mom came for the birth. i labored for more than 36 hours. leo needed his rest so suggested that my mom and i sleep in the living room so we can time contractions and moan in pain where he couldn’t hear us. he was also concerned that my water would break on the couch so he asked me nicely to make a bed of blankets on the floor.
he did allow the baby to sleep in our room after we brought him home but the lights and noises from the middle of the night feedings were keeping him up so he insisted i breast feed outside of our room.
i was so alone.
around this time we began some new friendships. we found three couples that were all in the same stage of life as us. toddlers and babies and jobs and margaritas and trips to mexico. we were together all the time. dinner parties, pool parties, get aways, nights out. we shared babysitters and maternity clothes. they became our best friends and we lived for the weekends to see them. the women were beautiful. they got their nails done, and strictly dieted and worked out constantly. i was in awe of them. i watched how their husbands doted on them. they sat next to them, put their arms around them, complimented and touched them. i envied them more than they could ever know. so much, that i tried to be them. maybe if i looked like them…leo would love me like their husbands love them.
first hair, then makeup, then diet pills and a personal trainer. new clothes. new shoes. i was in my early 30s by then. i looked better than i did in my early 20s. but i was totally and completely empty. and he still didn’t notice me at all.
i was home with the boys and entirely responsible for them. throw up in the middle of the night? me. doctor appointment? me. preschool interviews? me. every meal, soccer practice, bath, cough, prescription, appointment, play date and birthday party. me. all me. our youngest was 2 before he ever took them out of the house on his own. discipline? no matter what consequences i set up, leo always resorted to yelling. most of the time not even getting up from his chair.
as the boys grew out of their high chairs, meal times became excruciating. leo wanted healthy, low carb high protein meals when he got home from the gym. the boys were frustratingly picky. they hated meat and anything mixed or melted. it was impossible to find anything that they all would eat. every night was a failure. most ending with either me or the boys or all of us in tears and leo angry and yelling. i dreaded dinner time and started reaching for a glass of wine and then another just to get through it.
after ten years of marriage, in 2014, i went back to work. leo was stressed about money so i offered to help by teaching at the preschool where the boys attended. the cracks in our marriage deepened and widened. as the boys needed me less, i became more aware of how unhappy i was. my personal trainer suggested i write him a love letter. he gave me a format to use. i’ll attach the letter below.
I am angry. I’m angry with you. I’m angry because for 10 years, I feel this marriage has been all about you. I’m angry because I’ve been serving you. Making this “perfect” home for you. Trying to look good and be everything you wanted in a wife. Now 10 years later – I don’t know who I am anymore and I feel like it’s your fault.
I‘m angry because you make me feel stupid and inferior to you. You belittle me and talk down to me – even in front of my parents and friends. I’m angry because you are so mean to me when we try to work together. You yell at me and you yell at the kids. You take out all your frustration on us like we’re punching bags. I’m angry because you expect me to get over everything so quickly. You get frustrated at me for holding on to things and not talking about them. I don’t want to talk about them because when I do you just yell and blame and defend. It feels like you NEVER listen to me. You get distracted while I’m talking. You make excuses. But the worst is when you try to fix my problems. Why can’t you just try to listen and understand? Show me you care by trying to understand how I feel.
It makes me mad that you think I spend all the money and I’m mad that you hid all the cash from me. Like I’m some child. I hate the way you treat your cars better than you treat me. I hate the way you get so mad when I scratch it or put my feet on the dash. It makes me furious the way you give them more attention than you give me. You spend more time with the cars than you spend with me.
I hate the way you put off doing the things that I ask you to do. It makes me crazy the way you force me to nag you because you never do them when I ask you to do them.
I’m angry because you always compare me to your business. I AM NOT YOUR EMPLOYEE. I’m angry because you don’t think what I do is important. You think running this house, raising these kids, organizing our schedule, and even teaching at my school is easy, trivial, insignificant, unimportant and mostly – not as crucial or important as your job. I hate that you NEVER take off time to help me – especially when the kids are sick. You assume that the kids and household responsibilities will always be handled by me and you never show me any appreciation for doing any of them. If you do help out then I have to praise you! I hate praising you for things you should just do or for things that I do all the time. I HATE MAKING YOU DINNER! It makes me feel beneath you like I have to serve you and thank you for going to work that day. Guess what, I worked all day too! Where is my service? Where is my thanks?
It hurts me that you don’t respect me. I feel sad that you don’t think what I do is important. It hurts that you don’t count me as an equal. It so badly hurts me when you humiliate me in front of my family and friends by talking down to me.
I feel scared that we won’t ever be truly connected. I’m scared that I will feel numb towards you. I worry that I will spend the rest of our marriage being disappointed, unfulfilled, and alone. I don’t want to feel alone. I’m worried I won’t have any passion for you and I won’t respect you because I don’t feel that you respect me. I’m scared that we will live in a marriage that only stays together because divorce would be worse. I’m afraid that these problems will never get worked out and I will always feel like this. I’m scared you don’t really love me. I’m scared that you just picked me because I loved you. I’m scared that you’ll never look at me and feel for me what a husband should. I’m scared that I will always be less than what you wanted because you settled for me. You didn’t look at me on our wedding day the way I looked at you. You were terrified. I worry that you made a mistake marrying me and that you will never be happy with me or satisfied and fulfilled. I’m so scared that I forced you into marrying me – or you just did it because you thought it was a smart move and you never really loved me and you might never really love me. I’m afraid you’ll resent me for not giving you the life you really wanted.
I’m sorry for the part I’ve played in all of this. I know that I don’t appreciate all you do for me. I take for granted your job. I don’t appreciate how you provide for us financially and take care of all of our needs. I don’t thank you for paying the bills, for building up our savings and investments. I’m sorry for not telling you more how proud I am of you. When we met you were just a kid and now you’re a man that runs this hugely successful company and you have all these employees under you that look to you to lead them and make decisions for them – AND YOU DO! I’m proud of you and I’m so sorry I never tell you that.
I’m sorry that I turn you down in bed so often. I know that makes you feel rejected. I’m sorry that I tease you in front of our friends and family. I know it makes you mad. I’m sorry that I’m always in a bad mood when you come home from work. That must be awful to come home to. I’m sorry that I can be cold. I’m sorry that I don’t talk about my feelings. That I hold them in when I’m mad at you instead of talking to you about them. I’m sorry that I don’t thank you for all the things you do for us at the house. I’m sorry that I scratch my car and am constantly hitting my wheels. I know how important it is to you. I’m sorry that I don’t want to make you dinner. I’m sorry that I spend too much money.
I want us to be fixed. I want you to light me up the way you used to. I want to want to be with you all the time and I want you to want that too. I want us to HAVE FUN TOGETHER! I want to laugh with you. I want us to be kind to each other. I want us to express our appreciation to each other all the time. I want to forgive you and I want you to forgive me. I want our home to be filled with JOY and not yelling. I want to be in love with you and I want you to be in love with me.
I love you Leo. You have something that I can’t describe. Something that I’ve never been able to get enough of, never been able to get close enough to, and never able to let go of. I love you. I NEVER want to lose you. I want to be by your side forever. You are so funny and make me laugh. I love watching you make others laugh. You are sexy and beautiful. The most attractive man I know. I am so in awe of your beauty. I love the way you are always willing to work on our relationship – your’e always willing to talk it through. I love that I can trust you with anything. I love that you’ve not given up on me through all this – but you’re carrying me through it. I need you and I want more for us. I don’t want to just be your roommate – I want to be a unit, a team. You are right where I want to be. You are my favorite place. I love you.
things got better before getting worse. by the summer of 2015, at 35 years old, i was completely lost. i was drunk by dinner most days. when school started, i often got back in bed as soon as the boys got on the school bus and didn’t get out until the school bus brought them back home. i knew i needed help so i called a wellness doctor and i also made an appointment with a therapist.
this was the darkest, scariest period of my life. leo was frustrated and just wanted me “better.” he complained about the cost of my supplements and appointments. he would ask me “how much longer until you’re better?” while the doctor worked and tested and worked and tested at getting my hormones and depleted physical areas balanced again, the therapist dug in hard. together we discovered that i was clinically depressed and struggling with debilitating anxiety. she also uncovered that i had all the classic characteristics of an abused spouse: i blamed myself for leo’s tantrums, my self esteem was nonexistent. i believed i was stupid, ugly, and unworthy of love and i was becoming socially isolated. she worked with me to help understand the triggers that lead to my panic attacks and taught me strategies to help me when they hit. she offered to continue seeing me but suggested a marriage counselor for both leo and i.
the therapist left me with a long to do list. i changed my diet and exercise routine. i practiced meditation and yoga. i took my supplements and i wrote. i wrote and i wrote and i wrote. it was amazing all the things i uncovered about myself during this time. i started a blog about depression and anxiety and quickly gained hundreds of followers. all people going through what i was going through. who understood. women who got me. they walked with me. they listened. because he didn’t understand. didn’t try. didn’t listen. he wasn’t there. later, our marriage counselor called it “abandonment.”
i mostly went to marriage counseling alone. leo went a handful of times but never did the homework. he cried once. said he wasn’t any good at communicating. he didn’t have the “language” for it. he didn’t know all those “emotional words.” one of our homework assignments was to write down our “needs.” leo never made that list but here is mine….
what it looks like: sitting next to me on the couch with your hands on my skin, arm around me at church, a hand on my back when we walk into a room, hugs, kisses, cuddles, a pat on the butt, a quick shoulder rub, brushing the hair off my neck
*sometimes you say that i’m making you hot or uncomfortable when i’m near you and that hurts my feelings. when you sit on the opposite side of the room from me in the evenings i feel distant from you, not just physically, but emotionally. if the only touch you’ve given me all day is sexual, it actually turns me off and makes me feel used and hurt and leaves me thinking that sex is the only reason you would want to be near me.
what it looks like: a ‘thank you’ text noticing something small that i did, telling me ‘thank you’ or acknowledging what was done or the effort that i put in
*i often feel like everything i do all day goes completely unnoticed. i feel like you think your job is more important than mine which makes me feel like i am not important.
what it looks like: you initiating, sending me naughty texts, use your words…telling me you think i’m sexy – be specific, being open – talking about what you like, how you like it and not being afraid of judgement, make some noise – are you even enjoying it? tell me! ask me what i want and how i like it – then try it, get messy, lose inhibitions, take the lead, bring me to an orgasm and don’t stop until you do, oral sex
*a big part of my identity is in my beauty or attractiveness. when you don’t initiate sex i feel unattractive. there are few things that hurt me more than this. i feel unwanted most days. when i move us (because i feel like i am always leading in this area) to try something new, especially something a little kinky, your reaction makes me feel gross and perverted and ashamed. i want to feel wanted and adored. you never going down on me makes me feel insecure and undesirable. i want sex to be easy and open and fun. a place where we can be totally free and ourselves…our most intimate place. i need you to want me…ALL of me, even the kinky parts.
you abandoned me (detached – your word) in the darkest, scariest moment of my life. you left me without my best friend and my partner when i needed you most. that depression almost ate me alive…and i felt all alone while i fought it. it might come back and i don’t trust that you’ll be able to deal with it. i worry that you’ll be too afraid and you’ll checkout on me again.
freedom to feel
what it looks like: me having a bad day and that being okay. acknowledging that my triggers are real, learning what they are, and helping me by giving me support, your time and your physical help when they hit and i’m anxious and panicking. giving me alone time. holding me when i cry even if it takes an entire hour. listening and hearing me instead of trying to fix me. recognizing that I AM TRYING, even when it looks like i’m going backwards. i am fighting every day and i need you to see that.
*i know it’s ridiculous and irrational to cry or panic about a sleepover or a dirty kitchen or being late. i know this! but i can’t help it. when you get angry and impatient with me it makes me feel like i’m crazy and broken. and i’m NOT! i’m going to fall apart and i need to feel safe and not like i’m being judged when it happens. i need grace and empathy. i need to know that it’s okay to break sometimes and not have you look at me like i’m broken. what i’ve been through, what i still go through is REAL and it doesn’t make me bad or wrong. i don’t want to have to hide it or downplay it or be embarrassed about it. i don’t want to feel ashamed about my depression and anxiety ever again especially from you.
what it looks like: me doing things just for me without guilt or mistrust from you. encouraging me about things i’m good at and helping me figure out what those things are.
*i need a purpose beyond you and the kids. i need to know that i’m worthwhile and valuable. i feel so lost in this area and i really need your help and support and some freedom in exploring here.
what it looks like: being involved, playing with us, eating with us, helping, laughing, knowing what’s going on, making plans
*i’m not asking for more of your time, i understand your work is important. i just want the time that you do have to spend at home that you actually get involved and be present with us…not just in the same room with us but actually engaged and invested.
this list was one of my most vulnerable moments. it was step by step, easy to follow instructions to what loving me looks like.
as the months went by and leo continued to ignore my needs…i began to shut each one down. there was a girl’s weekend last year where he didn’t passive aggressively punish me for being gone and leaving him with the kids. and i had a glimmer of hope for us. the yelling slowed down and every once in awhile the hope seeped in and i let my guard down. then he didn’t show up for a skin cancer surgery or he shamed me in front of friends, he forgot our anniversary, or he lost it on the kids and i started putting locks on the doors to my heart.
if i shut them down and locked them tight then he couldn’t hurt me anymore. if i stopped hoping… i could survive it. i began taking depression and anxiety medications to help me cope. i got shorter with him. if he wasn’t going to protect my feelings then i wasn’t going to protect his. my tongue grew sharper. i stopped welcoming him home at night because the sound of his car rumbling in the driveway made my stomach clench in dread.
during the start of 2016, leo began dieting in earnest. his obsession with his body and appearance grew until he reached a weight that i found extremely unattractive. i could hardly stand to touch him or feel him on me.
i’ll start this paragraph by saying that i have zero proof of anything from this time… but i KNEW. i knew then just like i knew this may when i caught him cheating. he was talking to someone. my guess is more than one. he spent very very little time at home. when he was at home he wasn’t in the house. and when he was in the house he was in the bathroom taking shirtless selfies or slipping out to the garage. one evening i counted. eight times he went out to the garage. eventually, i found the vape he was hiding out there. but i know he was texting someone. i know it. i know it. i know it.
he really wasn’t around much. i started my new business, the boys grew and i found some real freedom in rediscovering myself apart from leo. it turns out i wasn’t incapable and worthless and pathetic like he made me feel all those years. i was actually good at something. i found true satisfaction in that. i could tolerate sex with him once a week. my kids were happy and we knew better by then where the buttons were and how much easier life was when we didn’t push them. we were mostly okay. i mean, apart from the fact that we were living totally separate lives. then our anniversary came.
like i said earlier, i knew. but it wasn’t until our anniversary trip that i realized i couldn’t ignore it anymore. he texted her almost constantly. i caught a glimpse of her name on the airplane to new orleans. that first night we went to a club to listen to a jazz band. he went to get a drink and disappeared for 45 minutes. on the last day, my friend asked why he kept leaving us and vanishing for long periods of time. then he confirmed that he caught a peek of leo texting someone on instagram and there were heart emoji and kissy faces. happy 15th anniversary, baby.
the month of may, 2019 is a dark, disgusting blur. i read their messages. i tracked him while he went to her place for hours. i listened to his lies. i laid next to him in our bed right after he slept with her. i followed him and watched him kiss her after a dinner out. lies. lies. more lies.
he loves her. and she loves him.
when i confronted him, he didn’t deny it. he told me he didn’t love me and hasn’t for some time. we agreed this marriage is over. we’ve been at this separation and working towards divorce for several months now. we try, we really try to keep it amicable. for the boys. but there are times that the arguments are unavoidable and he lets loose the blame. he blames me and i believe his parents do too.
we had dinner all together one night before i confronted leo about his affair. we were talking about marriage and i brought up cheating. leo’s dad said that he heard something years ago that always stuck with him…
“if a man strays, the woman is not innocent.”
i have spent our entire marriage plus five years of dating and engagement, trying to get this man to love me. i turned myself inside out to be who he wanted until i was unrecognizable. i tolerated his neglect and his abuse for the best years of my life and it almost killed me before i wrapped myself in layers of the self preserving protection of medication and emotional withdrawal.
his affair and this broken marriage is NOT MY FAULT. i have never and will never be perfect… but i did not deserve this.
this is my story. my perspective. my truth as best as i can tell it. you’ll not find one lie in it. i’d write his here too if i knew it. all i know is…this is mine.