Six months ago today my ex-wife Tomi left me because she felt her affair with coworker Chris Kareis would provide her with more happiness than remaining married. It’s hard to beleive that it has been six months. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday that the two of us were making plans for the future. Talking about our pending five year anniversary. Enjoying our lives together. Another part of me feels like it’s been a lifetime since that date.
I have a hard time remembering what she looked like. I’ve tried very hard to forget the sound of her voice. I’ve done all I can to erase my memories of her. I can only assume that this is how most victims of traumatic events cope. I still remember her laugh… and the way she used to say “I love you” to me. I can’t seem to block those out. And unfortunately when I remember those things, it still makes me sad that she is gone.
But the sadness lasts much less than it used to, and I feel like the more time is placed between now and then, the less I miss her and the more I realize that the future is brighter without her. In many ways, I feel pity for her. Anyone that does what she did does deserve pity, because really, they will never be happy. They can’t be. How could they? They will always know in the back of their minds that they are bad people. Pathetic people. And though I had such a horrible thing happen to me, I can still hold my head high that I’m not someone like her. I have dignity, where as she and Chris do not, and never will again.
So when I find myself missing her now, I know that I’m missing who she was, not who she is. And this is what she is, an adultress. She will never be anything else for the rest of her life. This event is what defines her now, not just to me, but to herself as well. And that’s unfortunate.
As our lives go through constant revision, I am forced to ask the hard questions. The why’s, the who’s, the when’s. The whats it all for’s. My wife Tomi turned out to be a whore. She hurt me in ways that most men cannot ever conceive of being hurt. But as that torment starts to fade away, I’m left with feeling like maybe, just maybe it was for the best. In the past four months or so since she decided to start slutting it up on the side, I’ve had more fun than I have in years. It’s made me realize that she always held me back to some extent. That she truly was that “old ball and chain”. I loved her, I did. And I thought that she loved me. Maybe she did at one point, I guess I’ll never really be sure. But the fact of the matter is that she’s gone now, and for the first time in years, I feel a sense of freedom. I’ve been forced to learn that change is the only constant in life. And I’m enjoying that.
One of the worst things about being freshly divorced is being alone. I don’t know, maybe its not so bad if you’re the one who did the leaving, but when you were left I’ll tell you its bad sometimes. There are times when I find myself just standing there looking into the kitchen cabinet blankly, thinking about what to make. Because you know, its hard to figure out what you want to make for yourself. It used to be that you had another opinion. Now its just you. And you have to make decisions like that. Little stupid decisions that shouldn’t matter for shit, suddenly can make you feel just terrible.
For example, I was folding some clothes a little bit ago and I started to fold them one way, the way I always used to fold them. But I stopped, unfolded them and folded them the way she always wanted them folded. After I did it I stopped for a second, just stared at the clothes and though, “What the fuck was that?” I didn’t unfold it again and fold it the way I liked to fold it, instead I just stared at it for a few more moments thinking about all the times we joked back and forth over stupid stuff like that. It never mattered, but it was always pointed out when we folded clothes.
So, yeah, stuff like that. Being alone. Having to fold clothes, make food, watch TV, decide if opening that bottle of wine is a good idea, because, well, you’re alone and it used to be a “together” activity to have wine. Along with eating dinner, and everything else in your life. And now, you’re alone trying to figure out who you are again. I guess on the upside, you don’t have to ask if she’ll have a problem with you brewing beer. Or if it’s ok to take off to the Swell for the weekend. Or spending hours working on the car. So there are ups. But when you’d committed yourself to someone, you kinda resigned yourself to being OK with discussing those things.
As everyone has said, and will say, it just takes time. In time I won’t assume that every interaction with women will just take me down the route of despair. I’ll stop thinking, “Oh yeah, you’re great, and hot and this is going good! But in seven and a half years you’ll just run off with a fucking grad student too!” But for now, I’ll just keep figuring out how to make meals for one, and yes, opening that bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for myself. Because why the fuck not?
One of the hardest things about moving on from my previous life are the memories. Obviously, I suppose. But hardest of all have been the tangible ones. When my now ex-wife ran away to be in the arms of another man, she took nothing to remind herself. No pictures, no sentimental items, she was even planning on leaving her wedding dress in the closet until I insisted on her taking it because really, what the hell was I going to do with it? She got off easy, she has some furniture and maybe some books that I gave her as gifts, and that’s it. I was left to literally clean out the home that we had shared for five an a half years. I got to pick over the memories of our eight years together.
I ended up throwing away most of it. Books, pictures, furniture, dishware… anything that had a tangible link was junked. All of her Christmas decorations, even the stuff she had had as a kid. That was hard because I wanted to be nice and get it back to her some how, but my friends said, “Fuck her, why would you want to be nice to that whore ever again?” So I didn’t, and just threw it all in the garbage. Her piggy bank? Yeah, I smashed that against an aqueduct at 1am on a particularly sleepless night.
When I finally moved into my own apartment I was down to the bare minimum of stuff, but I still keep finding things. A stupid turtle sugar jar she was so excited to find. A book mark shaped like a knight that she gave me because I was her ‘knight in shining armour’, books… stuff like that. Every time I find one, I throw it away or donate it. No reason to keep them around. Even functional things like a watch that I rather liked, but was purchased during our last vacation to Chicago, gone.
Yesterday I did one of the hardest things yet. I deleted all the photo’s of her or associated with her off of the file server. Perhaps it was fitting that it was Memorial Day. It was so difficult because I had to look at pictures of her. Her smiling, laughing, being her… the woman who I loved with all my heart. That I vowed to be with for the rest of my life… The woman who betrayed me in such a heinous way all in the name of instant gratification.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, her script was written for her. Her mom ran away from her dad when she couldn’t handle him being deployed. Her dad, whom I will add a caveat here and say I always really liked, went through a string of marriages or relationships that failed. And her extended family is riddled with divorce. So to her it was the normal thing to do and say, “Hey, I’m not happy. Rather than actually work on this, I’ll just start fucking my coworker and leave my husband. Yeah! Thats the ticket!”
Doesn’t make it hurt any less.
But I did it. I deleted all the pictures. Most, hundreds, I thankfully didn’t have to look at because they were buried in folders labeled, ‘Denver 2011′, ‘Justin’s 21st B-Day’, ect. ect. But there were enough to send me spiraling into the worst depression I’ve had in weeks. Thankfully, being Memorial Day there was a BBQ to go to, and people to be with. As I said in my last post, I’ve been fortunate to have family and a group of friends who have buoyed me in this time. And I’m moving forward with them in my life. As I was at the BBQ, I realized that Tomi would have hated this event. It was rambunctious, loud, people were talking over each other, cracking jokes, lawn games were being played. It was fun. And, not to say we never had fun, Tomi was always so reserved that it was hard to really be with a group like this because it was always so obvious that she was uncomfortable and I felt like I had to shield her. Well no more.
So when Memorial Day closed and I left the BBQ, I was again glad for the life that I’ve found myself in, even if it was not by my choosing. I’m making the best of it and I’m moving forward.
When I came home from my Krav Maga class the evening of February 13th, 2012 I found my wife, Tomi, sitting at the dining room table. I gave her a kiss and said, “Love” in our traditional greeting and headed to the bedroom to change out of my gym clothes. When she didn’t respond with “Love”, I stopped and asked if everything was OK. She shook her head and said, “No.” So I came to the table and asked what was wrong, she said this wasn’t working anymore. By “this” she meant the marriage. She proceeded to list out all the reasons that she couldn’t be with me anymore. Some were legitimate issues, some seemed like stretches, but none of them, none of them were reasons to end a marriage. Things to work on, yes, but bailing on a life commitment, no.
Abbreviating this tale significantly, she had already rented an apartment the prior Thursday on the day I left for a trip and was moved out of the house we had shared for five and a half years on the 16th of February. It was quick and brutal. The night she told me she was done, she showed some level of compassion. There were tears, some semblance of regret. But starting the next morning it was pure venom. Saying such things as the last eight years were a waste of her time, that every minute that she was with me was killing her; that she hated me and everything we had ever shared. When she left, she took nothing sentimental about the eight years we spent together. Just her stuff, that’s it. She cut and ran. We agreed to one counseling session on the 27th, which she attended but wasn’t really there. She did it just to placate me. While there, she continued with the venom. Just spewing the most hateful things I’d ever heard come out of her mouth. She did reveal one thing of interest, though; that she felt I needed too much validation from her. We’ll get to that more later.
After the counseling session I was devastated, but I managed to convince her of a 90 day separation rather than divorce. But she didn’t want to talk to me regularly. I agreed and I spent the next month dwelling on what I had done wrong. What I could do to fix things. What I could do to get her back. I didn’t call, e-mail, text, I did write her two letters saying that I loved her, and was working to try and fix things to make her happy again. I imagined her trying to figure out what to do now that she was alone. She never had any really good friends, so I just figured she was going to work and coming home to watch TV. I missed her and wanted to go to her and say that things would be OK. To comfort my wife in what I perceived was a terribly difficult time for her.
So I pinned. I started seeing a counselor twice a week. I took Krav Maga as much as I could. I went to yoga. I started having anxiety attacks and physical twitches due to stress. I stopped sleeping and eating. I lost 17 pounds in less than a week. After a month I had lost almost 30. I talked to everyone I knew. I tried to gather information from other peoples experiences in a hope of applying it to mine. I was, in clinical terms, fucked up.
Then came March 23rd. I went to meet a friend at the Poplar Street downtown next to Redrock Brewery. Redrock was always Tomi and mine’s favorite restaurant and as I walked to Poplar Street, I had a massive anxiety attack. The kind that stops you in your tracks. I stood there for a moment saying, “No, not now. I need to get it together.” After a minute and some deep breaths I kept going. And as I passed the entrance to Redrock where 30 or so people were waiting I saw her there… with another guy. Holding hands. And I knew the other guy, his name was Chris Kareis and he was a grad student in the chemistry department on campus where Tomi worked. This wasn’t the first time I had seen them together, exactly a month before I had run into Tomi at a coffee shop and she was there with another girl and two guys, including Chris, from work. She refused to talk to me that day and I just wrote it off as a work outing. But this, well, it was different.
I caught my breath and approached them. And first she didn’t notice, but when she did, she quickly pulled her hand away from his and put it to her mouth in a shocked, “Ohhh!!!” then collected her cool again. I asked what was going on, she said “Same old.” To which I responded, “I don’t know what old is, anymore.” She clearly didn’t want to talk. So I looked at Chris, who was looking the other way, stuck my hand out and said, “Chris right?” To which he said, “Uh, yeah.” and took my hand (which, by the way was the limpest most pathetic handshake I’ve hand in a long time). I then replied with, “I’m Stephen, Tomi’s husband.” He looked at the ground, “Uhm, yeah, I know.”
I then gave Tomi a look of, ‘What the fuck is going on?!?’ She looked at me with a, ‘What?’. I asked if she would come and talk with me for a second, she refused. So I hugged her and said I loved her and walked into Poplar. At that exact moment, my friend sent me a text saying he was running late. So I sat in Poplar for a few minutes and then decided, no, I was not going to stand for this and stormed out. Fortunately they were still out waiting to be seated. I walked right up to Tomi and demanded that we talk. She said no, to which I said, “Either we do it here or in the parking lot.” She rolled her eyes and walked with me to the parking lot. Things get a bit hazy here as I was so heated. But basically I asked how long it had been going on, she said, “It just happened!” I called bull shit and asked how long, she replied, “I don’t know, a few weeks.” I said, “Well that’s interesting, you moved out a few weeks ago! So this was the reason, huh? How long have you been having sex with him?” She didn’t reply to that. I continued to push, she wouldn’t talk about it. I changed direction and said, “OK, how about us?” She blew up and said, “There is no ‘us’. There is just you and me! And I can do whatever I want!” I stopped, looked at her, and said, “I think you’re throwing away a good thing for a fling.” She rolled her eyes. I then hugged her, tried to kiss her, which she said, “I don’t want to kiss you, Stephen!” I let her go, then walked towards Chris.
At this point Tomi starts screaming, “No, Stephen!!! No! Don’t!!” Obviously she was afraid that I was going to hit him. And I almost did. I don’t think that piece of shit will ever really know how close he was to getting his ass completely kicked. My adrenaline was running so high, I have no idea what I would have done. No idea. But I managed to stop myself from hitting him and instead stuck my hand out again, which he took after a moment, and I said, “Chris, good luck, be safe, you’re an asshole and remember, she’s a married woman.” I then turned and left for Poplar.
Monday, the 26th I served Tomi with divorce papers on the grounds of an extra martial affair. The next day we signed them, with no dispute from her. When I walked her back to her car (which in retrospect, I really never should have let her take. Oh well) I stopped. Looked at her, she said with no emotion, “Thank you.” To which I replied, “I wish I could say the same.” I then choked back some tears and said, “You will always be my Tomi. You will always be my first true love.” I then hugged her for what seemed like forever. All she could muster was a limp arm to pat my back once or twice. When I let her go, she just looked at me and said, “Good bye.” and went to get into her car. And that was the last time I saw her. I don’t know how I got home.
And that was the end. Eight years, gone. Just like that. I’ve spent the past two months battling regret, remorse, anger, stress, anxiety, and all sorts of other problems. But I recently realized something that she said was very true. Even though most of her initial reasons for wanting to end the marriage were bull shit and simply projections of guilt to hide her affair and convince herself that what she was doing was right, there was one thing. In the past few years, I had made Tomi the center of my world. I did rely on her for most of my validation. And that’s something I’ve been struggling with recently. Who am I? What do I want? Well… that’s what I’m going to find out.