My husband returned home after the film with a bottle of wine. He presented it to me as his peace offering/belated Valentine’s Day gift.
All was quiet on the western front.
Our mortgage was due the next day, but we didn’t have the money to pay it. Somehow my husband was able to purchase new, designer sunglasses. He told me he needed them for his trip. He was leaving in less than a week.
I re-assumed my battle station.
“Because you have to ‘look good’ in Australia? That is a priority? This is not how to dig out of financial problems. I’m sure you have some logical answer for this.” I threw my hands in the air.
“I understand your frustration,” he calmly stated. “I do have logical arguments that you already know, so they don’t need to be gone over again. It’s easy to think of our own things – your swimming at the Rose Bowl, my sunglasses – as ‘essentials’. I genuinely give you the benefit of the doubt about your expenses, so I’d really appreciate the same.”
I kept my mouth shut, poured out my frustration in my prayer journal, and waited to discuss the problem in counseling, later that day. I was determined to keep things peaceful, no matter how manipulated I was feeling.
I am trying, but I still feel he is focused on himself, his image and career. It’s rotten timing. He deserves to be successful, OF COURSE! He deserves a shot; a chance, and he is doing it. He will never in a million years believe I support him, care, or think he’s doing a good job. So, why try anymore?
My husband did not accompany me to marital therapy that day. He had to attend a last-minute meeting with his magazine’s photographer. I went to the session, alone, for the second time that week. I then went over to my friends, Jeff and Jenny’s, house. I sat at the dinner table with their joyful toddler, who smiled and giggled with me. I tried not to think about my barren womb.
When I got home, my husband had just returned. I asked him how his meeting went.
“I’m drunk,” he responded.
“You do realize that it looks like you just went out and got drunk with your friend instead of going to counseling,” I judged.
I then thought back to the session earlier in the day, where my marriage counselor had commended me for not having gotten angry. I closed my eyes, then took a deep breath.
“How was your meeting?” I asked, gently.
My husband brightened. It had gone really well! They had a bunch of ideas, and it felt good to be creative again. He explained that he had been down and out about life until that particular meeting. In fact, he had been so frustrated about our financial situation, that he punched the windshield of his truck. It cracked.
But the meeting made him feel better. It confirmed to him that he was on the right path.
He bustled around the bare kitchen, found a glass, and poured himself some water.
“I’m going to watch American Idol. Do you want to watch it with me?”
“No, thanks,” I said. I didn’t need to feel any more “down and out” about my own career.
We later went to bed in our separate rooms. I tried to sleep, but felt restless. My mind drifted to our financial situation.
Most couples divorce over financial problems. Most couples divorce over lack of communication. Most certainly the majority of divorces are due to adultery.
I have all three glaring me in the face.
I started crying, loudly. Sobbing. I was, most likely, being overdramatic, but I was scared. I decided to get up and tell my husband that he had no heart. How could he lay in the other room and listen to me sob? Why did this have to be so hard? Why couldn’t he scoop me into his arms, hold me and tell me how much he loved me?
What happened next is a bit of a blur, but between yelling and screaming at each other, I remember taking off my wedding ring and throwing it across the room. It landed on the floor in slow motion, a la a scene taken from The Lord of the Rings.
My husband followed suit. He pitched his as hard as he could, and it landed right next to mine. (Under different circumstances, we might have had an excellent little game of bocce ball going.)
“DOESN’T IT FEEL GOOD?!” I screeched.
Uhh, can someone please call Nurse Ratched, STAT?
“STOP BEING SO SMUG!” He screamed back. He went on to yell about me being on my “moral high horse” because I had gone to counseling, and he hadn’t.
I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the Valentine’s Day card I had purchased for him, and demonstratively ripped it into tiny, little pieces.
It only angered him further. “FUCK YOU! YOU MADE ME HATE YOU!
YOU. MADE. ME. HATE. YOU.”
I glowered at him.
“I didn’t make you do anything.”
We continued to scream awful, awful things at each other. Finally, in the most heated moment, a look of determination crossed over my husband’s weathered, handsome face.
“You’ll never see me again.”
He left. I heard his truck engine start, and he drove away.
I slumped to the floor, next to those damn wedding rings. I couldn’t stand looking at them, so I sat up, and supported my back against the metal frame of the creaky, twin bed. I couldn’t cry anymore. I just stared out the window, into the quiet.
I am a total failure.
I don’t know exactly how many minutes passed, but then, my husband’s tall frame stood in the doorway.
“I am so sorry for the vile things I screamed at you, Leslie.” His voice remained quiet; defeated.
“That is not who I am, or who I want to be.”
I kept staring out the window. My eyelids felt heavy.
“Did you mean what you said?”
He sat down next to me, sighed heavily, and started crying. I stared at him for a moment, then reached over to him. I pulled him towards me and held him, as he collapsed into my arms. We cried together. We prayed together.
The moment — the room – the twin bed – it all felt so familiar.
Five long months had passed, and we were still in the same place.