What happened to us
If you haven’t blogged in a year, are you still a blogger?
Something to ponder. That, and why we put so much faith in a short, squat, fuzzy rodent one day in early February, only to hunt him down like the lying, filthy creature he is one bitter cold, snowy day in mid-April so we can rip his whiskers out one by one and beat him over the head with a snow shovel.
I struggled with how to write this post for months. Case in point, I wrote the above paragraph in April, when it was hailing outside. I’m just too lazy to erase it.
I’ve been wanting to return to blogging for a long time now but the OCD part of me won’t let me write anything new until I finish some unfinished business and the thought of writing about that unfinished business made me hyperventilate. I do not want this blog to be about the failure of my marriage and the gory details of my divorce. While my blog has always been about my life, I’m determined that the last two years will end up being only a small part of that life and will not define me for the remainder of it. But I knew I couldn’t just start writing again about Ollie’s poop or our bathroom that doubles as a testing lab for the CDC or my shitty putrid bladder and pretend that the last two years didn’t happen. That’s not keeping it real and I have always kept it real here.
Or what I was fooled into thinking was real.
I feel I have to address what happened to us, because it changed me in good ways and horrible ways and ways that I cannot even begin to describe. I’m hoping by putting my story out there, I will be able to bid this shitfest of the last two years farewell, kick its ass out the door of my psyche and move on with my writing. And who knows? Maybe someone reading it will recognize herself/himself in my words and know that there is, indeed, hope. There is another life to be had, a different and hopefully better life to be had, when the one you thought you had been living explodes into bitter dust.
I have both my kids’ blessings to write about some of what happened to us and I asked them each to read the pertinent parts before I published this, to ensure that they were OK with what I was putting out there. But even so, I’ve been at a loss as to how to begin. How do I begin to describe the downward spiral of my husband, the man I loved so deeply and considered, in the truest sense of the word, my soul mate? How do I write about the decimation of my family and everything I thought was real? And then I figured the best way to start is to just blurt it out.
On June 6, 2011 I discovered that my husband of twelve years was a complete and utter stranger. Within the next four months, I discovered that that stranger was, in my opinion, an unremorseful, lying sociopath. One with a dark past who led a double life and who eventually destroyed us and very nearly drove me to the brink of insanity. The realization that his family, a family I had considered my own, had protected his secret and, by association, their own families, all while leaving my family vulnerable and at huge risk, was devastating. Their betrayal is second only to Nate’s in terms of the carnage it wreaked upon our lives.
It’s hard to write that. This blog had been based on my life and my marriage. I had always kept it real here. I didn’t mince words, I didn’t gloss over the crap. I blogged the good, the bad and the stupidly ridiculous. I blogged the every day minutia of my life and tried to find the humor in the ordinary. Because I was ordinary. I lived a far-from-perfect life but I lived what I thought was a happy life and I believe that resonated through my voice here. I had no idea, none at all, that the life I had been living and blogging was the fabrication of one man’s deceit and delusions of right and wrong, bolstered by his family’s unwavering loyalty and fierce determination to protect him and themselves, no matter the cost. And make no mistake about it, that cost was high. My kids and I continue to pay a very dear price for their silence. My life was a lie and no one was more shocked at that realization than I.
Nate’s erratic behavior, which had steadily increased at an alarming rate since late 2009 through the spring of 2011, culminated late on the night of June 6, 2011 when he was arrested for DWI in our neighborhood. While Nate’s parents bailed him out of jail, I tried to keep my wits about me and retrieved the Durango from down the road. Inside the Durango, Nate had left his cell phone and his laptop and a small, nondescript gift bag that contained a bottle of perfume and a card that said “The thing I love the most about us is you.”
Of course, I didn’t wear that perfume.
Thus began the discovery of Nate’s infidelity, the scope of which was staggering. My life unraveled over the the next seventy-two hours and the shock of Nate’s betrayal eventually landed me in the lock-down, crisis care unit of our local hospital for a very brief but memorable stay.
Cross that little gem off my bucket list.
That night, within minutes, and with Zoe’s help while Helena was sleeping upstairs, I accessed Nate’s call history, text messages and emails and discovered Nate was having what I at first assumed was an ongoing affair with a very young woman by the name of Ava, whom he professed to love more deeply than he had ever loved anyone. After reading email after email after email, and seeing references to “service provider” and “donations” I googled and then stared at Nate’s laptop in disbelief as the realization came over me that Ava was actually a prostitute to whom Nate had paid an enormous amount of money for what is coined in the industry as a “girlfriend experience”, a phrase I learned from Ava herself when I called her that night and the next morning.
I spent a few hours speaking with a high-priced prostitute who, it turned out, lived within ten minutes of my house, had been banging my husband on a regular basis for years and who was paid handsomely for her efforts.
That night, I found out far more about prostitution that I ever wanted to, the least of which was that it is alive and well and flourishing in our area via a website so popular, it has thousands of male subscribers and hundreds of prostitutes who participate in pages and pages and pages of discussions in their forums. Ava schooled me in the life of an elite escort, how clients were referred to as “gentlemen” and payment was received in the form of “donations” and that the “girlfriend experience” was exactly what it sounded like, not to be confused with the “porn star experience” which SURPRISE, was exactly what it sounded like. While Ava claimed to be equally proficient at both, Nate preferred to employ the services of Nicki for the porn star option. Or sometimes it was Chloe. Or Erica. Or Mary. Or Amber. I could go on and on but really, you get the idea.
Within 48 hours of his arrest, after sifting through hundreds and hundreds of emails between Nate and prostitutes, I found three from his best friend and it was those three emails that planted the seed that soon bloomed into full-blown distrust of everyone around me, sending me into a tailspin from which I could not recover. Those three emails taught me that people will lie directly to my face without blinking an eye in order to protect their own secrets. And I quickly learned soon thereafter that people I barely trusted, such as his best friend, were just as likely to deceive and lie, straight-out and by omission, as those I trusted implicitly, such as Nate’s family.
That was a brutally hard lesson to learn.
There were three emails between Nate and his best friend, dated a few months earlier. This would be the same best friend who, the day after Nate was arrested, stood in my kitchen, admitted that he knew Nate had been having sex with prostitutes for years and assured me that he would do everything in his power to help us through this mess because he cared about Nate and my family and he felt an enormous amount of guilt from having failed to dissuade Nate from participating in what he referred to as “disgusting extracurricular activities.” In the first email, this same best friend shared with Nate the details of a picture he had of himself as he was receiving oral sex from his own favorite prostitute who was wearing a favored green dress at the time. In the second, this best friend offered to float Nate the money to “buy” Ava and take her off the market so that Nate wouldn’t have to share her with anyone else. In the third, Nate accepted his offer.
Twenty-four hours later, I placed my feet in stirrups and tried unsuccessfully to control my hysteria while my gynecologist swabbed and scraped and tested me for every sexually transmitted disease known to man.
I would have celebrated my twelfth wedding anniversary that month.
Four hours later, I found myself in the lock-down, crisis care unit where I had to surrender all my belongings, including my shoes, so that I could be observed because I had not slept, eaten or stopped crying for almost 72 hours. The only good thing I can say about that place is that I wasn’t allowed my laptop and was therefore forced to stop reading emails which had become an obsession with me. My observation was mercifully short, lasting only the better part of that day but that was long enough. I can still smell that unit and I can still see the ugly yellow and gray walls and the barred windows and I can still hear the howling and screaming of the other patients. I will never stop smelling or hearing that memory.
I collected my shoes and went home and tried to figure out what the hell I was going to do.
At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom of two kids. I had no income of my own and I already had one divorce under my belt. I also had no family around here – Nate’s family had been my only local family for a dozen years.
I loved my husband. Or, rather, who I thought my husband was – I later learned that alcoholism and infidelity were just the God-awful beginnings of this nightmare. Any sympathy I had for Nate vanished when I discovered his true nature. But at the time, I loved and was in love with him. This was the second time around for me, I thought I had done it right this time and I thought I had pretty much hit the lottery with him. Our life wasn’t perfect but it was perfect for me. The thought that I would lose Nate forever brought me such despair that it made it hard to actually breathe.
I also dreaded the mere thought of what another divorce would bring, including first and foremost, the shared custody of Helena as I had been advised that despite Nate’s behavior, he would almost certainly be granted visitation if not outright joint custody. Just because he suffered from alcoholism and could not keep his zipper zipped did not necessarily mean that he was an unfit parent in the eyes of the law. Nate managed to meet that criteria later all on his own, but at that time, I was looking at shared custody. Been there, done that with Zoe and I couldn’t face doing it all over again with Helena. I vividly recalled the anguish I would feel when I would have to say goodbye to my younger Zoe for a weekend. I just couldn’t handle the thought of doing the same with Helena. The thought of losing that same precious time with my last child was just unbearable. Not both of my kids. No. I just couldn’t. I just … couldn’t. So I clung to my marriage vows and what I still believed to be good memories that spanned over a decade of what I thought had been a happy marriage and I tried like hell not to choke on the ludicrous theory of sex addiction that the therapists kept jamming down my throat and I went about the business of trying to save my marriage. In other words, I threw on an ugly-ass bathing suit and did a whopping cannonball into the murky, piss-brown, bottomless ocean called DENIAL because I was scared shitless and felt I had no other viable options.
It is astounding the lengths of crazy to which you will go when you are desperate and scared. I found myself going to extremes to save my marriage. I was doing things that, had my best friend done them in a similar situation? I would have bodyslammed her to the floor, slapped her unconcious and flung her into a closet until she came to her senses.
Pretty soon, I didn’t even recognize myself.
During this time, I was still reading the emails. I couldn’t stop myself. I almost welcomed the excruciating pain they caused me because that meant I was at least feeling something and feeling something was better than feeling the dead nothing that enveloped me. I read those emails every night, for hours on end, after the girls went to bed. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the porn star experience emails that wreaked the most havoc with my psyche, although the graphic descriptions of his sex life with these women made me wretch but I could almost, almost, convince myself that it was just sex at its most primal essence and that it didn’t mean anything. No, it was the other emails, the ones to Ava, that made my soul bleed and ultimately destroyed me. In them, the two of them would refer to the depth of their love and the simple moments they shared, such as holding hands or stroking the back of her head or sharing a dessert or stealing a kiss. They were just so intimate. I knew Ava was being paid a fortune to say exactly what she was saying, but … what can I say? It didn’t make it any less real to me or make it hurt any less.
The words “I love you” are sacred to me. I’ve never believed they should be offered lightly and I have never said them lightly myself. I do not understand how anyone can share those words without conviction. I do not understand how someone can be intimate with someone else without being somehow emotionally vested to some degree in that relationship. Call me naive or ignorant or even stupid, but I cannot wrap my head around people who do these things. I’m just not wired that way. So while I knew Ava was a prostitute and the logical, rational part of me knew she was holding Nate’s hand, and other parts of his body, only because she was being paid to the tune of $500+ an hour to do so, the emotional part of me believed that, her career path notwithstanding, she must have fallen in love with Nate and Nate with her because they shared those three words and they were … well, they were just so believable. Ava admitted to me that Nate was her best client in this regard, that he had elevated the girlfriend experience to an art form and had impressed even her, a seasoned professional, with his efforts.
I wasn’t surprised at that. After all, Nate never had been one do to anything half-assed.
Ava’s emails slowly killed every piece of my heart and left me grief-stricken and curled up in a ball on the floor of my closet at 2 a.m., night after night after night, sobbing incoherently to my brother on the phone as he would take constant breaks from his bartending job in Vegas to find a quiet place and try to pull me out of the darkness from 3,000 miles away.
I felt nothing but emptiness and blackness. I was dead. My body just didn’t know it.
And yet, I fought for my marriage. I fought tooth and nail for four long, awful months before I could no longer bear to watch Nate disintegrate and circle the drain. I officially filed for divorce in October of 2011 and my heart, what was left of it by then, was so heavy with sadness the day I filed, it was physically hard to move. I knew it was the right decision. I couldn’t save our marriage and I had come to the realization that I couldn’t save Nate and had no business even trying because you can’t save someone who is bound and determined to self-destruct. So, for the sake of my kids and my sanity, I decided to concentrate on saving myself.
I won’t bother getting into all the garbage that transpired during those four months because there’s just too much and you probably wouldn’t believe half of it. I lived it and I still can’t even believe what happened. Every single day brought another new layer of shit to cover the previous one. These layers included a second DWI, multiple car accidents, an incident with Ollie, police being called to our house numerous times, a restraining order, the calls from his work threatening job abandonment because he failed to show up again, me scouring the city trying to find him and Nate puking in the middle of the street during the funeral procession for his aunt. Oh, and that one night when I sat down to discuss my options with Helena’s court-appointed guardian, only to stop in mid-sentence because the alarm on my cell phone had rung. Instead of discussing how best to protect Helena during what was almost certain to be a nasty custody battle because I refused to agree to any visitation whatsoever, I turned on my laptop. For the next few minutes, the guardian and I sat and watched, slack-jawed, as text messages from Nate’s cell were downloaded onto my laptop, courtesy of the GPS system he had installed on his phone to prove I could trust him. We witnessed Nate’s solicitation of yet another prostitute, a very young prostitute, go down in real time at a hotel ten miles away.
Timing is everything they say, and never was that more true in my case than that night.
That guardian became a key player in the custody portion of my divorce, and later, she became equally as important in the criminal matter that ensued after Nate was accused of committing a series of reprehensible crimes.
In late November of 2011, about a month after I filed, our lives took yet another horrendous turn when Nate was arrested for unspeakable acts of violence. I soon learned that these acts were not new to Nate nor were they isolated incidents, but rather a return to a pattern of behavior he had established early on in his life. Nate’s family knew exactly what he was, what he had always been, but they made a conscious choice to keep that information to themselves, thereby protecting Nate as well as their own families but depriving me of the ability to protect my own. They swept his past under the rug where it lay a hidden secret. But as we all know, secrets rarely die. They just bide their time. This one waited until that one night in late November when it roared back to life and exploded, leaving in its wake the bloody carnage of our marriage, the decimation of my kids’ trust, a shattered family and the obliteration of every single good memory I ever had of our life together.
What followed was a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system for over a year. Nate ultimately took a plea deal and was convicted of far lesser crimes in late 2012 and all I will say about that is at least we were spared the horror of testifying at his trial. Of course, he waited until two days before we were scheduled to testify before pleading out and the stress of that looming trial took a toll on us. On the day he plead guilty, I kept Helena in school for her own benefit. Zoe and I raced to the courthouse and tightly held hands as he refused to look at us while admitting to his crimes in open court. It did not, however, give us the closure we sought.
This past January, the three of us went to the Hall of Justice for one final time where we were allowed to address the court at Nate’s sentencing. We read from our victim impact statements while Nate stood before the bench, wearing the same suit he wore every single time we went to court, looking simultaneously gaunt and bloated and twenty years older than his age. Nowhere did I see the handsome man I had married almost fourteen years prior. He again refused to look at us. I think that day may very well have been the hardest of this entire ordeal for the girls and me.
It was the last time we saw him.
The last two years have been a series of unfathomable losses. My husband. Helena’s father. Our house. My kids’ innocence and innate tendency to trust. Nate’s family, with whom I have cut off contact as I cannot find it within me to forgive them. I have tried but I’m just not there yet. I don’t know if I will ever get there and I am not sure if I can ever fully heal unless I do but for now, it’s a chance I’m willing to take. We lost any financial security we may have had. We lost any sense of normalcy. Any sense of safety. We lost our lives, such as we knew them. And finally, I feel as if I have lost what amounts to the last fifteen years of my life as I do not carry with me one single good memory of Nate’s and my relationship. Each one is irreparably tainted with Nate’s betrayal and my inability to reconcile the man he portrayed himself to be with the pure evil he ultimately proved himself to be.
Memories are supposed to sustain you, to comfort you. They’re supposed to be a soft place to land. The loss of those memories was devastating.
Today, I still grieve my marriage and the life I thought I would live. I think everyone who has been through a divorce does this to some degree, because divorce is death by a different name. At least it is, for me. But while I may grieve, that grief no longer consumes me. Every once in a while, I’ll have a moment when the sadness becomes overwhelming and I have to just stop, have a good cry and take a moment to regroup. Those moments are getting fewer and farther between.
I no longer read the emails. I haven’t for quite some time. The last time I did, I was surprised at how little they affected me. I’m guessing this is what is referred to as growth, part of letting go. I don’t care what it’s called, I’m good with it. It gave me some much needed hope.
The girls and I are moving on. I started working full-time soon after I filed for divorce and I’m fortunate to work with some pretty awesome people. Zoe is in college, studying to be a pharmacist. Helena is going into eighth grade, studying to be a teenager who drives her mom batshit crazy.
I bought a small house in another town so that we could have a fresh start. The girls and I are fixing it up as our own and at the moment, I’m dealing with a burst pipe, wet basement and something called a galvanized something or other. I think they have to dig a twenty foot trench in my front yard. Believe it or not, I’m actually grateful to have such problems because they’re ordinary and I need some ordinary. We are seriously considering having one shockingly bright purple wall in every room because … well? Because we can.
Lucky for me, I already got the whole mandatory rebound relationship over and done with last year and while he too turned out to be a colossal jerk, because God just has a sick sense of humor, that relationship helped me get through 2012 and allowed me to feel something other than pain and loss for awhile and for that, I’m thankful.
I am dating but it’s not easy for me. I am a fish out of water. I would much prefer to fall in love without the whole dating aspect because dating is messy and everyone who knows me knows I don’t do messy. Simply put, I do not know how to date. I like things spelled out and to know where I stand with someone and dating is pretty much the exact opposite. I am not wired to play games or say things I don’t mean or hear things others don’t mean or become physical with someone out of fear my hooha will atrophy otherwise and, with the exception of very few men I’ve met, I’m finding those to be prerequisites for dating in today’s world. My brother, who has been dating for 20+ years, tells me that it will get easier. I’m not so sure. It’s scary out there.
I miss falling in love. And staying there. I miss being part of something bigger than myself. I miss being part of a team. Building a life with someone. Sharing my day with someone and having him share his with me. Having someone’s back and knowing, with utter certainty, that he has mine. I miss the little things that are often taken for granted in a relationship. My kids are growing up and immersed in their own social lives and while I know that I will be just fine on my own and I’m too smart to be with someone just for the sake of being with anyone, I am acutely aware that sometimes there is very little wiggle room between being alone and being lonely.
The last two years has changed me. I hope they’ve changed me for the better. I’m pretty proud that I am not bitter. I refuse to live my life as a sour hag who hates men. I love men. I just don’t understand them. After all of this, I still choose to believe the best in people, even though that has brought me heartbreak more often than not. But it is one thing that hasn’t changed about me and it is with that philosophy that I will continue to raise Helena. Zoe is already an adult so I can only hope that she will carry with her all that I have tried to teach her.
I’m not sure what to do with my blog posts as so many of them include Nate or refer to him in some way. My very first post here was about how I met and married him. If I delete all references to Nate, this blog will be a very empty place indeed. I suppose I could argue with myself that my blog reflected my reality for several years and deleting those posts won’t change that reality. I can’t undo anything that was done. Then again, I hate arguing with myself. I’m ridiculously stubborn and never let myself get a word in edgewise.
Thank you all for your emails and messages these last two years. I read every single one and if I didn’t respond, it wasn’t because I didn’t care. It was because I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and grief that I had to just walk away from my laptop because I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have wanted a thirty page emotional manifesto of a response landing in your inbox. Knowing that people cared and continue to care about what happened to my family was a comfort I desperately needed. One I still need. I’m still not sure where my new life will take me but I hope to be around here more often and take you all along for the ride.
Until then, thank you.