Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Divorce, at 2AM

At 2AM this morning, Gabbie, my wife of 20 years, woke me up and asked me for a divorce.

She began by saying, "I can't live this lie any longer."

***

Yesterday, the kids started school and Gabbie had the day off from work. She spent much of the day at the bar and had a late dinner with some fellow alcoholics. She came home just before 11pm; she was drunk but functional.

Before passing out for the night, she got into yet another fight on the telephone with her mother.

Her mother has many fine qualities but those are often over-shadowed by her insanely bossy and controlling behavior. When her hourly phone calls to Gabbie go unanswered she starts to panic and convinces herself that something horrible has happened. This is a regular event and each time Gabbie gets ripped a new asshole if she is busy doing something her mother doesn't like - such as spending the day at the bar.

At every opportunity, her mother lectures Gabbie about how she's ruining her life and not taking proper care of the kids.

Her mother is right. However, no one over the age of 12 would want to be hounded by a parent the way Gabbie's mother hounds her.

Last night's fight was typical. "Leave me alone mother, I'm 43 years old."

"You're ruining your life and your kids need you." Blah, blah, blah. I barely listened. It's always a rehashed, pointless conversation.

After the inevitable hang-up and the "can you believe my mother?" occurred, I watched Gabbie quickly fall asleep. I soon followed, only to be startled awake by Gabbie sitting next to me, on my edge of the bed, at 2 am.

"I can't live this lie any longer."

I was so dazed by being awakened from a deep sleep that I could barely focus. I guessed that she meant the lie of our marriage, but I wasn't sure. I briefly wondered if she had somehow learned that I have been fantasizing more and more about dating men.

"I can't live this lie any longer," she repeated.

"What are you talking about?"

"Being married. I don't want to be married any more."

She explained how she felt like she was squished into a box and everyone, except me, was critical of her and all she wanted to do was run away. She went on and on about how she is a big loser, a drunk who is love with an even bigger loser, and she just can't help herself. She said she takes complete responsibility for everything she's done wrong but no matter how bad other people think her behavior is, she doesn't want to change.

Everything she said I already knew. Either she had said it before or I just knew . What took me by surprise was when she asked, point blank, for a divorce. "We both know things haven't been right for years...you've got to get your head out of the sand."

To say that I've had very conflicted feelings about the idea of divorcing is a huge understatement.

When Gabbie surprised me by asking for a divorce so directly, I was dumbstruck - utterly unable to speak. It was one of those rare moments in life when someone asks you a very deep, very personal question that you cannot easily answer. Your head swims and different ideas fly through your mind in milliseconds. I literally did not how I wanted to answer. It would be either, "You're right, I think it would be best if we split." Or, "I don't want to give up on you or our marriage."

In that long pause where she was waiting for me to respond, my very first inclination was to let go, to agree to a divorce. I kept thinking about Uncutplus and Bose. Both of them have consistently urged me to take a hard line with Gabbie, to walk away as soon as possible. Maybe they're right, I thought, maybe I should take this opportunity to get out while I can.

After thinking for a few seconds more, I opened my mouth, still not knowing what I was going to say.

Finally, I replied, "Running away is not the solution."

I explained to Gabbie that I thought her behavior has been intentionally self-destructive and that she is deeply depressed and wracked with guilt. "You want to run away from everyone and everything and live in the bar and be the total loser that you think you've become."

As I saw her face change and recognize that what I said was true, I found new resolve. "I can't let you do that. I can't let you give up on yourself."

Faced with the demons of her own self-loathing, she cried hard for a good twenty minutes while I held her.

I couldn't stop my own tears as they slowly slid down my face. For all that she has done, for the loser that she has indeed become, and despite the fact that I am gay, I love her from the very deepest part of my soul.

***

This morning it was the usual routine. Get the kids off to school, get to work.

Gabbie called at 11 to tell me that she stopped in to see her new private office at work. To get such a nice office at this time is crucial because it's the one tangible aspect of her life that proves Gabbie is not a total loser.

On the phone she was bright and cheery, like the old Gabbie of years past.

***

I have hope that Gabbie's self-hatred has peaked and now she can work her way out of this morass of self-loathing and deep depression.

Yet, it's impossible to know what tomorrow or the next week or the next month will bring. Will she relapse? Was this a moment of sun that will quickly fade?

I'm not sure exactly why, but I suddenly feel like our marriage has been irreparably damaged. I guess it is because I don't know how a couple could under go this much strain and not be forever changed by it. Today I feel a step closer to believing that divorce is inevitable.

Even as I wonder if divorce is certain, I am more convinced than ever that I cannot simply walk away.

Gabbie has become a sad, deeply damaged person. I don't know how that happened on my watch or what I could have done differently, but I absolutely know that I cannot permit her to drink herself to death in a studio apartment, tortured by thoughts of her coke-snorting asshole boyfriend, her unrelenting bitch of a mother, her cold and unforgiving sister, and her three, snotty, critical, selfish children.

I know that I cannot save Gabbie from her demons and I'm not sure if Gabbie can save herself either. But I do know that I cannot simply walk away and allow her to be consumed by them.

Our marriage may be broken and even beaten but I cannot abandon her now, during this period of her greatest need.

5 comments:

  1. Hey Cameron -

    Sorry to hear about this. I know you haven't had the best week - and this can't be helping your mental state any.

    You repeated that you can't walk away from Gabbie - that you can't walk away from the marriage.

    You're not walking away. Gabbie is.

    I know you don't want to feel like your turning your back on her - and your not. You've been there to pick up the pieces time and again. And you'll continue to be there for her when she needs emotional support - maybe as a husband. Maybe as a friend.

    -nl

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  2. This must have been so hard to hear, yet such confirmation that you are the one holding the family and the marriage together, and yet she is the one feeling trapped. There are women who walk away from their children and families and do not conform to this idea that women cannot do this, it is not in their nature. You have a reversed role marriage, and the way she treats you is like a self destructive and self centered alcoholic man emotionally abuses his wife, but she keeps coming back to him. Do you still believe the kids would be so damaged if you two split up - maybe a trial separation. The more you enable her bad behavior the more it will reoccur. You handled the situation with grace and that was the right thing to do. Now you need to sit her down and tell her she has to shape up or you will take her up on her drunken selfpitying request for a divorce.

    Sadly, I have a straight brother married to a woman like Gabbie and we know she will walk out on him the moment the youngest daughter gets into high school...he is the nurturer.

    I feel so bad for you yet this was a moment of clarity about what she thinks and feels inside and you saw the future flash into your bedroom that night. You need to take more control of how this plays out.

    I really think you need to talk to someone about this - maybe some short term counselling...even to get some advice on repairing what you can in the marriage but preparing for its possible implosion later on, and charting you own course to meet your own needs. You are a good and responsible man and you and the children deserve a better life.

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  3. Cameron,

    Walking away from Gabbie and ending the marriage are not the same thing. She recognizes that you and her are having problems the marriage is not working. But you still love her. Despite her problems, your kids need their mother (even if they don't realize it now) and it is clear she still needs you.

    My situation is different, but similar. I am gay, and in love with a man, but I will never abandon her. She will become a divorced mom but not a single mom. She will be free to look for her hapiness in the arms of a straight man, but she will always have me as a safety net.

    You situation is difficult and right now it may not seem that way but this may be a good thing. You and her are on the same page.

    Another thing to consider. Once you stop hiding who you are and she stops pretending everything is normmal, maybe some of the deamons that haunt her will go away.

    I wish you all the best.

    -jim

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  4. Sorry to hear about all the events going on in your life. I hope that in all the circumstances you find yourself in with Gabbie that you also make sure to take care of yourself and to think about what's right for you. I probably sound like an asshole when Gabbie is being self-destructive, but I've been in somewhat of a relationship like that and I gave and gave and gave, and in the process, sacrificed a lot of myself.

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  5. Cameron,

    I've only recently started reading your blog, but having gone through the painful process of deciding to leave my wife, I know how unclear everything can be. Every option other than maintaining the status quo is frightening. You also feel guilty for considering the options that might make YOU happier. But even so, it may help to think about both Gabbie and your children from a slightly different perspective.

    Yes, maybe her mother and sisters are utter bitches to her, and maybe your children are insufferable, but despite the fact that you may be the one person in Gabbie's life who doesn't openly criticize her, what are you to her? Your marriage is a lie, and now she's verbalized that. The alternatives to the status quo are as scary to her as they are to you, yet she finally brought herself to say it to you. It's no coincidence she did it at 2 a.m. She did it the moment she felt she had the courage long enough to say the words. She would have felt such a huge relief if you had agreed with her. Together in that moment you would have turned a corner that she's realized you'll never make on your own. If the two of you get a divorce, she's going to have to be the one to find the strength and courage to make it happen.

    She is no doubt just as plagued by the old cliches as you are. Staying together for the sake of the children. Children need their mother. Yada yada yada. Cliches are cliches because they sound simple and right and yet they are almost always neither. Your answers lie in giving serious thought to everyone's genuine best interests. You are standing in the way of Gabbie finding a healthy relationship and getting on with HER life at what is still a young age. No doubt one of the "demons" she's struggling with is you, Cameron, and your marriage.

    You acknowledge you can't save her. Yet staying with her is an attempt to do precisely that -- you can't "abandon" her. Perhaps you need to let her be free. Perhaps she's a depressed, alcoholic because she is trapped in the cage of your marriage.

    Be merciful to her. Don't make her do this all by herself. It may well take her years to leave you, if you refuse to let her go easily. If you can't do it for yourself, do it for her and your children. Is this a healthy, functional home for them? Their mother is dysfunctional in this setting and that is clearly not healthy for them.

    This is not about rationalizing the thing you really want to do. It's no coincidence that what you want is the same thing she wants -- to get out of a dysfunctional, depressing marriage. But doing that is scary. For both of you.

    When I was contemplating divorcing my wife, nobody would talk to me quite this directly. It's as if advising someone to get a divorce is the moral equivalent of advising them to blow their brains out. Nobody would say point blank, "You should get a divorce." After I found the courage to do it (it took years), I wish someone had. I hope this helps you to take a fresh look at things at this pivotal moment in your life. You and Gabbie owe it to yourselves, and to your children, to find healthy, functional relationships. And as you contemplate Gabbie's needs, you should consider that perhaps what she needs most in her greatest hour of need is for you to let her go. Are you holding on for her, really? Or for yourself?

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