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.