Monday, February 11, 2013

"Help me..."

On Wednesday, December 12th, at about 6:45pm, my wife called me and said in a desperate, breathless whisper, "Help me..."

At first I thought her asshole boyfriend had hurt her and she needed to be brought to the hospital.  But then, as she repeated the same words again, I knew her life wasn't being threatened - she was just very depressed and somewhat drunk.

Slowly, detail by detail, Gabbie told me her latest story: she and her asshole boyfriend Charlie got into a fight; he went on a 48-hour drinking binge and ignored her calls; she eventually tracked him down and found him "doing coke with some druggie slut;"  he refused to leave the slut and come home.

In other words...the same old story.

Actually, I shouldn't say that.  There's been very little drunken drama for the past two years.  I'm just tired of the whole situation.  I want it to go away.

Charlie is a menace and a very real danger.  Gabbie needs to quit him but that's something she must genuinely want to do herself.  I can't do it for her.  So, until she's ready to get rid of him, I don't feel half as sorry for her as I do for myself...   

How did my life end up like this?  
Why is that asshole my problem?  
Why do I even have to hear about him?

With those thoughts flowing through my head, I consoled Gabbie as much as I could.  I assumed that's why she called in the first place.  The problem was, unless she was suddenly ready to take action, I didn't want to listen to two hours of complaints about Charlie.  Eventually I got tired of listening to her and said, "What are you going to do about this mess?"

"I want to come home."


For seven long years I've waged a silent war with Charlie for her heart.  There have been many times - SO MANY TIMES - that I desperately wanted her to say something definitive and positive about me, and us.  For whatever reason, the words "I want to come home" hit that magic spot.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, visions of a happy, normal life with her flashed through my mind.  And in that normal life, all of the hurtful things in my current life were gone.  No Charlie.  No separation.  No gay thing.  No disappointed children.  And most powerfully of all: the possibility that she might want me back.  That thought instantly brought tears to my eyes.

Sadly, my euphoria only lasted for a few seconds.  I've been down this path before.  More than once I've had big hopes that the long nightmare with Charlie was over, and each and every time I've been bitterly disappointed.

"What do you mean?" I asked her.

"I can't live with him anymore.  I'm miserable.  I'm so, so, so, so unhappy.  I want to come home."

We talked about that for a few minutes, but it was hard for me to take her seriously because she was still drunk.  I ended the conversation by telling her to get some rest and we'd talk more about her plans the next day.  After we hung up I wondered if she was serious or if she'd dismiss the whole idea in the morning.

Then I started thinking about what *I* wanted.

I realized that I don't want to spend the next 25 years with her.  I love her tremendously, stupidly even, but I've already spent 25 years supplanting who I am and what I'd like to do with my life, all in an effort to please her.  After two years of being separated and four months of actually living apart, I've come to realize that, in a very sick and twisted way, Charlie has been my savior.

The next day Gabbie was her normal cheery, intelligent and sober self.  Instead of a pathetic sobbing mess begging for help, she was a middle-aged professional woman telling me about her plans to move back in.  Because Charlie is such a disaster, I told her I'd welcome her back.  "And this time," I said, "if he causes ANY trouble at the house, even for a minute, I'm calling the police and filing a restraining order against him.  My patience is gone, and honestly, I'd love for him to test me, because I'll do whatever I can to get his ass hauled off to jail for good."  Gabbie told me she understood.

The plan was to move her things the following day, a Friday.  Charlie was scheduled to work, which was perfect as far as Gabbie was concerned, because she planned to leave without telling him.  I loved that idea.  I had big hopes that the shock of coming home and finding her gone would send him into a violent rage and he'd come looking for her.  Then I'd have my excuse to dial 9-1-1.

Because Gabbie was moving the next day, I needed to tell the kids what was happening.  I didn't want them to be stunned when they came home from school to find the house crammed with their mother's stuff.  Also, I was unsure how they'd react.  Would they be indifferent?  Happy?  Disappointed?  Mad?  Just about any reaction was possible.

At dinner I shared the news with them in as upbeat a manner as I could: "Guess what?!  Mom's moving back in tomorrow!"

My 15yo son responded first, "Does that mean she broke up with Charlie?"

"I'm not sure.  You'll have to ask her yourself.  I know she doesn't want to live with him anymore."


My 13yo daughter then jumped in, "This is temporary, right?  She's not going to stay for long is she?"

"I don't know.  My guess is she'll be here for a few months."

That news made my daughter burst into tears.  "How could you let that wench move back in?!"

"First, she's not a wench.  Don't call her that, she's your mother -  and the only one you'll ever have.  And second, I 'let' her move back because she's not happy living with Charlie."

"After what she's done to you?!!  She can go die in a hole for all I care!  I can't believe you're letting her back here!!"  And with that, my daughter stomped off to her room and slammed the door behind her.

I said to my son, "It doesn't look like your sister is happy to have mom back."



  1. Bose in St. Peter MNFebruary 11, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Looking forward to whatever the next chapter brings...

    This brings back memories of breaking it off with my first bf post-divorce. At the point I said, "I'm done, can't do this any more," it wasn't a huge surprise to him in light of his 24-72 hour drinking binges every 4-8 weeks. But, he also wasn't capable of having the deeper conversation with me on why I was done. I set boundaries, that I was happy to have the conversation, but it had to be scheduled at least a few hours ahead of time, and it would be face-to-face, not by phone.

    He did his darnedest to catch me off-guard, calling me at work and trying to slip into the why-can't-we-be-together topic. It had been a once-in-a-lifetime relationship for me, at that point and since, so it was no easy thing to keep repeating the boundaries. After many months, he dropped it without ever scheduling the face-to-face discussion. We eventually got back to an amicable enough friendship, and I got to send him off with a helluva good eulogy when he died, 5 years post-breakup.

    Living in the midst of the drama, though, the impromptu phone calls that were alternately flirty/fun and needy/intense, was no fun... hoping you've weathered your drama well enough, too.

    1. What an experience, Bose. I'm sure you don't miss the bad days but there must be times when you think of that first bf and you're grateful to have had many good days with him? I try to focus on the positive. That's what I want to remember.

  2. So that was December 12th (at about 6:45PM). And now?

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    1. The next installment is coming soon...

      Thanks for reading. I hope you're feeling better.

  3. I'm very sorry if this offends, but here goes... Fool!

    My 2 cents (for the sense it's worth) -You should have helped her get her own place. I realize financially that may be a challenge, but you just made it too damn easy for her to use you like a door mat. She's just wiping Charlie off her shoe -on you.

    1. I didn't say this, but my original plan was to take her to a counselor who specialized in abusive relationships. I didn't intend to allow her back without some changes. My next post will explain how everything worked out.

  4. Your poor kids !!!! Your never ending personal vascilating just creates havoc for your kids... I'm stunned as I've read your blog over the years, your're an otherwise bright individual.

    1. Hi Nick - Thanks for reading and for your comment. I hope my next post will address your concerns!

  5. You are just as responsible for the personal hell and drama your kids have experienced over the years as your wife, or Charlie. Why would you put them through more. Are you addicted to chaos? I'm sorry for your children. They have no idea what a stable home life is - thanks to you.

    1. Hi Happyman - Thanks for reading and for commenting. At this time, all I can ask is that you read the next post. Maybe your opinion will moderate a bit.

  6. Hey man,
    Coming at this from the other side, as the kid in the messy divorce, I have to say I hope you and your exwife can figure things out to benefit everyone. I didn't have to live at home through all the mess but my sister did and she isn't the same person and doesn't care about family much at all anymore. I really hope you and your kids can make it through this and for their sake, their mother and them. I miss the person my mom used to be but she made her choices and now I live with them but I can promise you that if my dad said she was moving back in, I wouldn't speak to either of them.

    But that is just my life and its very different. I am looking forward to hearing what happened next.


    1. GND - Thanks for reading and for commenting. It's great to have your perspective. Should I assume my kids have some faith in my judgment because they are speaking to me? Or maybe they're too young to know better?

      I appreciate your hopeful wishes. Of course I'm biased, but I believe we're a lot closer to the satisfactory outcome you suggest than the 'personal hell' that Happyman sees.

  7. I'm assuming you did this because you know it will be short term. You and the kids will be in your own place soon. She was desperate and you couldn't leave the mother of your children in the street and in danger.

    I;m surprised at the kids' reaction. Usually kids seek to protect the needier parent. it's obvious who that is.

    Would you had done this after you moved on from the marital home?

    1. RB - You're right that I did not expect my wife's return to be permanent. You're also right that I couldn't leave her in a dangerous situation.

      I think my daughter's reaction is entirely due to her disgust with her mother's behavior. I'm not sure that my neediness plays much of a factor, but maybe it does and I'm not aware of it.

      "Would you have done this after you moved on from the marital home?" Great question. I can't say with certainty, but I know I would have been very reluctant to set a new precedent in a new home.

  8. I kind of know where you're coming from, but from a different angle. When I was a teen and newlywed I really struggled with my mom's alcoholism a lot. It bit me in the butt in ways I just wasn't prepared for, but I was determined not to let that way of dealing with problems be passed on to yet another generation. I vacillated about going, but I'm glad I did. I gained a good support group and tools that allowed me to work on me, as well as how to relate to my mom in a healthy way.


    1. Just re-read my comment and noticed I left out where I went - Alanon. It helped me break the cycle of co-dependence and I'm forever grateful.

    2. Hi Riven - My ex-bf was very familiar with Al-Anon and encouraged me to go, because of Gabbie's behavior. I probably would have gone if he and I had stayed together. I don't expect to be in a co-dependent ex-spouse relationship for much longer, however, if I find myself getting pulled back in, I will definitely consider attending a few Al-Anon meetings.

  9. By taking Gabbie in you are only enabling her addiction. Look up the word, "codependent." It fits what you are doing. Your daughter's reaction in the situation is the only sane one. Putting some pre-conditions on Gabbie's return to the household (like going to AA DAILY, seeing a counselor, no Charlie ever again in your house) would have been healthy. In truth, your rescue of her is only feeding into her behavior and I'll bet that she resumes with Charlie and that the chaos begins all over again. You are only preventing her from hitting "rock bottom" --the point from which she is motivated to recover.

    1. I don't mind the co-dependent label. I understand that some of my choices make life easier for her. But my primary concern isn't her, it's the kids. Our marital split and Gabbie's problems with Charlie are off my kids' radar. What most upsets them is that their mother "takes all our money." That's not true, but I'd much rather have them complain about that then be put in the middle of horrible fights. I believe that a friendly split counts for a lot, especially in the long run, even if that means taking one step back for every two steps forward.

      Also, I'm not responsible for helping her hit rock bottom. I really don't want to risk all the drama that could bring into the house. Gabbie will eventually have to figure out her own problems. I'm not going to be her safety net forever and she knows that.

  10. Cameron, I came over here from another blog on bisexual married men (it's an interest of mine, since I've dated them, as a single straight woman). I have been sucked in by the chaotic whirlpool that is your life. As the product of an alcoholic philandering dad and neurotic enabling mother, the drama you describe resonates with me. Years later, I recreated similar dramas in my own life. Eventually, I said "enough" and walked away. I'd let the drama feed on itself and had become addicted to it. The pull I felt to the relationship I was in, and to the man I was with, was hypnotic, spellbinding. I truly believe it was karmic, it was that strong. I didn't break free easily, it took all sorts of serendipitous, synchronous events to dissolve the spell. I sense that same sort of weird magnetism in your relationship with Gabbie, even with the repulsive Charlie. Whether you believe in this stuff or not, it's clear that your judgment has been seriously clouded by your over 20 years of dysfunctional relating, not to mention all that terrible repression of your true sexuality.
    What do I really know of your life, I am just a reader of your blog. But I do feel that your kids have already seen so much that the "staying together for the kids" argument is a crutch that you and your wife have used. This is not to inflict guilt on you for what they have experienced...they will have their own mountains to climb as a result of their childhoods, and it's impossible to say if they will come out stronger or not.
    I wish you strength. You have to want to walk away and change things, but my sense is that you don't really want to, and you won't, so long as you remain ensnared by the drama. What you are perceiving as strength and perseverance right now, really isn't. Peace to you.

    1. Hi Gigi - Thanks for reading and for commenting. Unfortunately, my story resonates with quite a few people. Alcoholism and co-dependence are very common problems. Just like you, when people read about my situation, they are reminded of their own and they have very strong emotional reactions. Although I can't claim that my kids are unaffected by our split, I do believe the fact that Gabbie and I remain on very good terms has done a lot to limit their trauma. They do complain about their lives but it's all pretty normal stuff. As far as whether I am ensnared by the drama, my next post will address that question. Peace to you also!

  11. Wait a sec...your wife is gone with some guy for ages, then suddenly reappears, and you think your kids are going to be dandy with this?

    I think you're minimizing the hell out of what you're putting your children through, and in serious denial about the effects on them. Please get them both into therapy with good and compatible people. And then listen to whatever the therapist tries to tell you.

    This is not about you, this is not about you, this is not about you. Your primary responsibility, as a father, is to your children. You chose to have them, you need to do the job right throughout their childhood, you've already fucked up massively, please don't compound the problems through massive selfishness. Do a U-ey. However you conduct your romantic life from here on in, make sure your children come FIRST while they're growing up. Yes, that means you will probably have to put off some of your self-actualization. You chose to have children, and their childhood is not negotiable. There's no sponginess in there, nothing you can negotiate with. They need what they need; you are their father; you are there to provide.

    At this point Rose sounds like the only adult in the household.

  12. You did right to let her back, whatever she did before and after. At least, when she needed help you were there. It does not matter if she did hurt you, at least for me its normal to help anyone you love(ed) and mean(t) anything for you. You may not like someone who messed with you, but in a desperate situation does not matter. What follows after, that's where attention must be paid... But I hope you can make your kids understand that when someone closed to you needs your help, you don't let yourself blinded by hatred. And also teach them how to be careful to avoid being exploited when being good-harted :)