Trying to Put My Life Back Together
I have dealt with anxiety my entire life. I know it stems from how I was raised and the impossible expectations I have put on myself. I grew up in a household where my father portrays that he does no wrong. He cheated on my mother when I was 13, yet my parents stayed together for myself and my two brothers -- I am the middle child. Marriage was something you worked on and committed to long-term. My first marriage ended in divorce after 8 months. I was unhappy but instead of working on it, I ran into my best friend I hadn't seen in 5 years and left my wife for her. I received no support -- only judgement from my family. It wasn't until a few years into the marriage that at least my parents came around, but my brothers never really got along with her. She had been my best friend for 10 years, and we then married for another 10.
Until we weren't. The last 18 months of our marriage, I became a shell of myself, alienating myself from my friends and family under her emotional control. She wanted to do everything together, and I thought that was how it was supposed to be. I tried to work on it this time. I asked for us to go to counseling. She said she was just having a hard time and she needed to work on her. Turns out she wanted to flirt with a close friend of mine and talk about leaving me. I was no better... at the end, I cheated once again. I told myself that if I was wiling to cheat, I needed to leave. So I did. The girl I cheated on her with -- let's call her Stacy -- and I decided to continue to be friends and hookup. It was easy because I ended up rooming with her and her best friend because I needed a place to stay. It was never intended to amount to anything. I wasn't looking for another relationship.
Within 6 months, Stacy and I were talking about marriage and became engaged. We were buying a house together, and talking about getting married about a year later and starting a family. However, three weeks later we found out we were already pregnant. We got married right away. Life was tough, but we were happy for the most part. But we didn't get a chance to finish going on dates, travelling together, getting to know each other. We had to do it on the fly. So, right before our daughter's first birthday, we moved 4 hours away for my job, away from all our friends and family. Depression set in for the both of us. A few months later, Stacy comes to me asking to have permission to flirt -- as a pick-me-up. We were both naturally flirty people, and I had been controlled by my previous wife to not even show signs of flirting. So, I agreed. I thought that meant like a salesperson would -- the coy smile, laugh when it wasn't funny, the somewhat crude joke here or there. Sure, in hindsight maybe that wasn't a good idea, but I was trying to help her.
Not even two months later I accidentally came across a message on a gaming chat program. Turns out, her definition of flirting was sexting and with multiple people. I was crushed. We fought about it for a week or so until she apologized and promised she wouldn't again. Until she did. Not even a week later. There was one guy in particular she found a connection with that she couldn't seem to shake. I asked her to stop contacting him altogether so we could make this work. She said she would, but she would always want to flirt -- that is who she was and she wasn't changing for anyone. I asked her not to -- not to hurt me. A month later, I find out she is still contacting him. We have the ugliest fight I have ever had. I turned into a screaming, name-calling monster. I scared her. I threatened to take our daughter from her. That was really the beginning of the end. But that was 8 months ago.
We worked hard to communicate our needs and what issues we had. For the first time in our lives, the world wasn't moving at 100 MPH. We now had to actually co-exist with each other. We both enjoy gaming, hockey, music, watching eSports. We take pleasure in the mundane stuff like grocery shopping or cooking together. But I never did trust her again. She didn't trust me either. Everytime she was chatting with someone on her phone or the computer, I assumed she was trying to sext again. Everytime she was up until 1am on the phone, I feared the worst.
I went on a business trip about 4 weeks ago for 2 days. Stacy and I had started working together about 10 months ago when she lost her job, so we rarely had anytime apart, if at all. I know that is a catalyst for disaster, but I didn't see it that way. I find joy in socializing, not solitude. In fact, I hate doing things alone. So, when I was gone for 2 days, it was a huge relief for Stacy as she grew up an only child and very independent. After I came home, I asked her if she was okay because she seemed off and she hit me with a left hook. She said she hadn't been happy for months and wanted to divorce. Turns out the smothering had gotten to her, and the times she did want to do things together, I happened to feel meh at the time and declined. I took a long hard look at what I needed to do and we discussed me finally seeking help for my anxiety. I called and made appointments. I wanted to get help and understand that my anxiety and inability to trust was destroying my marriage. My first talk therapy appt was two weeks ago today. That weekend things went well between us... until they didn't.
I accused her of preferring to spend time texting this guy at work than with me. She said she despised being around me. We talked through things again and she wanted time and space to figure out what she wanted. I panicked and saw her distancing herself to leave. I couldn't even give her 4 hours without blowing up her phone. She was ready to just call it quits then. I reached out to my younger brother about flying out to see him for a week. I already had the days off because we were going to use them to celebrate her birthday, but this called for dire measures. The plan was to go out there and give her the space she wanted. I had my first appt with my other therapist about 4 hours before my flight out. She was there to prescribe medication. I was feeling good and was ready to take the steps necessary to get better... to help our marriage. I wasn't supposed to contact her, I was supposed to focus on me, allowing her to focus on her.
But I missed her. I saw my marriage falling apart. I missed our daughter. So, on day three, I messaged her. It seemed to be okay. Day four it was a few more. It was working though. It wasn't overwhelming. I came back home on this past Sunday to two dozen roses and a handmade sign welcoming me home. She had cleaned the house, made me my favorite brownies. She was trying. She wanted to continue to carpool together to work, even eat lunch together, but she wanted me to leave her alone during the day -- wanted her space. I talked to her at lunch on Monday about taking Tuesday off, since Monday was her birthday and we didn't really get to celebrate. She said okay. She had told me before that she wanted to spend her birthday with friends and even take Charlotte to the zoo. That is what those days off were for. We went out for drinks with one of her friends before I left, and the zoo was queued up for this weekend. I didn't think it through. She saw me asking her for a day to ourselves as not listening to what she wanted and needed.
We have spent the last three days fighting, until it came to a head last night. She said she was finally done.She was tired of fighting, tired of arguing, tired of my anxiety, my lack of trust... she was done. We dusted off the parenting plan we put together back in January when we first talked about divorce. We walked through what we were going to do in the interim. I finally asked her if she still wanted to flirt. I knew she wasn't because she told me she wasn't going to hurt me, but I never asked if she was resenting me for not being able to. She said she wanted to flirt, yes, but not sext. A question and answer I should have asked for long ago. It gave me relief... but it was too late. We discussed how our co-parenting would go. We agreed that we were still good friends, enjoyed a lot of the same things, still very much attracted to each other. She just felt like we weren't meant to be together. She is a very logical and non-emotional person. She finds my emotional personality very smothering. She felt like we could still be very good friends raising our daughter. I said that maybe we just needed time to reset and figure stuff out. She said that is all she wanted all along. So, instead of agreeing to divorce, we are doing a trial separation of two weeks, starting today. No contact with each other unless it is to discuss caring for our daughter. It is eating me alive right now.
Everyone I have talked to says I need time to figure out who I am -- that I have never been alone so I have always defined myself by who I am with. No, I have never been alone, but I know who I am. I am a loving and caring person, who is smart, funny, kind, enjoys spending time with friends and family. I like hockey, and gaming, and music, and movies... I play poker. I am not defined by my relationship, my family, my job. Those make up parts of me. But because I haven't done it the way everyone else does it, it can't be right. So, I am here. This is my call for help. I need support -- unconditional and non-judgmental support. I have been on Lexapro for a whole 9 days. I know it hasn't had time to kick in yet. My 2nd talk therapy session is today. I know I haven't had time for that to help. But I need help now. If I have any chance of saving my marriage, my first goal is to make it two weeks without reaching out to my wife... who is my only support line right now. So, at this point, people to talk to would even help. I am just trying to put my life back together.