Yesterday my wife came home rather late. I had a late start at work, thanks to a couple of client reschedules, so I took care of some odds and ends around the house. Then, when 11:00 a.m. rolled around and my wife hadn’t yet shown her face, I started scheming. I figured that I really didn’t want to have another week at home alone, so I’d pack the dog into the car and go out for a couple of hours, and then head into work with the dog. (They’re okay with that, actually.)
Well wouldn’t you know, as I’m backing out of the driveway, who should come ambling down the street? My wife. I could see her in my rear view mirror. I was halfway tempted to go talk to her, but it was in the opposite direction from which I was headed, so I just left.
I got a few blocks and my cell phone rang. This is one of the few occasions in the past several months that my wife has actually called me. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times she has called. She wanted to know if I had the dog with me, and I told her I did. She wanted to know when I was coming home, because she wanted to take the dog for the weekend, and oh, would that be okay with me? I paused for a moment, and then said, sure, albeit rather reluctantly. I told her I was headed out to the pet store for some dog food and treats, and that I’d be back in maybe a half an hour, maybe more.
I bought the stuff at the store, and decided to stall. I drove about 3 miles south to our favorite chocolate shop. I went in and bought 2 small boxes of artisanal chocolates, each with 2 pieces in them. Then I got a couple of small gift cards to go with them, and asked to have a ribbon put on the boxes. I figured I’d put one box in each of her jackets she’d be likely to wear. I wrote an identical message on each card, “Thanks for the Valentine’s gift,” and then headed home.
I hadn’t made it more than a few blocks before the phone rang again. It was her. I let it go to voice mail, as I was driving. She wanted to know where I was, and how soon I’d get back. She said she needed to head out to her friend’s house, i.e. the friend she has been staying with, not some random adulterer’s place or anything like that. I did not call back because I was driving. She called back yet again as I was a couple of blocks from home, and this time I put it on speakerphone. She sounded a bit irritated, and there was a lot of ambient noise, as if she was outside. I was taking an alternative route back, and this would have had me drive right past the adulterer’s appointed pick-up and drop-off point. She said she’d just come and pick up the dog; I’m thinking to myself, “Pick up the dog… what’s up with that?” She asked me where I was, and for some reason I made a U-turn, headed in the opposite direction, and told her the name of the street. Basically I was just going to enter our street from the west end rather than the east.
This was a good move. As I entered the street and pulled into the driveway, I saw her walking down the street from the opposite end, right from where the adulterer would be picking her up. His truck was not visible — he’s too much of a coward to allow himself to be seen — but I know he was there, otherwise she wouldn’t have been hanging around there and getting so antsy. I got in the house first, and immediately put one of the boxes of chocolates, along with the card, in a small plastic bag to disguise them, and then put this into the bag with the cans of dog food and bag of treats.
She entered the house as I was emptying some of the treats into a jar we keep for them. She seemed a bit irritated. I told her that I had no idea when she’d be coming home, and the dog needed to get out. This was true, and I can’t exactly plan my day around her unpredictable movements. She got the dog carrier out, and I told her to take one of the cans of food, plus the leftover treats. She assented, and I put them into the carrier, which the dog would not be using until that evening, as she sleeps in it. In that bag was the little plastic bag with the chocolates. Not very graceful, to be sure, but heck, it was the best I could do on short notice. Then she left, and I told her, “say hi to [name of female friend she has been staying with] for me.” No answer.
That evening, I got a text from her, apologizing for her having been so “emotional” that afternoon. She said it wasn’t my fault, and then wished me a good weekend. I texted back, even though this violates my policy of calling instead of texting, and said that it was okay, and to give the dog a kiss for me, since I missed her (the dog), and also to give her a couple of treats from the bag. That was it. I’m sure she has discovered the chocolates by now. I don’t know if she discovered them and then texted me; I suspect not, but I find it highly unlikely that she hasn’t found them yet.
Why do I do this? Because I want my presence to be felt. I want her to know that, no matter how much distance she tries to put between herself and me that, from an emotional standpoint, there is no distance at all. I want her to know that I’m thinking of her and being thoughtful. I just wanted her to have a reminder of me. Might this seem manipulative? Sure, if that was the only time I’d done it, or if I’d done it maybe for 2 or 3 days. But I’ve been giving like this for 3 months, so it can’t really appear as anything other than a bona fide behavioral change. I know this stuff gets to her, too.
The side benefit is that she discovers this in the presence of the adulterer. Remember, I do not officially know that that is where she is, even though I’ve long figured out her plan. She leaves evidentiary trails, too. This time, I saw a bank transaction at a gardening store in the town where the adulterer lives. How obvious is that? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: adulterers are sloppy and careless. So, if I don’t officially know that she’s with him, what’s the harm in me giving a little gift that speaks of my presence? Nothing, right?
Well, put yourself in her shoes. Here’s this guy, her husband, who she just wants to get away from because he’s been, according to her at least, the source of all of the problems in her life. He just has made her life miserable for the past 2 years, and despite all her nagging, he just wouldn’t change. Then along comes this other guy, and he’s “spiritual” and “perfect”, despite the fact that he’s been divorced twice and is a serial adulterer to boot. But he appears to lack the 2 or 3 irritating traits that her husband has, although he also lacks the dozens of other positive attributes. (Hey, she told me about these traits, listing the positives and negatives! The positives outweighed the negatives at least 10 to 1.) Every time she gets away to be with this “perfect” guy, there is something to remind her of me. There is the dog. There are the boots I bought her for her birthday. There is the debit card with her married name on it. There is the cell phone I got her that is still linked to our account. There are the occasional phone calls from me to that cell phone that she lets go straight to voice mail.
And then, every now and then, there’s something else: a surprise of some kind. A little box of chocolates that appears in her pocket. A very personal card that drops out of a magazine she’s wanting to share with her lover. A picture of her and her dog that somehow got stowed in some other place. And she finds these things. Maybe she’s alone. Maybe she’s with him. Maybe he’s alone and finds them, that’s possible, too. But every time one of these things happens, every time the phone rings or a gift materializes, there I am.
It must drive her nuts.
I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t. It makes her feel guilty, because she knows she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing. She knows she is betraying me at that very moment. She knows that her parents don’t approve of what she’s doing, and I am the link back to the real world at that moment that reminds her of this. She knows that she has obligations, like a dissertation that needs to be written, and I bring that back to her mind. Every time my presence is felt, the guilt increases and the pressure builds.
Now, let’s assume that the adulterer doesn’t find out about any of these little things. It’s unlikely that she wouldn’t have shared some of these virtual interactions with him, but let’s assume she hasn’t. What does that mean? It means she has to hide it from him. She has to hide the chocolates, the cards, the phone calls, the pictures, etc. She has to commit lies of omission. That engenders further guilt.
Now, let’s assume a bit more realistically that he does find out about some or all of these little things. Then what happens? He gets annoyed. He gets insecure. He quite possibly even gets jealous. He wants her to make me go away. She may even claim that she’s trying to make that happen. But I’m not going away. I do know that this guy has spent quite a lot of energy in trying to make himself seem “sensitive” to me, my predicament, and by extension to my wife’s “entanglement” with me, i.e. our marriage. He’s a “spiritual” guy, after all, and that means that he has to “watch his ego” and “practice compassion” or some other rubbish he doesn’t actually do. So he’ll appear to be understanding, but underneath it all, he’s just pissed off and impatient. He just wants me to a) be a jerk and b) go away. Hey, wait — that’s what an obstinate spouse wants, too! I guess they do have at least that in common.
So what happens if I’m not being a jerk and not going away? What happens if I’m manifesting loving kindness and doing so in a way that speaks of my knowledge of her — a knowledge he will never have, a knowledge whose lack likely makes him feel impotent? What happens if I appear to be standing my ground for my marriage? What happens if I am taking the moral high road, and have nothing to hide, and this stance reminds both of them that they are taking the immoral low road that requires them to hide everything?
I’ll tell you what happens. Tension builds. Words of sensitivity become subtle suggestions for change. Suggestions become requests. Requests become pleas. Pleas become acts of nagging. Nagging becomes accusation. Accusations become arguments. Arguments become fights. Fights become, well, game-enders. It’s not a neat, linear process at all. It’s more of a recursive thing that goes forward, loops back on itself, tries another path, meets resistance again as it goes forward, and then loops back yet again. There are a lot of twists and turns, there is push back that is aimed at me in a variety of ways, and there is also guilt that sometimes manifests, quite manipulatively, as acts of gratitude and peaceful engagement that are shown to me. But the trend, while not linear, is aimed at the inevitable endpoint, which is the game-ending event. I have no idea what that will be, where it will come from, how long it will take to get there, or how many twists and turns I’m going to have to endure before that happens. The process could be short and sweet from here on out, or it could be drawn out and quite painful at times. But one thing is certain: that game-ender is out there, it will happen, and that relationship will go poof, back into the ether of fairy dust from which it was created.