Perhaps you remember those old Rumpole of the Bailey episodes that used to air on PBS. Horace Rumpole, a barrister who defended all clients, had a wife named Hilda, whom he referred to as “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” I’m revising this monicker in the title above, to reflect the day’s events with my wife.
It all started off innocuously enough. She texted me around 8:30 to make doggie drop-off arrangements. I called her back. She told me she’d just come by to pick up the dog, so I wouldn’t need to worry about anything. She was going to go downtown, ostensibly to do some shopping. I offered her a ride; she declined. I suggested we meet for coffee instead, and she accepted. She suggested I meet her downtown a few hours later, after she’d taken care of her business, as I’d be passing through on my way to work.
Then she called back a bit later to change that plan. She suggested that maybe I could give her a ride downtown, we’d have coffee, and then she’d go about her business. I went over to the house she was staying at (the same as last week) and picked her up.
She looked very tired, as usual. She seemed preoccupied, and did not strike me as terribly happy, either. I put my arm around her and gave her a kiss. She did not reject that gesture. We got in the car, and she suggested we go someplace toward the south end of downtown. I was a bit suspicious, as the courts are down in that area, and she was claiming to want to do some shopping down there. The shops down there are antique shops and other specialty boutiques, and I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be buying anything there.
On the way downtown, my wife told me more of the story of the woman in whose house she was staying. Apparently this wife’s husband became verbally abusive in the past couple of years prior to his moving out. She said that, on one day, this woman had gotten angry at her son and dropped some food on the floor. Her husband came home soon after, saw the food, and laid into her verbally. An argument ensued and things got broken. Then he threatened to stab her the next time anything like that were to happen. She left the house, got in her car, and started to call a friend. Looking out from the car, she could see her daughter’s face in the window.
This story should have been very instructive for my wife. I don’t think she got its message at all.
We got downtown and went to a very nice coffee shop. She paid. We had a pleasant time, although she was somewhat distant. I engaged her in conversation as best I could. I asked her about her dissertation. She wasn’t working on it. I offered my help. I asked her about her life and what she’s been up to. “Nothing, really,” was the response. I asked her about her plans for the month of May, and she said she has none. After a while, we got up to leave.
It was raining lightly outside, and I held my rather largish umbrella over her as we walked to the car. I thought I’d just make conversation, but I guess I chose the wrong conversational gambit. I told her the dog misses her. She said she misses the dog too. Then she asked me if I could get my own dog, because she didn’t feel it was good for our dog to have to go back and forth between two different locations. She felt it would be better if she were “settled.” (I would agree that this is hard on the dog, and it is further clear to me that the dog far prefers it here, based on how relieved she seems to be whenever she comes home.) I said that I wasn’t sure about the idea; she was our dog, after all.
That set the tone for what was to come, I guess. We got in the car, and set of for yet another location she suddenly came up with, and there was really no shopping to be had there. She started in on her previous idea again. She said she would help me find a new dog. She really felt she was being generous and kind. Part of me felt that I’d like to encourage this idea, so as to foster another connection between us. The practical side of me recognizes this idea of another dog as, well, impractical. The pragmatic side of me is conflicted: I feel a bit as though I’d be okaying her agenda if I went along with this idea.
Then she said, “I want to assure you that I’m not coming back.”
Okay, here we go again, folks. So I simply said, “I understand how you feel, but I am committed to this marriage and I’m going to stick up for it.”
She did not like that message. Things didn’t get ugly, but she did get defensive. I told her that I still believed in us and our marriage. She said it was okay for me to believe things, but she simply felt that there was no marriage between us anymore, and that there had been no husband/wife connection for a long time. She said she wasn’t dismissing our seven years of marriage, which she considers that to be her great “treasure”; she also said that she wasn’t throwing away our deep friendship. This is adulterer-think. I’ll get to this below. I still told her that I understood, but that I am a person of integrity who honors his promises, and that I simply could not break that marital promise I made just because things got difficult, or just because I might not be happy.
She didn’t like that message either. She told me that she was going to go the legal route and file. I asked her when, and she said soon. This suggested to me that my initial suspicions might not have been accurate — she wasn’t headed for the courts today — and that she’s not totally ready yet. She began to insist that she doesn’t need my approval: she can just file and it would be over. This is totally naive thinking. It doesn’t work that way in this state at all. But she thinks it does. I did not argue this point. Instead, I simply said that I couldn’t go there, but I did believe that there would come a day when she would realize that everything she needs is right here in our marriage. She said that I just had to accept that it was “over” and that she needed to “move on.” We got stopped at a red light, and she asked me if she could just get out of the car. We were pretty much where she wanted to go, so I dropped some gummi cola bottles (one of her favorites) in her bag, and she got out in a huff.
In reality, it wasn’t much of a tiff, and she’ll recover from it. She’s annoyed with me right now because I will not give her what she wants. I believe she is starting to realize that I will never give her what she wants if that entails destroying our marriage. But in adulterer-think, all of her problems will simply vanish if I exit the picture. But they won’t. They’ll all still be there, and instead of a loving, trustworthy husband, she’ll have a shifty, deceitful adulterer by her side whom she will never be able to trust. Not that she understands any of that… yet. Right now, she’s still enveloped by the affair, its fog, and the fairy tale story she has told herself about it for the past six months. Everything she says, does, and thinks is clouded by that fog. She cannot make ethical decisions, and even her rational thought processes are highly dysfunctional.
On the way home, I dropped by a shop to get a little chocolate bon-bon, and then picked up some really nice wrapping paper and a card. I got home and put the bon-bon in the new coffee cup I had made for her — the one with her blog design on it — and rewrapped it in some bubble wrap. She had asked me to take one of her heavier bags home with me, so she could pick it up later, along with the dog. Since I had obliged, I just put the coffee cup in there — it’s just an open-top, canvas shopping bag, so it’s not like I needed to open it up and rifle around or anything. But I did notice that the card I gave her two weeks ago was still there.
This is significant. It had been opened and read. I had just written a totally frivolous message in it; there was no special occasion for giving it, either. The fact that it’s still in this bag tells me with almost complete certainty that she’s hiding it from the adulterer. If she’s hiding this, then what else is she hiding from him?
Well, for starters, she might just hide the cup I gave her. She’ll discover that once she unloads the bag at his place. She’ll also discover a framed picture I gave a few months ago of her dog when she was a puppy. She left this picture, along with several others, in the house when she moved out. This is sort of like her returning that gift, so I re-returned it to her, only this time wrapped in the very nice wrapping paper I’d just picked up. I also put the card in there as well. These all went into a little bag with some dog food and treats, which I taped shut, and placed in her larger bag. I tied them both together with a little gold ribbon. Yes, details, details.
Let me tell you, folks, this stuff works. I give, and give, and give because it is effective in helping to reconcile a troubled marriage. I don’t do it for the sake of reconciling, though, I just do it because it’s the right thing to do. What I mean by that is that I don’t expect her to run to me and say, “Oh, thank you for those gifts. Can we reconcile now?” Not at all. I would just hope that, if at some point in my life I were as conflicted as she is now, that someone would treat me the same way.
In fact, she did treat me in a somewhat similar way at one point a few years ago, but I’ve gon on much to long here, and that will have to be the topic for another post. For now, I just wait it out, wondering if some other shoe is going to drop. I sure hope that if another shoe does drop, it will be the one that ends the affair, and that this will happen very soon.