Exposed: The 2,000 Pages That Changed My Life

via Daily Prompt: Exposed

He left the Yahoo account visible in his browser history even though we often shared his laptop.

I called him up at work, demanded the password, and was shocked when he gave it to me. He must have been more distracted than usual to make a mistake like that. He told me that the account was very very old and that he had closed it years ago.

And indeed it was closed. He must have thought this would protect him. But he didn’t know that Yahoo allows you to reopen old Yahoo accounts.

Yahoo also tells you it can take 24 hours, but this time it took 30 seconds before 2,000 pages of text conversations popped up on the screen. My brain couldn’t really keep up, so it started shutting down. I reminded my son to put on his baseball uniform. I kissed my daughter’s little perfect face and allowed her to watch the Disney Channel “for a while.” I paced. I read. I paced and wondered if I was having a heart attack because my chest hurt so bad and I couldn’t breathe. The air seemed heavy and bright. I had a strange buzzing in my head that shut out all other sounds. I started folding laundry like a mad woman.

Then I got myself together and brought my son across the street to baseball practice and called my husband and told him I had read his secret account.

“All of it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Come home and get your things and leave this house.”

He knew what was in that account. He knew his secret life was exposed. And he knew that even after 15 years of marriage, there was no coming back from this. He arrived home while my son was still at baseball. He was sweating but didn’t speak. He grabbed an old backpack, and I suppose he shoved some things into it. And then he left.

His exposure set into motion a million things, big and small. Immediately after reading those 2,000 pages, I could no longer remember anything good about my marriage. Now, nearly six years later, I still can’t remember one conversation that took place during our entire relationship. When I look at photos, I see a complete stranger and wonder who he really was. I squint and try hard to remember, but I can’t.

He left the house and never told me where he lived after that. He did, however, fight me for custody of our children, figuring that I didn’t have the guts to fight back against a sociopathic attorney who represented himself in court.

He was wrong.

Several years later, a judge would scream, “you are a LIAR,” at him, adding, “You lie about everything. I don’t believe a word you say!”

The judge knew what was in those 2,000 pages. I know, too.

I spend a lot of time hoping that my children will never know. They are safe and adjusting to life as divorced kids. It’s not perfect, and it isn’t what I wanted for them, but they are doing well. They are good kids with good intentions and big hearts. They are loved.

The exposure was agonizing. But necessary. And it set me free.

 

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They Always Come Back 2

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Mr. Perfect is back. The first man I dated after my divorce – a man who looks great but shares a lot of extremely undesirable traits with my ex husband.

Like lying.

He started popping up last spring with short perky texts asking me to go for coffee. Most of me was annoyed, but a teeny part of me was thrilled that he just couldn’t stay away, and finally I relented out of curiosity and maybe a little bit of hubris.

But then he tried to switch coffee to a different day. And I remembered who he really was: an unreliable and not trustworthy person.

No thank you, I wrote, and I’m going to be very busy for a long long time so I will not be able to go to coffee with you, Mr. Perfect, not for a very long time in the foreseeable future.

Or ever.

But now, several months later he’s sending texts again. My memory is short these days (Is this the effects of my single working mom life, or too much social media, or just being in my forties?). But I distinctively remember Mr. Perfect looking at me in the eyes and lying to me.

So he’s back, like a bad penny my grandmother would say.

I looked up the expression: Proverb. a bad penny always turns up. A person or thing which is unpleasant, dishonorable, or unwanted tends to appear (or reappear), especially at inopportune times.

I hate the idea of someone being mad at me, or not liking me, especially someone with so many overlapping social ties. But I did nothing wrong. He did.

Should I ignore or block or write a blunt note back? I haven’t decided, but it’s time to get rid of my bad penny for good. I’m finally ready.

Be Present: Yoga and Divorce

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We set an intention in every class, just as the heat begins rising through the room and everyone rises together into the first upward facing dog.

Today it’s Be Present.

The class makes you focus – through sweat and music and dim light and all the fit bodies moving in unison. It forces you to be present. Otherwise you will miss a pose, lose the flow, fall out of step.

Time slows down in this room.

There’s no room in your head to worry about work or lacrosse carpool when you’re trying to keep up and not fall on your face during eagle pose. It makes you fully present and engaged. For sixty minutes, you have no expectations for what will happen later, after they turn on the lights and turn down the heat and this class is over.

Lying in shavasana, taking the last few breaths of class, I think about divorce.  Be Present. It’s what comes long after the trauma, long after the fight, long after the fear and adrenaline and shame have diminished. You focus on the present, no expectations for what comes next. The person you are dating may or may not be your forever person. Your ex may or may not lose his job and stop paying child support. He might or might not do something awful and go to jail. You may or may not ever regain the financial comfort you once enjoyed. You may or may not achieve Great Things in your post-divorce career.

And you realize you can live with this. You’ve learned to be present in this strange new world. No expectations, because after all, you once entered into a marriage with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes only to have them trampled. You’ve learned that expectations are usually false, and that life is way more like some temperamental bucking wave than a straight line. You have to learn to bend and balance and breathe so you don’t get toppled over.

And so you suddenly find yourself present. And calm. And content.candle-light-yoga

Thank you World, I Needed That

Thank you to the person this morning who noticed that I dropped a sweater on the sidewalk on the way to the dry cleaners. Thank you, thank you for picking it up and draping it over my driver’s side mirror.

Thank you sweet, efficient ladies who work in the dry cleaners and say yes, I can pick everything up on Wednesday because I have a funeral on Thursday.

Thank you sunshine and cold morning air that’s sure to warm up today – I can sense it, finally, spring finally breaking through after weeks of chilly gloom in this gray city.

Thank you funny Starbucks guy who never gets rattled when people like me say grande when they mean venti, and venti when they want grande.

Thank you, boss, for understanding that I sent my daughter to school today with no sports equipment, even though she has team practice after school – and that I sent my son to school saddled down with sports equipment even though he has no team practice after school – and that I had to go home and then go to their school to sort it all out on work time.

Thank you funny friend for telling me it doesn’t matter if my date liked me or not last night – that it only matters if I liked him – and that you can’t start out a good story about a date by wondering out loud if you were rejected or not.

….

Thank you, all, for showing me that the world is generally a good place, and that people are generally decent and kind. Because later today I need to deal with my ex and his lies about how our dog escaped in his care, and how he signed up my son for a sport – that he’s coaching! – behind my back. And how, somehow, all of this is my fault.

And then I need to check to see if my mortgage check bounced because my ex gave me a custody check ripped so carelessly out of the checkbook that the check number was completely torn off. But I had no choice but to try to deposit it in the machine on Saturday anyhow because it was so late.

….

So, thank you for small kindnesses, world. And for being so ordinary and normal. I needed that.

Divorce and Yoga: Stability First, Then Expansion

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Warrior pose, swivel foot, triangle, warrior pose, swivel foot. My hips, wonky from running, don’t like it. But I push it because I want to get good at yoga – really, really good. And so I reach. And reach. I’m not certain if my swiveled foot is really stable though. And are my knees still lined up with my hips? Not so sure, but I reach more. And I feel a warm searing sensation before I crumple.

I get back up and try again. But this time I accept the correction from the instructor. She is in her fifties, with gorgeous skin and a perfect body, and at that moment I want to be just like her. She lines me back up, and I try again, slowly, not reaching until I feel stable.

Another wonky remnant from past injuries is my stiff shoulder, something that I can normally hide from the world. I reach up, but it hurts. My instructor is there again, correcting my arm, pulling it towards the front of my body. It hurts, but it’s done correctly, so it hurts in a good way.

The next time I do it, I reach to the same place, but I correct myself. The instructor spots this, and congratulates me. “See, you corrected yourself. See that?!?”

I smile. I did see that.

. . .

Step by step, with lots of help, we build stability again. When we try to rush things, we fall. But we can get up again, and hopefully we are a little stronger, more stable, and more resilient. Each fall teaches us something.

I wish I could be a yoga expert in six months. I wish I could rush through my recovery from my high-conflict divorce, my serial-cheating, NPD ex-husband. I don’t like the middle parts of things – because, as author Brene Brown says, this is the hard part, this is where the hard work must happen. But it is necessary, and so I guess I need to slow down and do the work.

Stability first. Then expansion.

I think I finally got it.

Trust After Betrayal: After Many, Many Many Betrayals

“Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker’s reflection.” ― Lady Gaga

And after a marriage to a serial-lying, serial-cheating, narcissistic personality disordered person, how does one learn to trust again? Like back in those innocent days before you met your ex-spouse, when the world was simple and good, and people generally told the truth?

Dating after divorcing a NPD is a minefield. A casual conversation about infidelity in Europe can quickly devolve into lunacy. One moment you are laughing and enjoying your scallops at a fancy restaurant, and the next moment your face is flushed, your chest is tight – is that a heart attack? – and you can’t breath or remember what you just said.

And the person you are dating looks at you like he has never looked at you before and quietly says, “I think you are making me sound like a bad guy. And I’m not.”

And then you catch your breath and wonder what just happened, and he says the unspeakable: “I think we should wrap this up and go home.”

And you know you have just moments to make big decisions. But your brain is still acting in the way it needed to act for more than a decade in order to protect you. It can’t suddenly catch up and admit that it overreacted. It starts searching for ways to make him the bad guy. It starts scouring memories for slights, suspicions, imperfections, and quickly comes up with a laundry list of faults and problems.

But despite the crazy in your head, you manage to excuse yourself and text a dear friend in the restroom, and she tells you to Scale It Back. In no uncertain terms. I think her first text was, “Oh boy,” like she fully expected this sort of behavior all along from you. And of course she did because she has seen it countless times from you before – and perhaps she has even experienced a bit of it herself, given that she too divorced a NPD.

And so you march out of the restroom, knowing that at least your friend understands, and you pray that the person you are dating will understand you too.

And you apologize. You may not remember exactly what you are apologizing for, but you try your best.

And it’s okay again. At least it’s okay again on the surface, but it will be hours before he will start to relax in your presence, before he comes back to being himself. It will be tomorrow afternoon before you start truly connecting again. You will walk through the city together, hand-in-hand, and you will both laugh, and all will be okay again.

But you cannot truly relax, because deep in your heart and chest cavity and gut, you know he has limited patience for this sort of scene. And that you’ve used up probably two of three strikes already. And you feel helpless because you still wonder about this man, this handsome and calm and disciplined and kind man who is devoted to his children and who comes over to cook you dinner and drive you everywhere and fix your gate. Yes, you wonder come crazy things, and some things that might be less crazy.

One suspicion in particular seems to resonate. All day. You know it is not healthy. But suspicion kept things in check in your marriage. They kept an insatiable and sociopathic NPD in check, albeit briefly.

Suspicion kept you safe once.

And then you remember when you asked your therapist if she thought you could do this – if you could have a healthy relationship with this man, at this time. And she turned to you and said, “I know with certainty that you can have a healthy and successful and loving relationship with someone at some point. I can not promise it will be with this man right now.”

And you realize again that you are broken. You are humbled, and scared. You feel a slight thrill that she believes you can do this, eventually. But then you start mourning the end of this relationship as if inevitable. Then you summon up all your resilience and you rumble forward, hoping against hope for happiness.

Vindication or Moving On?

It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has read my blog that my ex-husband appears on the Ashley Madison list. In fact, he’s an active member right now. Interestingly, he seems only to have discovered this website after the divorce.

I suppose he’s cheating on the Other Woman who contributed in her very teeny, tiny, little minuscule way to the ending of my horrific marriage to my ex-husband – an NPD, sex addict, and probable sociopath.

This is the Other Woman showed up voluntarily in court at my divorce trial to badmouth me – a woman she had never even met. A year later, this still takes my breath away.

She showed up at a divorce trial to badmouth an innocent woman whose husband she “stole” (booby prize that he is), and to repeat lies told to her by her cheating partner that she met on an adult website that makes Ashley Madison look as innocent as Disney.com.

And after she testified, she decided that she wanted her name redacted from the court records. She filed motion after motion, filled with vague references to a terrible and life-altering smoking gun against me, which never appeared of course, delaying my three-year divorce by many more months and costing me the remainder of my retirement funds.

The courts turned her down. She will always appear, by name, in my divorce decree. There is some justice in the world. The decree, written by the judge, states that she perjured herself on the stand. Even though she is an attorney.

In fact, she perjured herself twice during a very short cross-examination by my attorneys. She would have perjured herself many more times, but you are only allowed to ask questions directly related to her previous testimony.

So we never did get to ask about the Big Things. It’s too bad because these are very, very Big Things.

I really want to write more here about her job as an attorney, and how she likes to prosecutes people. I want to write where she works.

But I won’t. I know I’m dealing with a lunatic.

But now her “boyfriend” has appeared on Ashley Madison, looking for other women behind her back.

Is she surprised?

No, I’m sure she’s not.

Does she even care?

I’m guessing she does, but since she cheats on him too, I don’t think she has much of a case against him.

But I do know, from their history of Disclosed Emails, that this will lead to a lot of drinking, screaming, threats, and possibly even some violence.

And so how do I feel?

Not so good. Some people will find out that my lying ex-husband is a AM regular with multiple accounts. They may find his scandalous profiles. My children could find out someday.

I think a lot of other things though. I believe that people are generally good, and that the good people I know are too busy and happy with their own lives to look through AM lists.

I also think that I’m lucky to have moved so far away from this man psychologically. I think that my life is good. It’s getting better and better.

I think that he’s somebody else’s problem now.

And that sort of makes me smile.

NPD and Divorce: A Traumatized Brain

I told the psychologist my story, or at least what could be told in 50 minutes. At least the parts that I haven’t blocked out.

“I think that a trauma-based framework is the best way to look at your therapy,” she said.

Of course, I thought. I am feeling the PTSD lately. It has arrived again, and I can not budge it, no matter how much I tell my friends that I’m okay – even when I agree with them that I have nothing to worry about. Intellectually perhaps they are right. But the PTSD is stronger than intellect: it gets inside my chest and heart and flows out through my body to my fingertips and toes and the top of my head. It tells me that there is danger out there again and that I need to be hyper vigilant. I can’t let history repeat itself. I need to watch out. I’m scared. A lot.

Along these lines, I mentioned casually to the therapist that Ex is on the Ashley Madison lists – certainly one of his more innocent online activities, actually – and that I was worried about my children finding out.

She asked me why I went and found the list in the first place to look for him. And immediately I knew I was in trouble. Fifty minutes into therapy and already I was showing her that I’m probably certifiable, still snooping on my Ex.

I admitted that I had developed a long history of snooping during the later years of my marriage, always trying to locate and identify the danger and betrayal that I knew were lurking out there. I told her about the years of gaslighting, rug-sweeping, and time after time when I accused my Ex of doing something he was doing, only to end up apologizing to him the next day after he convinced me I was wrong and crazy.

I told her briefly about my three-year divorce in which I peeled away layer and layer of deceit and dangerous activities by my Ex that could put myself and my children in terrible danger. I described how it never ended: every time I thought he couldn’t do anything worse, he did.

She nodded.

“You once needed to do that snooping,” she said. “Your brain developed coping mechanisms that served you and your children well during those dangerous times. They protected you.”

She paused.

“But now your life is different, and your brain needs to develop new patterns.”

I nodded.

“What you did by looking up those AM lists is re-traumatize yourself.”

I sit up straighter. I realize that’s exactly what I have done. I immediately regret it.

“We want to teach your brain to be quiet. Peaceful,” she said. “I think this is what you should be working towards.”

A peaceful brain, a peaceful mind, a peaceful life. Wow, I think. She just described the exact opposite of living with an addict, an NPD, a sociopath. They create chaos and conflict and danger wherever they go, and all innocent people around them get swept up too. This is what I know: this is the PTSD.

I have been working so hard towards the peaceful life since my divorce. I have come so far, it’s amazing. But I didn’t make the connection. Peace doesn’t come from the safe home, the orderly house, the easy job. It comes from within.