Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Non-Husband

When I'm talking to "The Other Man" or my closest friends, I refer to my husband as "my non-husband". We were married about 7 years ago. It was a relationship founded on dysfunction, but I was pretty oblivious to the extent of the dysfunction until relatively recently.

My husband and I met in college. I spotted him because he was cute and unfamiliar. I'm a relatively aggressive female. I love the whirlwind of meeting, flirting, and dating, first kisses, late-night conversations, and all the adrenaline and euphoria associated with starting a relationship. I dated with furious and shameless frenzy. I don't enter sexual relationships lightly, however, so most of my relationships ended promptly when the guy found out he wasn't going to get right into my panties. This was always temporarily devastating for me, but I always set my sights on a new crush and recovered quickly.

Like I said, I met my future husband because he was a cute guy that I had not yet dated. He was extremely shy and difficult to pursue, which made the pursuit even more appealing to me. Once I finally got him to pay attention to me, I found him to be kind, funny, and smart. We dated for a year and then were engaged for another year. I still believe it was a reasonable length of time before entering marriage, when dealing with a normal person. He, however, had many significant mental problems that would not surface for quite some time.

To keep this story short and reasonable, my husband has serious issues relating with other people. He has diagnosed himself with social anxiety. I think it's a reasonable diagnosis. At times, he has been terrified to share a grocery story aisle with other people. He would spend hours circling a block, working up the courage to stop at a gas station to fill up. He has essentially no communication skills. He once told me that it was impossible for him to care about anything or anyone.

I am his polar opposite. I am extremely extroverted and will strike up conversation with complete strangers, at any time, for any reason. I naively underestimated the challenge of being married to such an introvert. I never anticipated any issues with this mismatch in our personalities. But in public, he embarrassed me when he literally ran from people in stores, or when he insisted on arriving 30 minutes early to every social event, or when he refused to speak to anyone. At home, his silence was deafening and slowly chipped away at my self-esteem. I bore the burden of essentially every household task, from answering the phone to running all the errands, because he could not handle interacting with other people. And when his mother and brother reared their ugly personalities, he shirked in a corner while they screamed at me, called me names and accused me of ruining everything and everyone's lives.

I encouraged him to get professional help. I pointed out his struggles and how much easier life would be if he could overcome them. And after years of encouraging, I begged him to get professional help. I pointed out how his problems were affecting me, the loneliness, the "care-taking" role I had assumed, and his family's verbal abuse that I endured. And after years of begging, I demanded that he get help. I told him that my self-esteem had been destroyed by his neglect, leaving me feeling vacant and empty. I was afraid that I would have an affair. (At that time, I didn't intend to have an affair.) I knew there was no way that I could continue in an emotionless marriage. I didn't feel suicidal, but I felt hopeless. And, as they say, hope dies last.

I demanded for years, but he didn't get help. He checked out some self-help books. He got a prescription for Prozac and took it sporadically. But very little changed, if anything at all. And I gave up.

Starting at the End

I had an affair.

I tell my husband that it was an "accident". My feelings slowly developed over a long period of time, and that it "just happened" naturally - it was not a calculated affair. I tell my husband that it was purely emotional with this other man, nothing physical. I tell my husband that I want to see our marriage repaired.

None of those things are true.

My affair was a well-calculated strategy. I put this man into my sights and I actively pursued him in my very skilled, passive-aggressive way. I looked him in the eye and held his gaze, long enough to catch his attention, but not too long. I complimented him and strengthened his ego. I initiated conversations between us, during which I discreetly flirted... just enough to make him wonder if I was interested, but not so much that I was blatantly hitting on him. I regularly, but not too frequently, put myself into his environment. I mixed subtle signs of interest into my professional email correspondence with him. I wanted, and I pursued.

My affair was physical. It remained emotional for quite some time, as was required by my employment. But eventually we met outside of my place of work, and it became physical. Our first encounter included a hug, arm around the shoulders, and brief hand-holding. Our second encounter included a brief, sweet, and highly-anticipated first kiss. Our next several encounters included passionate, sexually-charged kissing and foreplay. Eventually, inevitably, we began engaging in intense and exhausting sex.

I have no intention of salvaging my marriage. I have no interest in my husband. He means nothing to me. I just don't have the ability to end our relationship. We can't afford to live separately. It's impossible. I can't live with him in a constant state of hate (we have a child) so I will pretend to want to work on our marriage until we can afford to separate from each other.

My affair has been both the best and worst decision that I have made in quite some time. My affair made me feel alive, excited, happy, beautiful, and youthful. He made me feel special. He filled a void in my life. He gave me the strength to decide to end my dysfunctional marriage. But my affair ultimately left me feeling used, abandoned, cheap, and gullible. He has sent me straight back to my starting place of emptiness and loneliness.

If I had it all to do again, I'd probably do a few things differently. But for the most part, I wouldn't change anything.

Today, my husband and I still live together. I'm emotionless, and he's a mental case. We fight on occasion, and he says that "at least its some kind of emotion". He threatens to have affairs with multiple women, but I don't care. I sit by my phone, waiting and hoping for contact with the other man. I start every morning attempting to convince myself that he won't contact me, and I'm okay with that - I'm better off without him. As the day proceeds, I become increasingly agitated with his lack of contact. I have a short temper with my son. I text my friends for support. I get angry and decide to just simply ignore him for the rest of my life. And then he texts me, and my bad mood is lifted, and my patience returns, and I fall right back into his trap. I know I'm being used. I know he's lying to me. I just can't break away.