Okay. I’ve just “outed” myself as the ex-wife of a queen, and already I’ve gotten an email from a woman who saw the post and wanted to let me know I’m not alone — she has a friend going through a divorce after some 20 years of marriage and three children… same issue.
That’s probably why I decided to go ahead and lance this latest emotional absess in public — to try to offer, however limited my ability might be, some support for other women who are discovering themselves to be caught in this nasty trap of ultimate misogyny. One summer, when I was working for a lawyer, a little more than ten years ago, we had no less than four women clients who had discovered their husbands’ treacheries. I suspect the problem is far more widespread than most people have ever considered.
We need a support group. There are support groups for every other wacko disorder coming down the pike — why can’t there be a support group for women recovering from emotional and spiritual exploitation and abandonment by men who prefer other men?
We all have frightening similarities. One of my friends pointed out that gay men who marry tend to pick “trophy wives” for themselves. At first I snorted in disbelief; I’ve always thought of myself as very plain and ordinary. But then I went back into the box of mementos and dug out my high school senior photo — and saw a really lovely girl smiling out of that picture — clear green eyes, long hair, sweet smile… (Thanks, Pal — for seeing me with fresh eyes and shocking me into seeing myself anew.)
We also were idealistic, trusting, perhaps gullible. All five of us were very religious; we had picked me with strong religious ideals, also. We had married with great hopes and expectations only to be confronted during our honeymoons with strangers who did not enjoy intimacy with us, who began to withhold affection and attention and conversation from us, who always had a plausible excuse for same… We all suffered unbearable loneliness and a downright neurotic response of trying to be perfect so we could be worthy of the love of men who so obviously despised us. Most of us had become humiliated by the necessity of always initiating sex (and most of us, being loving and passionate women, were attempting to initiate often).
We gave up lives of our own, in most cases — interests, hobbies, friends — because our husbands demonstrated resentment of anything that distracted us from them. Also, we were hopelessly optimistic that someday, somehow, our husbands would come out of their trance and want our company, our affection… and we wanted to be on hand when the moment finally arrived.
For me, the breaking point was my success in college. After years, first from my mother and then from Dan, of being told I was dumb and that I’d never amount to anything, that I was only tolerated out of pity, I was discovering my intelligence, my love of learning, the value of my intuitions, at Guilford College. I made Dean’s List — something no one would have believed possible before I enrolled there. I was the happiest I’d ever been, and I think it drove Dan crazy that I could be appreciated, supported, validated by anyone who discredited his contemptuous opinions of me. It was the first day of Finals Week, Fall Semester of my third year at Guilford, when he announced that he was leaving me.
Oh, he was magnanimous, as always — it wasn’t me he intended to leave, only our “dump” of an apartment (cinder blocks on a concrete slab, built in the late 40s); I could come with him or not, as I chose. Basically — he put it in such a way that, if I chose not to leave college, not to come with him, the divorce became solely my fault. But I knew that if I ever moved from that apartment (which rented for $90 a month in a day when the going rate for 2-bedroom apartments was closer to $500) I’d have to give up school, success… and myself. I let him move on his own.
Of course, I wouldn’t know about his gay friends and the double life he’d been leading for several more months, but the pathology of our relationship was beginning to lose its grip on my soul.