My wife cheated on me once. Once was enough. I'm sure she thought she had everything covered and was quite surprised at the way I handled things. The build up was the usual story, married for fifteen years, things had gotten rather stale. We drifted apart, spending time in the same house, under the same roof, but in separate rooms though. She grew distant from me. I noticed at some point that we were no longer partners, no longer confidants, no longer lovers.
She left too many clues. I picked up on things and dug a little. Turns out she was having an affair, or at least an emotional one. She started complaining to me. This was normal and I had stopped listening to her complaints and digs at me over the years. Now with this new evidence, I not only heard her, I listened. She was unhappy with our marriage. She was falling out of love with me.
It was clear to me. If I tried to bring up the subject that she was wrong, that we could fix our love, that I loved her and we could reclaim our marriage, she would just pull further away from me. She would just look at me and within her eyes I would see another bridge between us collapse.
"To hell with this," I uttered to myself as I drank my beer. I had gone replayed our last argument over and over in my head. I tried to find a way to claim her back. She was mine, after all! It seemed, I thought to myself, that every time I tried harder to gain my wife back, she pulled away from me even farther. I sat there late into the night, allowing my wife to sleep in our big lonely bed, while I nursed my hurt feelings. Some where along the way, my brain kicked in and a new track of thinking worked its way into me.
Why was I arguing with her about what she felt?
Why indeed? I realized at that moment that everything my wife had been telling me was the truth. A truth I couldn't simply ignore or talk her out of. She was telling me how she felt, and here I was, arguing with her, telling her that she was wrong, that she was not actually experiencing those feelings.
How stupid was that? How can you tell someone they are wrong about how they feel?
Well that would stop right away. How she felt was how she felt, so why argue about it?
So how did I feel?
No really, it was strange, because when I sat there in the dark on the couch thinking about my recent relationship with my wife, I realized that I was unhappy too. I wasn't quite sure that I loved her anymore. I was in love with the idea of still being together and married with my loving wife, but that wasn't the reality, now was it?
That eureka moment hit me. It took me a while to put it together, but I now had a plan of action. Whether it worked or not, at this point I didn't care, because I now knew that what I had been doing, and what she had been doing was not working. What's that saying? The definition of insanity is trying the same thing that didn't work, over and over again thinking that it would work?
I smiled, tossed my beer bottles in the recycling bin and decided to sleep in the guest bedroom. All part of the plan.
"Frank?" Linda had opened the door to the guest bedroom and had flipped on the light switch to blind me out of my sleep. "What are you doing sleeping in the guest room?"
I blinked away the light until my eyes grew accustomed to the brightness. "I was up late, didn't want to disturb you," I said.
She looked at me and then shuffled off to the kitchen for coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker, having been blessed with the ability to wake up and be alert immediately; I jumped into the shower and prepared for work. Today I had a spring in my step.
That evening, Linda sat down across from me in the living room. I was in my familiar seating position on the couch. Linda clenched her hands, she was anxious and I felt that she was preparing herself to tell me something.
"Frank," she started. "This isn't working. I feel frustrated and confused and I don't think I love you anymore."
I sat there looking at her. She paused then continued.
"Frank, I know we've been together for so long, but I think we need to get a divorce."
That word hung in the air.
I smiled as she nervously looked at me.
"That sounds good, dear." I said.
She blinked. "Frank, did you hear me?"
I nodded. "Yes, yes, of course I heard you. You don't feel things are working, you don't love me, you want a divorce. I agree."
"Uhh, you do?" She was unsettled now.
I got up and went to her. I knelt down in front of her.
"Linda, I can't change how you feel. You don't love me. How can I argue against that? Can I tell you that you are wrong? No. You don't love me. Well to be frank, there's been a lot of times when I didn't love you either. If you feel that you can't live with me anymore, well again, how can I argue that?"
Linda was looking at me like I was crazy. Deep down though I could see that she was nodding at my acute ability to realize that what she said was the truth and she appreciated it.
"Wait, you didn't love me?" she asked.
"There've been times, just like you."
She got a little flustered. In all the times she played out this little scene in her head, she had never anticipated me reacting like this. I enjoyed seeing her emotions play out on her face.
"Well," I said. "Anything else? I have to go out tonight so I would like to get this settled now, if you don't mind. Are you moving out right away?"
I got up and started to get my jacket on, preparing to leave.
"Uh, no ... Frank? Where are you going?"
"I'm going out. I think I'll hit up a few of the bars. I might as well start looking for someone else now. No time like the present!" I waved goodbye to her and left her still sitting in her chair with her mouth hanging open.
I stopped off at the first bar, a rather subdued and older aged hangout. There I took a bourbon and sat down at one of the tables away from the crowd. I pulled out my mobile and put another part of my plan in action. I called a friend of mine from work. Jessica worked with me in my department and was known as the company gossip. Playing the part of the poor put upon husband, I solemnly relayed the conversation I had with my wife, specifically how she had blindsided me with the request for divorce. The reason I called her, not the real reason, was that I was out on the town, drowning my sorrows and might not be into work the next day.
I could hear the wheels turning in her head, as Jessica and I had flirted at work from time to time and she was single. Next thing I knew, Jessica had invited herself along for the evening with the pretense of watching out for me and being the friend in need while I was in such an emotionally fragile situation.
I met Jessica at a lounge I knew to be frequented by my wife and her friends. Was I concerned that someone might see me? Nope. My marriage was apparently over. My wife didn't love me, and to be honest, right now I wasn't loving my wife Linda either.
Jessica looked good. She had dressed quickly, maybe she wanted to get to me before anyone had a chance, at least that's what I wanted to believe, but when she saw me, she was a little surprised that my body language and mood didn't match the news that I had told her over the phone. The smile on my face didn't help either.
"Frank, what's going on?" She sat down next to me with a scowl on her face.
I held up my hand and motioned to my ring finger which was now bare. "She wants a divorce, that's how she feels. Why should I fight it?"
I beckoned the waiter over and ordered a refill. Jessica ordered her usual Cosmo.
"Frank, you sounded more broken up over the phone..."
"Jess, we've been unhappy for a while now. I finally realized that I maybe don't love her like I did anymore. She wants this final thing from me, being the divorce, so you know what, I'm not going to fight it. She wants out? Fine. She's out. I'm not going to lay around in misery, lonely and unloved."
Jessica took a big swig from her cocktail. She sat there looking at me. I was having this effect on women, I was now realizing. What ever this attitude was that I had, I noticed it confounded the women.
"Shall we dance?" I didn't wait for her reply, just grabbed her hand and took her out on the dance floor.
"Frank what are you going to do?"
I held her closer. "I'm going to give whatever it is that she feels she wants. I'm going to do whatever it is that I want to do. Right now, I want to dance with you. Actually I've wanted to dance with you for a long time. Now I am able to!"
She looked up into my eyes and smiled.
"If you're trying to get back at her..."
I crocked an eyebrow. "And if I am... ?"
She snuggled up into my body, she felt good and warm. "I'm fine with that." She sighed.
We lost track of time. It was so pleasant to not have to worry about Linda wondering if I needed to call the house to let her know when I would be back. Jessica was fun, intelligent and we flirted throughout the evening.
She was mine for the taking. She knew it. I knew it.
I didn't take her.
It was really good to know that someone wanted me though. My wife had bruised my ego, and Jessica propped it back up. More so I would say as Jessica was a better looking woman than Linda. We kissed in the parking lot at her car. I guided her in and smiled.
"I'll see you at work tomorrow."
She nodded. I had made it clear that I was looking for some fun now, I wasn't looking to nail another woman down. In my not so subtle way, in which Jessica understood, I was now eligible and looking. I'm sure that by end of business tomorrow, all the women in the company would know this. I would like to tell you that I'm a bigger man, but the truth was that I was looking forward to rubbing Linda's nose a bit.
"Where were you?" Linda asked me as I got in. She had been in bed, but once she heard me come in, she had marched out to see me. I put my coat away and started undressing for bed.
"Out" I said. "I told you I was going out. Why would you care?"
"I ... Frank, I was a little worried that you might have done something bad to yourself."
I smiled at her.
"Linda, I know how you feel. I'm okay with that. You want a divorce, I'm happy to give you one. Far be it for me to force you to live a life with someone you don't love anymore."
I gathered up my pillow and clothes for the next morning and started to make my way to the guest room.
"Frank?" Linda called out to me tentatively.
I stopped, shifted my items into my other hand. "What?"
She looked down. She couldn't look me in the face.
"I was wondering ... I mean, you don't have to sleep in the other bed."
"Are you offering to sleep in the other bed? To move out of our bedroom?" I didn't want to make it easy on her.
She gasped and sniffled back a tear.
"I ... didn't mean that. I mean, you can share the bed with me ... that is if you want to. If you don't ... well I guess I could move out into the other room." She was flustered. The thought of actually moving out of her bedroom was something she never anticipated. She held her breath in fear that I would make her do just that.
I put her out of her misery.
"Well this bed is more comfortable. I'll stay in here with you, if it's not too much trouble on your account."
Her face brightened. "Oh, yes, that will be fine. I mean it's no trouble for me."
"Good then," I said and threw my pillow back on the bed.
She wanted to talk, but I was too tired and told her to go to sleep. We would have time to talk later.
Sure enough by the next afternoon I had been propositioned by three other women at work. I even had a friend of mine slip his sister's number to me. She was a widow and was having a difficult time finding someone to date. I had set up dates for that coming week with all four of the girls as well as a repeat with Jessica. I had purposely left tonight free as I would have to speak with Linda. We needed to work things out. She needed to get on with her life, I suppose.
I got back to the house and was confronted by Linda.
"Carol saw you last night at the lounge! She said you were with a woman. Who the hell was she? What were you doing? Carol said you two were very comfortable with each other!"
I could have blown up at her. I could have yelled at her, calling her a slut for the times she was out, talking to men, neglecting me, drifting away from me, but I didn't. I smiled and told her I would answer her questions after I had changed. She tried to challenge me, but I ignored her and went off to change out of my work suit.
Once settled I noticed Linda looking at me with a glare. She was ready for a fight. Her eyes were close to tears but her body was wound tightly in rage.
"That was Jessica, from work I was with," I told her. I didn't deny it. I'm sure she thought I would.
"What were you doing?" she accused.
I looked at her and said simply, "We were on a date."
"A date!" she screeched.
I nodded and still sat calmly in my place.
"You have no right! We're married! What made you think you could?"
I got up and got a drink from the kitchen and sat back down. She still stood, glaring at me, expecting my answer.
"Why would you care?" I asked.
She gaped at me. "We're married!"
"You want a divorce, don't you?"
She nodded unsure about her voice.
"You said you don't love me, right?"
"I said I'm not IN LOVE with you," she corrected me.
"And I agree with you Linda. You're not in love with me. So why should I not go out and seek love from someone else? You want a divorce; you're not in love with me, what does that give me? What's my incentive to stick around here?"
She sat down, actually dropped down in her chair.
"What will people say? Don't you realize how this looks? Right now Carol is blabbing all over town about my husband stepping out with some slut."
"Don't you call Jessica a slut!" I growled. "She was a perfect lady and I was a gentleman last night."
"She knowingly went out on a date with a married man, I call that a slut!"
"So," I said as I got up and paced the room in front of her. "If she is a slut, what would you call a married woman that knowingly goes out with other men without her husband's knowledge?"
Linda stared at me. She said nothing. I could see her mind working. 'How much does he know?'
"What's that got to do with anything?" she blustered.
I just looked at her. I was silent. She saw it in my face. I knew. He body started to shake.
"H-h-h-howww, much do you know?"
"Enough," I said. "Whether you fucked them or not, I really don't care. You see my dear, this marriage was over when you decided to cut me out of the loop. I'm not going to cry about it, I'm moving on. I'm going to take care of myself, seeing as I don't get the support from my wife at home."
I got up and went into the kitchen. No dinner had been started. I decided to make something for myself. She could fend for herself. A little while later she came into the kitchen and watched me finish up my dinner.
"I'm sorry," she told me.
I tidied up my dishes and then turned to her.
"I'm sorry too. I think you should know that I have plans for the rest of the week, so don't expect me home until late. If you would prefer it, I can sleep in the guest room."
She didn't answer me. I went up for bed. I decided to sleep in the guest room. I'm sure Linda didn't sleep well.
I met Christina after work. She was a nice blonde woman, mid thirties, divorced, with two kids. We chatted over coffee and then did something really goofy. I took her to play laser-tag. Yes it was us two old timer adults against ten teenagers, who all ganged up on us and continued to wipe us out early into each game. Christina loved it. I enjoyed sitting and talking with her after we were killed, waiting for the next game to start up.
At one point during the last game, we both were killed side by side and we both fell down and pretended to die. I pulled her onto me while we laid there and kissed her. She kissed me back.
We had a nice meal and soon I escorted her back to her house where we made out. She bade me goodbye before we advanced to anything other than kissing and made me promise to take her out again soon.
I was expecting another confrontation with Linda when I got back, but strangely she was subdued.
"Hi," she said.
I smiled and greeted her as I undressed from my date.
"You seem to have had a good time," she told me. Her emotions were hidden.
"I did, thanks for noticing. How was your evening?"
We talked. For the first time in months, we sat down and talked late into the night. I listened to her and she listened to me.
"I never had sex with anyone else, Frank. I promise you." She admitted. "I kissed a few men, and I shared my thoughts and feelings with Justin at work. He wants more from me, but I wasn't ready."
"Linda, I'm sure we're both at fault here, but even though you didn't actually have sex with anyone else, you still cheated me. We were a team. I'm happy you controlled yourself before asking me for a divorce. I really respect you for doing that. I should have listened to what your feelings were, instead I argued against them."
"Yes," she agreed. We sat silently for a while.
"Frank, I'm confused right now. I don't know if I want a divorce..."
I smiled. "You let me know when you've figured things out. I'm not kicking you out of the house, nor am I leaving it anytime soon."
"Hmmm?" I had gotten up and was getting ready to go to bed.
"Are you still going to date Jessica?"
"Yes. I'm dating now. Others as well. You do what you have to do. Figure things out. I have to do what's best for me. If we divorce, well then it wasn't meant to be."
I headed into the guest bedroom. She followed me in and stood at the door.
I turned to see her as I pulled my shirt off.
"Come back to bed with me, please?"
I hesitated. "Do you think that's wise?"
Tears dropped from her eyes. "I don't know. I just want you right now."
I held out my arms and she rushed into them and sobbed. She was confused. She didn't know what to feel. I took her back to our bed. I held her as we drifted off to sleep.
Lauren was a good friend of mine. She was a self proclaimed geek and she and I were always talking about the latest television shows and fan stuff. There was a neat dive bar with obscure live music that she had been anxious to go to, but none of her friends or dates were interested. That evening, I took her. It was fun, and although we had flirted from time to time at work before, there was absolutely no chemistry between us as romantic partners. It was an early night for both of us and I went back to the house. It was a fun time, but we were friends only.
I rolled up to the house and found a car parked in the driveway. My jealousy reared its ugly head for a moment, but I calmed myself down and repeated to myself, that everything would be, what it would be. Doesn't make sense does it? Well it happens to calm you down, if you change the tone. Something about tonality can change your anxiety. I had learned that from my shrink when I was being treated for fear of flying. Instead of freaking out and screaming to myself, 'Oh my god, I'm going to be getting on a plane!' he had me change my tone into one of excitement and anticipation: 'Oh my god! I'm going to be getting on a plane! I can hardly wait!' It took some practice, but it tended to work for the short term.
Not knowing what to expect, I repeated my mantra and opened the door to see Linda sitting and chatting with Carol, one of her friends.
"Frank! I didn't expect you back so early!"
"Linda. Carol." I nodded to them.
Carol shot daggers out of her eyes at me. She said nothing.
"Things wrapped up early, so I'm back now. Would you like some privacy?"
Linda and Carol traded looks and then Carol got up from the couch.
"I should be going. Linda, I'll talk to you soon."
Linda walked Carol to the door. Carol gave me a dirty look, said nothing to me, and left.
"Sorry for barging in on you, I didn't mean to cut your evening short." I told her.
"Don't be silly Frank. This is your home too."
Home. When was the last time she or I had referred to the house as home?
"Did you eat?" she asked me. She had some leftovers from the meal she and Carol obviously had shared. I picked at some of the food while she busied herself cleaning up the kitchen.
"How are you?" I asked.
She sat down. "I'm fine, I think. I invited Carol over to talk, but she just confused me more."
"She wanted me to kick you out, change the locks and divorce your ass."
"Hmmm. Well my key still works so I take it you haven't had time to call the locksmith?"
She laughed. "Don't be silly. I had to explain to her that I was the one that asked for a divorce. After I had told you that, what rights do I have on you? I gave you up, didn't I?"
She looked deeply into my eyes. That last part was a question she was desperate to know the answer to. I wanted to jump up and allay her fears. Tell her that I was still hers. But I didn't. I said nothing. In the past my intentions would have pushed her away. Maybe this new plan of non-committal would have a different effect on her.
Changing subjects I called an audible and changed plans. "Oh, bad news I'm afraid. My date for tomorrow night canceled on me. Now I'm stuck with concert tickets. Maybe you would like to go with me instead?"
He face lit up. "Oh Frank! I would love to! That is if you want me to..."
I shrugged. "It would be a waste. Maybe I can give them away to someone at work..."
"No!" she said forcefully. "I mean, I would be happy to go."
"Happy to go with me?"
She blushed and nodded.
"What was that?" I asked.
"Yes," she whispered.
I smiled. "It might be fun."
I broke the news to Heather. She was disappointed but such is life in the dating game. Linda was dressed up and ready to go when I came by after work to pick her up. She looked good. She was dressed to impress. I'm pretty sure she was dressed up to impress me. I didn't know too much about the band. Heather had suggested it to me so I had gotten the tickets. They were good. Loud, but good. I guess I wasn't surprised when we bumped into Heather. I could see Linda was surprised at how good looking Heather was and quickly realized that Heather would have been my date for tonight. I apologized to Heather and she looked over at Linda.
"Heather, this is Linda. Linda, Heather was supposed to be my date, but well ... things came up."
Normally when I introduce Linda, I always referred to her as my wife. This time I made a point to not do that and Linda immediately noticed.
"Heather! So nice to meet you. I'm MRS. Donaldson." She stared right into Heathers eyes and something was communicated between the two women. Heather was smart enough to excuse herself and told me she would see me at work the next day.
Linda was fuming. She grabbed my hand. "Frank! Where's your wedding ring?"
I shrugged. "At home. I took it off after you asked for a divorce. I don't need it now."