“GOODBYE TO CIVILITY”
I trusted him blindly. He took care of the money. By the time I had decided to make a clean break, I found out about the unpaid bills and credit card debt he had incurred in my name.
I FELT A LOT OF GUILT WHEN I LEFT MY HUSBAND. MORE GUILT than I think was warranted. Since I was the one doing the leaving, I tried to make things as easy as possible for something that was so heartwrenchingly painful. It didn’t matter that I saw text messages to other women on his phone. It didn’t matter that he lied about everything from finances to feelings. I was guilty because I was the one who ended it. I felt that I didn’t have a choice: To be with him meant that I would never feel safe, it meant I would forever be wondering where the next paycheck that could keep us afloat would be coming from. Thirteen years of this, of us, and I was done. For the sake of my sanity, I had to end it.
Guilt is a funny thing. I wasn’t guilty because I was leaving him—that, to me, made perfect sense. I was guilty because I didn’t know how he was going to survive without me, without the money my allowances brought. He no longer had a day job and being the guitarist to a few bands with even fewer gigs was all he had with which to make a living. To assuage my guilt, I gave him things to help him as he moved into a new place. A mattress with beddings, a chair or two, a microwave, plates and cutlery… hell, even the shower curtain and weighing scale he had were bought by me, with the meager amount of cash I had left (our bank accounts were always on the verge of going underbalance). I trusted him blindly. He took care of the money. By the time I had decided to make a clean break, I had found out about the unpaid bills and credit card debt he had incurred in my name. Hundreds of thousands of pesos wasted on late fees, non-payment, and interest charges—such stupid carelessness only done by someone who didn’t value the money he is given. Incensed, I asked him, “Where did all the money meant to pay off bills and credit cards go?” All he could do was shake his head and shrug. He couldn’t even come up with a halfassed explanation. But still, I was willing to keep things quiet, to keep a civil tongue in an almost vain effort to avoid going to war against each other.
“Give it time,” a friend once said, in the sage, definite tones of a woman who’s gone through a touchy divorce. “You’ll hate his guts eventually.” I refused to believe that I would end up like her. I wanted my breakup to be different, for haven’t I tried to be open and honest about everything?
At the beginning of the end, I was still optimistic—naive, really. I kept hoping against all odds that this would be a relatively neat breakup, something that didn’t require screams and anger and lawyers. “I’m leaving the PS3 with you,” he tells me before he moved out. He had bought it for his man-cave using my credit card. I pointed out to him that I paid for the PS3 myself. He looked annoyed, I was trampling on his perceived magnanimous gesture. “Can’t you just say ‘thanks’?” He snapped. So I said thanks, not willing to create another argument over something as silly as a video game console.
I agreed to keep quiet about the other reasons, instead donning the guise of the aggrieved wife who found incriminating texts on her husband’s phone. I agreed to protect his reputation, to never mention how many fiscal failures we had to face due to his complete lack of responsibility. But about a year into the breakup, I started hearing whispers and rumors about me, about us, as told by him. The lies were never-ending, a Gordian Knot of he-said/she said, and “I suspect...”. I’ve given up trying to untangle them all.
“He says he left the car with you,” another friend said. I laughed out loud, almost bitterly at this one. He irreparably crashed his car years ago. I sat with him in the emergency room as an ER attendant stitched him up. The car in question was not his to give. The car’s papers were under the person who bought it: the company I worked for. Who on earth was he trying to impress with these lies? The new girl he was living with? But she wasn’t new. She had been around since she was a baby. The daughter of his one-time best friend. By the time I learned of their relationship, my world was already abuzz with the story. The affair had been going on for years— just how many affairs did this man have during our marriage?—it’s just that no one knew how to break the news to me. Two friends came to my house to do it. Each friend took a hold of one of my hands. It took me a moment to form a reaction. “Yaaaaaaak!” I exclaimed. My friends laughed, relieved that my reaction was one of disgust more than despair. One simply doesn’t date the children of friends. It may not be illegal (she is of age, after all) but it certainly is distasteful. He kept silent while all of this was raging. Silent... after he begged me to let him know myself if I should find someone else to love. He wouldn’t be able to stand learning about it from someone else. He promised to do the same for me. Promises, promises.
He used me, he used his friends. He would spin a sad tale to friends of how I had kicked him out with nothing, to gain pity and the odd amount of cash since he refused to get a day job (though numerous friends tried to help find him work), preferring instead to rely on his pseudo-rock star status to get what he wanted. Were we all just cash cows in his eyes?
Sometimes I feel like reaching out to that poor girl who must be supporting him. She is so young—as young as I was when he and I first met. The last time I saw her was when her father dropped her off and into the care of my ex and myself for an afternoon. Babysitting, my ex said, but now I wonder if it was some sort of twisted way for them to see each other. She shared the potato chips she had in her bag with me. I’m sort of hoping she will read this and begin to understand the trouble she’s in. He hasn’t changed, and by most accounts he has gotten worse.
Very few of our old friends talk to him anymore. They washed their hands off him after getting burnt by the lies he wove and the number of unpaid loans he’s gotten out of them. “He left you daw with everything,” a friend said. “Sure,” I replied. “He left me with everything including massive credit card debt.” He also left me with a fear of sharing my life with another person, of being completely open and vulnerable. I thought our marriage would be different because I hid nothing from him from the moment I said “I do.” I kept saying that honesty was the foundation of our marriage. How embarrassingly wrong I was.
In the end, it wasn’t anger that I was left with, but embarrassment. I cringed to admit I married someone like him. I was saddened that he didn’t have the balls to cop to his failings, to give people the real score. I resented that I had to explain what’s what to those who asked. Shouldn’t the truth—our truth—be universal?
He messaged me a few weeks ago. It had been two years since he last tried to get in touch with me. “It’s Ruffles’ birthday today,” he messaged, referring to my beloved cat. “Is she still alive?” It was callous and slightly confusing. Why was he touching base now? I never replied to his text. It’s probably for money again, such as that time I just returned from abroad after a quick trip and he messaged my friend asking if I would be amenable to talking to him. “Why?” my friend asked. He wanted money. My friend was incensed. “After all your financial fuckups, you want to hit her up for more money?!” she texted back angrily. He never spoke to her again, but tried to gain sympathy by repeating a version of the story to another friend who immediately shot him down, saying she knew that he tried to borrow money again. He stopped speaking to that friend too, going as far as blocking her on social media accounts.
Still, I am stuck. I cannot break free until the annulment is over and done with. Whenever a court hearing comes up, a cold wave cascades down my spine. What if the judge forces me to stay married to this man? I really don’t know what I would do if it came to that. Why does the judicial system have a say about my life when I have done nothing criminal? How can my bid for freedom, to cut ties with a man who has ill-used me be socially immoral in the eyes of the court? Annulment is a soul-sucking, spirit-crushing process that does little to protect the sanctity of marriage, much less the sanctity of husband and wife. Since we split up, my ex has done nothing but show his lack of scruples, morals, and even civility. I remain in this limbo until the judge rules otherwise.