He ain’t feeling anything – my love, my hurt, or the sting of this rain. I’m driving through a hurricane. All he can say is ‘Man, ain’t it such a nice day.’
There was a time in my life when the words from Miranda Lambert’s “Dead Flowers” rang louder than an air raid siren. It was the last vestiges of my marriage, 30 years of matrimony coming to an ugly end. The hurricane was the anger, loss and exorbitant stress I felt, while Mr. Nice Day smiled and took no responsibility for my hurt. I’m not sure, to this day, how I made it out of the hurricane. I know that I had hit rock bottom and realized there was nothing I could do to make the marriage survive. I had gone through counseling, made husband go to counseling (he told the counselor he didn’t know why he was there), and I prayed many times for strength and courage. The flowers remained dead, the water gray, and Mr. Nice Day kept smiling.
And, so, I did something I had never done before. I schemed, plotted and lied my way to an escape. This is the story of the last two months of my marriage.
I believe it was July, 2009, when I made the final decision to leave. That decision was the culmination of living with a narcissist for many years. Looking back, the signs were there when I married him. Unfortunately, at age 19, I was naive and unknowingly codependent. I was a good-hearted person who couldn’t speak up or stand up for herself when it came to her partner’s behavior. Plus, I grew up old school, believing that one did not easily give up on marriage. I went about my business for years thinking Mr. Nice Day would change, would somehow grow out of his bad behavior. It was rare that I would come right out and say, “That was very inappropriate,” not understanding that the use of those words might have been a tiny bit better than a misguided hope for change. The narcissism turned into a personality disorder over the years and Mr. Nice Day became emotionally abusive. The last two years of our marriage were the worst. He was retired and had too much time on his hands. Mr. ND swore worse than a drunken sailor and when I asked him to stop, he would comply for no more than a day. Most often, he was back to the swearing within an hour. I’m not a prude, I have said the “F” word several times as an adult. However, when “GD” comes out of your mouth every other sentence, even in front of small children and people of faith, it becomes an issue. His response when I asked him to stop was always, “What? Everyone swears. It’s not like they’ve never heard it before.”
That was a smidgen of his narcissim. It started out as a flake of snow, then turned into a snowball rolling downhill, fast. The snowball became the abominal snowman. Over the years, the embarrassment I felt from his behavior increased. I didn’t want to take him to social events, meet any of my friends, or even go out to dinner for fear of what would happen. I started to think about the future as well. What would I do if he made a scene or started swearing at a wedding or funeral? How do I keep him from attending my retirement party? What the h*ll am I going to do when I’m retired and around him 24/7? Mr. Nice Day was not happy when I would go away for a day, a weekend or several days with girlfriends (my sanity vacations) because it meant I was not spending time with him. Life was all about him, being within an earshot of and visible to him. It went as far as him not wanting me to watch TV in the other room. “Don’t you want to be with ME?” he would ask. (I would think to myself, “No, I do not want to be with you. I do not want to watch yet another WWII documentary while you talk incessantly through the entire show.”) I watched very few shows in the other room because I did not want to hear Mr. Nice Day complain and whine the entire time. He hated American Idol simply because it was one of the shows I did insist on watching.
The decision to leave came when Mr. Nice Day argued with me about going to a conference (which would require another overnight) at a church two hours away. The conference was about prayer and praying to God, a topic I sought after because of my marital situation. I had gone back to my Christian faith two years before I made the move to separate from Mr. Nice Day. I grew up Catholic, but strayed away due to my own experiences with the church and the fact that Mr. Nice Day was not a church attendee. That is not an excuse for me; however, he never encouraged me to go practice my faith and most often, he planned weekend outings that would take us away from home on Sundays. He hated sitting around on the weekend, not doing anything. (Mr. Nice Day was also hyper and easily bored.) The argument over my attendance at the conference increased in intensity and Mr. ND finally said, “You are NOT going. No. This is turning into a cult thing and I forbid you to go.”
Cult thing? Forbid? Icy stare. Nail in coffin. I was done.
This is when determination kicked in, when fear turned to courage. This is when the scheming and plotting started. The angry, negative, narcissistic Mr. Nice Day had to be out of my life. I had to leave in order to save my sanity and my soul. I had to win my freedom, my happiness.
The next two months were a crazy whirlwind. There are specific moments I remember – like the first day I walked into an attorney’s office and eventually left crying. The attorney had given me a dose of reality, that financial independence wasn’t going to be easy. I wondered how I was going to pay the rent, feed myself and feed the cats. When the crying jag ended and I had time to think, I realized one thing: I was prepared to live under a bridge with my cats rather than return to a life that was dragging me to despair.
The scheming, plotting and lying I mentioned was not something that instilled pride. I asked God’s forgiveness later for behavior that was not otherwise in my normal wheelhouse. I hated lying to Mr. Nice Day, but most often I was afraid that he would sense something was amiss. I’m not good at lying, not even white lies that spare someone’s feelings. In two months, I saw two attorneys and readied the paperwork, rented an apartment, opened a new checking account, rented a storage unit, and obtained a PO box, all without telling Mr. Nice Day. I also visited the local women’s shelter because ND had hunting rifles, handguns and a temper. The man was never physically abusive, but I was very afraid of how he was going to react over my walk away from his life.
The next step was to come clean with friends, family and coworkers that I was filing for divorce and leaving my husband. I only told a few close friends, one in particular whom I’ve known for many years. She ended up opening her home to me for a month after the separation, helping me transition into my new life. She was also part of the escape plan (more scheming), coming to rescue me and my belongings on the day of departure. I found it difficult to share this situation with my boss. I don’t know why because, in the end, she was totally supportive. My boss allowed me to store belongings at work, she gave me hugs on days when I needed them, and she took one of my cats home with her until I could move into my permanent abode. My parents were the last to know. I waited until the last possible moment. The difficulty came due to their impending move into assisted living. I did not want to stress them further by laying the burden of my divorce at their feet. I ended up simply blurting it out that I was filing for divorce. I was surprised by their “it’s about time” and “good” responses. I realized that Mr. ND had never been close to their favorite person in the world, not even on his good days. They, too, were extremely supportive. Mom and dad extended their love and that’s all I needed to help me get through the coming days.
I quickly learned in the last month with Mr. Nice Day and those months to follow that I had more love and support than I ever expected from the people in my life – from the coworker who put together a toolbox for me, to the church family who held me in prayer, to a brother who gave financial aid when I needed it most, to a friend who made brandy old fashioned’s and ice cream cones on my bad days, to the boss who kept telling me “just do what you need to do”, and to the friends who called often to simply ask, “How are you doing?” I was blessed to have this circle of support in my life. Insanely blessed.
My date of separation finally came on September 14th. The night before, Mr. Nice Day was called to jury duty and that gave me a window of opportunity leave without confrontation. I didn’t sleep the entire night. I laid in bed next to snoring ND, tears constantly welling, stress and anxiety at an all-time high, praying to God to keep me safe and let the morning come. Morning did come and with ND’s departure, my friend and I packed up what we could in two cars and I started to drive out of the hurricane. I wasn’t quite out of the wind and rain, but I had left the eye of the storm.
The week that followed consisted of a one-night stay at a women’s shelter, putting my 17 year old cat to sleep, moving my belongings on three separate days, putting in hours at work, and helping my parents with their move into assisted living. I didn’t sleep much and I ran on nerves, anxiety and stress. Don’t ask me what happened on Thursday of that week because it’s a total blank. I think I was at work, but for the life of me, I don’t remember. I’ll blame it on the hurricane.
What followed is the process that many people have gone through, which is separation and divorce. I will spare you any additional details and leave it at this: I made it. I made it completely out of the hurricane. I won freedom and happiness. I found sanity and the love of many people. Three years and nine months after that day in September, I am the happiest I have ever been. Life is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn sunny. The hurricane is finally gone.