By sheer kismet, I saw an old work colleague, Gabby ( her name has been changed) in the same office meeting. Five years ago we worked at the same company and flew in the same circles. After our meeting, we ducked into the nearest vacant lobby to catch up. I noticed her engagement and wedding ring were absent.
After our interlude of swapping war stories from our old company, things got personal. She shared her journey as a parent with a special needs child. I shared my story as an accidental, single parent. Since I am “owning” my new lifestyle, I come across people doing a “verbal dump” about their journey, maybe because they feel like they are in good company.
Gabby’s story is nothing but shocking and certainly a case study in the various forms of narcissistic emotional and mental abuse. Gabby married a close friend from college about six years ago. They went on to have a little boy with serious developmental disabilities. Her husband lamented this fact to his family, her family and pretty much anyone who would listen. The rhetoric was so cold hearted and selfish it’s almost too despicable to write the words.
About six months ago, Gabby unearthed a lifetime of secrets. One fateful day, she discovered a local hotel receipt in her husband’s office while tidying the house. This single artifact prompted her to probe further into their finances and phone records. Their finances were isolated, however the statements were carefully cataloged in her husband’s files. The irony probably wasn’t lost that as an accountant, he was hard wired to save and file statements – a mountain of evidence boring a hole into her dysfunctional marriage.
After finding credit card charges to a massage parlor, an account on a prominent cheater’s website and random bank account withdrawals of hundreds of dollars, Gabby confronted her husband. He denied everything, accusing her of paranoia and delusion. It wasn’t until she took a long look into his cell phone and 2,000 texts later (which she professed to never doing before), it was clear he had been cheating with dozens of women over the course of their marriage.
The way Gabby described it, her husband was unfazed. He merely suggested couples counseling to find the root evil of why he was “forced to stray.” He went on to state that no one person could fulfill every need in a marriage. He wanted an open relationship and found a counselor willing to discuss a new arrangement.
Faced with financial uncertainty and sadness for her son’s new, disrupted life, Gabby decided to give the open relationship a try. In counseling, they agreed to completely transparent communications and the opportunity to veto an undesirable girlfriend or boyfriend. I didn’t judge her. Single parenthood is incredibly scary. Also, sometimes open marriages do work, but often they do not- either way, I kept my thoughts to myself.
A few months went by in the new lifestyle and Gabby started to feel the hallmarks of lies and deceit manifest into her husband’s considerably late working hours. He’d come home at 3 am during tax season. Or he’d send a text that he was grabbing a drink with a male friend and arrive home at 2 am. Either way, Gabby found evidence her husband was back to his old habits (he’s not a very bright fellow, is he?).
Our two hour “catch up” session reached culmination with her legal separation. I could see the anxiety and sadness pouring out of her as she questioned all things related to child custody and living as a working, single parent to a special needs child. I gave her my number and email address, promising to schedule drinks so that we could talk more.
Sometimes the best medicine to recovery is an open ear.