There comes a point in time in life where you’re forced between two choices: go down the road less travelled, or continue the way you’re going. For some, it’s changing career paths; others, it’s getting out of a long-term relationship that you’ve fallen into complete comfort with despite have a useless significant other. A cheating girlfriend, a workaholic husband – or maybe you’re just unhappy but too afraid to leave.
Regardless of what your situation is, there’s (very rarely) a good excuse for not nutting up and getting out of it before you’re too deep, or even if you’re already too deep. This story from Phyllis Thompson, in an answer to the question “How did you find out that your spouse was cheating?” on the forum website Quora, is precisely the reason you shouldn’t let yourself become complacent with the everyday if your everyday isn’t what you want out of life. And yes, technically Phyllis’ story is about her friend and not herself, but the message stands regardless:
This is the sad, sad, sad story of my friend. In the beginning, we lived in the same city and saw one another often. We were both married, career oriented and happy in our lives. One time, and only one time in the two years that we were there, I got a really strange vibe from her husband. We were at her house, and he walked to back room to get my coat. When he handed me my coat, he didn’t say a word, didn’t touch me, but just stood and looked right at me with his eyes and spoke with his eyes. I never mentioned it, and berated myself for even thinking that he might be suggesting something.
Life took us about a couple of hours apart. She still seemed happy, but also seemed lonesome at times. Her husband worked in the city, and their home was in the suburbs, so he arrived home quite late. He became almost obsessed with his work and praise for his work. In general, she was complimentary of him, but she just didn’t seem happy.
After 5 years, our lives took us to opposite ends of the US. I decided to start a family with my husband, and, she and her husband were going to wait a bit longer. I was very involved with being a mom and we were so far apart, our friendship became less a priority for both of us. When we did occasionally talk, she sounded unhappy, but only hinted at problems. She would say maybe we would be happier if we had children. I wish he wasn’t so involved in his work. I do so many things with my friends. He doesn’t mind, but I am lonely for him.
Three more years of occasionally talking, and now, our still occasional talking became more of her talking about how sad she was. Her husband was often harsh with her, complaining about her appearance or social skills or the house. She talked about being depressed and not feeling she could keep herself, her house, her relationship up to old standards. She seldom did anything with friends. She began to talk like someone who had no confidence, and who was withdrawn. Still, though I felt very badly for her, and was getting suspicious, I was so involved in my life that I did not take time for her.
Then all of a sudden, she called and was so excited that they were starting a family. I could tell by our talks that her husband was not terribly interested and was still job obsessed. Once the baby came, she called me less and less and then not at all. When I called her, I got an answering machine and my calls were never returned. As my concern grew, I called once and got her husband. He was short and cold. When I asked him about changes with her, he said I wouldn’t understand, but their lives were very different that before and he thought she didn’t really have anything in common with me, but was embarrassed to tell me to stop calling. I was shocked, hurt and just stopped calling.
Three more years, and I hear that she has had a second child. Her husband’s career was going astonishingly well and as they say, she was movin’ on up. I followed her through people who we both knew in the past.
And then one day, while back in our home city, I ran into her at a local hangout. She was shocked, but we hugged and lightly chatted. I thought that she was rather cold and didn’t seem to have any interest in me, nor in sharing her life. Yet I could see a weakness, obvious weakness in her eyes and she just wasn’t the same person I once knew. I talked to friends who got some news about her, but even they heard less and less.
And, as life sometimes does, we moved to within a 30 minute drive of where she was. I called. I left messages. I found her address. I sent a card. No response. So I finally just drove over one day, and there she was in the cul de sac playing with her daughter and talking to neighbors. I told her that I had intentionally came to visit her. We talked, those close feelings seeping through. She described a marriage where she had no input. Her husband planned all events, he traveled almost all week, every week. He was at the top of his business, making lots of money, but she seemed so lost. She had gained a lot of weight, dressed in baggy clothing, and her face had aged horribly.
I began to see her often and came to learn that her husband was often angry with her, let the smallest things anger him, never helped with the children or went to their activities, had trimmed down and was wearing designer clothing and driving fancy cars that he did n’t want the children in because they might get it dirty. She had no friends except me and she did nothing except take care of her children. She didn’t really complain. In fact she hardly said anything.
I put myself into her life. Whenever her husband was at home and I was there, he was friendly, charming and nice to me. There was little interaction between them. My friend began to tell me about how she was dragging her husband down because she was unattractive, had no interests and no ‘important’ friends. Her husband told her often that she was not a good mother, that she had not continued to grow and that she didn’t know how to take care of anything. She became more and more depressed and I began to tell her that I felt she was being emotionally abused by her husband. Their sex life involved him asking to have sex, her hating the idea, but only occasionally going along when he implied that if she didn’t, he would be in a bad mood and probably not interested in spending tie with the children.
I told her that this was forced sex and then I told her it was rape. I tried to show her how abusive her husband’s words were. I was able to get her out and about and somewhat better. I even mentioned to her that I thought her husband might be having affairs because he was never home, and always talked about this or that wonderful woman he was working with. My friend became a bit more positive, and, yet did not believe her husband would cheat on her.
She began to ask for more of his time. She even defended herself now and then against his insults. And she finally got up the nerve to tell her husband that she was particularly concerned about his relationship with one woman at work. He mentored this young woman, spent hours and hours teaching her the business, took her to all of his meetings so she could observe, and traveled frequently with her. He told his my friend that he couldn’t just abandon this woman because she had become extremely important to his ability to make more and more money. My friend became more empowered and demanded that this relationship change. After quite a few months, my friend seem happier, was seeing more of her husband, and said he was working his way out of this business thing with the woman. In fact he promised her that he would never travel with her again.
And then, one day as he was leaving for a week long trip, she glanced out of the window as he got into a limo taking him to the airport. When he opened the back door, sitting there, locking eyes with him, as he got into the car was the woman that he promised never to travel with again. My friend knew his office situation well enough to call and ask to speak to the woman and her administrator said, oh, she and your husband are off to pick up some terrific business. She called the hotel where he was staying and asked for her room and she was there. My friend knew her husband well enough to guess his voice mail password, and she listened.
She became the most depressed, ptsd, sad person that I ever encountered. She just existed. Her husband seems to actually be sorry. But she just exists. She doesn’t cry, doesn’t smile. She talks politely, speaks with friends at the grocery store, is a member of the garden club and takes trips with her husband to visit their children.
Her existence has gone on for 3 years. She seems void of feeling except for her children. She has seen psychiatric specialists, goes to counseling frequently, takes her prescribed medication and she functions.
But she is destroyed. We do things. She chats, smiles. We go out as two couples and she participates. But she is not there. Just gone, disappeared.
You can read more stories like Phyllis’ HERE, though be warned — if you’re looking for a pick-me-up on this lazy Friday morning, you won’t find it there.