Read This If You’re Facing Relationship Collapse

I’ve read a great deal of things since discovering that my wife was cheating on me eleven months ago. At first, of course, I sunk into an emotional abyss and wallowed in self-pity. Eventually, I came around: I knew that I could find solace if I only looked. I looked hard. Really hard. It took me a while, but I found the ONE THING. This is the book:

Bruce Fisher and Robert Alberti, Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends (Oakland, CA: Impact Publishers, 2016, 4th ed.)

This is the single most important work I’ve found to help navigate the uncertainty, the clouded thoughts, and the raw emotional trauma of the pre- and post-divorce process. In my case, there was a section that described the situation between Demi and myself to a T. When I read it, I was so overcome that I threw the book across the room and stared straight ahead in horror. I wish I had seen it earlier. It was a section about rebellion. Her rebellion. And it wasn’t rebellion against me at all. Instead, it was against stress and everything else in her life and in her past. I remember that at one point last summer, when Demi found out that I had sought the company of another woman, Demi had said to me, “I never expected that you would abandon me.”

“But you abandoned me,” I had said.

I didn’t understand then, but now I do. Yes… she abandoned me first, but then I returned the kindness. I shouldn’t have.

I retrieved the book from across the room and read the section again. Could I have seen that coming? Maybe… if I’d only read this first. Then it would have been in the forefront of my mind. If only…

If you’re facing the end or potential end of your love relationship, I strongly suggest you read it.

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The 12/22 Stalking Event

On December 22, 2016, a couple of days after returning from Mexico, I texted my wife while she was at the office and suggested that we meet for a cocktail and dinner at a restaurant of my choice. To my surprise, she agreed.

I selected Cafe N*** in Portland, only a mile and a half from her office. I thought she would appreciate not having to queue up in northbound traffic. She arrived at 7:30, a bit prickly because she assumed I had learned about Cafe N*** from another woman. “How dare you invite me here,” she said as she joined me at a table in the window. She was wrong. I had discovered the restaurant quite at random, and had checked it out once by myself.

Within a few minutes of the first cocktail hitting the table, I saw her cheating partner, J*** O***, come stumbling across the sidewalk as though severely intoxicated, moving in the direction of the window where Demi and I sat. Her back was to him, but O*** made brief eye contact with me, then quickly turned his face away as if to conceal his identity and presence, and abruptly changed his pace and direction toward the curb. The man’s strange behavior caused me to realize that he was in fact stalking us that evening, and that he had likely followed my wife to the restaurant. I asked Demi if anyone knew that she was going to Café N*** that evening, and she answered “no.”

Just then, a well-dressed gentleman entered the restaurant and joined a group of people standing at the bar, just inches from our table. I overheard that man say to his colleagues, “Hey, did you guys see that? That’s J*** O*** from ______ out there. He’s really f*cked up. He’s just standing out there—all f*cked up.”

I was concerned. I attracted that gentleman’s attention and introduced myself and my wife. He was a local attorney, there with several of his colleagues. Neither Demi nor I had met him or the others before that night. At one point, the man described an attempt to speak with J*** O*** before entering the restaurant, but he reported that O*** had difficulty speaking. I also overheard a group of ladies sitting in a small, private, windowed room behind us complain about a man “leering at them through the window.”

I called the police on the way home that night. They took a recorded statement and informed me that they would have to respond while the behavior was happening. They also suggested that, since J*** O*** and my wife work at the same company, I might want to notify the company about the behavior I observed.

I did, through the corporate hotline (it’s a publicly-traded company).

Since then, Demi has told me that J*** O*** knew we were going to the restaurant that night, and that he came there because he “was concerned for her safety.” (!!!)

Really?! We had just returned from a family vacation in Mexico, and she was still coming home to me most nights of the week. Concerned for her safety?! That’s preposterous.

He was behaving like a drunken, possessive psycho.

 

The Process Begins

After being assaulted again on Sunday, January 29, I have decided to proceed with the process of divorcing Demi. Although this Sunday’s incident didn’t involve drinking, it did involve  great deal of anger on her part. She took a swing at me, and I caught her arm before she connected. She made a loud fuss about “don’t touch me!” “Keep your hands off me!” All in front of the kids. Then she came close enough to kiss me and said, “you’re a worthless piece of sh!t…” and spit directly in my face. The source of her anger that day is completely unknown. I haven’t given her any reason to explode like that in quite some time. Well… maybe it was the eye roll when she said she was “going for a walk.” I’d heard that many, many times before. It was never “a walk.”

She did leave, however, and returned about two hours later. Perhaps it was a walk. She also didn’t disappear for very long on Saturday—well, not the normal seven-eight hours.

No matter. I had a conference with my attorney this morning. She suggested I might consider a police report on the assault. I called the county sheriff and discussed it, learning that criminal charges would probably be in order based on a successful investigation, and based on the fact the she’d been arrested for domestic violence in September. I’ve decided to back off for now.

Stay tuned.

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Mexico: December 17

Earlier in the day on December 17, 2016, we both learned that the Domestic Violence IV charge against Demi was to be dropped by the county prosecutor. This was to be our last full day in Puerto Vallarta. We explored the downtown and returned to our hotel with plenty of time for sun on the beach. While the boys played in the surf, I went to get a couple of drinks for Demi and me. When I returned, I found her texting a sexy photo of her legs and feet on the lounge chair. With waves crashing, she didn’t hear me come up behind her. Horrified, I saw her follow the photo with the text, “Come visit me. Start with my toes.”

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked.

After spending eight days in Mexico as a family, we had begun having a good time together. She had just ruined it.

“That wasn’t for your eyes,” she said in a calm and measured voice.

I stormed off.

In that instant, everything became clear: she was living a truly double life. I knew she’d been having an affair, but I’d never quite heard the tone of entitlement like I had that day. I meant nothing to her. Her children meant nothing to her. The only thing she valued was herself and whatever happened to hold her attention at that moment.

I was deeply troubled. I didn’t deserve this; the boys didn’t either. This wasn’t what I signed up for. Somehow, deep inside, I realized that there was something wrong with her. This was all new behavior, a new attitude that had developed during 2016. She had never been this way before. My sense that something was psychologically wrong with Demi was important: up to this point, it helped me endure far more than anyone should have.

But after the events of December 17, something was turning inside me. Something big. I was evolving again.

Domestic Violence

During August and September of 2016, Demi and I came into physical conflict several times. Don’t get me wrong: I never raised a hand to her. I am a muscular 220-230 lbs., and she is lucky to weight in over 120 lbs. on her most bloated day. However, she knows I won’t hit her, so she feels free to get physical. She has fist-punched me in the face several times, but with no really serious results.

During the summer, I discovered that she had a second telephone that she was using to communicate with J*** O***. I found it hiding on a closet shelf, and snatched it. I was reading the messages on it when she saw that it was in my possession. She flew at me, jumped on my shoulders from behind and attempted to take the phone from me. I “set her down” on the stone floor of our entryway. It wasn’t a throw-down, mind you, but she did acquire some bruises from it. It’s a travertine floor. It’s hard. She later threatened to call the police about it, and I dared her. She took pictures of the bruises—mostly on her arms from my grasp, and on her legs from her landing—but she never did anything about it. Nonetheless, she keeps them on her phone and every now and then waves them at me condescendingly.

On September 2, 2016, the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, at 2:30 in the afternoon, I received a text from my wife: “I’ll meet you at the restaurant tonight.”

We had arranged to meet three other couples for dinner that evening, and I instantly knew what Demi’s message meant—that she had other activities planned between the time she was to leave work and arrive at the restaurant at 7:00 pm.

As expected, she was late. She arrived hammered. Demi stumbled in at 7:15, sat at the opposite end of the table from me for the entire evening, and continued drinking. By the time we finished dinner and were all ready to depart, one of the group members, D*** pulled out a small keychain breathalyzer and passed it around for fun. No one laughed when Demi blew a .16. In fact, by the time we’d gotten down to the sidewalk, some members of the group had expressed dismay that she intended to drive herself home. One of our friends, K***, entered her car and removed her keys from the ignition. That sent Demi over the edge. I was standing a short distance away. She became very loud and combative. She came at me and slapped me firmly across the face, causing our friends to gasp. I’m still not sure what provoked her to assault me, since I was a mere observer and had spoken to her very little that entire evening.

Demi then ran off into the downtown Portland area, and our friends fanned out to find her. One couple did manage to find her in a doorway, and spoke with her briefly. She was drunk. She had also managed to find a second set of keys in her purse, and so she ran back to her car, started it, and roared off into the night. I placed a 911 call, concerned for her safety and the safety of others on the road, but the police officer informed me that they would not “hunt” her.

I didn’t see her again until the next morning around 9:30 or 10:00, when she called me wanting to have breakfast. I met her with the boys. She acted as though nothing had happened; as though nothing were wrong. She spent Saturday on the couch, hung over and passing kidney stones. I knew she was in pain, and I pitied her.

By Sunday, September 4, she was back in working order: she was gone “walking” for most of the day and returned in an inebriated state towards evening. She made herself another drink—a triple Ketel-and-soda. When the boys went to bed, we began arguing about her behavior Friday night, and her likely whereabouts most of the day on Sunday. I was drinking red wine, and the alcohol didn’t help with controlling my emotions. By eleven, we had gotten quite nasty with each other. I said something truly vile and went off to bed. A few minutes later, she entered the bedroom and slapped her hand down over my ear so hard it made my eardrum ring. That pissed me off, and I picked up the phone and dialed 911.

Three sheriff’s deputies arrived within minutes. I was taken outside while they interviewed her in the house. Shortly thereafter, they brought her out and took her away. She spent the next two days and nights in the county jail. I was heartbroken—I expected the police to help us cool down. But instead, she was carted off and charged with Domestic Violence IV, a serious misdemeanor in Washington.

I had second thoughts about that night. I began to feel the charge was unfair. It was an argument that just got out of hand. Wasn’t it? It should have been kept personal. I questioned myself deeply: had I simply overreacted? This was the mother of my two sons. I love her. She didn’t deserve it. Did she?

I worked very hard lobbying the prosecutor both in writing and in person over the next few months to try to get her to drop the charges. I wrote an impassioned plea, expressing my desire to have her back as my wife and mother of my children. The decision wouldn’t come until December 17, when Demi and I were sitting with our boys at a restaurant in sunny Puerto Vallarta. By then, she had hired a local defense attorney, and had paid him $5,000 to arrange for a lie detector test (!), preventative drug testing and certain, “psychological evaluations” to use in her defense. (Once when she was drunk, she spilled that her psych evaluations would make me look like the abuser. They would indeed, I thought, if being adept at catching a liar was any measure. I wished her luck with that strategy.)

In any case, we both hoped for a good outcome, but separately, and for separate reasons. I excused myself to go to the restroom. By chance, while I was up, the prosecutor’s assistant called me and informed me that her office was dropping the charges, and that they would be signed by a judge on Monday. I instantly knew my hard work had paid off. I returned to the table and didn’t tell my wife.

With an hour, she received a call from her defense attorney telling her of the news. After hanging up, she became incredibly cocky about the whole affair, telling me how proud she was of the job her attorney had done. I kept my mouth shut, and let her have her pyrrhic victory. There was no victory here. What I didn’t know yet was that that afternoon would bring still another untoward event into our marriage.

Stay tuned.

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My Truth…

My idea for this article was to examine and reflect upon myself as a cause for the breakdown of my marriage—to take some ownership for its failure.

I will begin with this: I have not always been as fiscally responsible as I should have. I had a period in my life about eight to ten years ago where I accumulated some debt, and my wife helped me with that. I was very grateful.

Second, I became a stay-at-home Dad by default, really. It was the recession, and the economic downturn was killing many of my paying clients. That’s also what helped me accumulate debt. So I focused on the kids. Health care insurance costs were skyrocketing, and our youngest was still a toddler, so it made some sense to let go of my struggling business. That had an effect on me over time.

I became intellectually bored over the next few years, and quite depressed. I think I was a little embarrassed about being the stay-at-home parent. I became less active, which made me gain weight. I drank a little more, I ate a little more to sooth my embarrassment. While I stayed active with a couple of remaining clients, having the charge of such young kids made it tough to expand my business when the economy began to improve again—I couldn’t promise anything to anyone, because the kids came first. They had to come first. That was my job, and I treated it as such. By that point, they were both in school (Sam for half-days, requiring pick-up before noon) and Leo was getting into sports. I gave them my all.

Third, I probably should have become more proactive again once the kids started full-day school, but I didn’t because I wanted to use the time to hone my skills as a writer and copy editor, and begin to make a career change. That was a mistake, in retrospect.

NOW FOR THE HARD TRUTH.

No matter how hard I looked for excuses about me and my actions, I found that there was no cause, no reason, no train of logic that could be used to excuse what my wife chose to do. NOTHING. NADA. ZERO. ZILCH. НИЧЕГО.

I’m paraphrasing what a lot of other writers have already said when I say that cheating is simply a despicable act which is based on a foundation of lies. The lies cause nothing but PAIN and AGONY. In fact, it is a tsunami of misery and destruction: huge, catastrophic waves radiate out from the center and reach surprisingly distant shores, in their wake destroying all trust, and forever changing the course of our children’s development and their relationships with us, their parents. It’s pain, agony, and nothing else but that.

I’ve watched this carefully: my wife has gotten some twisted logic into her head that makes her believe she’s entitled to cheat. Just like nations do in wartime, she has had to demonize me as an enemy in order to help her feel better about the pain she knows she’s causing. As you read my account, you will learn that there was a period of time (I call it the Process of Discovery), when I did indeed embark on checking up on what she told me—seeing where she was and with whom. She was caught at nearly every turn. Now, if I so much as roll an eye when she’s telling me where she’s going to be, I get called a “Controlling Tyrant.” I’m not that, of course. I admit that there was a time in the spring and summer of 2016 when I might have been characterized as that, but not since the fall—and certainly not in 2017. A new year. A new approach: I have ceased paying attention to her random comings and goings entirely. Still, she’s angry—angry mostly, I believe, about the fact that she was ultimately unable to conceal her defilement of our marriage and our family. She has always lived a highly-compartmentalized life, and I’m sure she thought that if she could keep her worlds separate, she would get away with it. (But that’s not what happened. Read my article on D-Day!) Maybe I shouldn’t roll my eyes. I dunno.

I can’t imagine the stress she’s under. She’s managing more people at work than she’s ever managed before (she went from zero to more than twenty in one job change); she’s under pressure to turn her part of the business around, stop it from shrinking, and keep it profitable; and she’s got to be constantly worried about hiding—hiding her illicit relationship from her coworkers, from me, from her children, and from the few friends left who haven’t found out. Even when she thinks she’s gotten away with something, I’m sure she even worries about whether she’s hidden things well enough. (She hasn’t done a very great job of it.)

The bottom line here: what happened wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about me at all. It wasn’t my fault. It’s only about herself. I can’t imagine what happens when she reflects on her own integrity, her own actions, her own lies. Imagine this: last summer, she went to one of her friends who was going on vacation, told her she needed a place to stay for a week for her “personal safety,” and then used that friend’s house to entertain her boyfriend! And what about when I took the kids to the midwest for Thanksgiving 2016, and she invited him into our home? Into our bed? What kind of person does that?

It’s a person who needs help—help with the deep scars her aloof and selfish parents caused many years ago, help with the profound sense of abandonment during childhood and again when each of them passed away suddenly in separate accidents. She needs help with her drinking, and help with relationships and intimacy. She needs help with her medical issues—things that I believe are part of the reason she’s become such a fatalist. She needs help finding her way back to being a role model, and she needs help looking me in the eye again. Cheating provides only a temporary respite from her issues and maladies—it’s a feel-good moment that ultimately destroys her in the end, because it destroys the closest relationships she has, and forever changes the way those people look at her… yes, even her children. And maybe I should say especially her children.

The day I finished this article (Sunday, Jan 29), she was so angry that she raised a fist and swung. I caught her arm. Then she spit in my face and called me a “worthless piece of sh!t” in front of our children. That was wrong in so many, many ways.

D-Day: March 20, 2016

March 20th is a day that will forever live in infamy. It was D-Day, or “Discovery-Day,” in the language of the world of infidelity.

The night before, Saturday, an unusual number of text messages were coming across Demi’s phone. I paid no attention until the hours after midnight, when I was awakened by them. I got out of bed and found her phone in the dark, hoping to mute it.

There, on the screen, I saw a banner with the name “Eli James.” I instantly knew something inappropriate was happening. She continued to sleep. I went to my computer, logged into our mobile carrier’s web site and retrieved the source number that the messages were coming from. It was a Portland cell number.

I confronted Demi when she rose at 5:30 am.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing,” she said. “It’s a guy I met in Nashville. I made the mistake of giving out my number. No big deal.”

“Why is he texting you at 3:00 am?

“Probably drunk,” she said reassuringly. “It’s nothing. There’s nothing to worry about. He lives out of town—”

Oops. I already knew it was a local number. The love of my life had just lied to me. Not a little lie, mind you, but a huge, ugly, and obvious lie, the kind that’s alive with wriggling worms, crawly bugs, and lots of sticky slime. I quietly accepted her explanation and went on with the morning.

The next week saw a flurry of discovery activity.

I was a Cold War intelligence specialist who spent a ton of time in the Soviet Union plying my trade in both human and electronic intelligence. Я даже говорю по-русски свободно и почти без инностранного акцента. (I’m fluent in Russian, of course.)

I researched the phone number I’d obtained, and traced it to a name and P.O. Box in Portland. I found the person, his age, date of birth, ex-wife, an address, and discovered that he worked at the same agency in downtown Portland where she did. He was also a producer trainee, and she was on the management team—very dangerous territory from any HR person’s perspective.

By Wednesday, March 23rd, I had enough information to confront Demi about the first lie. So I did. Demi was sitting on the sofa watching TV when I announced that I knew.

“You know what?” she said.

“I know who it is.”

“Who what is?”

“Eli. Eli James.”

“How can you? I told you he’s just a guy from out of town. It’s no big deal. You’re spinning this into something bigger than it is.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“His real name is J*** E. O*** and he works in your office, in the commercial department. He’s a trainee there.”

I’ll never forget the look on Demi’s face that evening. She sat back into the sofa, her eyes glazed over, her entire face flushed red, her cheeks sunken. She was busted.

“You’re wrong,” she said calmly yet defiantly.

Then I saw her “tell”—lips pressed tightly together, pursing upwards. I would see that tell many, many times in the coming weeks and months.

At that moment, my world crashed. My worst fears were true. This couldn’t be happening. I have small children. This wasn’t what I signed up for. One thing was very clear at that moment: Demi was not going to be honest with me under any circumstances. The breach was exposed, and she was going to continue trying to conceal it with lies.

I should have told her right then and there that her efforts would be entirely in vain. But I don’t think she would have believed me. To this day, I believe she truly didn’t know what she was up against.

I needed to know what was going on, so I planned and initiated a thorough and wide-ranging discovery operation that would have made a Langley controller proud. I can’t describe the details of the operation here because of two pending court cases, but suffice it to say that I obtained every single piece of critical information on my checksheet, and then some. It was very, very painful. All of it. I loved this woman, and yet I had now discovered a second identity—a second life she was leading. My heart bled, for myself and for my children.

Stay tuned.

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