Friday the 13th, August, 2004. D-Day.
6:00 am – T-minus 16 hours to the end of comforting routines
I am alone at the kitchen table, in the sweet still of the morning, drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper. The kids are at camp, and he is out of town on business as usual, so I take in the quiet of this empty house and treat myself to the luxury of the crossword – in pen! Because my world is still intact this morning I can afford to risk permanency when a pencil would be safer. It will be years before I sleep well enough for my brain to once again attend to simple pleasures like crossword puzzles.
7:00 am – T-minus 15 hours to the end of my children’s safe home
The 2-week camp, where my children are safely sequestered, posts candid pictures every morning. Just like every other camp morning, I eagerly scan the online pics and find a few shots of my smiling girls. Heart sufficiently warmed, knowing that my babies are safe, I get about my day, answering emails and other office-y things. And laundry. Always laundry. This will be the last time I lovingly fold his boxers or line them up just so in his top drawer.
8:00 am – T-minus 14 hours to the loss of a lifetime love of running
I leave on my daily 4-mile run. Endorphins! I’ve been a runner since middle school. If you’re a runner, I don’t have to explain; if you’re not, no explanation will make sense. Trust me when I say running is my “thing”; my escape from stress and my time to reflect. I don’t know it yet, but this will be my last free-spirited run with a peaceful mind. After tonight, running will morph into a time of crushing fears without distraction and a shortness of breathe I’ve never before experienced. And then, when the fears finally abate, my health will crash from the stress and I will never run again.
10:00 am – T-minus 12 hours to total disorientation
I usually enjoy my errands and weekly trip to the grocery store, and today is no different. Some weeks, as a simple reward-to-self, I purchase a little ice cream treat. And when I do, my husband gets mad that I’ve spent $2 on myself and risked the ultimate sin of getting fat, so I often eat my treat on the way home and hide the evidence. Ugh. This will later become one of those false equivalencies I endure at the hands of misguided “sex addiction” specialists, as if hiding an ice cream sandwich is the same thing as using the children’s college funds to secretly purchase hundreds of sex partners and pay admission fees to places I wish I didn’t know existed.
2:00 pm – T-minus 8 hours to the end of innocence
I spend some time cleaning, including my girls’ bedrooms and bath in preparation for their coming home in a few days. I linger as I change their sheets, missing them and eager to once again tuck them safely in at night and hear the camp stories come spilling forth. I don’t yet realize that I have put them to bed at peace for the very last time, and that bedtime is about to become hell hour – a time when broken little hearts will present me with their anguish, and I, the one parent present throughout their precious lives, will fear that I am going down with the ship.
6:00 pm – T-minus 4 hours to lifting the veil
He arrives home from a typical week on the road. He always feels like an interruption because we have gotten so used to a routine without him, but I try my best to be fully present and honoring of him. I recently decided to throw myself into our marriage like my life depended on it, because I deeply love this man and I blame the distance between us on my preoccupation with the kids. We decide to go out to dinner for the first time in weeks. Maybe this will work, as recent marriage counseling for “improving communication” has been a dismal failure. I’m just 4 hours from knowing exactly why it never stood a chance.
7:00 pm – T-minus 3 hours to pain
We arrive at a steakhouse, where they usher us to a familiar booth. I order the salmon, a sweet potato, and asparagus. Our conversation feels awkward and tense and something isn’t right, but I dismiss it. I assume we’re just “off” because the kids are away, or because the waiter is too chatty, or because there’s ice in the water. I am wrong. I have an eerie sense that I don’t know this man, that I am sitting across from a stranger who isn’t truly present. Looking back, I wonder if he’d already planned how the night would unfold.
9:00 pm – T-minus 1 tiny hour to a broken soul
I shower off the day and get ready for bed. Like a lamb to the slaughter I sprinkle my body with a soft, sweet smelling powder, and put on a pretty little white cotton gown. I have no idea this is my final hour to be “me”; my last hour without questions that have no answers; my last hour of untarnished faith in both God and man. The irony of choosing such an innocent and beautiful white gown for this occasion will come to haunt me, and I will crawl into bed in oversized t-shirts for years because of the events of this night.
10:00 pm – T-minus 10 minutes to the explosion
The lights are out. We begin to kiss and share pillow talk. I’m trying my best to resurrect a marriage that feels stale after 2 kids and way too many moves for his career. I feel hope; hope that we can find our way back to each other; hope that the worst is behind us now that the kids are more self-sufficient; hope for a better tomorrow because this man has repeatedly promised me, as recently as last week, that “I will never leave you or forsake you”. Hope springs eternal in light of such lofty promises. I am about to learn there are some things from which there’s no coming back.
10:10 pm – BOOM!
My world is shattered. Unprompted, he begins unburdening himself with a few scant details of his habit of whores and hook-ups, details I will later learn barely scratch the surface of a depraved secret life spanning the entirety of our marriage. I snatch my nightgown off the floor and fumble my way back into it, suddenly ashamed of my nakedness before this man. I sit on the edge of the bed while he slumps to the floor with his head in his hands. In that instant, the years of gaslighting, lying, blame shifting, and financial, emotional, and spiritual abuse – though I’ve yet to learn those words – suddenly have an explanation, and a rage builds in me that I cannot control. I yell, cry, and scream until salmon and asparagus come back up. My marriage is over and deep in my soul, I know that.
March, 2010 – 6 years after D-day
I finally crawl out of the “sex addiction” industry’s web of bottom lines and lists and slips and sides of the street, all of which gave me false hope, empowered my abuser, and cost me 6 more years of my life. I comprehend who he is, what he has done, and what he continues to do in spite of two precious children who desperately need their father. I can no longer live with the fear of what more he is capable of doing, or has done that I’ll never know about. I come to accept that the rampant illicit sex is but one small symptom of a much deeper, unfixable problem. I learn to call this whole mess what it is – abuse – and I file for divorce.
January, 2021 – 15+ years after D-day
I have peace, and I look forward to my tomorrows. I understand how the abuse came upon me slowly; so slowly that I failed to recognize it. I understand that I did nothing to deserve what he did to me. He is a human being broken beyond repair. If he were whole and did the things he did to me, my children? Well, that would make him a monster.