A marriage in trouble
"The budget has been down about $3-400 each month. I pay the god damn bills, I see it disappear. A couple of more dollars at the grocery store cash back, a cash station here and there. That bastard. First he fucks up at home and now he's fucking somewhere else."
Her sister Joyce shook her head. Deb thought it was in sympathy for her plight, but it wasn't because Deb was wronged. It was because Deb was the one that was destroying the marriage. Something she wouldn't ever allow herself to see.
Joyce went through it herself with her husband Terry. He had the patience of Job, but it was too much for him and he filed for divorce about 10 months ago. It was not yet finalized, but they had quietly been going to marital counseling for the past 9 months. She only started when she realized that he was not going to come back on his own. It's been a tough road for Terry and he moved out long before he filed. It was a year of living without a husband and with two shaken adolescents. It took about 3 months for her to realize what she had and what she could lose forever. In therapy with him, she found out who she really was to others and how she needed to change. Their kids suffered more than anyone else. That hurt the most because she knew was the cause. Terry's been clear that he considers himself free and could choose to go out if he wants to, and has on occasion. That has shaken Joyce to her core. She goes to bed alone every night. Somehow, all of this was lost on Deb.
Deb broke back in, "I heard Jack on the phone with a woman to meet at the Hyatt at 1PM instead of 12 noon on Tuesday. I saw him relax. That fucker lost all the tension in his body, that fucking jerk. I saw him in the mirror smile when talking to that bitch Jenifer."
At this point Joyce suggested that they follow him and meet up with him and his lover. "Deb, if you are going to do this, we have to go all the way. We need to see this Jenifer. Both of us. It's not going to be a 'he said, she said'. It won't be a 'this is what happened', 'no it did not'. I'll be a witness. There won't be any getting away from this. No matter what. Are you in for the whole thing, or nothing?"
"Joyce, I'm gonna hang that bastard and you'll be right there besides me. He's gonna get more hell than he's been getting."
Tuesday at noon, Joyce and Deb meet at a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue by the Hyatt. This is the Magnificent Mile, the hoity-toity part of Chicago. High end, real high end. Much higher that a building maintenance engineer and a receptionist at a dental office could afford, or even dream of.
Deb immediately started complaining about the price of the coffee, the wait in line and anything else she could find. The world was wrong, only she was right. Joyce clenched her teeth and waited patiently for 12:40 to roll around. Waiting for Jack to cross the street.
At 12:50, he came walking across the street, not a care in the world. Even looking happy. "That fucking bastard. He's never happy when I'm home. He's getting some and he's happy. He's gonna pay. He's probably paying for it anyway, who the fuck would want that piece of shit of a husband."
Deb and Joyce kept their distance, but followed him to the elevators. They watched as he got into an empty elevator. As the doors were closing, Deb and Joyce charged in.
"You fucking pathetic lowlife, gonna see Jenifer? Well, we're coming with you. If you're man enough to see somebody on the side, you damn well better be man enough to have your wife and sister-in-law see too!"
Jack listened patiently, and was not a bit ruffled. This started to unnerve Deb a little bit. "No problem with that Deb, and you too Joyce." And the elevator became eerily quiet. With all the yelling and screaming and anger leaving Deb's mouth in the past several years, the silence was deafening. Finally the door opened and he walked to an office door and they all walked in. There on the waiting room wall a sign, "Jennifer Constance, Social Worker, Individual, Family, Couples and Group Counseling". Hearing them enter, 60 year old Jenifer came to the waiting room and smiled.
The only one not aware of what was going on was Deb.
Jenifer reached out her hand to Deb, who has suddenly lost her voice. "Deb, it is so nice to see you here. Jack has been working very hard. Your marriage and your family are so important to him. I see..."
Suddenly, Deb got her voice back. "What the fuck is going on here? Who the fuck are you and what about..."
Joyce cut her off. "Now sit down and shut up." Deb was shocked. She's fought with her sister, but now she's realizing that Joyce was in on this all along. Joyce raised her hand to quiet Deb. "It's time for you to listen. So stop those voices, stop those comebacks, stop trying to be in control of everything. Listen to me. Really listen to me. This is the last chance for your marriage. Let me tell you about your future."
Deb was having none of this and attempted to get up. Joyce pushed her back down with a force that stopped Deb cold. "IS A DIVORCE WHAT YOU WANT BECAUSE YOU GOT ISSUES? WELL HONEY, YOU'RE GONNA HAVE A WHOLE LOT MORE ISSUES, PRETTY NASTY ISSUES UNLESS YOU SIT DOWN HERE AND DROP THAT FUCKING ATTITUDE. GOT IT? THERE AIN'T NO MORE CHANCES IF YOU LEAVE NOW."
Deb is shocked, and speechless. She mumbled out "There's nothing wrong with me, it's him, his att..."
"I SAID SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN." In a softer voice, "This is you and me. I'm gonna tell you your future. First off, Jack already has Terry's spare bedroom. All he has to do now is walk out of here and you'll all alone. Do I have your fucking attention now?"
This was a slap in the face to Deb, a bucket of cold water. She'd been so angry that she never even considered that he'd have the balls to leave. He loved his kids and always interceded on their behalf. Drove her fucking nuts. He always took what she dished out. Only now was she putting together the little changes in behavior in the past several months. He was more independent, he confronted her more. She hated that. The last couple of weeks when she saw the money start to disappear from the checking account, she thought it was for alcohol, gambling or lately, a piece of ass. Never considered that it would be for therapy?
"You've seen me in the past year since Terry left. Yea, you and I soothed each other's egos saying what a shit he was. He ain't the shit, we are. I've never really told you about what it's like without him around. I've got two kids who know that I was the one that made his life hell. Just like you've been doing to Jack, making his life hell. Want to know what it's like to see their faces day after day? They know, they know all too well. But then again, I'm a little luckier. We've just started to go to family sessions. That's the only time the only time we're together. And I get righteous shit from them from what I've done. Nobody gets a pass. It's painful, but we've only begun thinking like a family, and it's been a year.
"It's the little stuff that really sucks too. Something around the house breaks, it's me to fix it. And don't get me talking about the lack of money. Remember Christmas? It was pretty empty. We only got a dinner because Jack here demanded we be there, not you. You couldn't be bothered.
"I was pretty proud and full of myself. Damn good way to cover what I felt. I doubt that even you know what the fuck is going on inside of you. I can tell you what it was with me. Our dad leaving, abandoning us when we were 8 and 10. And you're setting it up to happen for you right now. Just like I did. Fuck up another generation? You're on your way.
"Best defense is an offence. Problem is that Jack is a much better parent that you are. He's got the balls to do something constructive about it. Do you?
"We aren't great wives. I've almost lost my marriage because I was full of myself. And I still don't know if it'll survive. Look at all the people that I hurt. Look at the people that you've hurt. Is that what you want? You treat Jack like shit, just like I treated Terry. In fact, Terry and Jack have kept in contact. Probably have the same lawyer. Is that what you want?" Deb started to protest a little when Joyce came back. "I'm your fucking sister, don't bullshit me. Don't even try to bullshit me."
Deb was sitting there, deflated, caught in the cross-hairs. Her whole world was the exact opposite of what she thought it was going to be this day. She sat there in silence for a few minutes, not knowing what to do.
Jack started talking. "Yes I've been seeing Jennifer, been doing that for months. You've been angry, you've cut me out, you've been impossible to live with, you've made it impossible for our kids to function normally. I had to do something, something to get my feet back under me.
"I've got it together enough to either go through counseling with you, or divorce court. I want to do the first, but it's your decision now. I've never been able to make you do anything, never been able to make you listen.
"But here, in front of two other people, you're hearing the truth. Do you know what you want to do? You don't have to answer now, or even today. I'll be moving to Terry's apartment now. Take your time, I'll tell the kids what's going on. We need time apart.
Deb realized that if he moved out, it would be for... forever? She was looking at real failure of her life. All the things that Joyce had been telling her over the past year, now she heard. It was now her ox being gored. She couldn't pretend anymore. She sat there for a couple of minutes when Jennifer asked her what was going on inside.
In a soft voice, a voice tinged with tears, Deb slowly put her feelings into words. "I don't have to ask you. I know that I've been that bad, and that scared too." Looking at Jack, "You got Joyce to do the heavy lifting because I wouldn't listen to you. I tried hard to not listen to you. What I'm afraid of is that I don't know if I ever can? I'm 41 years old, I've always been this way.' With that, she started wailing.
She was wailing for the damage she was doing to her family, to her kids, to her husband. Wailing for the loss of her father and the bitch of a mother who barely held it all together with her daughters for those years. It took several minutes for her to compose herself when she spoke again. "I don't know where I can start. I really don't know."
Jack spoke up. "Why don't you ask Jenifer?"
For the first time in a long time, Deb felt a little bit of hope. Deb looked around at the three of them and then focused on Jenifer, "When can we start?"
"Jenifer answered, "Next Tuesday at 7PM, just you and Jack. We'll lay the ground rules and set our goals."
The session was near it's ending and the three of us were getting up to leave. Joyce stayed behind to speak with Jenifer, she was also the therapist for her and Terry and the family.
Deb and Jack rode the elevator together, alone, down to the ground floor and Michigan Avenue. They never said a word to one another, never made a sound. On walking to the street, Deb looked at Jack and asked "Why did you do this. Maybe for the children? Maybe to buy some time? But why did you get my sister involved? Why did you not leave? You had a place to go, you got place and support. Why?" She was starting to cry.
Jack smiled, "Yes, it was for the children. Yes, it was because we don't have any money." Deb was still crying and became sadder if that was possible. "But it was also to see if the woman I married would come back to me. It was to see if we could have a better life together. I wanted to give that woman a fighting chance, and I was going to do everything in my power to break what we turned into, into what we should be.
"Your sister and Terry have come a long way. She was worth it to him. I had to give you a real chance to be worth it for me and the kids. It's still up to you, and me. We have a lot of hard work ahead, and we both can bail any time we want to.
"Your sister asked you if you were in for the whole thing, or nothing? The hard work starts now."
"I'm so sorry Jack, all I can say is that I'll do my best. I'm scared."
"Me too honey, me too."
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