Editor’s note: A Lovefraud reader, we’ll call him Jeff, sent the following e-mail to tell his story.
In 1981, I met the woman who later became my wife when we worked together in a furniture factory. She was 44 and married and I was a 30-year-old single “Christian.” What started out as a frequently adversarial interaction became a friendship within a year, and by 1982, she was telling me how horrid her marriage was because her husband was so loveless and mistreated her. White knight that I thought I was, I let my sympathy turn into action and eventually was convinced I loved her, which led to her inviting me to her home on an evening when her youngest daughter and husband were gone. It now seems apropos that I became an adulterer on Halloween.
From 1983 on to mid-1985, we had a relationship where she would send me loads of love letters and cards, and I would frequently come by her home during the day, since we were now both laid off from work. Once, she shared with me that she had six other lovers before me. Although that made me a little skeptical, I decided she really loved me and stayed with her.
In 1985, she called me from a pay phone in town and asked me to come and get her. When I picked her up, she told me her husband had kicked her out of the house and then tried to make up but she told him it was too late. She was grinning about it. I took her to live with me in a small trailer. That didn’t last long, because I came home one day and my elderly landlady was standing at the front door of the trailer, which was open with my woman, I’ll call her Sally, standing in it. My landlady was fuming. She told me that she had never been treated so terribly in her life, that “that woman” called her an old bag and a host of four-letter words, telling her to drop dead. I looked at Sally, who looked like she had no idea what was going on. Then I turned to my landlady and served her notice that we were moving.
Within a month, we got an apartment. She got her divorce finalized in December. We both worked evenings; she at a family restaurant and I at a plastics factory in a town 12 miles away. Our only difference in schedules was that she had Wednesday nights off, while I had just the weekends. But Sally would leave during the day quite frequently, most of the time claiming she was going to help her youngest daughter with her new twins. She would be gone for anywhere from two to three hours each time she left and I never questioned it. In 1988, I got another evening job at a factory 45 miles away for slightly better money. That ended up being about $12 per hour. But the following year, I was hit by rheumatoid arthritis. It wracked my entire body with pain to the point that I couldn’t do normal functions, sometimes even unable to sleep. I began to work sporadically because of the flares. But one night in late 1989, I came home to find a “Dear John” letter. She was gone and had already moved all of her belongings out. I went to pieces and started drinking profusely, throwing my stuff around the house in my swings from anger to despair.
That led to me getting a room in the town 12 miles away and I worked when I could at the factory up north. But I couldn’t keep up because of the arthritis, so I took an extended disability leave. A month later, I had been notified by my former landlady that there were still some things to be taken out of the old apartment, so I went over — and found my father inside, with Sally standing behind him. She smiled and took me in her arms, and it looked like our relationship was renewing. In April of 1990, I proposed to her and she accepted. Our first home was the very efficiency she had moved to when she left me in 1989. The landlord also ran a high-tech hardware business out of the top floor of the building, and he was generally there during the day to work with a small team of employees. Even though I was out of my job on long-term disability, I was seeking therapy and vocational rehab to get me into another job more conducive to my condition. That took me out of the house on most weekdays, and she still worked evenings at the restaurant.
Living off insurance and her earnings wasn’t keeping our heads above water. She had told me she had been working for the landlord after she first moved in. She was continuing that, and when I got a job with the federal government as a GS-4, I also started working for the landlord to make up part of our rent. I had all the credit cards because none of the companies would approve any for her, and since we didn’t earn much, she encouraged me to buy a lot on credit. Furnishings, cookware, eating out on Saturdays, all went on credit.
After working at two different factories, I had developed a lot of friends, male and female. They invited me to parties and weddings. At first, Sally went to them. But then she started refusing to go on the grounds that they were my friends. That turned into several talks with me when she insisted that we were supposed to be best friends, and when I had her for a friend, why did I need all the others? So, I began to let my friendships fall by the wayside, one by one.
About two years after marrying, we started having some bumpy spots. They were mainly Sally complaining about me belittling her (I had no idea how and she never told me), not being supportive, and looking at other women. She was the one doing the shouting. These moments didn’t last long, so I thought nothing of them. But I did notice that, through time, she had acquired a very profound knowledge of our landlord. She knew all about his business, about his likes and dislikes, his family, and his employees. But I let that go over my head. In 1994, there was a time that the landlord offered us a better, bigger apartment while she was at work. He ended up lying about the price the former tenants paid, so I said no and I told Sally about it when she got home. And she defended him. No matter what I said, she had something to counter it. I finally looked at her silently, then said, “when a woman takes a stranger’s word over her own husband, there’s something wrong.” But I let that go after a while, too.
We moved across town in 1995. After being there for nearly a year, the fighting started. It was all vocal, and it was still the same accusations, with something new…we weren’t having sex as often as we used to. Those arguments didn’t blow over so easily. We moved again in 1996, to an apartment about a block away from where we had first lived when we married. From that point on, I began to feel irritable once in a while, and found myself facing occasional bronchitis and other ailments, in addition to my arthritis. A few times, she would start complaining about something again and I tried to discuss it with her – such as my refusal to talk much about my job – but she refused to believe me. How could I deal with that? I learned not to say anything and just take it all.
She quit her job at the restaurant in 2000, claiming it was time to retire, even though she was two years away from the age for collecting full social security benefits. She took up babysitting for friends and family to make a few extra bucks on the side. I was still working days. I ran into a problem at work in 2002, which involved my supervisor attempting to railroad me as retaliation for getting her in trouble with her supervisor back in 1996. When I told Sally about it, she turned it into a story about me cheating on her and started yelling and crying. I began to believe that I had, and kissed her feet when she told me to. The ensuing two years after seemed fine, but then she started in on the accusations again. She would also call me at work, and if I didn’t answer the phone, she would demand to know where I was when I got home. And if I got home 10 minutes or more later than normal, she would demand to know where I’d been and would yell that I was with another woman.
As of 2005, she started complaining about the high debt load we had and insisted I do something about it. I contacted debt management firms who told me they couldn’t help because we had closed half of our accounts. We went to a series of debt management courses at our church. It helped us a little. We got counseling directly by a couple in church who specialized in debt reduction and budgeting, in 2006. We were starting to get at least a controlled budget.
Fighting a war
In 2005, I had started getting a hunch that Sally was fighting a war with me. I didn’t know why, so I dismissed it as my fertile imagination. But by 2006, I was convinced she was fighting a war, she would constantly do things she knew could irritate me, as well as noticeably confusing me about things going on. When I told her the car needed to be repaired, she denied it, I took it in and it needed work, and when I got back home, she insisted that she had always told me it needed work but I never believed her. But I refused to fight back, and when she complained vigorously, I would turn and walk away, knowing she’d never believe what I had to say.
She was adding more and more complaints against me: cheating, belittling her, disrespecting her, manipulating and controlling her, not planning things with her; there were a host of them. Once when I was talking with some of the women in church with her next to me, as soon as we got outside, she yelled at me for “making eyes” at them. Those kinds of accusations, and others, increased in frequency, especially in 2007, when she was also insisting that I should declare bankruptcy. She was also twisting things I said when she said them back to me and making me think I didn’t tell her something that I knew I had, or that some event or other that happened really hadn’t happened. And there was something new happening. Her daughters and sons-in-law were changing the way they treated me; the oldest now acted reserved when she came back into town with her pilot husband. I wondered what was going on.
I had being seeing a doctor for various symptoms during 2007 and early into 2008, and wasn’t getting much sleep, was overweight, and felt miserable all the time. I’d actually started feeling that way in 2002. But I now thought it was time for me to stop taking this treatment from her and start handing back to her what she gave out. Sometimes when we went into stores, she would walk three paces behind me, claiming that was her “slave position.” So, I would speed up and turn a corner into an aisle, forcing her to find me. If she’d give me something in my lunch that she knew I hated, I would bring it back home.
Things were building and I was feeling more and more ill and depressed every day. It all reached a head starting on June 10 of this year, after I had gone over to her daughter’s house to fix a computer. Her daughter lectured me there and talked down to me as if I was 10, so I finished the work and left without saying anything. I told Sally about it, and she said, “Well, you know how she is.” The next morning, her daughter called before I left for work and told her mother that I had slammed the door when I left and had been generally miserable to everyone, including her 14-year-old son, whom I loved dearly. And while she kept on talking to her mother, Sally started accusing me of doing everything that she’d said I had done, plus more.
I got to work. While there, I thought I’d try making amends by setting up a savings/checking account of her very own, so she wouldn’t have to share her money but could have it for herself. I neglected to call her first. At 1:00, there was a voicemail from Sally on my phone full of screaming and four-letter words. I couldn’t bear it, so I deleted it. I hoped that she would cool down by the time I got home. She didn’t. She was still screaming and yelling and sobbing in between. I was at my wit’s end, so I shouted, “That’s it! I want you out of this house!”
That’s how the divorce began.
Change of demeanor
But after I told her to get out, there were some changes that I didn’t understand. Her demeanor immediately underwent a sudden alteration. She stopped crying and yelling and said, “Well, finally! It only took me two years pressuring you to get you to do something about it!” She was all business from that point on. Hardly any emotion, except when she would talk on the phone, sometimes she’d laugh. And she would occasionally pass by me and say something snide. One of the things she said, as she stuck her face into mine, had to do with a running joke I had developed back in the 1990s, when I could set a VCR without the manual. “Remember how you used to say that you were the smartest person you know? Well, you’re not.” And the day before she went out the door for good, I had made a comment on how this is how an 18-year marriage goes down the hole, to which she replied, ”We never had a marriage.” And I witnessed her lying openly to people around us — including a policeman to try to get me thrown out of the apartment — without blinking an eye. From that point on, she kept her whereabouts a secret and asked people not to tell me.
Almost run off the road
I couldn’t figure out what had happened, but she no longer resembled the woman I married. After she left, I began to run all of the experiences, events, and words that had passed between us. And I remembered something that had happened a year ago. I was on my way to work around 7 a.m. and, five miles north of town, and a sea green Prius started to pass me, then cut back in at the last moment and tried to force me off the road. I honked, swerved, and hit the brakes. The next day, it happened again, so I wrote down the plate number and vowed to bring a camcorder with me so I could get video and present it to the State Police. It never happened again. Not long after that, we were on our way home from a city 60 miles north of us on a Saturday, and she brought up the name of our former landlord, right out of the blue, with nothing else said to prompt it. And then it wasn’t mentioned again. I later found a sea-green Prius parked in front of the old apartment building, and checked the plates against my note — they were the same. His being on the road when I was at that time was odd, because he normally came from his home in the north around 7 to go to his business/apartment building, stayed there until 6:30-7:00 p.m., then drove home. And he typically used a route different from the one I used to get to work. Why was he driving then and there, and why did he try to force me off the road?
I began to wonder if she had been having an affair with him, but doubted my thinking because I knew I was distraught over it all. But then I thought, “Well, the confirmation would be if she returned to an apartment in the same building he owned.” Although she had tried to make her location a secret, in early July I had seen her son-in-law’s face in a window as I was on my way home — and it was the old apartment building! I started considering other things, like her thorough knowledge of Doug and his family and business, her defense of him, and her getting the apartment the first time in 1989. She had gotten it secretly and moved right into it in one night. So she had to have known this landlord guy well in advance.
It’s my belief that she has been involved in an affair with this landlord, one that actually started before we were married, but that she carried into our marriage, suspended when we moved away, then resumed again some time after our move closer to the place. When she decided I was useless, unattractive, boring, and had found something better, she determined that having an affair would be suitable enough for her and justified it with her anger for me, which she still nurtures. She certainly has shown a pattern in her previous marriage, and it’s also interesting that she stayed in our marriage for 18 years, just over the 15-year state threshold to establish a permanent marriage, entitling her to 50 percent of everything I have, including my pay and retirement funds.
As I’ve reviewed things more and more, I realize that there are a number of times she could’ve had affairs with a number of men. And given her past admission, she probably has. I also know that she has lied consistently throughout our marriage, to everyone, not just me. I’ve discovered since June that, over the past three years, she has told everyone who knows me, from her family to the church members, that I’ve mistreated, abused, controlled, belittled, disrespected and cheated on her. She also told some of them that she tried to get me to go to counseling, but I refused. Amazing, since I’d been in psychotherapy from 2003 to 2005, and that entirely on my own. In fact, the only reason I stopped was because she said, ”Aren’t you cured yet? You’re spending too much money on this!”
In fact, she probably lied about her “admission” of having six other affairs before me. She most likely was testing me to see what my reaction would be, knowing full well that if she had actually told me the real number, I would have left at a dead run. There may have been only two times that she told the truth. The first: “Remember how you used to say that you were the smartest person you know? Well, you’re not.” The second: ”We never had a marriage.”
Planned the divorce
It is patently obvious to me that she had planned to divorce me for a long time, but wanted it to work out that I either walked out on her or kicked her out. And she more than likely had been provoking me over the past three years, just as soon as she hit the permanency threshold, trying to get me to explode, hoping that I’d turn violent. She didn’t get the latter. But she had started by setting the stage in 2000, when she quit her job so as to establish low income to get spousal maintenance in a divorce. When she reached 2003, someone advised her to stick it out another two years to hit the threshold. Then, for the first time in our entire “relationship,” she exhibited concern about our debt… which was predominantly in my name.
Only when I told my story to my mother and my close friends did I learn that I had been a victim of psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse during my time with her. She never loved me. She held me in contempt from the start because I had a college education, while she had never finished high school (she wasn’t interested in it), and I was a professed Christian. She had to cut me down to size. And she spent 26 years doing it.
She has a tremendous appetite for three things: sex, money and power. She fed her power urges over the past eight years by manipulating me, her family, and the children she babysat. I should’ve believed my former landlady. Sally had deliberately caused an incident because she knew how I’d react; that I would insist on moving out of the trailer in the country and back into town, where she would be free to roam. As far as she was concerned, I was a loser, only good for sex. But she wasn’t even satisfied with having that only from me.
And when I contracted rheumatoid arthritis, I wasn’t even good for that, which explains why she walked out four months later. But she already had a replacement. She only got back together with me again for two reasons: her youngest daughter liked me, as did most of her family, and she met my father and wanted to tryst with him; a man closer to her age. She also figured that putting on another ring didn’t mean anything, since it didn’t with her first marriage. And she used me for cover. With me as her “husband,” no one amongst family or friends would ever question what she was up to. A single woman in her 40s, 50s, 60s would be more likely to have people wonder what she did with her free time. And I certainly wasn’t questioning her. I believed everything she told me, and trusted that she loved me.
She had the best of all possible worlds. And, somehow, she got money. Her lawyer requires a retainer of $5,000, and she’s been throwing around money left and right since she left. And all she ever showed me was $830 of Social Security and $139/week for babysitting. Meanwhile, I am barely able to make ends meet. Without her added income, I’ve minimized on everything so that I can keep costs down. I just have enough to pay all the bills, and put away a $75 reserve biweekly for emergencies. I don’t have enough money to pay for a lawyer, and legal aid won’t take me because I make $400 too much annually.
Program in motion
She knew that she would be dumping me some day. She waited for the appropriate moment and then started putting the program into motion. That started with quitting her job at the restaurant in 2000, two years before she’d qualify for full SSI benefits, then took those small jobs that paid “under the table.” By 2003, she was prepared for divorce and kept telling me, “Maybe you should stay with your friends in Charlotte for a little while,” because I was depressed. She repeated that proposal several times over the next four years. Had I gone, she would have filed for divorce immediately. But she was half-hearted about it. Someone had told her to stick it out until the 15-year permanency threshold. Once June 2005 came, she started talking about liquidation of the debt and commenced her campaign of emotional/mental attack and provocation. She intensified over the years until I told her to leave on June 11 of this year. She wouldn’t walk out because it would be harder for her to claim her share of my pay. And, when we had our fight, she made sure she got everything recorded as evidence.
I currently have no lawyer. I’ve had a few consultations, but no one will pick me up on a payment schedule. I’ve done what I could to study the statutes and court rules, contending with her lawyer solely by mail, because he double-dealt me the last time we talked on the phone. But she wants “spousal maintenance,” our state’s latest legal term for alimony. With my current expenses and debt, if she were to take more than $100 per month from my pay, I would be sunk.
This would be the result, by progression. First, I would be late on my debt payments, leading to defaulting. That would get me a bad credit rating. My federal credit cards would be withdrawn, and I need those to perform my assignments and to travel to other offices. I would be re-investigated by our Security division, found to be a high risk because I owe lot of money and can’t keep up, would no longer qualify for promotion or to move to another job with another agency, nearly all of my current assignments would be withdrawn because of my security status. I would be given small, make-work jobs. Unfortunately, these jobs are not commensurate with the position I hold. It would be just a few weeks before the position was reviewed by someone at HQ, who would see that it is not justified because of the assignments, and someone in some HQ office would send me a letter that says: “We’re sorry, but the Agency just doesn’t have any work for you any more.” And I would be dismissed.
Her lawyer would then tell the court that I arranged to get myself dismissed and the court would impute my former earnings to me. I would be unable to pay her spousal maintenance, and the court would order me incarcerated for failure to pay. And she knows all of this.
And this is exactly what she wants; the destruction of my career and life, completely. She doesn’t need the money. She just wants me out of town and absolutely destroyed. And I have no way to survive.
Never loved me
Daily, I live with the realization that she never loved me, that she held me in complete contempt because I had a college education and was a goody-two-shoes. And she intended to cut me down to size. And I believed all of her lies, not even trying to see the stuff that was right in front of me. I sinned against God and worshipped an idol that was created in my own image. I have to live with this for the rest of my life, however much of that is left. Because she will not stop until she has destroyed me thoroughly and utterly.
And now I realized I have looked into the eyes of Satan and been in his grip for 26 years. God help me.
As I write this, my health is getting progressively worse. I’m on two different anti-depressants, lorazepam for night (which hardly does anything for me), and getting counseling once weekly. I’ve lost 50 pounds since June, have little or no appetite, am nervous all the time, went back to smoking, and feel despair every day. When I’m not at church or visiting friends, I lock myself in my apartment and won’t go anywhere. I’m ashamed to let anyone see me like this. I get about three to five hours of sleep per evening, and have to leave the TV on if I expect to even get to sleep.
I don’t see any hope in my future. I wish I could.