Project 52, Week 41, Part Three — Separation and Spain

It’s time for Project 52, Week 41!

2005_12_18 1 Spain Me and Audrey

41 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 41 — June 14, 2005, to June 14, 2006.

For these difficult years, I’m trying to answer the question: What was the Lord doing?

Last time, I covered the incredibly wonderful trip to Paris that happened soon after my husband told me he was filing for divorce.

When I got home from Paris, on November 10, 2005, Steve told me that he would be sleeping somewhere else in order to establish a separation. My journal entry says that Steve still thought we could be divorced in six months.

Going back in time a little bit, here’s the email I sent to my sister October 25th, after Steve told me he was filing for divorce:

Well, I went to Ramstein Legal today.  A wonderful
older lady saw me.  (And Steve knew I was going
there.)

I wondered what would happen if I did NOT sign a
separation agreement.  I wondered if I would lose any
rights.

The answer is absolutely not.  I could lose all kinds
of rights if I do sign an agreement.

In fact, an “uncontested” divorce in Illinois only
takes 6 months.  A contested divorce takes 2 years of
separation–including separate bank accounts.  So he
can’t possibly divorce me while we are still in
Germany.  (A German divorce sounds like it would give
me better terms, but it would take 3 years of
separation, not living under the same roof if the
divorce is contested.)  I will absolutely not sign
that there are “irreconcilable differences.”

So–It will basically depend on where we move after
this, and what the laws are there.  He cannot get an
Illinois divorce unless we stay overseas, and he
cannot get one of those in less than two years.

So we will see what happens next.  At least time in
the same house gives him time to change his mind.

Oh, and if I gave him a separation agreement, though
adultery would still be frowned on by the military, it
would give him leeway to have any other sort of
relationship with whoever he wants.  There’s no way in
the world I want to do that!

So I was really encouraged by the meeting with the
lady.  I think she gave me good advice.  She advised
me that I have all kinds of rights, and that I should
absolutely NOT give him a separation agreement unless
he should offer me practically all his money for the
rest of his life!  Anyway, if he does offer me an
agreement, I should bring it to them first and find
out if it’s anything more than I would be entitled to,
anyway.

I also found out that legally, the military REQUIRES
him to support me as long as we are legally married.
So that gives me two years of that, right?

This email gives some clues why I didn’t want a divorce. First, though, I still believed Steve that he was not having an affair. I believed that in that case divorce was wrong.

Unless Steve was an unbeliever. I Corinthians 7 does say, “If the unbeliever wants to leave, let him do so. God has called us to live in peace.” I knew Steve was a Christian when we married. His sister told me the story of when he accepted Christ as a child. I didn’t want to think of him as an unbeliever. Since he seemed to be turning away from God at the same time he was turning away from me — that made me all the more want to win him back.

Though Steve was filing for divorce because he said that I was too awful to live with. Now, I had bought a lot of guilt over this whole situation, agonizing over everything I said to or about Steve. But even in my guilt, I knew full well that I hadn’t given Steve Biblical grounds for divorce. If he ever got in a relationship with anybody ever again, he was going to need to learn to forgive. Why not learn it with me, instead of throwing away 18 years of marriage?

But also — There was no way I wanted to be sent back to America in the middle of Josh’s Senior year. We were due to leave in August anyway. The only way Steve could get an Illinois divorce was if I signed an agreement. There was no way I was going to sign.

Why did I still believe Steve that he wasn’t having an affair? Yes, he’d looked me in the eyes and told me he wasn’t right at the beginning of this, the same time on March 14 that he “confessed” to “living a double life” and seeing Amy behind my back. (And he thought that shouldn’t bother me since he wasn’t having an affair!) During the summer, it became more and more clear he was doing this again. My friends kept seeing him out with her around the base, and then I walked in on him eating lunch with her on a day he’d picked up her parents from the airport.

The main tool Steve used to throw me off the scent was indignation. I remember one day we were in the kitchen making a meal. I’m not sure if it was before or after Steve had moved out. (He still came over often. He’d read to Timothy at bedtime three nights a week, and he’d cook dinner for the kids on the nights I worked late or had choir practice or yoga.)

Anyway, whatever we were discussing, Steve said, “We haven’t exactly been nice to each other lately.”

I was flabbergasted and speechless that Steve would equate him seeing another woman behind my back with me being angry with him for seeing another woman behind my back! Yes, I’d been angry with him that summer. But I was bending over backwards trying to be “nice” and get him back into the marriage.

After a moment of silence trying to process his statement, I said, “At least I’m not the one who’s cheating!”

Steve got furious with me. He looked at me and said, “How dare you accuse me of having an affair!” Did I know it’s a crime in the military to have an affair? The person with seniority would get kicked out of the Air Force! That’s fraternization! Is that what I was accusing him of? And then he walked out of the house and drove away, too angry to be around me any more.

Dear Reader, I’m afraid I sent him an email and apologized for my words!

[About a year later, I bought a book called When Your Lover Is a Liar, by Susan Forward. I learned about this technique. Looking back, any time Steve had said to me, “How dare you accuse me of…” that was precisely something he had done. So I took note when he said, “How dare you accuse me of hiding money!” at that time.]

But in 2005 — It was still an effective technique to completely fool me. There were many times I thought about that day and that Steve would not have gotten so angry if he were actually having an affair.

However, now that Steve wasn’t sleeping at our house, what would stop him from having an affair?

Well, honestly, I was taking comfort in the official Letter of Counseling he’d gotten warning him to stop the “Appearance of an Inappropriate Relationship” with Amy.

Steve claimed that they were “just friends” and that being seen in public with her over and over again and eating out with her was a friendly thing to do and I was horrible to get mad at him about it. Well, there was something comforting about learning that I wasn’t crazy in thinking this was inappropriate — the band leadership thought so, too.

Now, it must have been after Steve moved out, but I found out Steve was still seeing Amy. My calendar says that after I got back from Paris, I had 14 straight days with a headache. I was seeing a doctor on base at Sembach. He said that he was qualified to do a nerve block procedure. I had an appointment the next day at 8:30 am about another problem, and he could do it then if I still had the headache — but I would need someone to drive me home.

So — I told Steve I might need him to drive me home at 8:30 am the next morning. Would that be okay? He said Yes. (We lived 5 minutes from the base.)

I don’t remember why I didn’t get the procedure done in the morning, but it was probably that my headache finally felt better. I was going to call Steve when I got home to tell him he wouldn’t need to take me home after all.

As I was driving through the gate to go off base, I saw Amy’s car just coming on base. (I’d learned her license number awhile before.) And then, right behind her — Steve’s car!

Okay, I’ll grant you this was not hard evidence that they had been together. They could have coincidentally driven to the gate at the same time. At this point, I devised an elaborate scenario that Steve had maybe walked her dogs with her before work. (He’d done early dogwalking sometimes when he was walking her dogs when she was away.)

Now, I wasn’t completely stupid — but I’d heard Steve the night before on the phone with his friend Jerry arranging to spend the night at Jerry’s house. I hadn’t heard Jerry’s voice, but the conversation was pretty convincing. On top of that, Steve told me some time or other that when he went to Jerry’s house, he tried to leave before breakfast, so he wouldn’t impose on Jerry and his wife. Now I figured I knew where he was going for breakfast.

But I was upset. Okay, let’s be honest. I was enraged. I so wanted to call him up and say sarcastic things. And I was hurt that he apparently had completely forgotten I’d been planning to ask him for a ride at 8:30. Good thing I hadn’t gotten the procedure done, because he wouldn’t have been there.

But I also wanted to tell him that I really hoped they hadn’t walked into the squadron together. The Letter of Counseling was supposed to be a warning. He wasn’t exactly following it was he?

Now I did figure out that calling him when I was so angry was a really bad idea. And it was pretty sure not to do anybody any good.

But then I started stewing. The lawyer had said something about if we were separated, then Steve could do whatever he wanted. So instead of calling Steve, I called Joe, the first sergeant.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best idea I ever had. I did tell Joe I didn’t have any evidence that Steve was still seeing Amy. But I wanted to make sure they knew we weren’t legally separated, and I wanted to find out if that made any difference.

Joe said it didn’t matter at all what was happening at home. And he was going to have to talk to Steve because Joe had seen him with Amy during a band trip the previous week. That was when Joe explained to me that this was totally apart from whether Steve was even married. He wasn’t supposed to be showing special preference to a Senior Airman when he’s a Master Sergeant. It’s bad for the whole squadron.

But what was God doing?

Well, another helpful book came my way. I didn’t check it out, and just looked through it at the library, so I don’t even remember the title. But it was written by a woman who had been a mistress in Paris for a few years. She said that wives should never ever be envious of mistresses. They are in a miserable position! The wife gets the best of everything. The man isn’t even proud to be seen with the mistress. The wife gets the house, the kids, the financial support. The mistress gets leftovers.

That gave me a new perspective! It helped me feel sorry for Amy more than be angry with her. After all, Steve was still spending many evenings and weekends at my house. I’ve always liked public displays of affection because I want my man to be proud to be seen with me. Well, whatever their relationship — Amy wasn’t getting any of that.

I know it was around that time, because in my quiet time journal on November 18, I say, “Thank You for the book I picked up last night that reminded me that Amy’s in a miserable position, with far more reason to be jealous of me than I have to be jealous of her.”

And then Steve’s parents came to visit.

When Steve told me he wanted a divorce, I said okay, but now you have to tell your parents. When he said he was moving out, I said okay, but now it’s public information, and I can tell anyone I want. (In fact, I was upset when he didn’t change his phone number on the band roster right away, because someone called me with a message for Steve and I started crying when I told that person that I didn’t know where Steve was or if I’d see him.)

So Steve’s parents wanted to come at Thanksgiving to try to be supportive. When Steve asked me about it, I said that it would be okay, but it would be much better if they didn’t stay in our house. I guess Steve thought that was because he was sleeping in the guestroom — but really it was about dealing with guests. In the back of my mind, I was hoping that maybe talking to his parents — who surely didn’t believe in divorce when there wasn’t adultery — would help Steve come around.

After Steve moved out, a few days before they were to arrive, Steve’s Mom told me not to worry about cleaning. I said, “Well, I won’t, since you won’t be staying here.” Then Steve’s Mom said that Steve had told them since he was in a hotel, they might as well stay in our house. I guess his thinking was that now the guestroom was free. It was too late to even argue.

But the visit was really hard. Steve’s parents tried very very hard not to take sides. But this was their son! Steve told them that we were having so many fights, it was bad for the kids.

But the worst thing that happened was that Steve got an official Letter of Reprimand for the Appearance of an Inappropriate Relationship on the day that his parents arrived. And, again, he believed it was my fault.

It turned out that Joe had told him I called.

So — I called again and asked why Steve believed it was my fault. Joe said if Steve said that, then he was delusional. That the letter was based entirely on what Joe had seen with his own eyes. The weekend before, Steve had gone to a restaurant in Winnweiler, he said to hear his friend Jerry play a gig. Well, Amy was also there. And so was Joe.

Steve was indignant. Said he only talked to Amy briefly when she walked up to him. (Joe said that he was onstage and it was 45 minutes.) Steve said Joe was lying. (Right.) Anyway, all this didn’t come out at once, but in back-and-forths.

But the really awful part was when I was driving Steve’s Mom somewhere, and she said to me, “We’ll never forget the look on our son’s face when he said he got in trouble at work because of his wife.”

OUCH! [News flash: Steve was lying! I knew that even then — though I am pretty sure he did believe that I was lying about what I’d said to Joe and that it was my fault.]

But that was hard.

I tried to explain to Steve’s parents that it was not, in fact, my fault. They just said that I shouldn’t be talking to Steve’s first sergeant at all. And yes, I started feeling guilty that I had. [Oh, Sondy! In my quiet time journal just after Steve’s parents left, I say, “Last week’s incident reminds me that I’m not blameless in this divorce. It was a terrible thing to talk about Steve with his first sergeant. Lord, please redeem this situation.” Not so terrible, Sondy — not so terrible.]

However — Something very good came out of all of this. After his Letter of Reprimand, Steve really did stop being seen in public with Amy. And that helped ease the pressure on me — and those repeated stabs through the heart.

Oh look! A bright spot! On December 15, I took the GRE to apply to library school! It was a computerized version, and I found out my score that day — and again did very well. Alas! They had eliminated the “Analytical” portion of the test on which I’d gotten a perfect score when I took it in 1985. There was an essay portion instead. (And that took longer to grade, but I did well. Not perfect, but well.) I do remember that one of the essays was if there’s any value to critiquing art or only in creating art. Well, I am a book reviewer! I took that one on with enthusiasm.

But what was the Lord doing?

I was shopping at the Base Exchange with my kids for Christmas gifts, and a book called The Script caught my eye. Maybe it would be good for Josh, who was interested in scriptwriting.

Then I saw the subtitle: The 100% Absolutely Predictable Things Men Do When They Cheat!

Dear Reader, I cannot stress enough how much that book helped me!

When I opened the book up, at least half of the “lines” of the Script I had already heard come out of Steve’s mouth! “I like living alone.” “You’ll be better off without me.” “I’m going to take care of you.” “We’re not having sex.” (I’m afraid I still believed that last one.)

In my review of The Script, I didn’t say I was talking about my own husband. But I sure was.

I’m going to repeat here the ending of my review. Because it was SO important in opening my eyes and helping me stop feeling burdened and loaded down with guilt that Steve had left me.

Why did I go into so much detail about this book?  (Yes, I did leave a whole lot out—It’s still very much worth reading.)  Why do I think this book is so important that I will be recommending it to anyone and everyone whose husband has left her and/or whose husband has been unfaithful?

Fundamentally, the Script is about calling something evil something good.  It’s about saying that something that is wrong is really the right thing to do under the circumstances.  It’s full of lies and founded on lies, but the man is also lying to himself.  He wants to think of himself as a good person, so he doesn’t want to face up to what he’s done and what he’s doing.

The Script does give me some compassion for that man.  He didn’t set out to betray his wife and his vows and all his values.  He’s desperate to convince himself that he hasn’t really done that.  And it’s going to come out of his mouth in lies and deception.

To be perfectly honest, and at risk of sounding radical, I believe that the Script was designed—by Satan—to deceive.  And the number one person it’s designed to deceive is the man himself.  It says he’s a good person who’s doing the right thing.  He may be a good person, but he is NOT doing the right thing.

This may even help you to forgive your husband.  You can try to see the Script as the Enemy of both of you.  Or the one behind the Script, if you believe there’s a real devil.  Your husband wasn’t trying to hurt you.  He is a good man, but he’s been horribly deceived into doing some bad things.  If he plays out the whole Script, he’s going to end up worse off than you are, having done some terrible things, but not able to face up to them.

It’s crazy-making for the wife.  She can know in her head that, while she hasn’t been the perfect wife, nothing that she’s done isn’t covered by “for better or for worse.”  She knows that what he’s doing is wrong and unkind.  She knows that marriage and love is about forgiveness and that if he can’t work things out with her, he’s going to have trouble with any woman.

There’s nothing in the world that wounds a woman’s self-esteem more than her husband telling her he doesn’t want to be married to her any more.  As he continues to tell her, over and over, in many different ways, that his leaving is essentially her fault, her self-esteem will start to plunge even further.

Her husband will keep telling her things that she knows are not true.  After awhile, it’s easy to start believing them.  That’s why women being divorced need books like this as a reality check.  That’s why they need to talk to their friends again and again, to be sure they’re not actually crazy.  Yes, his actions are wrong.  Yes, it is set up to make him look good and make it look like it’s all the wife’s fault.  No, the Script is not telling the truth.

This book will help you to understand what’s going on and not think you’re crazy.  It will help you see what is really happening.  You’ll be able to cope when you’re unwillingly trapped in The Script.

And maybe, just maybe, men will read this book and realize that following the Script is a fantasy world that does not end happily for anyone, especially not the Hero.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Whew! And that book did all those things for me.

I don’t know when I started, but I think I must have been getting emails from Rejoice Ministries by then. They were tremendously encouraging, too. Rejoice Ministries is a ministry that encourages you to “stand for your marriage” and pray your spouse back. It was founded by a couple who were separated for two years before the prodigal came to his senses and returned.

The one thing that made me uneasy was that I believed you should get divorced if there was an affair. They taught that divorce is always wrong. That you should Stand for your marriage until you’re old and gray and in a rocking chair. After all, you want the father of your children to come back to God. If you don’t pray for him, who will?

So years in the future when I did think it was time to get divorced — then it was hard to shake those voices. But at the time, they were very encouraging. They helped me not respond with anger.

And best of all, the teaching from Rejoice Ministries encouraged me to listen for God’s voice. To hear what He had to say to me.

Oh, but the reason I think maybe I was getting the emails already back then, was that they clearly taught that the enemy of your marriage is not your husband. The enemy of your marriage is the devil. He’s the Enemy of both of you.

But then, I got another wonderful trip! At first, Steve hoped I could take the kids to Berlin over Christmas break, while he had to do some work with the band. It was our last Christmas in Europe, and he wanted them to get to travel. Well, Berlin ended up being too expensive, but we got an inexpensive Ryan Air flight to Spain — and got to visit our dear friends Audrey and Tom in Rota, Spain, right on the beach!

They’ve been in this story before — at Biola University with me, my housemate in L. A., as newlyweds in our small group in L.A., then in Philadelphia when we were in New Jersey. Now they were at Victory Villa in Rota, as missionaries to the military — at the same place where they had met many years before when they were both in the military stationed in Spain! So I went to visit them with the kids.

And this is the view from our room!

2005_12_18 2 View

We took a walk into Rota.

2005_12_18 3 Rota

2005_12_18 4 Rota

2005_12_18 5 Rota

2005_12_18 6a Rota

2005_12_18 6 Rota

And I touched my 166th castle!

2005_12_18 7 Castle

In the middle of our trip, we spent a day at Gibraltar! It was fun to be somewhere where English was spoken. (I hadn’t realized it’s a little piece of the British Empire.)

2005_12_20 1 Gibraltar

We took a tour through caves and fortifications on the Rock of Gibraltar. And there are monkeys on top!

2005_12_20 2 Gibraltar

2005_12_20 3 Gibraltar

2005_12_20 4 Monkeys

2005_12_20 5 View

2005_12_20 6 Cannon

2005_12_20 7 Lookout

2005_12_20 8 Caves

2005_12_20 9 Boys

And here’s the view when we got back to Victory Villa that night.

2005_12_20 10 VV View

Once again, the trip was a small part of why I was so encouraged by this trip. It was the people, my dear friends Audrey and Tom. They had a good talk with me about it all. These were people who loved me and loved Steve, too.

Audrey told me she always remembered what Steve told her when Josh was born, that the best thing he could do for his children was love their mother. Audrey was mad at Steve. Which was somewhat therapeutic for me.

But they encouraged me and uplifted me and reminded me that God really does work all things together for good.

And at Gibraltar, it was lovely just to have some fun sight-seeing again.

Well, it’s late. I think I’ll be able to finish Year 41 in one more post.

Looking back now, things did get easier once Steve moved out. And much easier once he started hiding his relationship with Amy. The next adventures, though, were medical….

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