Living Together While Separated
About two to three years into the marriage, I gained about 20 pounds. It was a result of drinking high-sugar alcoholic beverages, probably around the time I started writing my first book, Unheard. My triglycerides were high, which made me feel awful all the time. Bear liked me fat – even more so when I cut my hair short and wore glasses, because I looked a lot like his first wife that I don’t believe he ever got over. Now I’d lost about 10 or 15 pounds from the “divorce diet” and was able to fit in the same size as when I married Bear. Wearing clothing that complemented my body was easy now that I lost weight, and it boosted my self esteem.
Bear often tried flirting with me and telling me how good I looked, even catcalling when I was getting ready to go out. It was extremely annoying and uncomfortable, because now that I no longer trusted him, I felt he didn’t have the right to look at me that way. Once, he even asked if I wanted to have sex with him, and I felt very awkward. Why in the hell would I want to have sex with him now when I didn’t care to have it with him when we were married? I was already disgusted with his behavior, so sex was something that would never happen between us again. He felt like a stranger to me.
We still shared a bank account, which allowed me to see all of our transactions. Bear was going out a lot – out to dinner and out to bars, easily spending $100 a night on that alone – three to four nights a week. Here we were in a financial crisis, and he was blowing money like it didn’t matter. He bought himself a Jeep a week after we separated, so that was another chunk of money coming out of our expenses.
Even though I’d always been somewhat frugal, spending money was not an option for me. (I was able to go out without spending, because women are good like that.) Suddenly, his mother was sending him checks – like every other week. Checks in the hundreds… for his Jeep that kept having problems, for who knows what… for what? I’m not exactly sure what Bear was telling her, but he probably gave her a sob story like he always did. (It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he blamed me and told her I spent our money.) I’m pretty sure she had no idea how much he was spending by going out every other night. One day, a card from his mother sat on the kitchen counter (he’d taken the check out already) with a message saying, “Hope this helps. See if she gets jealous now.”
What the fuck??!!!
Reading this hit me in a couple of different ways. I think I literally gasped; it was completely unexpected and not at all like the person I came to know and love as a mother-in-law. I still loved her and cared about her. She was family, and I’d spent close to eight years being her daughter-in-law. We always got along fine, but she quit speaking to me only a few weeks after Bear and I separated. I was heartbroken over that, because I didn’t predict that it would have gone that way. Second, I thought her words were spiteful towards me. It was very hurtful to read that. What the fuck did I ever do to her? Or to her son? (To this day have no clue what Bear was telling people.) Besides, I had no idea what the hell she would have been referring to about being jealous. Jealous of what? Money he’s spending?
I confronted Bear when he got home. I was pissed to see a card like that on my own damn kitchen counter, feeling he purposely put it there for me to see – just to be a dick, because he was doing a lot of other dickhead things.
“What the hell is this jealousy thing about?” I demanded.
“What are you talking about?”
“Your mother’s card! Did you leave that for me to see on purpose? This is so fucked up! Why would she say that about me?!”
“I don’t know. What does it say?”
Apparently, Bear never actually read the card. He just took the check out and cashed it like a selfish, spoiled, childish asshole. (This wasn’t the first or second time I saw that type of behavior from him, and it made my stomach turn.) So when he threw it on the counter, it didn’t occur to him that what she’d written was not for my eyes.
“She’s probably talking about Stacy,” he said. By then, I knew he had already visited Stacy due to her city listed on his debit purchases.
In other words, if his mother knows about the Stacy story, she knows the sugar-coated version of his half-truth. What the fuck??! I felt so betrayed by Bear once again, and my entire perspective of the man I had met eight years prior was changing.
Bear and I still had some of the same friends on Facebook. One woman that I considered a friend (I’ll call her Bréagán) posted a lot of selfies and was newly single. I knew Bréagán for a few years. I stood by Bréagán during her horrible divorce, business troubles, did favors for her children, had dinner at her house, and she was a cheerleader of my first book. Bréagán posted a really pretty photo of herself, to which Bear commented, “Smokin’!”
Why would anyone living in the same home with his soon-to-be-ex-wife post a comment like that about her friend? (Because he’s a stupid asshole, and I told him that to his face.) I had never ever called Bear names throughout our marriage, but he poked this bear one too many times! His reply was that he didn’t think it would upset me. Dumbass.
The tension was so bad, I would either lock myself inside my room or go away from the house every night after work. A couple of times I stayed at my mom’s or a friend’s house just to get away, and Bear accused me of staying with men. I once went out with a male friend that is like a brother to me (not a date), and Bear made accusations about him, even though they’d already met. Sometimes I wouldn’t come home until I knew he was asleep. I wanted no interaction with him whatsoever. When I heard him pull up in the driveway, I cringed. Just looking at him pissed me off and triggered anxiety.
Bear was going out regularly, and I could see the change in him when he bought himself new clothes and put effort into himself the way men do when they’re trying to get laid. I didn’t know if he was seeing someone or just drinking with women or what the hell he was doing, but he was making things so obvious, shoving his arrogant attitude in my face and parading like a goddamn peacock.
What really pissed me off was when I found out that Bear was out drinking with Bréagán and her female friends. While Bear’s debit transactions were at a certain pub, Bréagán posted something on Facebook at the same place. Now I knew why she wasn’t answering my messages and never wanted to hang out. Bitch! What in the absolute fuck are they doing together? I figured she wasn’t interested in him for herself, but perhaps she set him up with one of her friends. When I asked her what was going on, she told me not to make things worse than they were, that he’s not doing anything wrong. (She knew nothing about my marriage issues when we were friends, because it wasn’t something I discussed.) She started comparing us to her shit-show marriage, saying I have no idea what it was like for her. Worst of all, she offered me NOTHING in the sense of a friendship. And that is the exact moment I saw her for the narcissistic, selfish, dirty bitch that so many other people claimed her to be. I canceled her!
Bear started doing weird shit and being a total dick to me. The same grandmother’s cheap ring that he proposed to me with was my wedding band. Since we were no longer together and I was really sick of his shit, I took off the ring and put it on my glass jewelry holder in the bathroom. I figured at some point Bear might ask me for it, since it was in his family, and I would have gladly given it to him. One day I came home to find it missing. I didn’t know if he had anyone else in the house that could have taken it, and I didn’t think Bear would be a dick enough to take it himself without saying something to me. When asked, Bear said that he took it because it was his grandmother’s, and he didn’t want me pawning it. The more he spoke, the more insulting and accusatory he became. I couldn’t believe my ears. Why would he think I’d pawn a family heirloom? I’m not a spiteful person, but apparently he was projecting his spite onto me. Not to mention, a pawn shop may have given $30 at the most for that ring. Give me a break.
It was incidents like those that made me start to really dislike Bear more than ever. He was saying some off-the-wall things that sounded like someone was filling his head with some serious bullshit. I don’t recall the exact things said, but he was accusing me of things I would never do. At the time, I wasn’t aware of who was filling his head, but I had a good feeling it was a female. For whatever reason, I felt these accusations were something only a female would come up with.
That was probably the moment that solidified my belief that Bear could never truly think for himself. He listened to other people (except his wife) and believed everything they said without discovering the facts. Now this imaginary drama was being used against me.
I had super high anxiety all the time. (I now know alcohol exacerbates that.) Too stressed out to put much effort into my business, I put it aside. My focus was completely off. Drinking often, I was going out to bars and meeting people that became a part of my life over the past seven years. I only did it to get out of the house. I didn’t really know where else to go and socialize, because I was married for eight years. Throughout my entire marriage, I had never done much with friends without Bear. He was always there, always needed attention. All of my friends were married or were friends with both Bear and me, so it was nice when I met some fun women that were also going through breakups and divorces.
As much as I wanted to move into my own place, I had no luck finding anything affordable, safe, and not a complete dump. I was ready to borrow money to get out if I had to, but found nothing. Affordable housing in my area is becoming obsolete.
Work offered more hours when another teacher was out until the end of the year. This was a blessing, because not only did it provide more income, it kept me out of the house. Regardless, I wasn’t able to find a place to live, and it was about a month until summer break. I had already packed books and things that wouldn’t be used, so I was ready to go. One apartment was hopeful until I learned I would be splitting my water bill 50/50 with a family of three next door.
Hope was fading. All I wanted was to have my own place.