As this journal was forged in the fires of one drama after another, I decided it would be best for my own healing to make a final, closing statement in it. I did not really understand why things with Rebecca never seemed right after those first good three or four weeks, and why every time I tried to make things better and change things and adapt the relationship to her needs, I just got further and further behind. Finally, I understood in a sense what the closure I needed was, and now understand how I screwed this one up so badly.
We had no future. Never did.
We bring our own set of expectations and experiences into any relationship. Sadly, my expectations are high and my experiences low. I've spent 2/3 of my adult life married and a fair amount of the remainder not wanting to date, so I've missed out on a lot of growing and maturity that I needed to make an adult relationship work. But my goals are pretty lofty. I want to have another child; I want a stepmother for my children. (I genuinely don't think there's anything wrong with believing my children deserve a stepmother. Do you?)
Our first morning together, Rebecca told me she wanted to have a child with me one day.
Was that a bit early of her?
I think 99 guys out of 100 would have raised an eyebrow at that. I'm the one out of a hundred who wouldn't. That's six or seven months of emotional maturity that a couple should make together that I just leapt right over. I started making the wrong assumptions about us and about her. And I put on a blindfold and ignored dozens of danger signs.
Like her husband.
She is still married, though she assured
me the relationship ended many years ago, and he simply was unwilling to grant a divorce. I'd like to think that's the truth, anyway. But it was evidently so much simpler than she was willing to tell me.
Family is very, very important to me, in part because my relationship with my ex-in-laws started with them viewing me with very intense hostility and suspicion and went downhill from there. I wanted to meet her family as soon as possible, but that didn't go over too well. July 4 seemed like a good time, but she had not told them about me yet.
That should have been the third sign. Just blinded. Too busy enjoying the kinky e-mails she sent to wonder why she didn't want to tell her family she was dating.
There was a second sign I missed. She filtered somebody on her friends list out of the post where she announced she was seeing a "nice boy." There's somebody whom she wanted to tell these sort of things to either in person or in e-mail. Somebody from whom the announcement we were a couple needed to be shielded. And, evidently, every subsequent thing we did. There was only one further "good" post about me in her Livejournal, that getting four kids to do things together was very "Brady Bunch." Otherwise, there were no references to me at all. I didn't exist.
Why should I not need to exist?
* * *
So anyway, I finally met her family, after two months of dating, when her younger brother graduated. She'd already met mine, of course. So this was a big deal for me. And it didn't go badly. That was because, I realized later, that they didn't know who I was. They thought I was just some random friend of Rebecca and her younger brother.
Until her brother and three of their friends arrived, she and I sat in the den with her mother, a cousin, her two sisters and her brother-in-law, and engaged in family small talk. I liked
them. Actually, let me clarify that: I really liked
her family ! ! (Perhaps that should have been a warning sign for her
; she doesn't like them.) Anyway, the others arrived, and Rebecca left the den so quickly she left skid marks. The five of them sat at a table in the kitchen while I remained on the couch.
Her mother noticed, after a moment, that she was no longer in the room, and asked where she was.
One of her sisters replied "She's at the kids' table." There was a low chuckle among her family, fueled by impatient exasperation with the flighty older sister who surrounds herself with a circle of confidantes six and eight years younger. I was a little surprised that they'd say something like that in front of her boyfriend. But then again, they didn't seem to chat with me in terms of "guy who wants to have a child with their older sister," either. I was just her pal, just there to hang out.
That was awkward.
I must own up to and deal with my blinkered, naive, inexperienced stupidity in terms of the future. The expectations were entirely my fault. We only touched very briefly on the subject of a child or a marriage a handful of times after the initial morning talk of how wonderful it would be to have a baby together, but I swear
I thought we were on the same page. We would enjoy a long-distance relationship and let our love strengthen and smooth out any problems we might incur and, some time down the road, maybe late in 2006, I'd propose and she'd finalize the divorce, and we'd start a life together and have that child.
This much is wholly my fault. Perhaps she shouldn't have put such a notion in my mind, and perhaps I'd have been much more casual about thinking about the future, but the failure of this was mine alone.
The other failures? Not so much.
* * *
We had fights. I think they started about two weeks after that meeting; they never got better.
One of our ground rules had been "Our children come first, then each other." This was never, ever adhered to. It was actually "Our children come first, then all of Rebecca's friends, then everybody her friends have ever shared a townhouse with, then each other."
All right, that was a little catty.
I complained about her changing plans, or not phoning when she said she would, about feeling isolated and unimportant, about not being able to plan more than three or four days in advance because she never knew what was going on. This never made sense to me; she had doctor's appointments and Girl Scouts on some kind of calendar
, but nothing else. Parties and social engagements just "happened" for her, and if she and I made plans, then I would, unfairly, expect her to keep them, when something "more important" came up.
See, I let her know up front that there would be one time a year when she wasn't invited to what I'd be up to. Once a year, in the early spring, Ric and I go to Mobile. That's just us and us alone. Otherwise, for five months, I didn't make a single plan without checking with her first, as she had first bid on my time
. That's what you do with your significant other. If I got a weekend offer for a concert, I'd ask her first whether we had any plans that night before I accepted. I guess I just considered that, more than just polite, that was what you're supposed to do.
One of my co-workers explained it thusly: I'm sure his friends are very important to him, but they're still knuckleheads. I'm his woman. If he's going to tell me I'm less important than a bunch of knuckleheads, he can find someone else to pull that on. I've got more self-respect than that.
Self-respect, sadly, is something I lack, which is why I kept letting her back after I told her to fuck off.
I broke up with her for the second time at the beginning of November, following three of the rudest stunts she'd ever pulled. Astonishingly, once she explained why
she did these things, I accepted her apology (and considered it, incorrectly, a reconciliation), even though the explanations should have been screaming billboards about her houses of cards and her lies.
Oh, yes, she lies. She is the most fundamentally dishonest person I've ever been with, keeping, as manic-depressives do (she has not been diagnosed as such, though I imagine she might be), one house of cards stacked next to each other, none of them jiving with what the others contain. Turns out her husband was told one thing, and her family another, and her friends another, and me another. She lied to me a few times, she lied about me many more times. She accused my friends of lying when she simply got the facts wrong and was mistaken. She even lied to her mother in front of me. She kept other mistruths active, perpetuating them by not correcting them. One of her friends once asked whether I seriously thought Rebecca would lie to her. Well, yes, if the truth doesn't jive with a pre-existing lie, certainly. Or maybe she'll just leave bits out. The reason I didn't come to a Halloween party? We'll come back to that.
Maybe she lied to you. Did you hear about her dangerous stalker, the one whom she fears? That was supposedly the reason our relationship had to be kept on the quiet. It made a good, sympathetic cover story. The problem is that Rebecca Ballard does not have a stalker. She has a husband and a family who didn't need to know she was having an affair.
That's all this was to her.
: This was actually both more and less complicated than I made it. Rebecca professed to have two stalkers, neither of whom in truth wish to have anything to do with her. I've since been added to her list of "stalkers," despite only contacting her to ask her to repay $250 I'd lent her, and to ask whether I may give her younger daughter's father photographs of the girl, should he ever ask for them. This does not constitute "stalking." I suppose it could be part of her ongoing cover story, or some endless bid for sympathy, or it could have more to do with the paranoid persecution complex common to sufferers of bipolar disorder. Nevertheless, none of the men from her past pose any threat whatsoever to her
Anyway, these stunts. Turns out one of them had a pretty good, albeit annoying, explanation. I'd been expecting for a week that she was going to come to Marietta on the night of Saturday, November 5. Turns out she'd made other plans and had forgotten about them. Well, I'd have preferred she communicated that a little differently, and not been so flippant about it.
"Oh, I'm going to a play that night."We talked about you coming to town, remember?
"Well, I'm going to a play."
Earlier, there was the Halloween party. You blind fool, why didn't you run when she explained this?
I'd spent three weeks looking for a babysitter, and kept her updated on my progress, and got my mom to agree around noon that day. Three weeks, I'd been anticipating spending Saturday evening with her, going to the party, spending the night and coming home the next day. It wasn't until one-ish that afternoon she explained that her sister would be in town, and so I couldn't come as early as 8, nor could I stay the night, as her husband was also staying over.
Well, I know now that I should have told her to call it all off right there; I didn't. I'm blind.
So we revised it; I'd come at 9.30 pm, pick her up, go to the party and I'd stay until midnight or so. (I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise guy anyway, and had been up since before 6 am, and had a 90-minute drive home.)
But why couldn't I come around 8 and visit with her sister? I should have asked.
And wasn't her husband there last
weekend? (He's in the service and stationed near Augusta. Apparently he's free every weekend now. He was only there sporadically in the summer, giving us plenty of time to play around, and spent most of the autumn in Louisiana doing communications repair after the hurricane.)
We spoke again around 7, shortly before I was planning to leave, and she asked me to go instead straight to the party and wait for her. People didn't seem to understand that this wasn't cool. She now said she'd show up around midnight. This would be about the time I'd leave
. Three weeks I'd been looking forward to this party and spending the night with her, and ten minutes before I leave, she tells me we can maybe spend fifteen minutes together, passing like two ships in the night, and then doesn't understand why I got upset??
There was some miscommunication; I thought she said that it would be kind of stressful me being at the party, she thinks she said it would be kind of stressful me being at her house. But why
would it have been stressful, me being at her house and having dinner with her sister? And the husband knows we're a couple, doesn't he? I mean, he's history, yeah?
The previous weekend (the 22nd) was the last proper night we had together, and I thought at the time that it was simply lovely. The husband - at the time I was calling him "the girl's father," but let's call a spade a spade - was in town and watching the kids and she and I got a motel. I noticed some things that alarmed me, but I was just so happy to be with her that I overlooked them.
There was the way she didn't tell her children good night, just that Mommy was going out. There was some protest, when will you be home, and it was nothing more than "late." Something wasn't right about that. My kids understand the difference between Mommy-weekends and Daddy-weekends, even on those weekends where I've allowed their mom to stay at the house. If I'm letting her stay, then this is her weekend and Daddy's going away.
There was the way her husband called the house "our house." My ex-wife has never, ever, referred to this house as "ours."
There was the way that each of her kids, weeks apart, had looked at me sternly after Rebecca and I embraced and said the exact same words: "You're not my daddy."Why wasn't I listening?
* * *
The next day, I gave her a ride to her folks', in Dacula, so that she could pick up a car she was borrowing, and really looked forward to spending some time with her mom and dad. This was when she lied to her mother in front of me. My jaw hit the floor. She was perpetuating a lie, letting her mom think that she was still taking classes; she dropped out more than a month previously.
It wasn't a long visit, only about five minutes or so. I'd been looking forward to a good, long, sit-down chat with my girlfriend's parents for ages. Maybe I should have stayed after she drove off. Yes, that's what I should have done. Her mom was watching an NFL game on Fox; I should have parked my happy butt in there and planned to stay for hours. Rebecca didn't need me to drive herself back to Athens, and the subsequent GOOD LORD awkward conversation - "What do you mean you've been dating my daughter for four months ? !
" - would have surely meant that the next few weeks of bullshit, and her insane tale of her fleeing from my speeding car, wouldn't have happened.
But at the time, I just took it as writ that this afternoon was not the day for a long chat with her family. Six days later, it sounded like the opportunity to spend time with her sister came up, but she shot that down. She explained later that I "don't understand how stressful" of a person her sister is. Apparently the sister doesn't believe in divorce, and would have been awful to me. Again, blind
, during this "later" conversation. Still so in love, still so willing to give her another chance. Well, some members of her family just need a little more time to process this pending divorce
But what about her husband? Why would he have objected to me hanging out at the house and with the girls and with the sister? What, was he going to dinner as well?
"He got really upset after I didn't come home the weekend before."
God, that wonderful night together, and that wonderful, sexy morning, naked in bed, eating doughnuts, watching TCM, all spoiled. This was not a couple, considering a future together, enjoying our love. This was a man's wife goin' out and gettin' some.
Which brings me to the third scummy stunt she pulled.
This is a little calendar-complicated. The 22nd was that "wonderful" night and morning. The 29th was the abandoned party. The 5th was the planned trip to Marietta, and the 12th we didn't make plans as she had a Scouts' lock-in which would last the weekend.
We spoke on the 31st about plans for Saturday the 5th, and this was when she blew me off with the play she was going to see. So I asked about that afternoon, perhaps I could come to Athens and we could spend the afternoon together? I would also be happy to babysit while she went to the play, not knowing then that the husband would be doing that.
Take it as writ that she was evasive and rude and noncommital and "I just don't know what's going on." I scratched my head, and protested, in what felt uncomfortably like begging, that since the party "did not work out" and she wouldn't be free the 12th, surely we should see each other on the 5th? She just didn't know.
Well, that was it. Of course
that was it. What self-respect would I be showing to continue letting her blow me off with her rude "I don't know"s all the freaking time? So I ended it, and told her not to contact me again. (She later posted a passive-aggressive "unsent letter" about how if only I would have communicated how unhappy I was, she might could have changed things. But this was the exact same behavior
I'd been protesting since the end of August. Blowing me off, being noncommittal, evasive, not communicating, not letting me know what was going on, changing my plans.)
What was actually happening, she explained later, was that the husband was in town for the third weekend in a row. Saturday afternoon was the fall festival at one of her daughters' schools. The four of them were going, together.
The boyfriend was not welcome.
It goes without saying that this explanation should have been more offensive than the rudeness, but I was so blind that of course it wasn't. I envisioned something going on at my kids' school. Of course my girlfriend would be welcomed as our guest. Their mother would also have been invited. I'm not so stupid to think the two would ever be bosom buddies, but I'm sure my kids' mother knows her place. We would sit together and we would be social - we are pals, of course - but the place is different from my girlfriend's.
If Deb and I were still together, and I was sneaking off on the sly to see this brunette in Athens, then the brunette in Athens would not come to my kids' school functions.
Mistresses don't get to do that.Of course, fool
. It's taken me a long time to see this.
* * *
Things deteriorated, of course. She apologized, and I thought we reconciled, and on Sunday the 13th, my son and I went to Athens and I showered her with gifts and this time we were going to make this work. Her husband was in town this weekend, too.
Then there was the state-of-us conversation on the night of Friday the 18th. This was pretty painful. She let me know we hadn't reconciled and we were still working things out, but she just "didn't know" whether we had a future. Her husband was in town this weekend, too. At one point, I did get pretty angry and, talking through tears, told her that if you tell a guy you want to have a child with him, you'll either drive him off or you've hooked him. She had to cut the discussion short and nothing was resolved. Her husband was expecting her home.
Choked back tears, straightened myself up, dusted myself off, hoped that she was going to invite me to spend Thanksgiving with her family. Well, of course not, that place at the table was reserved for her husband.
And that brings us to the end. For my birthday, I had asked her whether she wanted to host a party or throw a dinner for me. She "didn't know," so I said Jennifer could throw it. That made her not want to attend, because, some weeks before, Jennifer had the audacity to tell Rebecca not to try and involve her in one of our fights. I asked whether she wanted to have dinner with my family on the 2nd; she had a dress rehearsal. Knightsong, her singing group, had a concert on the 3rd, my actual birthday, and I had the mad, presumptuous notion that she'd spend the night with the kids and me afterward.
You know what, it's too crazy, tedious and painful to replay. Suffice it to say she blew me off again. The brilliant part is that two days later, she denied ever using the phrase which finally snapped that last little string of patience I had with this. When she said "I don't know what to tell you," I said to myself "Get your things, this is finished."
We'd planned to spend the afternoon together; I moved the movie up, since we had time, from 4.05 to 1.05 just so I wouldn't have to spend three hours shopping with this inconsiderate jerk who'd asked me to understand while she rescheduled or did things with people on their own birthdays without me on some prior occasions but couldn't spare any time for me on my own. And why should she, I'm only
She apologized, on the way to the movie, for being in the millionth bad mood she'd subjected me to; her rabbit had been killed earlier in the week and she still "didn't know" about us. I offered to take her home and dearly wished she'd have said yes.
Anyway, she made a claim about what happened after the movie. The only true things were that we were in a car and she jumped out of it. Everything else was either a gross exaggeration or a bald-faced lie, and anybody who'd believe a word of it never
had any business calling me a friend. Reality check
? My ex-wife had panic attacks and manic episodes. I know how to behave; calmly, slowly, rationally, simply, honestly, with both hands on the fucking wheel, decelerating the fucking car. Even she laughed up a storm when I told her what Rebecca had alleged happened. Then again, as someone else put it, if Rebecca had "just held her water" she'd have been home in forty seconds anyway.
And the crime? Daring to point out that she didn't want to do anything with me on my birthday.
So I picked up some of my stuff from her husband, who was there for the sixth weekend running, and that was that.
I got the impression he was going to be there the next two weekends.
She is spending Christmas in Washington with her husband and his family.
We had no future. We never did.
* * *
I was uncomfortable with people perceiving me as the bad guy until I realized that I was.
I was waiting around for a future when all I was good for was sex and gifts.
I was the mistress.
And there isn't any point fighting my label. Everybody knows that the mistress is the bad guy, so I've no business being upset that I've lost "friends," and so I'm not upset any more. There's nothing for me to do but damn the lies and damn the false promises and just get on with life, and take away the lesson:If she's married, you cannot win
* * *Postscript
In the nine months since I wrote this, lots of information came to light, most disturbingly that I'm at least the fifth guy to fall for her lines; over a ten-year period, Rebecca Ballard has told at least five men that she and her husband are separated and will be divorcing imminently. Neither of those things are true.
I no longer feel bad for my part in things; I miss some friendships I thought I had, but not one of those people took me aside and told me that our affair would never be any more than that. I imagine she's protested that she never said anything about marrying me or having more kids with me or us needing a larger house than mine, that I'm just lying. Well, I'm not. I concede we spoke about these things too early, and that I spent too much time daydreaming about them, but we most certainly did talk about them. And yet some of her very close friends were later amazed to learn that we were a "couple."
I loved her enormously and miss her children a lot; I wanted very much to be their stepfather, and I wanted her to be my children's stepmother. I would never have brought her into my kids' life the way I did had we not spoken positively about a future. My daughter was more devastated by our breakup than she was by her mother and me divorcing. She told me that it was not fair that she'd never get to tell Rebecca goodbye, so I allowed her one farewell e-mail.
Three months later, it was said that this was evidence of me "using (my) children as weapons."
Rebecca never physically abused me. At least one of the men before me suffered that. Nevertheless, the six wonderful weeks at the start of the affair don't make up for the many weeks of lies (remind me to tell you the story of how Knightsong mysteriously started adding new members to keep me away from rehearsals), backstabbing and sheer emotional abuse that I went through trying to keep this monster in my life.
Rebecca felt like home for a short time, but the reality is that she was the worst mistake I ever made.