Rick and I have been together for over thirteen years, and the dysfunctional attachment we had shared for so long was starting to seem like a thing of the past. That is, until the other night. After a few days of marital tension, we had ourselves a bloody emotional free-for-all. It was truly a blast from the past.
I would like to blame it on the full moon, but that would be disingenuous.
I would like to blame it on the alcohol (which certainly didn’t help), but that, too, would be taking liberties with the truth.
Eventually, the topic of the escalated verbal warfare settled on Rick’s emotional obsession with some girl he met while riding the bus to work. He ended their relationship about a year ago, but his attachment ran disturbingly deep, and he still misses her – enough to bookmark her MySpace page. Their love affair apparently began when this woman, who wasn’t ugly, and, most importantly, wasn’t fat, enjoyed sharing the intimate details of her tragic life with my husband Buck. Poor widdle ol’ Bus Girl. She needed a savior. She started occupying more and more of his mental real estate, rent-free, and became, in my opinion, a full-fledged process addiction.
Yes, Cupid had apparently shown up at the bus stop and fired one straight into Rick’s heart. The chemicals in Rick’s brain announced that he had fallen madly in love, just like it happens in the movies. Soon, Bus Girl became the answer to all of life’s problems. She wakes up each morning looking like a Victoria’s Secret model. She shits French vanilla ice cream. She never farts, but if she did, it would smell like lilies of the valley and freshly baked cookies. (This is the process of crystallization.) And on and on he would speak of her, to anyone who would listen, to all of his friends, so they could be impressed with what a womanizer he was now, and especially to me. How wonderful to have this twofold process of creating a private endorphin shower with your selfish and irrational desire to conquer someone you’ve conveniently arranged to see every day (whose most noteworthy asset is not being fat), and also have this amazing prop to launch the ultimate disrespect on a wife you resent (but not enough to leave).
The beginning of an addiction is, without exception, always the good part. Such utter and perfect relief from the twin demons of boredom and anxiety (the reality twins). Such a beautiful escape from his inner emptiness, from his mundane life. And don’t forget the whole pointing out to his wife on a daily basis how she just doesn’t measure up to his new standards anymore. Sometimes he’s just hard-pressed to come up with enough ego fodder for his new BFF, so he’s forced to steal it away from Wifey (like a crack whore stealing electronics to pay for the next fix.) That sense of one-upmanship is just whipped cream and a cherry on top of his ego boosting sundae! As much as he professed his admiration for her, he ALWAYS kept one eye on me.
Rick believed (probably still believes) that this wonderful feeling was completely mutual. But like all star-crossed lovers, there was a major obstacle separating these soul mates from their happy ending. Bus Girl had such a fine, upstanding moral character, that she could not knowingly sleep with a married man – especially one who had children. Okay, but one also might wonder why someone with such amazing integrity was doing playing in someone else’s yard in the first place – and not bothering to mention it to her live-in boyfriend. (Who was evidently a complete asshole who treated her badly, but not badly enough for her to leave. Hmm – have we noticed a pattern here amongst the cheating parties?)
Rick’s ego refused to consider that she might be somewhat ambivalent about her interest in a him as a lover, but incapable or unwilling to communicate this directly, lest his preoccupation with her wane. My opinion is that she was QUITE CERTAIN that she was NOT really interested, but she relished Rick’s attention and wanted it to continue flowing indefinitely (Hey, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free!) Insecure women sometimes have an obsessive need to confirm their attractiveness by keeping a little fan club of male admirers. So she REALLY hit the jackpot when Rick came along. She could bat him around between hope and doubt, thus ensuring his dog-like devotion, without ever having to spread her legs and it was all because oh poor helpless widdle me, I’d just feel SO guilty about being a home wrecker! (I never said she wasn’t clever.)
So Rick’s addiction blossomed like an award-winning orchid, requiring a similar level of care, feeding and maintenance. All thoughts turned to Bus Girl. Every little thing she did was magic. Tolerance to the drug began to build up over time, so he required more and more of it to get the same high. I suppose this is when seeing her on the bus and e-mailing her throughout the day begging for lunch dates just didn’t cut it anymore, and he had to do it (discreetly) from home, weekends and holidays, and whenever real life left him feeling less than wonderful about himself.
Higher and more frequent doses were required, not to achieve the original euphoric high, but rather to stave off the unpleasant pangs of withdrawal. The intensity of his distress when he didn’t get to see her regularly and be graced with her ego-stroking magic became quite apparent and alarming. Having a COMPLETELY different life, this bitch validates ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.
Rick sits on his ass during a week long vacation and tells the bus girl how lazy he’s being. “Oh, that’s what vacations are for,” she replies approvingly. Well, SURE, Bus Girl – when you don’t have kids to raise, or a house that’s falling apart around you, or piles of compulsive hoarding that you keep finding ways to put off dealing with. No wonder he loves her so much. She doesn’t know anything about what he’s really like! And he can totally keep it that way!
He can offer to upgrade her computer and pick dog shit up out of her (boyfriend’s) yard and get praised for it without ever actually having to do any of it!! All the while being able to give the finger to me, that evil shrew who wants him to grow up and help me around the house. Evidently I should do all the work myself but still praise him for being helpful, so he isn’t forced to seek solace in Bus Girl’s phony admiration. (I still really have trouble getting how praise without merit can be meaningful to anyone.)
Rick has not fallen in love with a real person, but rather an illusion of his own creation.
She’s like a blank screen upon which to project all of his cherished hopes and wildest dreams. She would consistently mirror back the reflection of himself he likes to see, the one that has nothing to do with who he really is.
Now perhaps you’re saying, “Debbie, don’t be such a hater! This is like some poor slob having a wicked crush on Pamela Anderson. He just likes to look at her pictures and her big fake boobs and imagine himself doing her. Totally harmless. You should really just get over it.”
Nope, sorry, not even close. Your poor slob’s NEVER gonna get anywhere near Pamela Anderson’s junk. Rick’s fantasy would be far less satisfying unless it seemed realistic and somewhat possible. Maybe someday Bus Girl would toss him a bone, a big juicy reward for providing her with such an inflated sense of self-worth for such an extensive length of time. Maybe there would be some make-out time at the bus stop or the parking ramp (maybe there was, and he just wants to “spare my feelings” by not telling me about it) And that’s what kept their beautiful, tragic Love Boat afloat.
To me, their relationship closely resembled that of dealer and junkie. Rick actually sat in a marriage counselor’s office with me and lied straight-faced to everyone. Made me look crazy – as if his gas-lighting didn’t make me look and feel crazy enough. He said he had discontinued his relationship with her – but nothing could be further from the truth. And for another 5 months I let him bitch-slap me around while every single day he put on his “knight-in-shining-armor” costume and came to her emotional rescue, often at my expense. He said things like, “I can’t believe you’re still so attached to it” or “I’ve blown her off for such a long time, it would be awkward to see her.” Lies, lies, lies, lies.
Then my grandmother died. Rick was an absolute douche bag. Grandma’s funeral must have cut into precious Bus Girl time and I wasn’t giving him my 100% undivided attention. A few days later, I went to the bus stop and watched them get off the bus and walk to her car. Rick was all animated and totally into her. She looked bored but after she got into her car, flashed him a sexy smile and it became apparent what a fraud and a liar he had become. I hurt so bad. Then I got moving.
Since I wasn’t Rick’s everything, how about I be nothing? (Thanks, Beyonce. I love that line.) I cancelled our joint credit card. I called an attorney. I was sick of this shit and prepared to walk away with what little shreds of dignity I still possessed. I was ready to let the kids blame me for the divorce (but they knew whose fault it really was). Only then did Rick consider that maybe this addiction should be dealt with. We decide to work through it.
A couple months later I see his “Sent Items” folder of his gmail account, chock full of messages with her name on them. I got drunk and read as many as I could stomach. It was amazing how my bad days, our many fights, and general feelings of uneasiness could be directly traced to his interactions with this pathetic attention-seeking skank he was obsessed with.
He had sworn there was no e-mail. It amazed me that he could take such an interest in someone so common and self-centered. That was before I understood that they never really knew each other – they just shared their good sides. Then they came home and dumped all their crap on their partners. They shared a lack of maturity, a lack of decency, and a huge internal void they attempted to fill with their fantasies of each other. For a long time, I wanted Rick to realize for himself that he didn’t really love her. That seems less important now.
So I got to have 2 “D-Days” – Rick certainly got a lot of mileage out of his Emotional Affair. And most days, I rarely think about it, but for some reason this week, it keeps buzzing around my mind like a nasty horsefly. And whenever Rick is a douche bag, I always feel like telling him to go whine to Bus Girl about it.