An Affair to Forget

So back to my friend Hank: When we last left off Hank’s Mom, Julie, found out that his father, Frank, was having an affair. It appeared that Julie had given up attempting to control Hank and his other siblings thereby creating a less the welcoming home for her husband. Though she did sense some stress in her marriage she did not know that Frank was having a yearlong affair with his coworker, Jan.

Frank and Jan worked together at a general contracting business. It was Jan’s job to book home improvements and make appointments for Frank’s clients. Compared to his wife, Jan was a rather simple looking woman. Jan had a hard appearance that suggested life had not been kind to her. Her tan skinned bordered on leathered and her mousy hair was in need of serious conditioning. She was not at all like the fair-skinned Julie whose cherub face was home to her sparkling blue eyes. Their personalities were almost polar opposites. Though they were both mothers, Julie was sweet and compassionate where Jan was more reserved and came off stoic. To an outsider, Julie was clearly the more attractive of the two and seemed to be a better overall companion. It did not make sense that Frank would start a secret life with Jan without trying to work through his problems with Julie. Nevertheless, start a secret life he did.

Years ago, when Jan and Frank started a working relationship, Jan was married to a firefighter. They were married at a young age and as they grew older, the relationship started to deteriorate. Her husband was the controlling type and Jan was not one to be controlled. Through her divorce, she leaned on Frank for advice and he helped her achieve independence. Frank met Jan’s young children and began to enjoy spending time with them. Slowly, Frank found himself visiting Jan’s home after work instead of going home to his own. Jan’s quiet tone and subdue lifestyle only highlighted the craziness that awaited Frank when he came home to Julie at night. He started to resent his marriage and own children and yearned more for Jan’s less complicated existence.

Julie never had the benefit of knowing any of this. Frank never explained that the kids and their friends were stressing him out. Julie was not given the chance to understand Frank’s problems and try to fix things for her husband. Frank never had a conversation with Julie to express hat he needed their environment to be more relaxed. Frank never even approached his own children about the parties; instead, he just retreated to Jan’s house for his solace. He found a way to get what he needed and did not see the point in fixing what he already had. It seemed easier for Frank to move onto “plan b”, a double life with Jan and her family. Frank gave up on his marriage to Julie assuming that thing had been a certain way for so long and therefore they would be impossible to change. He didn’t give the woman that he married the slightest benefit of a doubt.

Instead, Frank split his time between the life that he wanted and the life that he had let spiral out of control. He enjoyed his time with Jan, the woman that he now loved and resented his time with Julie, the woman he reasoned could not understand him. Frank assumed that Julie would perpetually allow her children to run wild, putting their need for fun above the needs of her husband. He ASSUMED that his marriage was not fixable and that Julie and his children would not change. So, when the evening came that Julie found out about Jan, Frank left Julie. There was limited conversation or explanation just a packed duffel bag and a promise to divide the assets in a fair manner. Julie was blindsided and powerless over the sudden failure of her thirty-year marriage.

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“Amateur Night”

I have heard people refer to the night before Thanksgiving as “Amateur Night”. This refers to a drinking night that attracts crowds that do not usually imbibe. That night, many moons ago PB and I planned a night out in the city. It was the first and the last time I ever had “bottle service” at an establishment. For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to renting a table at a nightclub. The table comes complete with a bottle of vodka accompanied by warm juice mixers. The obscene price tag on the “service” is about six times the retail cost of the bottle. I digress. An entourage of PS’s friends attended that night including his sister; let us call her Darling, and her husband, who shall be known as Snoopy.

If you read my last entry about dating and family, you were introduced to the main players. You have an idea of the dynamic between Darling, Snoopy and PB. In summary, Darling is a spoiled child in an adult body who needs the constant attention and affection from her brother and her husband. For Darling this had never been a problem until I started dating PB and his time and affection was as a result, shared.

City law at the time banned smoking in the establishment. PB, Snoopy and Darling were outside enjoying a smoke at the end of the night. I on the other hand, was waiting in a bathroom line rivaling the Great Wall of China. After finishing inside, I went outside to collect my group and head home. In the smoking area, I found Darling in a compromising position. Two men had approached her and asked to take her picture. Darling was a very attractive girl in a very short skirt so it was no surprise that she attracted male attention. Instead of refusing the picture, she called for Snoopy and PB to intervene. Meanwhile, I realized our jackets were in the coat check inside. Welcoming a break from her drama, I went back into retrieve them and returned in a matter of minutes.

Back on the sidewalk, I found the situation had escalated. Darling was crying and Snoopy was trying to comfort her. Apparently, the idea of having her picture taken by random people was so emotionally devastating she caved under the trauma. Now you have to understand, PB had a blazing temper. The idea that someone had made Darling upset infuriated him. The tough guy switch was flipped and he confronted the creepers head on. PB was a burly man, so it was strange when the two men did not back down to his intimidations. In fact, it seemed that they wanted to fight as they egged PB on. Of course, I played the roll of the dutiful girlfriend trying to calm PB and convince him to go home. However, there was another voice in PB’s ear that night. The voice of Darling, the poor innocent victim who had been made to cry on her big night out.

The rest of the incident played out quickly and my memory is foggy regarding the details. PB and the men started to engage in a fistfight. One of the men had a knife and used it to stab PB twice in the back while PB remained entangled in fisticuffs with the other. When I saw this, I tried to psychically intervene and was thrown to the ground. Snoopy had also tried to intervene while Darling sat on the curb hysterically crying. My secondary reaction was to find someone on the street with a cell phone to alert the police and medics. The two men fled the scene upon hearing sirens in the distance and I ran up the street towards the flashing lights to flag down the ambulances and police cars. PB was conscious and I told him that Snoopy and I would go with the police to find the men that stabbed him. A still frantic Darling, I assumed, would accompany PB to the hospital and comfort him while he was treated.

From the back seat of the police car, Snoopy and I recounted what happened and gave the officers our description of the men. Another patrol car in the area spotted the men and we drove by to confirm their identities. Once the men were in custody, Snoopy and I went back to the Precinct. We formally gave our statements all the while asking for status updates on PB’s condition. The officers told us that both victims were stable and we would be taken to the hospital to see them shortly. Wait…two victims? Only PB was stabbed and the other two men were in jail. Who is the second victim? Did you guess? Yes, folks, Darling had her own ambulance ride complete with hospital exam.

When we arrived at the hospital, the emergency room nurse explained that Darling was discharged immediately and PB’s wounds were still under evaluation. Doctors had to be sure that the knife did not penetrate any vitals before they stitched the openings. I wanted to see PB but the staff explained that Darling would need to come out of the emergency room in order for me to come in. A nurse offered to ask Darling to swap places. When the nurse returned, she told me Darling refused to leave the emergency room. She took pity on me in light of Darling’s inability to compromise and let me in despite the fact that PB’s guest list was already at capacity. I never spoke to PB alone as Darling inserted her presence into every moment of that night. She referenced her own “injuries” and would not let us forget that she was just as much the victim that night.

In the midst of the tragic events came true enlightenment. It was as if a higher power was giving me the extreme scenario to show me that this relationship would never work out. I would always play a secondary role to Darling and I would grow more and more resentful as time went on. I am sure that there is a woman out there who would love PB enough to deal with the drama of Darling, but I knew I was not that woman. You have to be honest with yourself even when the truth hurts and walk away from an unsuitable situation. Family is family and Darling and PB’s relationship formed long before he met me. I could not demand that he cut her cord and change the dynamics of their co-dependency. I had to choose to accept it or move on. In hindsight, I should have acted on those earlier cues, the warning signs that I was not compatible with PB’s family.

Respect your significant others family situation. If you cannot see yourself as a part of that picture…it might be time to reevaluate your relationship.

Dating and Family…why a Pizza Bagel is not for everyone.

Being an only child, I will never truly have the experience of a sibling relationship.  Close friends and cousins are the most intimate family-like relationships I have as a comparison basis.  So imagine my surprise when my college beau, Pizza Bagel, had a brother/sister bond so tight it collapsed our long-term relationship.  I spent many years hating on Pizza Bagel’s sister and blaming her for the demise of my longest lasting relationship.  These days I rise above my general distain and thank my lucky stars I purged my life of her even thought that meant ending things with Pizza Bagel.  Remember folks…you may not realize it, but you are/will be in a relationship with their family too.

I met Pizza Bagel (PB for short) in college.  Talk dark and handsome, I was intrigued by looks complimented with a strong personality.  PB was worldly and introduced me to international cuisines and element of cultures I had not yet encountered.  Young, naïve and amazed that college men would even speak to me made the attention from PB enough to sweep me off my feet.  It was your typical college romance fueled with keg stands and beer pong, the stuff of true romance.  I kid.  I kid.

As the relationship progressed, I pushed to understand more about PB’s family and his life back at home.  He guarded this information and was very hesitant to introduce me to his family (red flag).  There was evidence that he had a strained relationship with his parents and alternately, a very close relationship to his sister.  In the future, I would find out that his Mom had personal problems that affected his childhood.  As a result, his main confidant and closest family member became his sister.  In college, the details about PB’s past were not clear but it was evident that in order for the relationship to pan out in the long term, his sister would need to approve.  Had I been a more seasoned dater, I might have realized that PB’s lack of willingness to introduce me to his family after a year of dating was a bad sign. 

When I moved to New Jersey after college it was to pursue my career, PB had also established himself in that area and we were still dating.  Although we did not live together, we were in close proximity to each other and his family.  It was at this stage that I was exposed to them on a regular basis.  My relationship budding with PB’s sister became complicated almost immediately.  She was the jealous type that needed to be the center of attention.  (Google “Histrionic Personality Disorder”).  For eample if I wore something new she would pout over her lack there of said something.  She had husband that was totally enthralled with her, yet she craved PB’s constant attention and affection.  This was uncomfortable for me and she started to feel like the “other woman.”

At that point I knew I could deal with PB’s mother, personal problems included, and even with PB’s dad and his stand-off-ish attitude.  That would not make or break our joint existence.  However, the events of one night changed everything.  PB’s sister’s need for attention resulted in a violent attack on PB and the injuries sustained were not just harmful to PB but to the fate of our future.  Tomorrow’s post will tell that story in detail.

No one’s family is perfect and if you do find a partner with a family you love then you are truly among the blessed.  The hope for most relationships is that you get along with your partners family and at least have a bond based on respect and your mutual love interest.  The point here is that you cannot deem a partner a potential marriage candidate until you meet and get to know the family of which he or she is a part.