A True American Hero

Yesterday, after my second holiday since leaving my husband spent alone, in a new town in a new area, with little friends and little money, and after getting body slammed by a deer leaving a huge dent and chipped paint on my already problematic rattling car, I finally got home and had to scroll through Instagram and see a friend’s post. The friend was at my old house — the one that I lovingly and painstakingly furnished and decorated with the hopes and dreams of raising a family in, the one that my parents generously gifted $60,000 for the downpayment — celebrating the 4th of July with whom he called a “true American hero.” My stomach turned and I nearly vomited when I realized he was talking about my husband.

Until now I have been rather silent about the circumstances that led up to my separation from my husband. I have tried to channel the Obamas — going high when he went low. He has dragged me on social media, spinning a narrative of a plotting, selfish wife who suddenly woke up one day and decided to leave him. He has implied that I spent all of his money when we were together and he has accused me of plotting to leave him for years. Privately, he has changed the locks on the home and called me an entitled bitch when I was incredibly upset about it. He has called me a cunt three times, two of those times after I specifically told him never to call me that again. He has ranted and raved and poured vitriol in every form over me. He has literally scared me and made me worry about my physical safety. He has laughed at my anger and he has gloated about his new life post-separation. He has rarely demonstrated remorse and has seemingly done none of the things I had asked him to do when we first separated and he begged me not to leave.

A true American hero — seemingly because he is a Recon Marine, a sniper, and a combatant diver. He has gone through some of the toughest courses in the Marine Corps and the American military system. He has the chiseled body of a Greek god and the military knowledge and arrogance of every military hero in every Hollywood movie. I know this. I had swooned over it once. And as payment, I had been with him through every step of that journey. I believed in the hyper masculine, testosterone fueled narrative of the true American hero. I was proud of the man I was married to who survived the grueling training and culture that is the subject of tv shows and movies. I supported him and encouraged him when the trainings didn’t go his way, when he fell short of his personal goals, when he failed the stalking portion of sniper school and had to return for a second time to complete the course. I willingly stayed behind and took care of the home, the bills, the maintenance, the pets, his family, and myself while he left every few months — each time with drama and fanfare as he had employers upset at him, a bevy of W2s every tax season, and an inconsistent income. I spent nearly all of my vacation days on him — flying out to visit or driving from New York to California or New York to Florida in three days to visit him. My stomach fell every time there was news of a serviceman being injured in training or a shooting on a base and then I would feel guilty relief when I found out he wasn’t the victim.

All during law school I went through the ups and downs of the military spouse life, attempting to embrace the role as the faithful military spouse when all I truly wanted was some fucking stability and quiet so that I could focus on me and my studies and my job instead of worrying constantly about his safety, his job, his mood swings upon departure and return. I put off having a child so he could fulfill his military duties. Seldom did I receive recognition or appreciation for what I did — occasionally I would get a shoutout on my birthday or on Veteran’s Day or the lesser known Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

Ironically, it was on Military Spouse Appreciation Day in 2014, that I first found out that while he was attending the Basic Reconnaissance Course in California that he had an affair for several months with a woman he had met at church. When he came back home, he had stayed in touch with her through Facebook Messenger and never intended on telling me until I discovered it all myself. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. I had never experienced that type of pain and heartbreak in my life before — and I had been through my fair share of life’s shit up until this point. I did not leave bed for days. I don’t recall eating anything for days. I grieved as though he had died, because in essence, he had — the man and the husband I thought he was was dead. I had to shamefully request the law school grant me a makeup day for an exam because I was utterly incapable of doing anything other than cry for hours on end.

Of course he begged for my forgiveness and said he would never do anything like that ever again. He tearfully confessed his struggle with lust and greed and vowed he would get help and do whatever he could to change. Through the rest of our marriage we dealt with the repercussions of my husband’s struggle with women. Even before the affair I had seen red flags. Before the affair — and afterwards too — I had caught him posting pictures of his dick on Craigslist, soliciting women. I had seen his URL trail of responding to such messages and viewing women who sought out men like him. I sensed his eyes wandering on hot summer days when women were scantily clad and sweating on the train. It was always humiliating and it made me feel like total shit, but somehow, the culture I was raised in told me that if only I was a better wife and more faithful and thinner and more beautiful and sexier and and more trusting and more believing in him, would he actually truly change for me. Divorce was not an option. Divorce meant I did not trust God, did not trust my husband, and did not trust in the power of love. I was, after all, the wife of a True American Hero, and my job was to support him and love him under all circumstances so that our country could be safe from terrorists because of men like him.

We went to couples counseling, which ultimately always made me feel like it was my fault. It was my fault I wasn’t over it. It was my fault I was still angry at him. It was my fault he felt shame when around men who were good fathers and husbands. It was my fault he had the affair to begin with, because clearly I wasn’t doing enough to be supportive, to be loving, to be communicative, to be the kind of wife whose husband is so madly in love with her he would never think of cheating on her. I tried harder and harder, cooking and cleaning and hosting parties and dinners for his family and friends, spending money on clothes and underwear and beauty products to keep him attracted to me, shutting out my friends to spend time with him, doing all the activities and things he liked to do, and neglecting my studies so that I could be the kind of wife he would be so in love with he would never think of another woman. I was never able to succeed, but I totally wore myself out and every day he did not love me more, I felt more like a worthless failure of a wife.

Our True American Hero also controlled many aspects of my life, shaming me when I gained weight (from my unhappiness and depression), yelling at me for the money I spent, not permitting me to do certain things such as using the dishwasher or getting a dog or a housekeeper to help with the errands and chores he would not do. When I defied him on the things I was not permitted to do, I would have to deal with days of the silent treatment or his unhappiness, tiptoeing on eggshells and doing sweet things for him until I was finally forgiven and granted the privilege of his acknowledgment again.

The True American hero’s lust was insatiable. For years, I begged him to seek counseling, to get help, to talk to his friends, to find a supportive group of people with whom he could be utterly and completely honest. He never did and instead everybody around him and us continued to think he was a great man and husband, since I was so supportive and loving of him and he was such a stalwart Marine. But in reality, I had to drag him to counseling, which he would go to with reluctance and I would have to thank him and reward him for going. I made concessions, permitting him to go to a men’s Bible study group instead of a therapist. He stopped going because he scoffed at the men who attended, thinking they did not fit his description of what a “man” is. He called them soft and complaining and implied they were pussies, simply because one day the heat wasn’t working in the church and the men found it uncomfortable and did not want to share about their struggles and weaknesses in a cold church sanctuary in the middle of the winter.

He was also selfish. He could have sex with me whenever he wanted and it was always about him and his satisfaction. So long as he came (quickly), he was happy. I would give him a blow job when he asked me for one, I would let him fuck me in the ass when he wanted to (while mentally cajoling myself to relax and unclench for love of my husband), I would let him do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted in order to keep him happy. I dreaded finding my husband with another woman so acquiesced to his every wish and desire in order to keep him exclusively mine. But when I asked him to finish me off after he blew his load, he would simply ignore me and go to sleep. When I asked him to go down on me, he would for a few seconds but then stick his dick in my face for me to suck on. When I initiated sex but he didn’t want it, he simply ignored me. And when I got fat, he was so disgusted with me that we didn’t have sex for months. It was only when I lost weight did he begin to want to fuck me be again, but by then his greed for women was out of control.

The True American Hero could no longer deal with only having sex with his wife, and in the last few months of our marriage, begged and wheedled me into agreeing on a threesome and an open marriage. He suggested I see other men because it turned him on; he brought this up the morning of the first day of the bar exam. (Needless to say, I did not pass the bar exam on the first try.) I had once told him about how there were a few women in my past that I had been attracted to and I had had some curiosity about sex with another woman, and it became a full blown fantasy for him.

When I finally reluctantly agreed to both the threesome and an open marriage — this was during the time I was studying for my second go at the bar exam, a time when I had specifically asked my husband to issue no distractions — I was left without options and ideas as to how to keep our marriage together and my husband happy. He gleefully went off onto Tinder, spending every hour at home while I studied, right before bed, and first thing in the morning, swiping through women and responding to messages. He sent me a barrage of messages and emails with pictures of women he wanted my opinion on for a threesome. He made me pose for pictures and filmed us having sex so he could send them to women to entice them into a threesome. I was disgusted by all the women he suggested — they all appeared trashy and pornographic. I doubted their bisexuality as something genuine but rather as something that distinguished them as sexually adventurous and desirable to men. I was attracted to the Carrie Brownsteins of the world and he wanted a porn star acting out a part.

The pain and anxiety I experienced as we approached the two week period he would be leaving for training and therefore, the first try at our open marriage, was incredibly distracting. In lieu of studying, I spent time looking for men I wouldn’t be disgusted at myself for fucking. Meanwhile my husband was so turned on by the upcoming trial, he fucked me like crazy and I played along, also happy that I was getting the attention from him I had craved for so long. But I felt like I had to find somebody to fuck because then it wouldn’t be an open marriage, it would simply be my husband fucking somebody else while I waited at home thinking about him fucking somebody else. I knew that fucking a man that wasn’t my husband was hardly what I wanted, and the majority of the men on Tinder that I met made me laugh at their ridiculousness and recoil at their crassness. The reality of it is that I would have never wanted to sleep with anybody other than my husband had I been asked what I wanted. Except, nobody of the two involved in the relationship — including myself — ever asked me what I wanted. It was always what did my husband want and what would happen if he didn’t get what he wanted?

The first night he left for training, I took the plunge. I forced myself to enter the world of the open marriage for fear of never being able to do it and then simply spending the next two weeks being cheated on instead of a consensual open marriage. Thankfully, it was an incredibly wonderful and liberating experience. For the first time in years, a man valued me sexually. He was considerate of what I wanted and was eager to please. I was having sensual and consensual sex for the first time in a very very long time and I remembered what it was like to have sex that was pleasurable for both parties involved. I was reminded of what it was like for a man to be absolutely thrilled with the permission to have access to me. To him, it was a privilege to have sex with me, when for so long sex with my husband was simply his birthright.

Entering into the open marriage was my sexual awakening. I realized I was worth so much more than I had been treated. Men were tripping over themselves to sleep with me and were impressed with my credentials, my education, my experience, my house, my body, my style, my sense of humor. I was worth something. Meanwhile, my husband fucked any woman that would let him. I’m not quite sure how what he was doing was any different than solicitation, aside from the lack of the exchange of money. Per our arrangement, he would tell me he was going to go see a girl, I would say OK, and then 45 minutes later he was texting me from a gas station telling me about the different drinks he was thinking about buying. He did not value women, he simply needed to fuck as many pussies as possible. It didn’t matter what they looked like, so long as he was not annoyed by their voice or their personality or their questions and they were willing to spread their legs for him, they were a candidate. And then my husband had the audacity to tell me that fucking these women made him feel closer to me and made him realize that I was actually worth something to him.

By the time he had come to this realization I was done. He returned from training (which he had inevitably failed, what with the distraction of fucking every woman he could in two weeks) I was done being treated like shit, like all of his problems with his penis and with the way he viewed women were my fault or somehow caused by my shortcomings. I was done feeling bad about myself for not being satisfying, done feeling like I would spend the rest of my marriage looking over my shoulder for the woman who was going to blow up my marriage again. I was done being vigilant around women — suspecting them of wanting my husband instead of thinking of them as my allies in the fight against misogyny and the motherfucking patriarchy. I was done worrying that if I chose to have children with this man that someday my children would not have the attentive father they needed because he was off fucking some fresh piece of ass instead of being at home. I was done being owned and controlled and terrorized by this man into being a lesser version of myself simply because of my fear of where he would stick his dick because he has some kind of unresolved issues with women and his hatred for them. I was done pretending to the world that I wasn’t married to an insatiable sexual monster who did nothing to help himself but instead kept coming up with excuses and loopholes to deal with the kind of person he actually is.

So, sure, if that’s your True American Hero, go ahead and celebrate him and continue to love him and praise him and make him feel like he epitomizes the kind of man all men should be. That kind of man is fueled by toxic masculinity and an utter lack of self awareness. That man is afraid of women who have opinions and thoughts and don’t want to or won’t want to or can’t do things the way he demands them to be done. That man is defined by the guns he shoots and the muscles he works for, not by the wife he failed or the marriage he broke. That man gloats that his separation has resulted in more money for him, while he counts every penny and keeps it to himself while his wife steeps herself deeper and deeper into debt as the cost of escaping a life with him. That man blames his wife for taking away from him the pets that he rarely took care of, that he once argued with his wife over the cost of one of the pet’s veterinary care, calling it ridiculous that she would got to such lengths to ensure the health of her cat. That man values his truck and his things and his house more than the dignity of his wife, never once thinking that perhaps it is he that should move out to a small apartment next to a freight train track surrounded by neighbors and barking dogs and feral cats, since it was he who did jack shit to save his marriage. That man called his wife a bitch and a cunt and a liar and selfish for trying to protect herself and then that man laughed at her pain and her suffering when he called her such names and locked her out of her own house. That man has told his wife she was not allowed to date other men during their separation, attempting to police her body and her decisions, when he himself had an affair two years into their marriage. That man ridicules people like Donald Trump for their ridiculous tweets but then is unable to control himself with his own status posts dragging the wife who did everything she humanly could to tolerate a marriage with him. That man continues to think and act like he’s the victim and hasn’t taken a second to think about how he utterly and completely blew up his wife’s life, after vowing in front of church and God and family that he would always serve her before himself and after she made every sacrifice that she could tolerate to try to uphold her end of the deal. That, my friends, is your True American Hero and if you continue to worship the ground he walks on, that’s on you. I’m done being responsible for him.