I just got back from staying over at my mom’s house. I love hanging with my mom. She’s getting more and more…addled…finally, at 75, beginning to show her age, but she is sweet, and kind, and loving, and every time I am there I wish she lived right here in our condo complex so I could see her more often.
Instead, she lives in the subdivision where my sister, T, lives, one block away from her, her husband and their little boy. My mom is lucky if she sees T once a month, and usually it is only an obviously obligatory visit.
My sister is not kind, or sweet, or loving.
Lately when I talk to my parents, I have been deliberate in bringing up W in the conversation. Not in an “in your face” way, but just as I do in every day conversation with anyone else. I don’t insert him into the conversation, but if it is natural to mention him or something he and I have done, I don’t circle around it, I don’t equivocate. I say his name, I mention whatever-it-is and I move on. I want them to get used to hearing about him, and to begin seeing him as a part of my life.
This weekend, while out with my mom, I finally came clean on who this “W” fella really is to me.
My mom knows I am poly, and has known since I told her during my split with my Ex. I knew that she had a lot of admiration for the Ex and liked him a lot, and I didn’t want our breaking up to destroy that. It’s too easy to want to attach all blame for a break-up on the partner that isn’t your family, and, especially as it was me that precipitated the split, I didn’t want my mom to think badly of him. So she knew that Ad and I have an open relationship, but she never met any of my other partners, or even heard about them. Why should she? I didn’t have any committed partners before W.
But it’s been three years now with W, and, frankly, I just wanted to not to have to mince around who exactly this “W” person is in my life. I wasn’t committed to telling her this weekend, I didn’t head out to visit her intending to come clean, but, when the opportunity accidentally presented itself, I took it.
Here’s the deal. My sister’s marriage is falling apart. Or has already, and the only reason they stay together is because they “can’t afford” to split up. Meanwhile, they buy cars, go on separate vacations, presumably drive up their credit card debt–and live in a state of barely-concealed warfare, sniping and biting at each other, visiting petty cruelties upon the other and crowing about it behind each other’s backs, all the while acting like they are being “civilized” and doing it all “for their son’s sake.” It’s enough to make me sick. It makes me so sad to see my sister so bitter and unhappy and to see that same resignation and joylessness reflected on her husband’s face.
This is the sister that, when my marriage was ending and I told her about me being poly said to me, “Why do you always have to do things your way, Jade? Can’t you just be like normal people? Can’t you just have an affair??”
She truly thought that having an affair was morally superior to being in an open marriage or relationship. She also thought it was a lot smarter, since everyone knows an open relationship can’t work–and wasn’t I proof, as my marriage was a failure because of it? (I could never convince her of the wrongness of that statement: I never considered my marriage a failure. But that is perhaps for a different post.) Stay married and have an affair, and you don’t have to give up your big house, your fancy cars, your credit cards–your things. But what about your soul? What about love and joy and morality and ethics and your sense of decency?
Uh-huh. I see how well that worked for her. Because that is why she and her husband are in the place they are. She had affairs, he found out. She went to “counseling,” confessed her sins, swore never to do it again…and smirked about pulling the wool over his eyes as she headed out to another of her trysts. Well, it didn’t stay pulled, and now they are in the situation they are in.
What a sad, ugly life.
But what really bothered me was my mother going on and on about what a bastard my sister’s husband is for “throwing her out of the bedroom,” for “cutting her off” financially (he split the bills and she has to pay her own bills and he his) and for treating her “unkindly.”
Look, the guy is no peach. I couldn’t live with him. But I didn’t choose him. He never lied to her or cheated on her. He may be as slow and dumb as a box of rocks, but he took care of her, he bought her ever-increasingly larger houses and nicer cars, he moved clear across the country, away from a hometown he had loved and never wanted to leave to be with her. He gave what he had to give. And she chose to lie and cheat and laugh at him behind his back when he didn’t see it. And when he did see it, and he still wanted to be with her, to work it out, instead of either a) owning up and changing her behavior, or b) letting him go so that maybe he could find happiness with someone else that could be happy with him, she lied again and started it all over. Only this time she despises him for taking her back, as well; for allowing himself to be used.
She deserves every bit of contempt he levels at her. And he doesn’t deserve my parent’s contempt.
But they only see what my sister has shown them; they can only believe the sob story my sister tells them. It’s repugnant, and…I finally got fed up with it. I did something I am sure I will regret: I told my mother the real reason their marriage is on the rocks. Oh, not the fullness of my sister’s lies and infidelities. In fact I made no mention of her continued affairs. I only said that perhaps B had a reason to be “unkind.” That she had had an affair (“an” affair? try dozens) and he had found out. That maybe my sister was skewing the story a bit.
I’m not sure how the conversation went from my sister’s infidelities to W, but it did. Maybe I was trying to juxtapose what a farce her “arrangement” was with something healthy, and vital, and good. Whatever my original motivation was (okay yeah, my motives may not have been pure, maybe I did want to show her up a little) by spotlighting a lifestyle that, for a 75 yr old woman, would have to seem untenable at best, immoral at worst. But she took it all in stride (she’s something else, my mama.) I guess having softened her up 5 years or so ago with the confession of being in an open relationship in the first place made it not such a shock to her. The fact that it has lasted 3 years was a bit of a shock: “You’ve been with someone for three years and never told me, never introduced me?!?” So I had to take my lumps for that. But for the most part, since I’m happy, Ad’s happy, my kids are happy and she assumes W is happy–it’s all good.
Oh, except for one more thing. When I told her W’s name, she said, “This is a man?”
I’d forgotten I had also confessed to being bisexual at some point a couple years ago. Oops.