Monday, February 6, 2012

Facebook Frank

Frank found out he was getting a divorce the same way most of his friends did. It was the day his Facebook status read: “Frank Allen is a lying, cheating bastard who should learn to log out of Facebook before he leaves for work.”

It had started out a fairly typical Monday morning. Frank had logged on to Facebook before leaving for work then realized that he had coffee and doughnut duty for the morning staff meeting. He had closed his laptop, dashed out the door and made it to work with treats and time to spare. Settling in for the first meeting of the day he didn’t give his computer at home a second thought. Then the first text came at 10:05, “Dude! Check your Facebook account!” Within twenty minutes he had 24 more texts. By the time he was able to get out of the meeting and log on he had 65 comments on his new status. That was the beginning of a very long day. Followed by a long night. Then a long week. Then a long year.   

Frank and Beth Anne started couple’s therapy and tried to make a go at patching things up. It was during their first few sessions that Frank learned what had happened that day. As soon as he had left for work Beth Anne had opened his laptop and then his account. Seems she just knew something was going on and she was determined to find out.  It didn’t take her long. Frank had never deleted a single email exchange between himself and his girlfriend. The more Beth Anne read the madder she got until she changed his status, called a lawyer, packed a bag and went to stay with her sister. She was still mad enough at him three weeks later that she didn’t speak to him outside of the therapist’s office. They had even negotiated the time for the counseling sessions via text messages. 

At first Frank thought that they might work things out. He felt that being in counseling with Beth Anne would help fix their issues. His friends that had been through divorces tried to warn him that what he thought the counseling sessions were going to be weren’t what they were going to be. But Frank was optimistic. And he made the mistake of believing the therapist when she said that her office was a “judgment free zone.” That in that space he and Beth Anne could tell the truth and deal with tough problems and they could, if they did the work, come out of this stronger. Well Dr. Bell might have been working in a “judgment free zone” but Beth Anne was not.

It seems as though the answer to “Why did you have an affair?” should not have been, “Because I felt like I deserved it.” But he did feel that way. Or at least he did at the time. Now he wasn’t as sure. 

He had worked hard to get to his position at work. He had put everything in his life toward making a success out of himself. He and Beth Anne had been married for ten years. She hadn’t worked for the past three. They didn’t need the money from her job so when she was passed over for a promotion she had wanted and said she felt like quitting, Frank told her to go ahead. Frank was proud of this.  He felt like it was a gift to Beth Anne. Beth Anne said she thought it was his way of saying he didn’t think she would ever amount to anything in her career.

They had never had children. When they got married neither he nor Beth Anne wanted them. Frank hadn’t changed his mind but Beth Anne had. She swore she had talked to Frank about wanting children now but Frank couldn’t honestly remember her seriously saying she wanted them. And even if she had made the passing comment about maybe now that she wasn’t working they should rethink having kids Frank knew she would miss her freedom too much if they did. Apparently this made him controlling and demeaning in Beth Anne’s eyes.

The affair started innocently enough. If by innocent you mean seeing a woman in your office and thinking, “I bet she’s a hell of a fuck.” and then actually getting drunk enough at the bar one night after work to say it to her face. And her being drunk enough to take you up on the offer. If that’s what you mean by innocent then yes, it started innocently enough. She wasn’t a subordinate; she was a manager from another branch in for a weeklong face to face meeting. She and Frank just took the face to face part a little further than it was intended. They had kept up the affair for the past 6 months. Mostly via dirty emails and phone calls and a few clandestine meetings when she needed to visit the home office or he could get away for a day off. Frank had discovered there was nothing hotter than the drive to a Holiday Inn on the edge of town.

Yes, he felt like he had earned this little bonus of the job. He worked hard. He was successful. He was still attractive. He gave everything to Beth Anne, a house, income, free time to do whatever she wanted, why shouldn’t he get a little reward as well? He hadn’t been unfaithful to Beth Anne in the previous ten years. Or not like this. There had been the odd one night stands here and there while he was travelling, and there was the woman in Vegas during a buddy’s bachelor party, but this had been the only long term affair. This confession did not go over well in the "judgment free zone" either.

After a month of twice weekly sessions he and Beth Anne decided to divorce. She couldn’t get past his affair, or pattern of affairs as she now put it. And he couldn’t get past the fact that she had logged in to his Facebook account. Dr. Bell seemed to think that this was the lesser of the two issues, and that Beth Anne’s breach of trust was caused by Frank’s behavior. Frank didn’t agree. He asked for forgiveness. He told Beth Anne that it was over between him and the other woman. And it was. As soon as Beth Anne found out about the affair Frank’s girlfriend dumped him like a bad habit. She was also married and didn’t want to be caught up in the crossfire of his dissolving marriage. It seems as though Frank was just a fun distraction for her, not a lifelong commitment. At first Frank was a little insulted, but then had to admit to himself he would have done the same thing if their situations had been reversed. He tried to share this with Beth Anne in the “judgment free zone” but it seems as though the fact that he didn’t even love the woman he was ruining their marriage over was worse. He just couldn’t win.

The divorce went as smoothly as a divorce could go. There were no children to fight over. They sold the condo in the city and the lake house and split the profits. Frank offered to make alimony payments since he didn’t think Beth Anne could get a job that would pay enough to support her shoe habit. Beth Anne called him a condescending prick and turned it down. His buddy’s thought this was good news, but it just puzzled Frank. Even when he thought he was being nice he was misunderstood. 

He got a new smaller place even closer to work and went on with his life. Within 6 months Beth Anne had a new job as a museum curator and was dating a man with a net worth three times Frank’s. They ran in to each other at a function once and as Frank was sizing up her date Beth Anne leaned in and whispered, “Don’t worry, he could never compare to you.”  Frank had started to smile when she followed it up with, “Thank God.”

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