It’d been two weeks since Skyler had jaw-reduction surgery. The pain was harsh and she was on Percoset. She was too miserable to feel like her well-organized and poised self.
Skyler was a Hera: Natural beauty (enhanced by pricey cosmetics), fiercely protective of her family, with a high value placed on monogamy.
Fortunately, her best friend Nancy was sitting with her, chatting over the kitchen table. Nancy was her only real confidant. They didn’t always agree, but their bond was indestructible.
“He’s in Chicago working on a mergers and acquisitions deal. In the hospital after the surgery, he spent a total of 15 minutes with me. He said, ‘The doctor told me your jaw is going to look great. I asked him about the bump on your nose. He said he could fix it.’”
Nancy rolled her eyes. “You didn’t want the jaw surgery. He pushed you into it. And I never heard you complain about your nose.” She paused then added, “I’m going to be brutally frank because you need to hear this. With Aaron’s colossal ego, he’s determined to keep you a showcase wife. He values your remarkable skills at managing the house, the children, and your talent for entertaining. But he’s making an object out of you. He just can’t accept the fact that you turned forty.”
Tears streamed down Skyler’s face.
“I’m worried about what it’s doing to you. You used to be so self-assured and it’s always been an open secret that you’re brighter than Aaron despite his business success. You have narcissistic victim syndrome.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Hyper-vigilance, easily startled, pussy footing around Aaron, always watching what you say to him, sleeping and eating difficulties, exhausted most of the time. All the things you’ve been experiencing long before the jaw surgery.”
Although Skyler tried to dispute what Nancy was saying, she knew her friend was right. “What should I do?”
“Where are his financial records?” Nancy asked.
“He keeps our mortgage insurance, and our household bank account here at the house, as well as some of his business records.”
“Find them and scan them,” Nancy said as she departed.
Fortunately, Aaron was a creature of habit. He tended to use the same password. While in the process of lifting out documents to scan, Skyler discovered that Aaron had a secret credit card account and an apartment in Chicago. There were many dinners for two on the card. Digging further, she found documents about an M&A deal in which he was involved that was clearly illegal. Although she was in shock, Skyler had the presence of mind to hire a first-rate lawyer.
Summer was approaching. Skyler signed up their twin 12-year-old sons for a summer camp that lasted eight weeks. Always a careful planner, she wanted to spare them the worst of Aaron’s temper when he got the news.
Of course he exploded and threatened her. Skyler calmly made for the door. Before slamming it shut, she announced: “I have the documents on your M&A scam.”
The following months were excruciating for Skyler. I have no identity now. She’d say to herself. Everybody knows me as the woman who was lucky enough to marry the golden boy in college. Even though she worked on and off after graduating and liked it, she regarded marrying Aaron as her biggest achievement, and her marriage had become her career.
Skyler did not see the trickster in her husband. Still, she was strong enough to face the betrayal head on. No time for anxiety or panic. She paused and then resolved that she would go back to her youthful self who had interests and a firm identity.
The news had been full of women protesting treatment by the patriarchy. Skyler was beginning to feel that anger too. She had no idea she had fallen into that pit by agreeing to being made over to suit Aaron – until hearing Nancy’s stinging comments. Trapped in a gilded cage? How had that happened? The price of being too attached to the role of the Perfect Wife.
Skyler went directly into ‘response mode’, kept her cool, stayed organized and managed her exit with grace – leaving the dirty work up to the lawyer. She called on her mother’s examples on how to competently assert energy, rather than flounder in ‘react mode’, when dealing with Skyler’s authoritative father. Yay, Mom!
A funny thing happened after the divorce papers were signed. Chester, her divorce lawyer who was a partner in a prominent firm, had observed Skyler’s professional approach to navigating her life crises.
“We need a manager in our law firm.” He said to her as they left the courthouse. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but it pays well.”
Skyler let out a whoop of delight. “When can I start?”