A blinding gleam of holographic purple metal flashed in the sun as I entered the wrought iron gates to our home. This was a Lamborghini that didn’t belong to my husband — as far as I knew. Though, a clandestine luxury sports car shopping spree to fill his time during my Rancho Santa Fe exile would be the least of the surprises he’s been dishing out. As I pulled in, expecting to see one of his country club golf buddies, here to show off his new wheels, my heart nearly stopped.
The hair flowing out the driver’s side window was long, feminine, and entangled with another head of smartly buzzed, dark hair, merging into a tan, manly neck. This neck wasn’t familiar — but the highlighted strands intertwining it were. I think the definition of dysfunctional is when you’re eager to see your husband’s mistress canoodling in your driveway (if only for the real-time evidence for the divorce case) and instead find your underage daughter making out with one of your husband’s cradle-robbing friends.
Just as I pulled up beside them, hoping to make eye contact and possibly place the face I hadn’t yet seen, the ear-shattering engine revved up — a sound I’m all too familiar with in this town — and they sped out the other end of our circular driveway. All the courage, confidence, and certainty I’d mustered over the past week away seemed to dissipate in that instant, and again, I started to distrust my very own suspicion.
The purple car was there and gone so fast, it might as well have been a momentary mirage. Or maybe she was riding with another high school friend — though I know her friend group, and that man and his Lambo seemed a lot more mature and far from familiar. Ever since that therapist planted the seeds of “paranoia” in my head, I haven’t been able to shake the double-takes and second-guessing. The only thing worse than being paranoid is questioning the reality your supposed “paranoia” conjures…
. . .
What happens on exile doesn’t stay in Rancho Santa Fe
The plane ride from hell made Rancho Valencia feel more like the psychiatric ward at a mental hospital than a 5-star, Forbes-rated resort. Despite every excuse in the book, I’d been practically forced onto the private jet kicking and screaming, while my husband sneered with vengeful satisfaction. At least, I assume he was sneering — and cheering — from his home office…or more likely, from some slutty hooker’s lap in a hotel expensed on his company’s dime.
I’m not 100% certain he sent me away for a week-long “CYA” mission to scrub away any trace of his wrongdoings and blast my adultery claims to bits — but I surely wouldn’t put it past him. I thought about drinking away my frustration and anxiety, but paranoia urged me to remain lucid to mull over my life’s current state of affairs. That is, until a Pony Express margarita made a surprise delivery, courtesy of my poolside neighbor, who looked as if she’d already downed three or four of her own.
Rancho Valencia isn’t your typical sloppy alcoholic vacationer’s fantasy, and drinks from strangers-turned-poolside BFFs aren’t exactly the norm. However, I’d lucked out with a chatty Kathy starved for instant friendship sprawled out on the recliner beside me. As the only other single woman there, I hadn’t much choice but to reciprocate with a smile, nod, and a listening ear.
Kathy (not her real name) was a real-life Samantha from “Sex and the City”: Hot, confident, and out for blood. Or am I the only one who viewed Samantha that way? Point being, Kathy hadn’t been sent away on exile by her controlling, manipulative husband as he planned her demise; instead, she’d sent him packing — and managed to nullify his prenup in the process. If her jewelry was any indication — or the casual $2k per night she was dropping on her private cabana with her post-divorce proceeds, Kathy’s hubby likely made my 8-figure CEO look like a pauper. And I’d bet her divorce winnings easily rivaled even the biggest of lottery payouts.
Like a drunk girl at a bar — and very unlike most women swept behind the secretive curtain of excessive wealth and privilege — Kathy’s dribble of small talk quickly escalated into projectile word vomit, condemning her husband and airing his dirty laundry for my gawking pleasure (names, places, and details not withheld). I of course didn’t gawk; instead, I recoiled in self-convicting shame, as the similarities in her story struck chords in mine.
- Kathy’s husband owned an elusive international business that kept him tied up and traveling for weeks on end
- Each unexpected or prolonged trip would culminate in a lavish gift or uncharacteristic show of affection upon his return — almost as if he was making up for something…perhaps a guilty conscience?
- A tinge of paranoia — and a bracelet with another woman’s initials engraved — spurred Kathy on to hire a private investigator, too
That’s where our stories diverge. My PI equipped me with a folder of damning, indisputable evidence — that I’ve been too gun-shy to use, for fear of Hubby’s lightning-fast retribution and revenge. Kathy, on the other hand, didn’t skip a beat retaining a ruthless divorce lawyer known for garnering record-breaking settlements in frontpage-worthy high-profile breakups.
Kathy’s aggressive divorce isn’t the only difference between us. Apparently, she actually loved her husband — and she liked him, as well. She hadn’t married for the money — she had an art importing business of her own. Her husband had helped her bag clients, but she was undoubtedly independent in her own right. Maybe not to his billion-dollar degree, but enough so that she didn’t need his money at all. His cheating had come as a giant shock, blindsiding her after five years of what she’d classified as marital bliss.
Once the curtain was lifted and she saw the wizard remaining was just a sad little man doling out lies and gold bracelets to cover them, she knew she had nothing to lose seeking divorce. After all, you can’t lose something you never really had. Divorce wasn’t ending a marriage, it was simply signaling to her husband that his actions have consequences. Hitting him where it hurt meant right in the wallet — and she wasn’t about to apologize for her multi-million-dollar prize.
The more Kathy spoke, I couldn’t help but recognize my comparative shortcomings. Kathy’s confidence — borderline entitlement — was inspiring, but I also felt that she was simply a different breed of person than me.
- She’d loved her husband; I tolerated mine.
- She had her own business; I let my husband talk me into delaying a career that’s unlikely to see the light of day.
- She chose divorce to teach her husband a lesson and make him a better, more honest — or cautious — partner for the next girl to come along. I sought divorce out of desperation and financial insecurity — though for months since the initial adulterous discovery, I’ve been too nervous to pull the trigger.
I almost feel like Kathy deserves her divorce — and the proceeds it’s granted her. In contrast, I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m the one in the wrong here. When you give up your career and resign yourself to be someone else’s arm candy and child rearer in exchange for a roof over your head and a high credit limit, can you really complain when one piece of the equation is a little off kilter?
Yes, he’s engaged with other women — but can I really fault him? Is that really cause for divorce? Am I just as much a fraud for the lies I told at our wedding, when I vowed to love him unconditionally? In retrospect, I’m second-guessing if I really have a case for divorce at all…
Kathy and I left the same day, on route to very different destinations: She had a flight booked to Hawaii, on the next leg of her celebratory post-breakup resort binge. I had our friend’s private jet taking me back to Newport Coast and the heavy realities of my cheating husband, entitled kids, and sparring parents entangled in their own dramatic separation planning. I’d hoped to use my time away to bolster my confidence and further my divorce case, but now, I was returning home deflated, defeated, and again convinced my therapist was right. Maybe I am the common denominator, after all.
Yes, Hubby really is that bad — probably worse
My return home was marked by the driveway saliva-fest that offered me a front-row seat to my daughter’s jailbait romance with the purple Lambo-driving mystery man, capped off by his high-speed getaway with my flesh and blood as collateral. Enter Hubby, and things went from questionable to bad to so much worse.
“What do you mean he’s untouchable?”
I was right: The man in the purple Lambo was older than my daughter — by about ten years! A 15 to 25 age gap isn’t just big; it’s illegal. Oh, and I didn’t even need my PI to figure this one out.
As luck would have it, the purple Lambo belonged to the cradle-robber’s dad — a business owner and apparently a client of my husband’s company. Hubby had hired his 25-year-old borderline-deadbeat son as an intern to give him something productive to do while he waits to inherit his father’s company. I kid you not — this kid’s job is literally to sit around and wait for his dad’s riches and business to become his own…only in Orange County.
Spoiled rich kids and their parents pulling strings to make their lives look a little less meaningless and embarrassing isn’t anything new — or really my business at all. It is, however, 100% my business and squarely within my jurisdiction when those spoiled rich 25-year-olds strike up inappropriate relationships with my underage daughter. Especially when it’s happening right in our driveway, for all to see.
On my return flight from Rancho Santa Fe, I kept convincing myself of Hubby’s redeeming qualities. Those all went flying out the window the second I broached the topic of our daughter’s jailbait romance with his deadbeat intern. I thought having a cheating, lying spouse with questionable business dealings was bad, but having an immoral one whose allegiance lies with money over family is undoubtedly magnitudes worse.
“He’s my intern — my hands are tied.”
I just blinked back at him in bewilderment. Did Hubby actually just tell me this deadbeat intern was “untouchable” thanks to his dad’s business relationship with his firm? Maybe I’ve returned to some alternate universe where ten-year age gaps with teenage daughters and reckless Lambo drivers are the beacon of successful parenting, but in my mind, this was cause for concern. Actually, this was cause for action. Immediate action. My husband thought otherwise.
Disgust. That’s the only word I have for him. How can you mend a broken, dwindling relationship with someone for whom you feel contempt, distrust, and now, disgust?
I’ve never played poker — and it’s probably a good thing. My face must have contorted to match the repulsion I felt, since Hubby began backpedaling, attempting to sing deadbeat’s praises to counter my disapproval.
Suddenly, a wave of realization came over me: Lambo driving mystery man wasn’t new or a stranger. I’d looked him dead in the eye when I’d barged in on Hubby’s clandestine expansion planning meeting. Lambo dude was the third man who fell silent, packing up his briefcase and jetting out of our house before I could let his unwelcome presence sink in. He wasn’t just an intern; he was an intern helping my husband plan yet another secretive business endeavor from which I, again, would be kept at arm’s length — no matter the extent of my innocent inquiries.
Once again, I feel as if the people in my life who deserve the least power and control seem to wind up with the most of it. How in the world can this 25-year-old know more about my husband’s business dealings than I do? And how long has Hubby turned a blind eye to his intern’s illegal entanglement with our daughter? It sickens me beyond words to think that guy has been in our daughter’s bedroom when I’ve been away. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
. . .
What could be worse? This.
As much as I thought a divorce was the answer to my problems and the key to my freedom, I’m starting to think split custody might cause more problems than it solves. If my husband’s new hire hooking up with our daughter can go from zero to sixty in the one week I was away, imagine the depravity our family would fall into with 50% of the time spent under my husband’s influence and control (or lack thereof).
Just a few months ago, my biggest fear was mustering the courage and confidence to break away from this mockery of a marriage and start over on my own. I worried I’d come crawling back to him, a laughable failure incapable of one shred of personal achievement. Now, seeing my husband’s utter disregard for our daughter’s involvements — no matter how unhealthy, unhelpful, and illegal — I’m far more afraid of the moral depravity my husband’s carelessness reveals.
There is one thing worse than a messy divorce case derailing my future: My kids could follow my path of financial dependence, insecurity, and poor decision-making that renders them powerless in their own lives. My daughter latching onto some spoiled rich deadbeat driving his dad’s Lambo until his inheritance comes due hits a little bit too close to home. I’m not saying she’s a gold digger…but that definitely wasn’t a purple Honda in our driveway.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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Photo credit: Confessions of a Trophy Wife