Heartbreak

Being A Trophy Wife Was The Most Dehumanizing Experience Of My Life

Photo: Viacheslav Boiko / Shutterstock
bride crying

I should have known better. Well, let’s be honest, I did know better, at least on some level. That little voice inside my head kept telling me to run when I first met him. But, did I listen? Of course not. Anyway, isn’t 30 years old a little old to begin a life as a trophy wife?

Meeting and Red Flag #1

As they say, hindsight’s 20/20, and looking back, the signs were all there.

I first met my ex-husband — we’ll call him W — at a local bar. I was about a year out of a long and abusive relationship and according to my best friend at the time, needed to "get out there."

So she took me to her favorite local watering hole-slash-dance club where the drinks were cheap, the tunes were loud and the men were plentiful. It was called the Hideaway and going there became a weekly ritual. Every Friday night we’d go out. Her daughter would babysit my boys and off we’d go.

From the very first night, this guy kept hanging around. He had a girlfriend, a young, cute girl in what looked to be her mid-twenties. He was older, about 45, I had guessed at the time. I later learned he was 41.

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He didn’t approach me initially. It just seemed he was always positioned in close proximity to my friend and me. If we were dancing, he and his girlfriend were dancing beside us. If we were sitting at a table, they took the one beside ours.

He made his initial approach when his girlfriend went to the washroom. There was something about him that put me off. 

He was shorter and older than I was interested in — and also 11 years older than me. He wore way too much cologne. But none of those things was the real problem. There was just something I couldn’t put my finger on that made me uneasy about him.

As the weeks went on, he pursued me relentlessly. And when I say relentlessly, I’m not exaggerating.

He was at the bar every Friday night we were there. And he was alone. He began sitting at our table.

As it turned out, he and my friend knew each other. He asked me to dance. I did.

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Soon it seemed he was taking up all my dances. He followed me to a cab one night, begging me to let him drive me home. I declined, I saw how much he had to drink so there was no way I was getting in a car with him. Well that, and yeah, don’t follow women to cabs because yeah, that’s weird.

He started appearing at the coffee shop where I worked. Every morning. I started seeing him in my neighborhood.

I still didn’t really like him, but my friend said he was a nice enough guy. So I gave him a chance, against my better judgment.

Better Judgment

As I said before, that little voice inside my hide was telling me to run. The problem was another little voice inside my head was telling me not to. That voice constantly reminded me to remain humble, to remember that just because this guy didn’t tick all the boxes, I shouldn’t discount him.

   

   

Sure, he was odd and short and creepy. But he did have hair, teeth and a job, something we women over 30 in the town I lived in called the “Holy Trifecta”. Seriously, it was almost impossible to find a man over 30 with all three, and let’s face it, hair was negotiable.

I shouldn’t be so picky. After all, who the heck was I to be picky? Nobody, that’s who. And I mustn't forget that I’m not nearly as attractive or smart as I think I am. Oh, and 3 kids? Who would want someone with three kids? Sufficiently beaten down by Voice Number 2, I went out with him.

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The Relationship

At first, things were okay with him — better than okay, really. W was nice to my kids and me. He showered me with time, attention, and gifts. He introduced me to his family and friends and often bragged about how beautiful I was. He has utterly consumed with all things me. It felt nice to be with someone who valued me and admittedly, I got caught up in it all.

He let some things slip that I should have paid attention to.

For example, he disclosed the fact that he dumped his girlfriend the very first night he saw me at the bar because I was prettier and he was certain, much younger (I, was, in fact, 5 years older than her). He admitted deliberately positioning himself wherever he knew I was and pumping my friend for information as to where I lived and the shifts I worked.

He even told me about his ex-wife, an attractive woman who he claimed ran off one day without warning. He told me all about his jealousy and how he plotted to erase her lover from the picture because he couldn’t stand having something of his taken from him.

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He expressed his insecurities and how he always wanted to show everyone his worth. He wanted everyone to see him with something they could never have. He felt he deserved a hot, young wife and I just happened to be hot, young (ish), and right there.

He used to tease me because I like to eat. He’d warn me to be careful because if I got fat, he was out. I shot back that if he went bald, I was out, and judging by his hairline, he was going bald way before I put on any noticeable weight. What a fun little game! What a sweet, romantic soul! Right?

The Ugly Side of Being a Trophy Wife

By now most of you are screaming at your screens saying, “Girl, how dumb could you be?”

Yeah, don’t worry, I’m right there with you. I ignored every red flag. I ignored them all to the altar.

Things didn’t get ugly right away — or at least I didn’t notice. But eventually, his interest in my kids dwindled to next to nothing. The attention, the outings, and interest in their lives were replaced by an almost bitter resentment at their presence and worse yet, the time they took from him.

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The constant dragging me around got old too. I’m a homebody. He constantly nagged me to go out, to go back to that bar, or another one, to dine with his friends, to go anywhere, just as long as we could be seen.

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And if that weren’t bad enough, he started to police my clothing and hairstyles. On weekends, I often put my thick curly hair in a simple ponytail and threw on some sweatpants. I spent all week in my career as a lawyer in 4-inch heels and tailored suits with my hair done. The weekends were my time to relax and catch up on household things like grocery shopping.

I remember he used to say, “Aren’t you going to do your hair?” when I got up to get groceries. No, no I wasn’t going to do my hair; that's what the ponytail was for.

My response was always followed by him grimacing. If I was wearing sweatpants or yoga pants, he downright forbade me to leave the house in them. "No wife of mine is going to be seen out looking like a bum — what if someone sees you?”

Being strong-willed, I would initially refuse to change. Then he’d suggest we both go shopping together. Yippee, then I HAD to change.

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Suddenly, my quick trip to grab food became an outing and another parading session for him. Invariably, we’d run into someone and he’d stand there, grinning from ear to ear and somehow standing about two inches taller as he introduced me as his wife. There was always something seedy about the way the emphasis was on HIS when he said it.

The nights were the worst. There’s no delicate way to describe it, but he wanted sex all the time — I mean all the damn time. He figured I was his, so … It didn't matter how many hours I had worked, how exhausted I was, or whether I wanted to or not, he nagged, begged, threatened, and cajoled.

Oh, and by the way, for all you fellas out there, if your partner says no, that DOES NOT, I repeat does not mean wait till she falls asleep and then try climbing on her. There’s a word for that, and legal consequences to go along with it.

I confronted him about his behavior and he tearfully explained how he’d been rejected by women and girls so many times throughout his life, how he sat on the sidelines as his buddies bragged about meeting girls and getting laid.

Poor wounded soul, always on the outside, looking in. He said it was time for him to catch up. Yeah, whatever I might have been dumb in falling for a lot of his carp, but even I wasn’t taking that bait.

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The End

After a few years, it became obvious that I was nothing more than a trophy wife to him. I was there to boost his self-esteem, to make him feel better, and to make him look better in the eyes of anyone and everyone.

He didn’t love me and he didn’t really know me — not on any real level.

He loved what I represented in his mind, an older man with an attractive younger woman.

I remember how sometimes people would ask, kind of in that joking/not joking kind of way, how he got me and he’d grab himself (yeah, down there) and say something stupid like, “one-eyed monster, man,” or “this big weapon.”

I won’t dignify either comment with my thoughts on the matter. You get the idea.

And I didn’t love him. Maybe I did on some level at some time, but I think it was more of s simple infatuation with being fawned over, with being wanted and the novelty of someone actually wanting to marry and commit to me. (Man, that’s so pathetically sad when I think about it.)

So, I left — and all hell broke loose. 

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Suddenly everything he had ever told me came rushing back in a new light, in the way they were intended to in the first place. He stalked me, he harassed me. He blew up my phone, and showed up at my job, my home, and anywhere else I might be. He threatened, he blackmailed. He begged, first for me to come back, and when that was obviously not going to happen, to have sex.

When the strong-arm tactics didn’t work, he tried tears, promises, and threats of suicide.

He left countless messages on my phone where, through sobs, he begged me to come back because he couldn’t bear the teasing from the guys at work.

After years of his incessant bragging about “my wife is hotter than your wife,” they were thrilled to twist the knife a little deeper into his pain and gleefully did so at every opportunity.

He messaged every one of my friends and family on Facebook — I mean literally, every single one — to try to recruit them in his campaign to get me back. He told some of them he was worried about me, that I’d lost my mind.

Others, he told other stories to, that I’d run off with someone or that we’d had a fight and I left without giving him a chance to make things right. It didn’t matter what he told them, the request was always the same: reach out and talk sense into me, get me to go back.

I eventually met someone new and started dating.

Well, W went off the deep end. Out came more threats, plots of harm, on and on because in his mind, my new partner obviously had stolen me from him. And if there’s anything we know about W by now, it’s that he doesn’t tolerate his "belongings" being snatched from him.

It’s been 8 years since I walked away from being a trophy wife. Things have quieted down substantially.

But when I look back, it chills me to the bone how I was able to ignore all the signs. It astounds me how poor self-esteem and self-doubt clouded my better judgment.

Being a trophy wife, was, for me, one of the most, if not the most dehumanizing periods of my life.

I wasn’t loved. I wasn’t appreciated. I wasn’t celebrated. I wasn’t wanted.

I was desired. I was conquered. I was property.

I was nothing more than a pretty showpiece, taken out of the box to be used and displayed. There’s nothing human in that.

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Misty Rae is a mother and writer. Follow her on Medium

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.