This week, I am going to share gifts of those early weeks. Things or people or support that, looking back, I see were such gifts to me, my heart, my journey. I am deeply grateful for each of them and realize how important they were in mending the unraveling tapestry.
Overbearing SHAME was a crushing emotion I experienced early on. Those first weeks…I walked around in regular life feeling like everyone could see that I WAS A BETRAYED SPOUSE. I checked out of the grocery store and felt like the cashier was looking at me with pity. I took my cat to the vet and felt like the tech was sadly shaking her head…Oh…That Poor Woman…Her Husband Messed Around On Her…That somehow I hadn’t been pretty enough or good enough or supportive enough or cooked enough. That I hadn’t been enough. Bearing the weight of the shame was crushing me, and while sharing in counseling was helpful, I see now that I needed someone – NOT MY BETRAYER – to give me care and validation. Me, for me, and me for the choices I was making at that point.
So one day, when a friend asked to meet for breakfast, I said yes. I had breakfast with this old, dear friend who had been woven in and through my marriage-kids-life for nearly the whole of it. Before going, I asked HUSBAND if he wanted me to tell Ann or not tell Ann or do anything in particular, and he told me he wanted me to do what would move me toward healing (Gift 1). I went in to the breakfast with no plans to tell Ann. The first 30 minutes, I had no plan to tell Ann. But at the same time, it was like this literal present cloud hanging over our conversation and our presence. It was almost like I could not talk, could not concentrate, could not really focus on anything because this HUGE LIE was looming up between us. This thing that had, in the time it took to read one 3 page letter, forever changed every-single-aspect-of-every-single-moment-of-every-single-day for the rest of my life. And she did not know it. So how could I be sitting in a booth having a conversation about every-day life and our college kids and the service in the restaurant? Eventually she talked of her sadness about some of the pain she was part of…a person close to her saying “so I can’t pay my mortgage and my house is being foreclosed on…do you still love me?” and the next person saying, “I am drinking. And drinking. And drinking. And I can’t stop. Do you still love me? And the next person saying, “I don’t love my wife and I’m seeing someone else. Do you still love me?”
And that’s when I had to tell her.
I softly said, “Ann. Ann.” She looked at me. I said, “HUSBAND had an affair.” She just looked right into my eyes. She asked the caring questions…is it over…how do you feel…what are you going to do… So I told her VERY simply & quickly about the discovery process. And the pain and hurt and fear and recrimination and sickness and all else that goes with it. And I told her that I did not KNOW what I was going to do, but that I was shocked to say I still loved HUSBAND. And that I wanted us to have the chance to work through this situation. HUSBAND was picking me up from this breakfast. I’d texted him to let him know I’d be right out…and then he came in. Slid in the booth next to me. I told HUSBAND that I’d shared our story with her, and then Ann told HUSBAND she loved him, and that we could recover from this. She had amazing words of healing, sharing that it had taken her seven (7) years to get to the point of truly forgiving and forgetting her husband’s affair. She was supportive and wise and loving (Gift 2).
Gift 1, Gift 2. Beautiful things.