Road to Reality

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Girl met Boy. Fell in love. They bared their souls, dreamed dreams.  Had the wedding, made babies. Did the good and bad of life. Thought they were on a road to grow old together.

And mixed in and out and up and down and through and through were others. Others who caressed Boy’s body and distorted his mind and twisted his thoughts. But Girl didn’t know.

One day…the truth came out and Girl looked at Boy. Who was this Boy that had shared her life but hadn’t really?

This is the short story of a long marriage…nearly 30 years now…

So when I look at our lives together, and I look at his life apart, and I consider the profound healing that has happened in a little less than two years, what I realize is I was in love. I was in love, and stayed the course of love even when the in-love part waned but it was with the potential man, not the real man, because the real man was deeply hidden. He was hidden under piles of lies and shame and hurt-turned-nasty. I never was in love with his reality, because there was no way he was going to let me, or anyone else, see that reality. It was too awful, too flawed, too unlovable. The real man was not willing to be known – even by the man himself – much less his wife, or even his whores.

The shattering of his carefully created self…and my understanding of life for 27 years…was the beginning of going to a place that I never knew existed. I couldn’t know, it had been hidden.

But the place we are now is more than anything I could have written in a fairy tale. Have you ever noticed that all the love stories in print and on screen end with the “and they lived happily ever after…” Our imaginations create beautiful lives of bliss, no-work-or-conflict-and-everything-is-amazing-and-lovely-and-perfect…He always remembers to call, and bring flowers, and write love notes, and tell us we are beautiful, and senses our every need, and treats us with kindness even when we are not-so-kind…

My marriage now? Well…it is reality. Two real, broken people who have become safe for each other in our wretchedness. Two real, broken people who used to take care to never touch in the bed at night, and now never break contact, ever, all night long. Two real, broken people who have no subjects that are off limit, no words that are not allowed, no thoughts that are shunned. Two real, broken people who have learned to dream together, and don’t have to know the end of the story to be determined to write the story. Together.

As painful as it has been, I choose reality.

 

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How Could She?

In my desperate pursuit to put order into the chaos of my life, I spent hours and hours and hours researching the Other Woman. It started with a pursuit to hate them, to be able to categorize them into one neat little package of filth and desperation as they claw and fight their way into the lives of others.

I read articles and books authored by these women on how to be a good mistress, how to please their man, the rules of being a mistress. I visited websites and read blogs. And then found various forums in which other women share.

Before I knew it, I began to grieve. To be sickened and saddened about and for these women. Nearly all OW claim some version(s) of: I didn’t mean to fall in love with a married man; the heart wants what the heart wants; I didn’t know he was married; he pursued me relentlessly; he told me he was separated/divorcing; we are soulmates/twinflames/long-lost loves/always should have been together; he married the wrong person. Ultimately…all deceptions, all lies either made to themselves or by the MM. I found myself wanting to cry out to women about to delve into affairs, or newly in, NO! STOP! This will only lead to heartache…MY HEARTACHE…YOUR HEARTACHE. There are certainly outliers – women who are complete narcissists and manipulate and pick up and drop at and for their own pleasure. But the majority of the women that I was able to research are women who want love and somehow, they end up with a man who loves someone else. All the statistics show that it is rare for the Other Woman to end up with the MM, and when that happens, it lasts even more rarely. The odds are completely against them, yet OW are rampant amongst us. So how, how, how does it happen. How do affairs really start…how does the deception occur, who does what…I started with HUSBAND’s first OW, and asked how…

The first night with the first OW was his tenth high school reunion. HUSBAND had been married to me for a little less than two years. We had a darling 8 month old baby boy and (unbeknownst to us at the time) I was pregnant with our second child. I did not attend the reunion with HUSBAND…he had gone fishing that day and gotten home hours later than he’d promised, and was already feeling the effect of numerous beers. So off he went to the reunion and what he remembers is:

Talking with specific people. Dancing with specific girls. Standing at the bar talking to a specific guy who had always looked down at him, and did so that night too…to which HUSBAND just drank more. HUSBAND does NOT remember dancing with SW (slut-whore, his first and last OW), although she told him later that they did. He does not remember going to his car with SW, or getting in the passenger seat, or any of the 25 minute drive to SW’s apartment, except when he woke up as they stopped in the bright lights at the toll booth with her at the wheel. He does not remember walking into her apartment, or going to the bedroom or fucking her. All of which he did.

He does remember waking up, seeing his clothes on the floor, realizing he was not in his bed at our home, jumping up “in horror” and quickly dressing and driving home…devising his lies on the way there.

HUSBAND has been shockingly honest with me about all his encounters, intimate words spoken, promises of futures, etc. He does not have any recollection of the anatomy of the first-fuck…did he tell SW he was married to a raving bitch? Maybe. Did he tell her he never got sex at home? Perhaps. Did he tell her she was hot and he wanted her body? Could be. Did he tell her he was too drunk to go home and that wife would be mad? Possibly. He doesn’t remember, and any or all of the above are possible.

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But here is what I KNOW, what is indisputable.

He was at his reunion, having driven himself, which was between our home and her apartment, each being 15 or so miles away in opposite directions.

Whatever happened that night at the reunion…whatever words my lying HUSBAND poured on SW, she knew he was married – she had attended our WEDDING.

She got into his car, in control – she drove.

She invited him to her apartment – that is where she drove him.

She offered her body to him – they fucked.

She had so many choices…no matter what words he said (assuming he was the pursuer – he has no recollection, but is willing to consider that possibility). She could have offered to call him a cab, called me, had one of his male friends take him to their respective homes, driven him to our house and dumped him on the lawn, left him there to be dealt with by someone else…she could have reminded him he was married…refused any advances by a man who was married…

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But instead, she drove him to her apartment and allowed him to fuck her.

Who is the woman that makes that choice? Is she seriously thinking this is going to turn out well…lead her to the love she is seeking?

I try to imagine that even being in the realm of options…and it is not. I try to imagine how you feel as you are driving the car with a married man in it, knowing full well you are planning to be part and party to deception and betrayal. I try to imagine what it feels like to see him wake up, jump up and throw his clothes on, and rush out of the house. I try to imagine what it is like to get into the shower and let the water run all over your body that has just been felt by and connected to a man’s body that is going home to his wife. I try to imagine how you look at yourself in the mirror and don’t see embarrassment and shame. I try to imagine that there is any pretense that there is anything remotely like care or compassion or hope or love in this…

And I can’t imagine. So after it all, I’m left with how could she?

 

Living With Grief

Grief is different than I used to understand. I used to see grief as something that washed over me briefly, although sometimes intensely, when news of a death or failure or loss happened. There was that moment(s) of shock, followed by the moving through of the other stages of grief…denial…bargaining…guilt…anger…depression…acceptance…

Betrayal grief is different. There are the stages, although for me, I’ve gone through them again and again. There are moments and days and even occasionally – weeks – in which the grief retreats. So when it comes back, like a wave crashing over me at the ocean shore, I’m shocked. Sometimes it will happen as I drive down the road and ssswwwwhoooooosssshhhhh….I have the thought HUSBAND BETRAYED YOU – HELD ANOTHER WOMAN – WHISPERED INTO HER EARS – SHARED HIS BODY WITH HER –

And in that split second I am propelled into the realization that the grief is still present, still intertwined into every part of the me that is now me, and the new marriage that I’m living. It is a struggle every time…creates an immediate fight or flight response in which I want to choose FLIGHT as  I struggle to find my breath and to calm my heart beat and to see the present moment. Somedays it is followed by one of the other stages, and if so, I allow myself to sit there for a bit, to consider the emotion I am feeling, to express it. I let HUSBAND know what I am thinking – how I am feeling, and thus far, he receives it. He hears, he listens, he responds. He holds me if I can do that, or lets me be if I need that, but at least now, we are more in sync in this new dance than we used to be in our old life.

I get weary, though. Grieving. Wondering why it continues to nip at me, and haunt me, and sometimes stop me in my tracks.

So last week I was in DC on business, and got to Reagan International on Friday for the return trip. The airport was predictably crowded with a Friday early afternoon flight, and my gate was even more packed. I sat near the entry to the plane, prepared to settle down with a book, and a group of young men caught my eye. There were five of them, looking rather normal from different ethnicities ranging in age from probably mid 20s to early 40s. What caught my eye is that they were all in wheelchairs, gathered into almost a circle as they talked and laughed together. I watched them and was taken by the automatic way that there broken hands worked to open a soda, to send a message on a phone, to rip into a package of chips.

After a few minutes, I walked over to them…and asked them who they were and what they were doing. They all looked up, surprised, but very inviting and several began to answer…Sectionals…Wheelchair Rugby…vying for Nationals…

I sat with them until we boarded, and then on the plane, they sat all around me, too. During the next couple hours, I learned a little about some of their stories. One was shot. At 23 years old, he’d gotten in a fight in a bar, then gotten kicked out along with his opponent. He went to his car, followed by the other fighter who noted what his car looked like and the direction he went. The other fighter hunted him down on the road, pulling up next to him and shooting repeatedly into his car. He was left a quadriplegic. And now he is a computer science engineer working with NASA.

Another one of them had just turned 16, played linebacker for a local DC high school football powerhouse. Opening play of the game, he was hit, and his neck broke. He was left a quadriplegic. The youngest of the group, he is still in college majoring in fine arts. He laughed as he told me he would be required to sculpt this year, as he picked up his barely functioning hands, and began to strategize how he would make that happen.

Another story was a 25 year old named Joe, driving during the day, and then a terrible accident due to weather. He was left a quadriplegic. I asked him how the doctor tells you, what he says, how you respond, did you know. He told me that he knew he couldn’t feel his legs, and the doctor came in and hit him hard: You will never walk again. You will never be able to dress yourself, or brush your teeth, or eat without help.

BOOM.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, for any of them. Every one of these amazing men pressed into their pain, their limitations, their brokenness. They had to learn new ways to do old things. They had to learn to ask for help sometimes. They had to change course in the professional direction of their lives, or make great adjustments in how they were going to get there. But their brokenness does not define them. In a very real way, I could see it, but it was not who they were.

The next day, HUSBAND and I went to watch Wheelchair Rugby. The players I met were joined by two additional players, one of which was a woman. When we walked in, they warmly greeted me…met HUSBAND…had us follow them to the gym where we watched two teams play as they told us the rules and explained some of the strategy. It was ASTOUNDING. The players are fearless athletes who play with every bit of heart and strength they have, never stopping until the last buzzer sounds. It was so exciting, so compelling, that we stayed for several hours and returned the next day to watch the DC team play in one more thrilling game.

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What I did not see from these exceptional humans was their grief stopping them. Of COURSE they wish they did not live life from a wheelchair and that they were playing able-bodied rugby. OF COURSE they would like it if they didn’t know an entirely new vocabulary related to level of injury. OF COURSE they wish they didn’t have to board the plane first because it is difficult to transition from wheelchair to plane seat. Every moment of every day, these people are living with the very present reality of the enormity that one move, one action, one second completely altered the rest of their lives yet they are living. No, they are LIVING – boldly, fully and with completeness.

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Grief sucks, no doubt. But it doesn’t have to take over. I’m overwhelmingly grateful to have found such role models to help me see this. Grief doesn’t have to have the last word.

 

 

To be loved.

So when you find out you have been betrayed, you are pierced and shattered and devastated. And you know that you know that you aren’t loved, at least in a way that makes any sense.

People that love you couldn’t do this.

People that love you couldn’t have conversations with others that are intimate. They couldn’t share details about you, your life, your children. They couldn’t complain to outsiders…to a lover…about your idiosyncrasies and how often you have sex and how well you received their various moods.

They couldn’t have conditional love that depended on what you did or didn’t do well…a love that was all about meeting responsibilities and obligations.

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That’s not love.

Right?

So what is love?

I started down a journey in the quest of recovering my soul after discovering the marriage betrayals. I had to find love, and try to figure out if there had been love within my marriage once, where it went, and whether it could be again. HUSBAND was adamant that he had loved me then and now, but if that was love…

I started with my earliest memories. I was loved by my family, by my parents. So what was that love…how did I know I was loved? I began to consider the evidence, try to unwrap what made me know that I’d been loved. First…I was always TOLD I was loved. I thought back, I tried to hear the words…and some of them were difficult:

“NO! YOU CAN’T (GO THERE, HAVE THAT, DO THAT, THINK THAT) BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU, THAT’S WHY.” I remembered those moments, woven in through early childhood all the way to young adult-hood.

I got the proverbial “hmmm…4 As and 1 B…why did you get the B?” I received the “don’t embarrass me” and “I would NEVER…” along with the “take that look off your face” and “I should knock your bloody-block off” (I was not physically abused, ever). I heard the stern words “We do so much for you…you should be GRATEFUL…” I heard my dad, sitting in his recliner after dinner watching tv, saying to me with a true snarl, “How…HOW can you sit in here while your MOTHER cleans up the kitchen?”

But, I was loved. Right?

I thought about several devastating issues through my youth and adolescence and realized I had not gone to my parents, but had sought solutions on my own. I did not trust them to still love me, or love those I loved, if they knew…and I did not dare tell them anything was off as it may cost me their affection. I remembered knowing I had to shape my message to one or both of my parents and time the “ask” of whatever it was I was seeking so I didn’t rock the boat, or irritate them, or flat out make them mad. I remembered asking my father once if he minded if ‘I don’t refer to you as my dad any more’ because I was so hurt by his reaction and response to whatever was going on.

I remembered being told that of all the things I could do wrong, lying was THE WORST, but that I had to keep a family lie and the logic was that it was another family member’s lie and it wasn’t our story to tell.

But I was loved, right?

So what was the evidence, because after those thoughts I couldn’t see the love.

There was always a well-kept home. There was always a well-balanced dinner. My clothes were always washed, dried and folded. I was driven to school and extracurricular activities. I was taken to church and given presents at birthdays and Christmas.

But what I couldn’t remember was either of my parents digging deep to understand my thoughts and feelings. Or asking me what I thought about things of the heart. Or if I had dreams, or fears, or hopes.

So I was loved, right?

Wow. I took my perception and belief that I had been loved as a child and realized that I had been cared for, well. But I hadn’t been loved…L O V E D…because I’d never really even been known. Not me, not the real me with angst and excitement and joy and anxiety and confusion. That little girl, that teen, that young woman had been hidden away neatly.

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I realized that I’d not been loved, not in a way that makes any sense.

Kind of like my marriage.

Now with my guts spilled out all over the floor of my life, and this man sitting in front of me saying he loved me, desperately wanting me to believe it, even though he was the one who had done the gutting, I realized I had no idea what love was. All I knew was that for the first time, I was bare…my soul exposed…all of me was there. My fears and hurts and distress and pain were known by the very person who had pierced me.

I could run, I could cover back up and patch up the wounds and make sure they were healed up and never exposed again. Or, I could leave them unwrapped, allow them to possibly heal but possibly fester and possibly get infected and possibly leave ugly, jagged scars.

Maybe it was shock. Maybe it was denial, or lack of being able to vision any options. But in that critical moment, with all of me uncovered for perhaps the first time ever, I decided I would stay, at least for a little while. I would stay…I would see if there was love somehow, someway. Love that made sense.

The Weight Transfer.

As you know, HUSBAND revealed a little. Then a little later, he revealed a little more. And a little later, a little more and a little more and a little more until finally all of his revealing was done. All the lies that he had carried and buried and stowed away so carefully for 25 years were out. He felt light and free like he’d never felt before.

But as they left his lips, they hit my ears and wriggled their way in. They traveled through my ears and down my throat and fanned out in my system…some entering my brain and finding nooks and crannies to live and taunt and distort…some piercing my heart and ripping it up into thousands of pieces…some stopping along the way in my esophagus emitting masses of acidity creating a burning so intense…some filtering into my stomach that tried to work hard to get rid of the invader by cramping and growling…some into my intestines where they expanded and my body screamed for release…and the rest traveling down into my lower spine and legs and all the way to my toes that ached and tingled…

He had transferred the filth, and was clean, but I was DIRTY.

When a cheater finally comes clean to his spouse, this is what happens.

Much of the betrayer’s life has been pulled inward to carry out the deception, and even if the affair stops without or before revelation, they are always on guard, fearing that a misspoken word will trip them up. This is how HUSBAND describes it. The freedom he was experiencing was literally euphoric, but I bore the heaviness for him to get to lightness.

A necessary part of the process, and one that I wish I could change for all of us betrayeds. It SUCKS, and the burden is so great, and so present. No relief in sleep as, at first, dreams swirl around and taunt with images and thoughts and alternate endings. No relief as we work and can’t concentrate and fail to meet deadlines and suffer in silence or experience out-of-bound emotions and coworkers think we have lost it (which we have). No relief as we parent our children and look at the image of our betrayer and want to scream out YOUR FATHER IS A FUCKING CHEATER when they receive the love and affection so readily from a man who betrayed not only us but them.

Oh those days – weeks – months were horrific. I nearly broke in two carrying the weight.

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Nearly, but not quite. And as my body began to get heal, and to expel the poison and I started standing straighter I found I was taller. And stronger. And I began to see – even though it was the little space right in front of me, that moment – I began to see, and to step into…

Life.

Unexpected Response.

So by mid-June, HUSBAND had disclosed all…multiple affairs beginning 2 years into our marriage. One night stand with a hooker. An on-again, off-again and more-on-than-off-over-the-last-five-years-of-our-marriage relationship with porn and self-satisfaction. A sex addict.

Life. Life was going on, and there was no way I could stop it. I tried at first. I stayed home from work, holed in my room, vacillating between denial and tears and rage. I searched every possible record I could find, frantically gathered every evidence of the life I thought I’d lived for 27 years, laying pictures and letters and notes out and begging HUSBAND to tell me what was real and what wasn’t. And how could he do this? And how could I be so stupid? And how could these sluts, all of whom I KNEW, fuck married men? I read blogs and forums and asked question after question after question. And asked them again. And HUSBAND answered, never getting impatient, never getting angry.

I cringed at the thought and the site and the touch of the man who’d betrayed me, my children, everything I was. Yet, yet…he held some of the answers I so urgently sought…and I craved his answers, his insight, his truth. Cringe, crave. Cringe, crave.

The cause of my pain, yet the source of my healing. Wickedly cruel twist of reality.

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But I had to begin to step back into life as much as I had no idea how to. We signed up for orientation at our son’s upcoming college campus and booked a hotel. Son was staying on campus for the two-day process, and we dropped him off then headed to check-in. We parked. We walked through the doors. HUSBAND walked over to the clerk – and I froze. I could not move. I literally sat down on something, my suitcase at my feet, and thoughts and visions and memories flooded into my brain at such a pace there was no processing. I saw pictures of hundreds of times we’d come to hotels alone and with various or all of our children and flashes of laughter and pools and breakfasts in the dining rooms and room service and then I heard HUSBAND saying, “come on honey…are you ready…are you okay?”

I mumbled something and got up and followed him, still in some sort of haze and then we were at the room and he put the key in and opened the door and went through. I could not go in the room. I stood there, with some kind of look of terror on my face. “i…I…I just can’t go in there,” stumbled out of my mouth.

HUSBAND came back outside the door, and asked what was wrong, and what could he do, how could he help.

I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure, but I just couldn’t go through the door.

After a few moments, I put one foot in front, and the next and then I walked in. The door shut behind me, and I stood, frozen again, looking around at the predictable mid-price lodging: two beds. A dresser sporting a coffee maker. TV. Desk, chair, mirror. One single reading chair. A bathroom.

I went to the single chair, sat down and stared in front of me. And quietly began to speak and to ask the things that were now running through my mind, tears falling the whole time. Women, these whores throughout our marriage, they came to hotels with you. They walked through doors of hotels. Did they stand by you at check in? Did they have the audacity to pretend like they belonged there? Was there a moment, a hint, of shame for either of you?

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Where did they put their suitcase? Did they unpack things and put them on the sink in the bathroom? What about their clothes…put them in the dresser? Hang anything up? Did they walk around naked? In bra and panties? Did they wear lovely negligees? They acted like they belonged here with you. They took my place. They had no right, they had no authority, but they did it. How could they? How could you? How could you pull down the covers and let them get in the sheets? Was there ever, even just a brief moment of shame, of some inner voice crying out NO! STOP! Did you have to quiet a voice?

HUSBAND sat at my feet by the chair. He listened, he answered, he cried. Some of the answers stung…especially the ones that told me I wasn’t even considered in those moments. By either of them. There was no shame then. By either of them.

But then he told me there was shame now. Overwhelming and horrific shame that confronts him constantly. That sitting at the feet of his broken wife was a picture of the damage he’d caused and he was so sorry and he was willing to do whatever it took to help me find peace and healing.

Everything and anything, even telling me things he didn’t think I would want to know or hear.

I sat in that chair for a long time. He sat at my feet for a long time. Eventually, I said I would get in bed, the same bed in the hotel room with the man who I thought had kept sacred vows and with whom I had kept sacred vows. I got into that bed, and laid there. And after a bit, I moved closer to HUSBAND, who wrapped his arms around me. The irony of receiving comfort from the one who had shattered me was huge for both of us. I laid in HUSBAND’S arms, and we both wept, and somehow, one more piece of brokenness with a jagged edge was put into my box – my new box – of memories. The box labeled The Other Real Life Box. One day, I hope it is filled and after I go through it a time or two or ten, I will be able to put it up on a shelf where it can gather dust.

One day.

 

A Marker.

Two years. Two years ago, HUSBAND picked up his slut-whore (SW) at the airport and let her sit in my seat of our car. Two years ago, he drove off from the airport and headed to a neighboring resort town, pointing out sites along the way to a woman who had no business being with him, other than to fuck.

Two years ago, he walked on the beach with SW, and they ate the lunch he had packed in our kitchen in our home. Two years ago, he got a phone call while on the beach from my mother, arranging kids since I was out of town.

Two years ago, SW and HUSBAND went into a local famous watering hole, asking the bartender for a good eatery suggestion. Two years ago, they walked down the street of the town holding hands til they got to the local spot…and two years ago, HUSBAND called that bartender back to thank him for such a great recommendation.

Two years ago, HUSBAND and SW returned to the hotel and fucked, and in the morning, after another fuck, went down to eat some breakfast…SW wearing a fake wedding set since she ‘knew HUSBAND would not take his ring off, and didn’t want to look like a (ready for this) mistress.’

Two years ago, SW asked HUSBAND ‘how he’d liked it…being a real couple’ and pushed him to take the next steps. Two years ago, as they drove to the airport and sat in the cell phone lot, SW prodded HUSBAND to make the appointment with the divorce attorney and to remember, ‘they’d come too far to turn back now.’

Two years ago, SW got on the plane and flew back to her life of lies, and into the arms of her live-in lover. Two years ago, HUSBAND picked me up at that same airport just a couple hours later, and I got in my seat of our car oblivious that the filthy DNA of a whore was present and that HUSBAND was cloaked in illicit sex and deceit and false smiles and pretend greetings.

Two years ago, someone saw HUSBAND and SW.

Two years ago, the carefully crafted house of flimsy cards was poised to fall.

Two years ago. A marker.

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