Curiosity is something I often simultaneously value and disdain at once. When each of my children began to talk, I embraced their newfound voices and was excited by their questions. And then they hit the “why” stage…I found myself gritting my teeth as I searched for a response to satisfy their curiosity and then they would ask that profound question that I was elated to be able to address.
It’s like that in much of my life. I am thrilled when we bring a new strategy to my company, and excited to train staff…embracing their questions through training and even early stage implementation. But it becomes tedious after a time, and the questions become a source of low-level irritation as I find myself hoping employees will stop asking and start doing and if they need support then? Welcomed.
So when sexual betrayal was revealed in my marriage, I was surprised to find myself overwhelmed with the need to ask questions. Questions. Questions. And even more questions. For the first two months of initial denial, leading to one small revelation and the next small revelation and eventually some enormous revelations that dramatically altered everything I understood about the whole of my married life, HUSBAND was avoidant – answering questions with minimal responses – at best and lying – at worst. But once he broke and quit hiding bits and pieces, he became transparent as my myriad questions continued. Questions as I tried to make sense out of all that was senseless and the revelations that had created a new was that didn’t look like what was before.
I asked questions that made sense: when, where, who, how? I asked questions that were important: protection, pregnancy? I asked questions that were driven by my pain: how could you? Do you know you have destroyed me/us/your children? I asked questions that revealed my confusion: why didn’t I know? How did you hide it? I asked questions that showed my anger: you spent our money on her? You talked to her for 2 hours and me for 2 minutes? I threw out questions that were traps: who did you love more at that time? Did you ever really love me? I craved answers for questions with no answers: what caused you to fuck other women? How did you come home and look me in the eye?
And HUSBAND answered them. And answered them and again, he answered them. Once he moved into remorse, and the progressive realization of the depth of devastation he had wrought, he never faltered in his resolve to answer any question at any moment at any time. No defensiveness, no frustration. Nothing out of bounds, and no resistance even if I’d asked the same question many times before. At some desperate moments, I asked outrageous questions – and he answered them. Sometimes, the answers felt hurtful, but the beauty was that this willingness, this transparency resulted in a couple of huge strides: I began to believe his answers. Since he was no longer lying, his answers didn’t change. Over and over I could ask the same question and get the same answer. So before we both knew it, I began to realize I had a baby-amount of trust beginning to form for him – something I never thought would EVER be restored. Another result was that the more open he was and the more willing to bare all – even if the answer did hurt me – the more I felt like we were on the same team, and his past affair partners were off the team. As I learned of the secrets they’d shared with him, words they’d spoken, places they’d gone…I now was on the inside and they weren’t.
I know questions are hard from the betrayed to the cheater. Especially a cheater who has turned from his behavior, and is really committed to moving forward in honesty and newness…but if there is one thing that seems to really be beneficial for helping a spouse heal it is the willingness to be transparent. To meet her where she is, with whatever level of needing to know that she has (and we are all different – no “normal” or “regular” here….) If HUSBAND had been unwilling to take my drilling, or acted exasperated or looked at me and said STOP! Enough!…I’m not sure I would have been willing to move forward with him at all, and it definitely would have been a more rocky path.