I often contemplate how I married HUSBAND. How I chose a man who would begin cheating on me a mere two years after we married. A man who artfully hid his double life from me as it ebbed and flowed in and through his original life with me and I was not-so-blissfully unaware.
What was wrong with me that I couldn’t see it? That I didn’t know?
My family valued honesty. I was told as a young girl that honesty was the premium value…that breaking a lamp while breaking rules would be not so good, but breaking a lamp while breaking rules and then LYING would be AWFUL. My parents were meticulous about keeping their word in so many ways: always paying bills on time, arriving at appointments, events or work early, and certainly never lying to us kids or each other.
And I believed that was the reality of my home, and my life. We were defined by our H O N E S T Y.
Except it really wasn’t. We really weren’t.
I’m prefacing this by saying I have stellar parents who defied so many odds. They overcame myriad challenges individually and as a couple, and they were really fantastic parents using all they knew how to do and dealing with all they had to deal. But they were the offspring of their own parents and they of their parents and so on. I was raised by beautiful, hardworking, dedicated and loving parents who knew how to parent me as they had been parented, and to understand honesty as it had been defined for them and it ends up it wasn’t quite as black and white as I had been made to believe.
I began to have glimpses of the confusion between truth and sort-of-truth and not-so-much-truth and out-and-out-lies a couple days before our oldest son’s second birthday. My parents were headed up to spend a few days and celebrate with HUSBAND and me and 10 or so other little two-year-olds and I got an early morning phone call. Mom told me they wouldn’t be making the trip. My uncle, my dad’s brother, just 15 month’s his elder, had committed suicide and they had to go to be with his widow and children. The processing of that event left me overwhelmed…and I decided to go to a therapist to work through some of my confusion.
It was there, on his proverbial couch, that I found out that my fantastically honest parents might have lied to me – and I was only just seeing it – although I’d known it. See my dad’s side of the family was the bad side – included alcoholism and abandonment and now suicide. Mom’s side – the good side that did no wrong – until I began to recall the stories. The stories I knew that had been presented as rosy and pretty but when I shared them with the therapist I stopped myself part way: Wow…they are pretty screwed up too, huh? That side of the family included adultery and separate homes and an adopted child who never was told he was adopted although we all knew and were told to keep the secret (that wasn’t a lie) even when he asked us to our faces. So I wasn’t allowed to lie except when I was told to lie and it wasn’t a lie in that case.
I was so confused.
I shared all this with HUSBAND who listened with his very young and distracted mind, nodding occasionally and thinking I was thinking too much. Thinking it was good I didn’t see lies since he’d already successfully completed his first marital affair and lied brilliantly and I was none the wiser. Of course I would not know about that lie of his for another 25 years…
Funny thing is because the surprise of discovering the inconsistencies within my own childhood I decided I would be hyper-honest with our children. I tried very carefully to tell them truth as best I could based on their maturity. But there is something about someone who grows up lying and that is they don’t see the lies. They don’t see how wrapped around truth they are, and how their (my) very default position is lying, justified in hundreds of ways…by sparing one’s feelings, or it not really being their business, etc. So even though I determined to not lie, I continued to lie, unbeknownst to me, but fairly consistently. Not about things that mattered, but instead about things like why my child couldn’t go spend the night with a friend (truth is I didn’t trust that friend’s judgement on movies and bedtimes and food choices, but I said we had another commitment). Things like why I was late to an appointment (truth is I was habitually a wee-bit late, but I said something happened with the dog or the kids or the car). Things like how glad I was that HUSBAND was able to __________________ (hunt…fish…play…leave me…. – fill in the blank – ) because it made me happy for him to be happy (truth is I was lonely and sad and felt like I had no value, but it wasn’t polite to say such things and they would get better, right?? RIGHT???)
Yes…it is very hard for a person who has learned that the way to deal with pain or fear or shame or sorrow or sadness or regret or guilt or abandonment is to lie through it and pretend it wasn’t so to stop lying…mainly because I just could not see it. And that is how I married a man who could do this to me…
The real question is could I have married a man who was any different? A man who was honest? I don’t think so…
It was really tough to consider these possibilities. It was a new kind of pain and hurt, but it is the path that has led to me discovering I could be free from the bondage that engulfed me. And it was my path to take, or not. That’s where and when I thought I just couldn’t do it, and I saw Christ in the garden telling His Father…God…please, please take this cup from me. Yet even then, even when He didn’t want to, He still took the path. Despite all the odds, despite it making no sense at all, it led to healing. To freedom. So I took it too…