Glorious Moments

Last day of September, and here in the deep South, it is still feeling like summer. Yet…a small hint of the coming cool has wafted in the last couple days. You have to get up early to feel it, but it shows in the crispier glow of the sun, the clearer blue of the sky, and the magnificent sunsets almost every evening.

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I love this time of the year. I love all of it…the leaves, the clothes, the decorations. I love that I have a fall birthday, and there is college football to cheer (or cry) for. I love that I can wear boots again and that I got married in this glorious season.

Ahhh….marriage. Right.

Marriage that held such promise when we spoke our vows and danced our dances and toasted our flutes. Marriage that I thought would be so strengthening for me – a place in which I could bloom and grow. Marriage as an ungirding to all the potential choices and opportunities and prospects of a glorious future.

Ahhh…future. Right.

We laughed in the face of all challenges that came up (or so I thought). We had baby one and baby two and baby three and baby four and dreamed of their futures and taught them to dream and to believe and to try. Just try. At least try. Step into that glorious maybe.

Ahhh…maybe. Right.

But somewhere along the way he didn’t really believe it all and honestly, neither did I. We were set on a course though, and had no understanding of how to change it. So we kept up the façade on the outside. But he was finding solace in drugs. And alcohol. And other women. I had no idea – he hid that part of him so well – and I found solace in my work. And my babies. And my pretensions, you know, the ones that allowed me not to see the true parts of my life. The glorious mask.

Ahhh…mask. Right.

So when the truth began tumbling out in the form of infidelity, I could not pretend any longer. I could not pretend that what I wished my life to be was really what it was and I had choices. Choices to press down the pain and sweep it under the rug. Choices to run far, far away from the madness and blame it all on him and hate him with a vengeance and get lots of support because I would. Choices to be rabidly filled with vengeance and hurt everyone I could in my wake. Choices to sever any ties at all and refashion the rest of my life in whatever manner suited me. Choices to slow down, to watch, to listen, to learn about him and about me and to heal – and then decide which road I would take. Choices to learn to peel off the past and to dispel needing to design the future and accept…and live in…and revel…the present. The glorious present.

Ahhh…present. Right.

No. Wrong.

At least my perception of the present was wrong for most of my life, until infidelity revealed. Until horrible and dreadful and excruciating and soul-sucking and mind-blowing and self-blaming and him-hating and her-disdaining. Until my distorted understanding of my past and my fairy-tale view of the future crashed so horrifically with the reality of the present and I had to acknowledge it. Or lose me forever. The glorious forever.

For real, the glorious forever.

It was standing at the precipice of choices and seeing that the very path promising the most pain was the path to my freedom when I knew. I got it. I understood. My Savior was at that same place 2000 years ago. He saw the road to freedom and healing was about to be covered in blood and betrayal and abandonment and thrashings. He didn’t want the cup…He asked His Father to take it from Him. But He saw. He knew. He knew it was the only real path for all of our healing. He could have chosen another way, a way to save Him alone, but this way, this awful, horrible way ensured we could be part of His story. This way –going directly into and through the pain-was the only way He could provide us complete and utter curing from our bondage to our confusion and our self-inflicted wounds and our other’s-inflicted-wounds and our fears and our prejudices and our disappointments and our doubts and our… So He took the cup. In that moment, I saw that He did that – He took the cup. In that moment, that present, and here I was in a present and I had choices but most of them were about the past hurts or the future changes and I chose the present. The present with no understanding of the future, but the glorious realization that He had this. He had me. He loved me. Glorious love.

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Ahhh…love. Really. Love that led the way.

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Lessons in Living

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Saw this quote, and I read it. Then I read it again.

Then I read it again…and again…and rolled it around in my brain, in the way-beyond-just-the-glance-and-yeah-that-is-true part of my brain. I began to reflect on this journey of cheating, of being a betrayed woman, of realizing how lies had permeated the majority of my 27 year marriage when the truth began to unfold. And then the steps in to healing – the steps to letting the reality no longer control me.

It’s been a little over two years: two years, three months, and 12 days to be precise since I had the full picture of HUSBAND’s deception laid out before me. Not that I am counting, although I guess I am. When I reflect on this time, I see some things that I don’t think I could until now. It is likely this process will continue throughout my life…actually…I hope it does, so all this pain can always be moving toward something better and good and beautiful. I never want the pain to suck me back, incrementally or in one big swoop, to the place of despair and blackness so it is essential to keep moving away from it with bold intentionality…right? I have learned…

The utter despicableness of HUSBAND’s actions: Don’t think that is really a word, but it is obvious what’s meant. There is nothing redeeming, nothing to support, nothing to cheer about a person who cheats. Nothing. NOTHING. There is no cause, no reason, no excuse that makes it okay to cheat. And cheating? Well…I see now that cheating is taking any part of who you are that is intimate (emotionally, physically, spiritually) and sharing it with another outside of the marriage and not being able to tell your spouse. This is NOT to say that I don’t see much more clearly now how affairs and cheating happen…I do…but the more I understand the twisted hows, the more I see how despicable they are. From start to finish they are lies. Lies to self. Lies to others. Lies upon lies upon lies that will not lead to anything but PAIN.

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The ripple of pain: Cheating isn’t just about the cheater and his partner(s). They can’t keep their smut and filth in an isolated place. No…spouses are obviously at risk. First, there is the emotional devastation if they find out. But guess what? There is emotional devastation even if they don’t find out. There is no way a person can be engaging in giving away their intimate being to another on a chat room, or in a bathroom as they jack off to a porn-hub delivered video, or having a happy ending at a massage parlor or meeting up with their flesh lover in a hotel room and it NOT impact their spouse. The cheaters tell themselves there is no clashing of their worlds (unless there is discovery) but that just isn’t true. Let me be BOLDLY CLEAR HERE: I did not know my husband was cheating on me with other women, or with porn. I had no idea. But now that there are no other women between us on screen or in person, our lives are entirely different from start to finish. He spent all his time hiding, and worrying about hiding, and being concerned he hadn’t hidden well enough and there could be no real intimacy between us with all that shit present. Whether the spouse knows or not, cheating is devastating to the marriage relationship. PERIOD.  And then…then there is the physical risk. If the cheater doesn’t use protection, which shockingly they often do NOT???…then the risk of STD’s is high. Or a pregnancy with an affair partner. Lifelong ripple effects. And our children, our babies. Just like the marriage relationship, whether the kids ever know or not, whether discovery ever really happens or not, THEY ARE AFFECTED. Our four children ranged from 17 to 25 when the truth came out. Not babies, not little kids. Young adults. And they all admitted that “things now made sense.” That there was a hypocrisy they couldn’t quite put their finger on in our perfect little family, an underlying current of something they could not identify that was always present (uh….that would be that their dad was living a double life, perhaps??). So whether our children had ever found out or not, they were victims of the rippling out impact of pain caused by cheating.

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It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t about me: Such a hard one here. But if I am to continue to press toward healing and wholeness and away from the vortex of pain, I have to keep this front and center. HUSBAND’s cheating was never about me, always about him. It was never against me, always about him hurting himself. It was never whether we had enough sex, or my body was attractive enough, or my willingness to give him oral sex or fix beautiful dinners or being nice/mean/happy/sad. It was always about his deeply hidden but widely open wounds that he covered with the sick salve of illicit sex. His healing has been a deep, deep dive into those gashes and slashes, taking him to places he never dared share with anyone. Places so raw that he had spent his entire life carefully covering and reshaping and renaming so he could keep living…

I had some wounds too: Obviously, when 4/12/14 followed by 4/29/14 followed by 5/9/14 followed by 5/13/14 followed by 5/24/14 followed by 6/12/14 occurred…successive trickle truth/DDays…there was massive RIPPING OFF of my personhood to reveal a bloody, wounded me. At first all I could do was exist and breathe through the pain at hand. Survive. Then slowly, slowly, slowly I began to allow myself to see pain in a wider circle around my marriage and then a wider circle around things before my marriage and so on. Stepping into my own pain with authenticity and allowing myself to see, to feel, to grieve, to forgive, to accept has given me more than I ever dared envision. I was trapped too, trapped by things deep in my soul that I had not dared consider and the reality of the cheating required me to either keep them buried and completely turn away into denial, or to summon courage I didn’t know was there.

Secrets are the enemy of intimacy: Ultimately I have learned this. My own secrets that I dared not look at, or even knew I was keeping from myself. His secrets – some of the same ilk…so painful and hidden he didn’t even know, others that were self-inflicted during our marriage and he was very aware of. Secrets destroy intimacy. The only path to the marriage we all think we are getting and want so desperately is through the pain of pulling off the mask of the secrets. Freedom comes through pain, through walking deep into the dark and hidden places of our own lives, and coming out with wounds and scars, but real. In this beautiful and tattered realness, I have discovered pure communion of souls and the strength and love of God all bound together in a messy relationship of beauty that is all-at-once bound tightly, yet offers complete freedom like I’ve never experienced before. Inexplicable, but the lies and the secrets kept us in bondage apart, and the truth has connected us together in opportunity. How can this be?

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And so, two years, three months and 12 days into this journey – this new marriage – I see that healing doesn’t mean I can ever change the story – the events. But I can move toward writing new chapters and an ending that is…

 

 

 

 

The Language of Betrayal

We have all done it. We have all gotten to new places in life that bring a whole new language. Some are kind of mundane – like when I took my first accounting class in college. There was a whole host of new words like gross revenue and accounts receivable and cost of goods sold. Words like credit and debit took on new meaning.

Sometimes we learn a new vernacular at special times, like becoming a parent – a mom. Phrases and words like swaddling and breast feeding. Or bumper pads and touchpoints and pacifiers. We have to decide things that include a new language like cord-clamping and cord-banking…co-sleeping or crib sleeping…public or private or home…

And there are times of sadness or challenge that expand our vocabulary to words that may have lurked somewhere in our minds, but become routine. Times like medical challenges and death that make words like treatment or hospice or casket routine. Words that lived out there but not in here yet now they are uttered regularly right from our own lips.

Affairs, though, are different. I didn’t know the language of affairs, or the vernacular. I’d never perused Huffington Post for articles on affairs, or searched for the Other Woman. The words weren’t lurking somewhere in my mind. They just weren’t there in my conscious thinking. But the language is universal, and within literal days of discovery, the words were tumbling into my knowledge base almost like a download of a computer program.

Affair Partner.

Discovery.

Trickle Truth.

Hysterical Bonding.

Wayward Spouse.

Gaslighting.

Blameshifting.

Affair Fog.

The 180.

The acronyms: M. A. EA. PA. EMA. LTA. BS. OW. MOW. FWB. AP. WH. STBXH. MM. xMM. NPD. IC. CC. MIL. FIL. FOO. DDay. FWH. NC. SA.

Literally overnight these words became the language of my life. Any betrayed reading this right now gets it…they know these words…or if they are in the devastating newness of discovery, they are learning them. All of my being hated that I needed to know these words, yet some came absolutely instinctually, without even needing the betrayed-spouse-dictionary. No Contact. Please, please have no contact with HUSBAND anymore…and HUSBAND…have no contact with her. The Other Woman. The Other Woman that I discovered on that day – that Discovery Day. And now…I am betrayed. I didn’t need a dictionary.

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There were options as this new language became my life language. I could have, and deeply considered, DIVORCE which would have launched me into another whole new vernacular. I danced at those words and that option, seeking advice on the process and laws in Florida and division of property. And then I did research on the impact of divorce on older children, on young adult children. I was astounded to see that these beautiful older children often take the divorce of their parents hard. So hard that 3 and 5 and even ten years later, they are posting on their blogs about the hurt they still carry. The questions they now harbor…was anything real in their childhood? Was there ever the family they thought they remembered, and if that family broke up and broke apart, what chance did they, or could they, possibly have at love themselves?

I hated these words. I hated these thoughts that were hidden away from public view, only found with intentional research and eyes. I hated that as much as HUSBAND’s unfaithfulness was ripping me apart, and casting pieces of my heart all over every part of what I thought my life was, now I had to make decisions. I hated him and force him to leave me and get all my just due in every feasible way. I wanted to think of just me and wanted that to be the best for me and for everyone I loved.

I did not – let me repeat that – DID NOT decide that I would stay married. No, I absolutely was not that altruistic, or able to consider the twenty-year-from-now impact on my kids over my own right-this-minute impact. But I did decided that I would not decide. That I would wait. That I would worry about me and what it would take for me to be able to breathe. And then think. And then maybe feel. And if, along the way, I wanted to look at my marriage, then I gave myself permission, but not a mandate.

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And then…slowly…there was another language that began to creep into the vestiges of my brain and soul. The language of healing. I pushed it away for awhile, wanting and needing to embrace the pain. But it was quietly persistent. This language is more complex, requiring me to grieve and learn transparency and become oddly more vulnerable in the face of fear and pain. I can’t say that I know the whole language yet. And that’s okay. One word at a time…

 

Choosing

I read a post this morning in an “other woman support forum” that was talking about choices and responsibility for pain. In a nutshell, the author of the post, an OW herself, insisted that her choosing to engage in the affair had nothing to do, ever, at any point, with the pain of the betrayed spouse of her AP. That any damage done to the marriage would lie fully on the shoulders of her AP, as would the responsibility be fully on her to her own marriage.

Her other big point was that every day was a choice…to continue to engage in the illicit relationship alongside the official relationship and that made the illicit just like any other relationship – normal, you see? And if DDay occurred and her AP didn’t do as he promised (not throw her under the bus…and ultimately choose her) then she would have choices. She even ends her piece with saying, “I chose to love him because he offered his love to me.”

Am I alone in thinking this is really destructive thinking all the way around?

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That there IS a choice for a person in a committed relationship to offer, as her lover did, and to receive, as she did, love from another? Isn’t this the crux of the deceit and the filth and the pain? I’ll say it as simply and succinctly as I know how:

IF YOU ARE IN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP, DON’T REACH OUT FOR ANOTHER OR ENGAGE WITH ANOTHER PARTY IN A POTENTIAL FRIENDSHIP OR RELATIONSHIP. PERIOD.

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Just don’t do it. Don’t let the conversations go there, the body language flourish, the glances happen. We are not victims of those circumstances – those are things we actively do or allow or partake in. It isn’t the power of the universe pulling words out of your mouth, or the angels shaping your face in a seductive glance. It. Is. You.

If you engage in an affair, you chose to go there, and you are responsible for the pain of your partner, along with the pain of your AP’s partner. And what about all the other collateral damage…the children? Friends? Extended family? But you can absolutely avoid it, avoid being a pain-maker, two ways:

Do not engage in any way with the development of a friendship or flirtatious/intimate relationship. Period. Cut it off. Much to the surprise of other women, us betrayeds have actually found ourselves in these same places from time to time throughout our marriages. We faced moments when our marriage relationships were far less than fulfilling, and another person suddenly said something compelling, or appreciated something our husband had missed, or noticed our new haircut. But we didn’t bite. We chose to honor ourselves, first, and our commitments and all that goes along with that. So stop biting. The OW said “I chose to love him because he offered his love to me?” Make a different choice. That is way #1 you can avoid being a pain-maker.

The second way is be authentic in your official relationship. If you are unhappy, talk about it. Do something about it. Whatever somethings you think may have answers: books, seminars, trainings, faith-leaders, prayer. And if your partner won’t engage, won’t work toward change and you want to leave, then leave. But don’t be so weak that you have to have the next relationship lined up to do so. Not with a single person, which puts them in the position of becoming a pain-maker, and not with another married. Just leave with your big boy/girl panties on, face the reality of your broken relationship and all that means, and then engage in whatever friendships or flirtatious/intimate relationships you choose with other single people.

Don’t tell me it isn’t as easy as all that. That I just don’t know your story. That your situation is different. That he’s been locked in misery for years, or that you have been alone in your marriage for years. That there hasn’t been intimacy between them for a really long time, and they aren’t intimate during your affair. That the financial situation…or the children…or the dog… You can justify your wrong, pain-making behavior all you want, or you can decide that you won’t be a victim or a perpetrator – instead you will be courageous and strong and write the story of the next chapters of your life without decimating other people and children and extended family along the way. We betrayeds agree with the author. You do have choices, far more than you allow yourself to see. Choices to be a whole-hearted (as Brene Brown has coined) person, choices to value yourself, choices to live in integrity so that your one life is just that – one life – rather than having little secret lives tucked around the pockets of your other life.

And the final choice. HUSBAND’s AP must have been shocked. You see, they had an elaborate plan. One that included our DDay, and counseling, and separation, and mutual decision to divorce. One that included HUSBAND dating another mutual friend of AP and H briefly. One that included HUSBAND connecting back with AP, and them dating and falling in love. It was all planned, just so. But that isn’t how the story played out. HUSBAND had a choice. As did I. Somehow under the rubble and rubbish that was tied up in a neat little Affair bow, we found the vestiges of our deep love and it was far more powerful than the empty promises of the AP or the pain of their actions. He chose, and I chose. We chose each other.

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The Prism of the Present

I just took a shower. Routine event…sometimes I get out of the shower and am toweling off and realize I had not remembered, specifically, washing my hair or using conditioner or shaving because I do those things so rotely they take no real awareness.  Sometimes I even have to rub my hand down my leg to make sure I did do all the shower tasks (but don’t tell ok?)

I do a lot of thinking in the shower. I write blog posts, or a book. I solve problems and have imaginary conversations. I often think of the past or something I didn’t do or something that is weighing on my mind…

There was a bad shower day: it was a few days after I discovered HUSBAND was a cheater, and that he had shared a cabin by a creek in a small town in North Carolina with the OW. As I reached my arm up to get my shampoo, suddenly it was her arm, SW, and it was her in the shower and his hands were on her and I couldn’t discern her from me and his touch on me was really on her…it was horrible and I sobbed.

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So today, I had a different kind of experience. Turned on the water, just like always and stepped in when it was the right temperature. I let the water roll down my hair and my face and my body and suddenly, that was all there was. Me, the water, the shower. I noticed the tile and the perfect force of the showerhead’s delivery of water to my body – why had I not realized this before? And when I squeezed the shampoo onto my hand, I smelled the gentle fragrance that appeals to me, and makes me think clean, and I noticed, no – REALLY NOTICED – the way it sat in my hand. I put my hands to my head, and washed my hair and felt the stress and the debris and the stuff work out of my scalp and hair and fall with the water into the bottom of the shower and run down the drain. For the first time ever, I moved every moment of my shower with intentionality. Intentionally in the present, fighting off the urge to look behind or ahead.

A crazy thing happened. I saw and smelled and felt and sensed so much to be grateful for. In the shower, in my shower. Things like: A clean shower. Hair product that I like. The ability to take showers any time I want. To make the water temperature just so. To have delightful homemade soap to clean my body. To wash my face and get every nook and cranny clean and fresh and new. The gratefulness in the space was palatable, it was real, it was present in the shower with me.

It hit me how hard we have to fight to live in the present. To fight off the what-ifs, and the I need to… And no matter what our past story is, whether it is betrayal, or rejection, or abandonment, or fear, or addiction, or success and power…we really only have the present. This moment. Right now. As I breathe in the present moment, I discover that my eyes are often opened to both flashes of beauty, and possibility. Possibility that the next moment may hold a flash of beauty…and if not, finding the thing in one moment that is strong can carry me through the ugly and hurtful and dark until the next time I can see a moment of good.

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It was pain that taught me to live in the present. It was the pain of discovering I was a betrayed wife that overcame me with such force that all I could do was take the next breath. Literally, the next breath. I learned that I had to allow the pain to be, to look at it, to feel it. This was the first time in my life the pain was so enveloping and strong and permeating that I could not shove it aside or just smile and nod. I had to let it be and experience it and let it own the moment. That present moment because there was no way I could look beyond where all I could sense was more pain. So I was forced to the present. It was there, in the present pain that I began to find healing. I survived. I slowly saw a flash of beauty. Just a flash, mind you. But then another and another.

Happy Labor Day…and may we each find a sliver of beauty in one present moment today.

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