A Breakthrough, Literally. And Figuratively.

On the day of the biggest storms our country has seen in some time – yesterday – Jan 23, 2016 – I got to fly across the country. I was scheduled to fly on a three-legged trip that would take a total of 9 hours…and because of closures, etc, my flight was rerouted and it was all a mess.

My own southern east coast city had gotten some of the storm impact…cloudy. Dank. Cold. Even a few flurries. As the plane taxied out on the tarmac, I was struck by how dismal it all looked. The low hanging clouds appeared ready to dump, and it felt like there was a thick, heavy blanket covering the whole world that created a dim cast every direction. The plane taxied, took off, and defying the grayness of it all, an odd orange glow seemed to ring the edges of the world, surprising my senses.

overcast skies

As we ascended, the dull gray continued. Then we were surrounded by the nothingness, covered in the clouds and looking out any window in any direction was met with a wall of swirling gray. Simultaneously, the plane began to shudder and shake and for a short moment it was even scary. Then.

We broke through.

The plane soared through the top of the cloud canopy and there was a crystal clear, blue sky with a bright, shining sun. As we continued to climb, the clouds looked puffy, white, soft, compelling. I was moved to tears, because it all looked like my life.

over the clouds

The clouds, the beautiful clouds on one side were like my life that appeared lovely and appealing. Yet on the other side of the clouds, the side that really was my life, it was daunting and oppressive and dim. The only way to see that, though, to really understand the full nature of the clouds, was to go through the turbulence…to go right damn through…so I could see both sides. We are living in a place now, able to see the clouds that appeared beautiful but were really full of treachery, as a real thing. Yet there is a sun, and it does shine. Apart from the clouds on the illusory or devastating side.

Not sure if I’m making sense, but I really was astounded and felt like I was experiencing a living visual of the journey of my life. Of many of our lives. Onward, brave travelers.

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Telling Our Children. Part 1.

Before you read this, I want to be really clear about a couple things:

  • I am NOT a therapist, counselor or in any other way in a position to give you advice on how/what you should do regarding this tender subject
  • Based on my limited exposure to affairs and their aftermath, one thing I can say with absolute certainty is THERE IS NO ONE WAY to go through this shitty experience that is THE RIGHT WAY. It is deeply personal, completely different based on so many factors no computer could even calculate the variables. I am in NO WAY trying to say that you should do what I did, or how I did, or when I did.

Ok. That being said, here is what happened regarding my husband’s double life, and our children.

There was never a question in my mind if we should tell our children. Not if. But how. How much. When. Where. Who. Those things took some thought, advice and decisions. Our kids ranged in age from 18 to 26. Three boys, one girl. Our daughter’s boyfriend had called us on 4/2/2014 to ask for our blessing when he asked her to marry him…a beautiful moment that I thought was intimately shared between HUSBAND and me as we huddled together on the phone with SIL to be. A mere 10 days later, that intimate moment began to shatter when I received the anonymous email, and by early June, I knew that indeed there had been multiple affairs along with a little one nighter.

If HUSBAND had engaged in one affair, I don’t know how I would have felt. Perhaps it would have been different, and I would have either moved toward healing me and potentially believing there was a way to heal us and would have done this without letting the kids know.

But HUSBAND’s revelations meant that throughout our entire marriage, there had been lies and deceit and women. As the truth unfolded between us, and he began to realize how much the lies, and then lies to protect the lies, and then lies because he couldn’t remember if he’d lied had affected him even in periods when he wasn’t actively engaging in an affair, we both saw the destruction it had quietly waged.

INSERT FROM PAST for INSIGHT:

Years before, I had attended a parenting session in our neighborhood in which a local (well-known) family psychologist had presented on alcohol, drugs and kids including thoughts on how to minimize the risk of abuse and addiction in your home. I did not want to ask a question in front of the group, but afterward went up to speak to him. “Doctor,” I started. “What is detaching with love? What does that mean?”

DR: Well…if your husband came home and the kids were in bed and he was really drunk…so drunk that he threw up on the kitchen floor and then passed out right there, what would you do?

ME: Well…I’d drag him to the bedroom, clean him up, clean up the floor, and probably be telling him the whole time what a jerk he was, how could he do this to himself and to us…

DR: Right, so in the morning, where does he wake up?

ME: In his bed.

DR: Right. Not smelling, in clean sheets, with all consequences removed, other than your, what appears to be, displaced anger.

ME: So…what should I do?

DR: You should leave him, on the kitchen floor, in his vomit. Allow him to experience the result of his actions.

ME: But!!! The Children!!! I was panicked.

DR: (Stares me in the eye) You Think They Don’t Know?

Why was I so convicted and convinced that telling our precious, vulnerable children was, not only ok, but necessary? Why would anyone shatter the image their beloved children had of their father? Their father, HUSBAND, was terrific in many ways. He is funny, he is resourceful. He knows how to go camping and forget the forks and create forks out of palm fronds. He can grow peppers and figure out why the water heater isn’t working. He helped them learn how to ride two-wheelers and to fish and to say please and thank you.

But he taught them some other things. Like how to manipulate in a cunning way that is so dreadfully skilled no one knows they’ve been played until much later. He taught them how to lie magnificently and to believe their own lies. He taught them fear of being found out, and to cover that fear with jovial moments and surface conversations.

He did not teach them about abiding relationships. Or loyalty. Or truth. Or integrity. Or respect. Yet he lauded himself as so downright honest, trustworthy and thoughtful that even I thought I was the bad egg in the relationship and he was the one who could never do anything wrong, at least on purpose.

So was this about retribution? About setting the record straight and having our children turn on their dad?

NOT IN ANY WAY. It was because deep in their souls, I knew that they knew something was off-kilter. I knew that they knew but just could not quite put their finger on the discord between what they heard and what WAS. That they needed truth and healing as much as I did, and no matter what happened to our relationship, they deserved to know why there was always a funky off-ness deep inside even though the outside of our lives and our family looked so pretty and shiny and whole.

More than anything, I wanted to make sure that our kids could see THEMSELVES in honest light. That they could know that their normal wasn’t really as normal as we all thought/pretended/intended/meant it was, and that they would have some chance to CHOOSE to be different than their childhood’s had predestined them to be.

That all made sense, at least to my muddled brain, and HUSBAND was right alongside. But the hard task was still to come. Telling them.

 

 

Going Back In Order To Go Forward.

Resolutions. Made with fanfare, broken in silence.

It seems that the habit of some of us humans is to make grandiose gestures of great promise, then to quietly walk away from any direction that may take us closer to realizing those dreams. At least that has been my habit. Over, and over, and over.

New Year’s Eve/Day is such a profound example of this, and we do it year after year. We make our declarations, and within days, weeks…or if we are one of the real persistent ones, months…we have broken our intentions of loving more authentically or eating more healthy or exercising more regularly or or or or… Why? Why do we repeat this ritual despite it not bearing the fruit we pretend to desire?

Maybe one of the problems is we fail to reflect back before we try to move on. If you consider physical laws, it takes backward pressure to launch forward…a runner rocks back slightly before the sound of the gun, a basketball player bends his knees downward before he leaps in the air, the quarterback draws his arm backward before launching the ball in a pass.

I know for me, when I began the journey of betrayed spouse, I was immobilized. For the first time ever in my life, my type A personality was completely shut down. Frozen. I had no earthly idea how to do anything other than breathe, and even that was difficult. Then, I was compelled by something bigger than me and I looked back. No…I really LOOKED BACK, trying to see not what I thought I had seen, but what was really there. Slowly, it began to unravel…as one layer peeled off, I looked into the face of the man that had shared my life for 27 years and realized I had no idea who he was. The man I thought I knew could never ever do the things this man had done. I LOOKED back, and questioned every part of my life, gathered all the pieces of the puzzle that I could find and began to try to put it back together. So much of it was tarnished, and chipped, and off-kilter…but I couldn’t see that before…but I could see it now…

Painful. Excruciatingly painful to look back with new eyes, revealed eyes.

They say we know. Other women declare that we must know they are fucking our husbands. One of the women I follow said recently that she goes to a counselor who’s been dealing with infidelity for over 35 years and THE WIFE ALWAYS KNOWS.

No. I. Did. Not. Know.

I would not have been afraid to confront. I would not have quietly stayed in my marriage knowing my husband was a cheater because I was afraid or needed his financial support or thought the kids would be better off or any other reason.

I stayed in my marriage because I never dreamed that he could or would cheat on me, and if things were tense or there was space in our relationship, I believed it was life, and we were life, we were married, we were in it together. Relationships ebb and flow, good times/bad times, intimate times/disconnected times. It literally never remotely occurred to me that my husband contacted, called, texted, video messaged, met with, slept with, planned with, dreamed with another woman. Ever. Even writing these words now takes my breath away, because it is hard for me to believe.

Before I knew of infidelity, I stayed in my marriage even in hard times because I loved him.

So…looking back…there are so many missing pieces. I can’t even complete the edges, put the border together, because the very foundation of the person I was married has holes. Initially, I became desperate to figure out those gaps, desiring to understand what the picture REALLY looked like, and I sat in that place for a long time.

I am not desperate anymore, although some of the pieces have not been easy to find, and honestly, there are still holes that I want to fill.

shattered-heart-1

So on the threshold of a New Year, I will continue to look back, but am also moving forward. I’ve learned that for me, I want to know – I want to confront – I want to look at the good, bad and ugly – and I want to dream in real-color of what the future can be. That is what I am looking forward to in 2016, as odd as it sounds: grasping in truth the missing pieces that I need to be whole, and creating the more beautiful future in which I play a role in shaping the puzzle pieces.

I hope, for you, an astounding 2016.

Gift 4: In Strange Packaging

This one is odd…and for some may not be a gift at all. I think many betrayeds will understand, will see why and how it could be such a gift. I found it to be a gift on several levels…

So remember me? I was the digger, the one who had an unstoppable need to try to find every answer to every question, every piece of evidence, every phone call or text or message, every email or present or FB comment. I created charts and excel spreadsheets and somehow gained sanity through the insanity of putting semblance to chaos in my own strange way.

But there wasn’t much, because HUSBAND was a master deceiver, and adept at deleting, so during that frenzy I was often frustrated with the lack of evidence that what he told me was able to be backed up. I wanted to see the messages, watch the videos, read the emails, but there were so few. I asked questions, though, and he painfully answered them.

HUSBAND told me they sent pictures with frequency to each other. I wanted to know what kind of pictures, and he told me mostly just mundane things as life happened: pictures at work, or pictures of an outfit or pictures of her dog.

“Naked pictures?” I asked…and he answered…a few. He told me she’d taken a stance like a flamingo (one leg folded up with foot on knee) while looking into her full-length mirror and snapped selfies, sometimes lifting her shirt to reveal her breasts. That she’d never spread her legs for the camera, but she had taken full-body photos while lying on the bed. That she’d sent photos frequently of herself in mirrors and from work and from the car.

So here is where the gift comes in. The odd, muddled, maybe-not-a-gift-for-some-but-an-incredible-gift-for the insatiable searcher comes in. After six weeks or so, and a million combinations of searches, I happened to uncover some photos that HUSBAND had somehow overlooked.

Photos of her, of SW.

And incredibly, they were just as HUSBAND had described.

The awkward stance in the hall, shirt raised. The selfies over and over and over and over into the mirror. Mirrors, mostly in bathrooms…at work. At her house. At her cabin. And a few, in an elevator. I enlarged every photo, observed every flaw, saw every deceitful, nasty piece and part of her expressions and fingers and toes and ass and breasts that I could, but every photo – EVERY PHOTO – was just as HUSBAND had described.

He hadn’t lied.

Another tiny step toward rebuilding trust, and these disgusting, trashy photos helped me get there.

Gifts sometimes come in strange packaging.

Gift 3: Two Gifts In One

HUSBAND loves to fish. And hunt. And do all things in between. This is one of the ways he conducted his affairs through the years because he legitimately was involved in these activities…he loved them from his core…so it was quite easy to sell me on a fish/hunt when in reality he was meeting one of his whores.

He had carefully orchestrated protections for himself…no reception out in the woods or 60 miles off shore…his phone battery died, calling me “after the hunt” from the car after he plugged his phone in, etc.

So this next gift may seem like such a little thing for many people, but it was so HUGE to my shattered heart a few-weeks-post-devastation. It was a gift to me, because it demonstrated a powerful shift in attitude, in connection with my heart. It was a gift to me because it was a dramatic shift in conduct by HUSBAND, and one that revealed I had not been crazy all those years when I reacted with frustration and anger at the lack of contact and communication intermittently, whether I was home with a very sick baby or had a huge flood in my house with TWO babies (another story I’ll write about one day)…

This was a gift of changed behavior, new choices.

HUSBAND went fishing. He gave me the REAL choice to say no…no hidden recriminations or guilt or passive-aggressive words thrown over his shoulder. I thought about it, told him I was uncomfortable, but wanted him to get out a bit so with great trepidation, I told him to go.

HUSBAND called me right after they left. He told me his phone was dying so he was going to turn it off. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME my mind screamed. But then sent me his fishing-buddy’s number in case I needed to get ahold of him. And twice, during the ½ day trip, HUSBAND called…he texted…sent me a picture of himself and his friend and a fish…

That evening, I told him how much I appreciated him thinking of me like that. He answered, “I figured you might be really uncomfortable if you couldn’t get in touch with me for several hours and thought I should do that.”

There was a pause.

Then he continued, “You know? I should have always done that anyway. That is how I should treat you all the time.”

WOW. That was really lovely.

Two gifts in one: doing the right thing, when he had always shamed me into believing I was overly needy, or intrusive, or crowded him…and recognizing it was what he ALWAYS should have done.

Gifts 1 and 2

friendshipsharingheart

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.