Trust.

We just passed a milestone in our world, HUSBAND and I. This past weekend, we passed the 3 year anniversary of the last time he was physically with SW, the last AP. Who was also the first AP twenty-five years before that, when we had a baby marriage of less than 2 years.

I remembered, not because I was overcome with a massive trigger this time. Not because I was fixated on the date or the questions or the anger or the despair. I remembered when Facebook sent me a memory of something I’d posted the day I arrived home from my trip that I’d been on, affording HUSBAND the opportunity to set up the tryst.

I remembered and looked at IT, looked at then and looked at now. Looked at what I thought was going on in my life, based on both the FB post and my memory, and what was really going on in my life, uncovered two months later.

what-i-thought-was-true

I remembered and considered how different everything is now: the person I am. The person HUSBAND is. The marriage we have.

People often ask how we got here, how we made it through not just to “stay married,” but to have a marriage we really never had before. A marriage of connectedness. A marriage of intimacy. A marriage of passion. A marriage of love.

And now, a marriage of trust. Trust?

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I would have sworn I couldn’t. Trust him again. Maybe anyone. Almost every adage told me my gut was right. Almost every saying on pinterest. Almost every book, and certainly ChumpLady. Yet…here it is three years out…and I realize that I do, trust him, that is. With healthy reservation, and intermittent verification, but overall, I trust him. So how did this happen, how did we get to this place despite the savage destruction of HUSBAND’s past actions?

He got sorry. Really, really sorry. During our marriage, HUSBAND would rarely say “I’m sorry.” The words sometimes came out of his mouth, but with that inflection that says I’m not really sorry and it is really all your fault but you are so crazy/bitchy/stupid/nasty that I’ll just say it to shut you up. Or sometimes the words came out of his mouth followed by all the reasons whatever had happened (that he was sorry for) was REALLY MY FAULT. But this time, once he began to embrace the bigness of his wrongness, he began to be sorry. No blame. No excuses. No hidden messages. Just sorry.

He received my emotions. Once he moved into real sorrow and began to see what he had done, he allowed me to feel. Somedays I felt rage. Somedays I felt disgust. Somedays I felt sad – really, really sad. Somedays I felt stupid or humiliated or embarrassed. But on the road to trust, for the first time ever in our marriage, I was not manipulated into thinking my feelings were wrong. He just allowed me to feel.

He did not hurry the process. HUSBAND did not say “aren’t you over this yet?” He did not ask me if I was going to punish him for life. He did not push me to move at any pace other than my own as I moved into my own healing, and began to consider whether I had interest in being married. To him.

hold-the-vision-trust-the-process

He allowed me to ask questions. And ask them again. And again. Betrayal is trauma. Trauma survivors often need to relive and rehash the times and moments as they work to put it all together in their brains: to assimilate the perception of reality with reality.  HUSBAND did not enjoy my repetitive questions, but he endured them. He endured them and answered everytime I asked. He did not act frustrated, or put-upon.

He practiced truth telling. Even in the little things. Instead of telling me he had left the office while he was still packing up, or that he was on the highway when he was still a mile from the entrance ramp, he started telling the truth. And if he reverted back to those habitual untruths, he told me. Quickly. “I told you I had a burger for lunch…actually, I had two.”

He became consistent, and wanted to show me. His actions started to match his words. They really never had, but they’d never been HUGELY off, so I was conditioned to just believing he was a poor planner, or miscalculated time or money or whatever. But once he moved into recovery, and he began to see truth and practice truth, he wanted to demonstrate to me that he was different. Going to Lowes? I was sure to get a text part way telling me where he was. And when he got there, a selfie with the store sign behind him. A text when he was leaving, and his arrival back home in a reasonable time frame.

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He became transparent in any way I needed. Or even ways I didn’t need. He shared all his passwords. He showed me his phone log. He told me when he spoke to people that I might have fear about. He shared conversations with coworkers and friends and neighbors. He told me any struggles or thoughts that he had about the process, and revelations as they unfolded in his recovery. When he didn’t know what to do with some of my pain, he held me. He held me and prayed for me and stroked me and told me again, and again, and again, how sorry he was. He became bare in every sense. Bare, and vulnerable.

And slowly, without me being able to perceive it happening, I began to trust. To trust this new man that had I shared my bed and my life and my heart with, yet whom had never really shared back. Now, after three years, our two broken souls have mingled intricately and I see that we are beginning to fill the wounds with truth, and with love.

lord-close-to-brokenhearted

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Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 2

So the little boy and his three siblings and his mama and daddy moved from their cute little bungalow on a cute little street in a tight little neighborhood to the other side of the town…over the river…

The new house was fit for a family of six with a daddy growing a new empire alongside HIS dad. It had five bedrooms and nearly as many baths and a swimming pool and a big yard. The family settled in and soon another baby arrived on the scene. HUSBAND’s family of origin was now complete: he was the oldest followed by two sisters, a brother and a final baby girl.

He started a new school in this new neighborhood where he made some friends. Together with those friends he would roam the neighborhood, not getting into trouble but kind of getting into trouble. He was good at convincing everyone he was really a good boy when he walked a fence, and learned to put on different faces for different audiences. Truth is, he came by it naturally…

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The men in HUSBAND’s life all “married for life” and talked boldly of respect and loyalty and all the other things that make men men to their families in the south. But when HUSBAND was still a boy, he began to go off with the men for hunting and fishing and the men liked to talk about things that may not be quite so respectful. Things like the shape of the waitress’s chest or backside. Things like what they’d done with other women. Things like what they’d like to do with other women. There were jokes and magazines and sometimes even touches. But from the very earliest of times, this was how men acted and then they went home to their wives and families and professed loyalty and respect. They loudly disdained men who cheated, and told their wives how shocked they were when one of them got exposed as being “that kind of man.”

There was a neighbor boy who was several years older than HUSBAND. He grew very close with the family and spent time with all the kids. One summer in particular, HUSBAND spent a lot of time with him, learning about his boat, playing legos in his garage, and just being boys together. Several years later, this same neighbor took a job with the family company, and moved up to a junior management position. He had nice things, and would let HUSBAND be part of some of them…teaching him to drive in his muscle car and things like that. It was odd that eventually, this neighbor had somewhat of a breakdown at the company, and left. He no longer has any contact with the family, at all. Although eventually it really wasn’t that odd…

A few years went by and HUSBAND continued to be the best of boys and the worst of boys in his parents’ eyes. He learned to deceive to try to stay on the best side, and to minimize when he fell over to the worst. His dad went off on trips a lot, and HUSBAND was the “man of the house” when his dad was away. There was lots to take care of and lots of kids to help with. He was glad when he had time to go off with his friends. They had built a pretty elaborate tree house and liked to spend time there where they pretended they were men and not boys. One day, they found a magazine – you know, THAT kind of magazine – on the street (so his memory tells him) and they took it up to the tree house. They gathered around and turned the pages and looked at it closely. The magazine stayed in the tree house, and all the boys went home. HUSBAND thinks that was the first time he masturbated. Masturbated to the mental images of those girls on the pages of the magazine. He never told anyone…not his family or his friends, and none of them said they’d done it. As HUSBAND notes, for him it was the start of secrecy (shame?) around sex.

secret-shame

In 7th grade, HUSBAND was moved to Catholic school where he remembers gaining exposure to a whole host of new actions. He got close with a small group of boys and they had fun doing things that pushed the window of acceptability. By ninth grade, the group was sneaking out of their homes at night, deftly stealing a car or two from their parents’ driveways and riding around their side of town. According to HUSBAND, they would cruise, head to the school and do donuts and just be boys. During the summer prior to their sophomore year, the group had discovered pot, and that became a regular part of their free time. HUSBAND was in all honors classes that year, but frequently getting high before classes in the morning. He surrounded himself with like-minded friends, encouraging each other to beat the system and live the double life.

kids-and-weed

But there was this one girl…this straight, beautiful girl…who sat next to him in one of his classes. She listened as he shared the crazy antics of his life: the drugs and activities and chances he was taking. She seemed to have a vague intrigue, yet admonished him to stop. To be better. To reach for good. Things went on throughout the year until one night…one night when the group was divided into two cars and one of them got busted. The cops took the kids home from one car, and eventually those kids divulged the kids from the second car and HUSBAND remembers a group meeting of all the parents and kids involved.

So he turned a new leaf, just like that. Gave up the drugs and the car stealing (they were driving underage) and became that good guy. And that straight, beautiful girl from his class was so thrilled that by the end of sophomore year, they were a thing – a couple.

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They dated throughout junior year and HUSBAND was “good.” He didn’t smoke pot (okay…maybe once or twice but not really) and he didn’t steal cars (by that time he was a licensed driver). He worked (kinda) hard on his academics. But by late in his junior year and that pre-senior year summer, he really had the itch to let loose…he was a senior after all. It’s a bit hazy in his memory, but HUSBAND knows that he and the straight, beautiful girl broke up, and he returned to the partying and it escalated throughout the year.

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HUSBAND was caught with pot that time when the group was busted. His parents were involved and hurt and confronted him. “Just make good decisions,” he was told. Yet after that first time, there were numerous other times that he was caught, and nothing was done except shaking of the head, and grow up please. Despite finding the remains of a joint in the family car, or paraphernalia hidden under the bed, or a bag with remnants in his drawer, there were no consequences except disappointment. HUSBAND continued to drive the cars and boats and have wrecks involving both. He went on vacations and to summer camp in the Keys. He continued to work at the family business and stay out late and get high before school. And sometimes during school. And usually after school.

head-in-the-sand

He even went on his senior cruise where unleashed partying abounded. There was sex and drinking and pot and it was all good. He graduated from high school amongst lots of fanfare and lots of celebration and loads of pot and alcohol and sex. It lead to a summer of intense drinking and partying and working and playing, and preparation for launch to college.

And so it goes…the boy was growing into a young man.

 

Distorted Perception

It hit me today.

It hit me when I was thinking about a friend who is kind and gentle and trustworthy. And a cheater. Although I am far more hardened, less naïve and see cheating around me regularly now, this one took me by surprise. It hit me that I never thought he would cheat any more than I thought HUSBAND would cheat, and that the cheater persona, the very aura of who they present themselves to be is one of the reasons we betrayeds are exactly that: betrayed.

Betrayed

I have beat myself up over the last two years for not seeing. For not knowing. For being fooled by a cunning man who slept in my bed and sat at my dinner table and cried with me at the birth of our babies and worried with me about sending our kids off to college. I know that I have gone back and retraced moments in my mind that I now know were not as they appeared to see what I missed, to see how I was so oblivious to the deceit right there before my eyes.

But that’s just it.

It wasn’t right before my very eyes.

deceit

Because right from the start, from the first date to the day of discovery, there were parts of HUSBAND that I never knew. Never, ever dreamed or thought or figured. He was so very careful to keep any vestige of them from me, to cover the tracks of that part of his being over and over and over. To shake his head in dismay when the pastor spoke of men using porn. To gasp and fold his brow when we heard about one of our friends’ husbands leaving the marriage…for another woman (although to date, only one of those has resulted in a new marriage). To join me in earnest conversation of ‘how could he’ when hearing a news report of a politician engaged in a dalliance.

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There is no shame for us. The shame is in these incredibly adept pretenders, posers who from beginning to end – until their gig is up – present to us, and to most of the world, an entirely different person than they are underneath. Our perception, crafted so very carefully and steadily and consistently, is what results in their ability to carry out deception. We are not flawed, we are only trusting and believing what we see and feel and hear every day.

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And then we find out, and we learn that we are not only trusting and caring. We are strong, and brave, and eventually…whole. How ironic that our belief in the skewed perception of our cheating lovers is what ultimately reveals to us our inner strength. A twisted path and one we would prefer not to have taken, that cost us so much, yet leads to its own kind of beauty…our beauty…

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Victory

Some victories are so sweet. The victory of overcoming fear when I started a new school – I attended tons growing up as a military girl –

I remember the fear the night before, the stories that bounced around in my head, the plans I mentally made to deal with this or that or that or this. And the feeling of walking into a new room and being introduced as “the new girl.” Going to the lunchroom and knowing there were rules but no one had told me the rules and if/when I broke one wondering what the punishment might be – from administration, but worse, from peers.

Unhappy Teenage Girl Being Gossiped About By Peers
Unhappy Teenage Girl Being Gossiped About By Peers

But the victory when I wasn’t the new girl anymore and had at least a few people to share secrets with and I knew where to sit and with whom.

The victory of completing a routine on beam…not just without falling…but soaring. Knowing I’d hit every moment just the right way and that the judges were struggling to find the blemishes in the performance…receiving the embrace of my coach and then seeing the score. Such sweet victory.

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As a young driver, I was determined not to be a typical girl which I defined as indecisive and inattentive on the road. I wanted to drive like a boy with daring and confidence and an arm out the window and my head thrown back. Oh, the victory when one of my friends commented that I drove like a guy.

It was a sweet victory each time a precious new life emerged from me…all plump and squished up and crying. Holding that new life and staring into the eyes of creation – that is a victory so sweet and so timeless and I’m forever grateful.

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It was bittersweet victory as each milestone flew by in the lives of those babies…kindergarten…transition to high school…proms and honor societies and graduations. Now the victory of seeing my beautiful girl pledge her love to her mate, and the boys seeking education beyond high school and graduating and working. Oh, the beautiful victory.

I thought it was a victory when I said my own vows. When I pledged myself to love forever even if things got really bad for any reason. I thought it was a victory for me. For HUSBAND – he told me it was as he gazed into my heart. For us. But it was so soon, so early in our delicate oneness that he broke those vows. Far too early for the oneness to be strong, he went outward to another woman and set a pattern of seeking pleasure for his pain that excluded me rather than embraced me. I couldn’t figure out why the victory of love and marriage had turned so distant and felt more like a marathon that never ended rather than the short sprints of joy and life with victories sprinkled in. But it was all those lies, all those deceptions that HUSBAND was either living in, or covering up for, that created a space between our oneness that only he knew how to bridge. Because only he knew the real story.

So the victory in this? The victory is that truth…truth really has freed me and freed us. It has no hold anymore, no ability to fool or separate or speak words into my heart that destroy. Truth revealed and the excruciating process of healing is victory like none other.

dancing

Close.

Close – the verb: to block or hinder progress; to stop or obstruct; to come to an end – terminate; to make imperceptive or impossible.
Close – the adjective: close proximity in space and time; marked by similarity in degree, action or feeling; based on a strong uniting feeling of respect, honor, love.

I’ve been close to love and then the opportunity closed. I’ve been closed to an idea and then a close call caused me to reconsider my position. I have yearned to be close to my teenager, but he was closed to it.

I think I spent a good part of my life being close to it, close to intimacy, close to love, but because there were so many deeply hidden places that were closed, I could never quite get there. I found someone else who learned to look open but was really closed, and together we got close but since we were closed we never could get really close…even though it appeared we were. We didn’t know that we weren’t close because we only knew close as we had seen it in our lives where there was a lot of pretending to be close while really being closed.

I tried to fill the emptiness of not being close without knowing I was empty, thinking it was just me, and just life, through work and God and volunteering and kids. HUSBAND was filling his empty with fishing and hunting and other women, both real and delivered to his phone, unbeknownst to me. The more we tried to find close through these things, the less close we found in ourselves and together but to the outside world and to all that knew us, we were CLOSE and then DDay…and everything changed. We had a moment…no…we had many, many moments…

And we decided individually, then we decided together, that we would seek why we had closed ourselves in trying to be close, although opening the tightly sealed closed places was hard and painful and risky. As I, and as he, opened the closed spots we found close…close the adjective…close the intimacy…close the love.

The dichotomy of close.