Cashing Checks

“You write checks with your words, and cash them with your actions.”

Profound statement, and one made by a beautiful young wife, pregnant with her first child, whose husband has struggled. The majority of his infidelity has been electronic relationships – porn – however he also reached out for a flesh person a couple times.

The brave young couple has chosen to work toward recovery (him – from sex addiction) and healing (her) and reconciliation (them). They have a long journey, but have made smart strides: individual and couple counseling. Recovery groups. Intensive marriage weekend. They have hope right now, and as coaches walking alongside them in the journey, HUSBAND and I have hope with them. And for their unborn child. And for all those who follow after their new marriage, their covenant of love.

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Back to the quote.

You write checks with your words. You cash them with your actions.

Therefore if your words are worthless, the check bounces.

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The Dance I Now See

I took the red-eye home from Vegas last night. Left a little before midnight and connected in Atlanta with literally just time for a quick bathroom stop between flights.

I suffer from motion sickness, so always need to be at a window seat. When I boarded, the aisle seat occupant was already there, so I had to ask him to please let me in. He was wearing professional clothes, not unusual for a 7:00 am flight out of Atlanta, and when I got there, his head was bent down intently looking at his phone screen. After I spoke, he glanced up, got out and let me in…all was well.

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Immediately, my 50-ish seat-mate reattached himself to a furious texting conversation, and I got out my headphones along with my phone and texted HUSBAND to let him know I’d made the tight connection. We shared a few back-and-forth texts, and I was glad to know I’d be back in his arms within two hours. It was a sweet moment…yet the complete and utter intensity of my seat-mate’s phone communication drew me to glance…where I saw this that he had just texted:

“Last night was amazing. I’m crazy about you.”

I felt sick to my stomach. I saw the telltale band around the ring finger of his left hand, and began to watch his behavior in earnest. He was completely unaware of all that was happening around: the other passengers loading, people placing things in the overhead bins, the flight attendant asking people to be seated. I thought about what HUSBAND had told me he said to his affair partner, and “being crazy about you” was a common phrase between them. I thought about HUSBAND’s admissions to the nonstop texting, the obsessions with fantasy talk. Attention poured and lavished between them in the illicit relationship unlike the pittance of attention offered in our real relationship.

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I thought about a wife sitting somewhere in Atlanta, knowing her marriage was disconnected, aching to understand why her husband seemed to care about all things except her and their marriage. A wife who washed and folded the underwear he wore the night before that his slut had removed with her dexterous fingers so she could make his night amazing. A wife who made sure his kids had their school supplies and were taken care of when they get sick or got their hearts broken. A wife who showed up with bells on to greet a family member or client at her husband’s beckoning, even though she had worked a 50 hour week. A wife who invested so much of who she was wondering desperately why he felt like she expected so much from him, what was wrong with her, why couldn’t she just be happy…

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I texted HUSBAND what I’d seen, what I was observing, realizing I never would have even had eyes to see this before, or understand the secret dance that I was now part of, and that is so often danced all around me. HUSBAND responded, telling me he was so sorry that he had put me in the situation to grieve what I could now see. He told me that he was so thankful for my grace…for our life now.

I struggled with wanting to grab my seat-mate, tell him to look me in the eye and that I knew what he was doing and he had to STOP…that he was killing, no KILLING a woman out there, that he was stabbing and slashing and hacking at her heart and her life and that of his children. I fantasized about standing up in the cabin and telling the whole flight that I was sitting next to a cheater. I waited for the moment to ask the right question to let him know slyly that I knew utilizing innuendos and hidden meanings, that he hadn’t hid his smut from me.

But none of that happened, and I didn’t do any of those things.

I just grieved.

Right after we landed, making that long taxi around to our gate, my seat mate finished the trip in crowning glory. He pulled HER up on his phone, scrolled quickly down a long series of messages, seemingly rereading them at a fast pace. Then, quickly in a well-practiced pattern, he swiped and deleted, swiped and deleted, swiped and deleted message after message after message until there were none.

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Evidence gone.

Just like that, his transgression was erased.

Except, not really. The dance? I can see it now. Everywhere. And for that, I weep.

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What Was It Like

I am in Atlanta on a business trip. On Monday, I boarded the crowded plane with no thoughts of anything other than the work ahead. My mind was occupied with the scheduled meetings, and I glanced at the itinerary, reviewed emails and planned the events during much of the flight.

As we began to descend and I could see the city below me, it hit me. Just over two years ago, another woman, literally, an OTHER WOMAN was on another flight into this same city, having just come from a tryst with HUSBAND. As I stared out the window, I tried to imagine what it was like. What it was like to be her. What she might be thinking and feeling and planning.

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Was she thinking about how she had lied to her live-in-lover about where she had gone, and how she would cover her tracks? Was she thinking about how she had lied to her boss and co-workers about her missed days at work? Was she gloating at the thought that she was one step closer in getting her man by taking mine? Could she still smell his scent…feel his touch…hear his voice…

What is it like to be a woman who can purchase a plane ticket…drive to the airport…park her car…walk to the gate…board the plane…buckle her seatbelt…make small talk conversation with her seat-mate…to a destination of secrets and evasion and deceit? What lies does she have to tell herself to keep the façade going – the fantasy that she is valued by her illicit lover in any real way – that she is anything more than a momentary illusory stopping point in the life of man who has created an out-of-sync fictional chapter in the true story of his life?

Then I thought about what it was like to be me. Me then, me now.

Me then was an oblivious wife, also on a plane headed back to my home which was HIS home. I was on the plane, thinking about the past two days in DC and all that had been accomplished…and all that remained to be done. I was on the plane, thinking about the laundry I would have to do when I got home, and hoping HUSBAND would be on time to pick me up. I was on the plane thinking about going to watch our son play soccer and whether we would have time to eat before his game and hoping HUSBAND had reminded him to get his uniform.

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Me then was okay with a few functional messages with HUSBAND during my time away as long as he took care of the things he needed to take care of. Me then was okay with a brief hello and perfunctory peck on the cheek upon my return, with conversation focused on kids and what had gotten done while I was gone and what needed to be done now that I was home. Me then was a strong me who lived in a detached manner with a strong him in which we knew our roles and duties well, did them well with little dissension. But also with little passion, guarding our deepness and wounds and wishes lest they get trampled on.

Me now is stronger than ever, and HUSBAND is a man who has embraced his strength like never before. Me now is dedicated to my own work and that of HUSBAND and even more so, the extra work we embrace together to bolster ourselves and our marriage. Me now isn’t worried about HUSBAND picking up on time…me now knows he will be waiting and will have taken care of all that needed to be taken care of including things I had not even considered.

Me now is in constant touch with HUSBAND…receiving texts and phone calls and emoticons expressing his mood-of-the-moment. Me now is anxious to get on the plane later today, to return to HUSBAND knowing that I will be enveloped in his embrace. Me now looks forward to his hands cupping my face, his eyes locked on my eyes, his voice telling me how much he missed me, and me now knows this is true. Me now still knows my duties well, as does he, but me now sees these are secondary, they are only functions of life. Me now knows that real life happens in the intimacy of our us, that it is because we, because I, no longer guard my deepness, and have seen his wounds and showed him mine…many which bear his mark…that real passion burns between us.

The counterfeit may be close, and fool some, but requires one to deny inconsistencies, to turn away from flaws, to ignore blemishes. That’s what it was like. I’ll opt for me now.

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Reflecting on Deception

I am awake in the wee hours thinking about a large community event tonight. It is the third year my non-profit is hosting this event…the third year that we have the privilege of engaging with an amazing group of young talent to spread our message…the third year that I will be on stage to thank the leadership and to encourage thousands of youth to choose health & opportunity & freedom.

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Through the years, HUSBAND and my children have always played an important part in events like this, assisting my small staff through volunteering to set up, shoot video & photos and any other way they can help. Three years ago, HUSBAND was fully engaged at this event despite the reality that he was also fully engaged with SW and contemplating ending our marriage and going off into the sunset with her.

That’s what woke me…thinking about the reality that he had so easily deceived me by remaining my helpful partner and doing anything he could to help us pull off a-really-big-event with a really-small-staff. He never showed me a crack in the façade, never let me see that he wished to be anywhere but there with me, doing anything else but helping me, wishing he could be with someone else besides me. He played the role so smoothly of supportive and proud HUSBAND, interacting with friends new and old, acting as if he was excited about the work my non-profit was doing, and honored to be by my side. All an act…all a deception.

I was thinking about him taking pictures that night…being on his phone to post some things to our instagram and then to send some chats to SW. That while I assumed his phone time was all about us it was really a lot about him-about them-when there was a them that wasn’t us.

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It is painful, and hard to remember. It just crops up inside my soul and travels up to my brain sometimes…triggers…thoughts…memories. Memories that looked one way then, but look very different now.

I remember HUSBAND telling me that during his affair with SW, he had attended another event and taken a picture of me while I was speaking. He sent it to her, and she replied back DID YOU JUST SEND ME A PICTURE OF YOUR WIFE? HUSBAND discovered then that the little whore was sensitive – she put him on silence for a few days – to punish him? Nipping at the bubble of the fantasy world she had created in which I didn’t exist appears to have really pissed her off.

This is one of the most wearying parts of affairs and recovery…and I imagine it is hard for the betrayed whether they reconcile or don’t. These moments of remembering the lies, the deception that we were so blissfully unaware of at the time, that now distort the beauty of memories…kind of like a photo that has gotten burned and the image is still there, but the edges are curled up, and a dingy layer covers it all dimming the colors and distorting the original image. That is what memories are like for me from during HUSBAND’s affairs. I want to unfurl the photo…to wipe away the tarnish…but I can’t. It remains ragged and damaged.

So tonight, I will press on. I will press on with my taped-together-heart and my very-sorry-HUSBAND and we will work on making memories that don’t need any revising. One step…forward.

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Road to Reality

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Girl met Boy. Fell in love. They bared their souls, dreamed dreams.  Had the wedding, made babies. Did the good and bad of life. Thought they were on a road to grow old together.

And mixed in and out and up and down and through and through were others. Others who caressed Boy’s body and distorted his mind and twisted his thoughts. But Girl didn’t know.

One day…the truth came out and Girl looked at Boy. Who was this Boy that had shared her life but hadn’t really?

This is the short story of a long marriage…nearly 30 years now…

So when I look at our lives together, and I look at his life apart, and I consider the profound healing that has happened in a little less than two years, what I realize is I was in love. I was in love, and stayed the course of love even when the in-love part waned but it was with the potential man, not the real man, because the real man was deeply hidden. He was hidden under piles of lies and shame and hurt-turned-nasty. I never was in love with his reality, because there was no way he was going to let me, or anyone else, see that reality. It was too awful, too flawed, too unlovable. The real man was not willing to be known – even by the man himself – much less his wife, or even his whores.

The shattering of his carefully created self…and my understanding of life for 27 years…was the beginning of going to a place that I never knew existed. I couldn’t know, it had been hidden.

But the place we are now is more than anything I could have written in a fairy tale. Have you ever noticed that all the love stories in print and on screen end with the “and they lived happily ever after…” Our imaginations create beautiful lives of bliss, no-work-or-conflict-and-everything-is-amazing-and-lovely-and-perfect…He always remembers to call, and bring flowers, and write love notes, and tell us we are beautiful, and senses our every need, and treats us with kindness even when we are not-so-kind…

My marriage now? Well…it is reality. Two real, broken people who have become safe for each other in our wretchedness. Two real, broken people who used to take care to never touch in the bed at night, and now never break contact, ever, all night long. Two real, broken people who have no subjects that are off limit, no words that are not allowed, no thoughts that are shunned. Two real, broken people who have learned to dream together, and don’t have to know the end of the story to be determined to write the story. Together.

As painful as it has been, I choose reality.

 

A Marker.

Two years. Two years ago, HUSBAND picked up his slut-whore (SW) at the airport and let her sit in my seat of our car. Two years ago, he drove off from the airport and headed to a neighboring resort town, pointing out sites along the way to a woman who had no business being with him, other than to fuck.

Two years ago, he walked on the beach with SW, and they ate the lunch he had packed in our kitchen in our home. Two years ago, he got a phone call while on the beach from my mother, arranging kids since I was out of town.

Two years ago, SW and HUSBAND went into a local famous watering hole, asking the bartender for a good eatery suggestion. Two years ago, they walked down the street of the town holding hands til they got to the local spot…and two years ago, HUSBAND called that bartender back to thank him for such a great recommendation.

Two years ago, HUSBAND and SW returned to the hotel and fucked, and in the morning, after another fuck, went down to eat some breakfast…SW wearing a fake wedding set since she ‘knew HUSBAND would not take his ring off, and didn’t want to look like a (ready for this) mistress.’

Two years ago, SW asked HUSBAND ‘how he’d liked it…being a real couple’ and pushed him to take the next steps. Two years ago, as they drove to the airport and sat in the cell phone lot, SW prodded HUSBAND to make the appointment with the divorce attorney and to remember, ‘they’d come too far to turn back now.’

Two years ago, SW got on the plane and flew back to her life of lies, and into the arms of her live-in lover. Two years ago, HUSBAND picked me up at that same airport just a couple hours later, and I got in my seat of our car oblivious that the filthy DNA of a whore was present and that HUSBAND was cloaked in illicit sex and deceit and false smiles and pretend greetings.

Two years ago, someone saw HUSBAND and SW.

Two years ago, the carefully crafted house of flimsy cards was poised to fall.

Two years ago. A marker.

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Comparing Moments of Betrayeds and Betrayers

What He Said Before the affair was uncovered:

Yes, I spoke with another woman. About us. About me. About being miserable and wanting more. I did NOT have an affair. I did NOT sleep with her. I did think about it, but I couldn’t do that. I was going to tell you I wanted a divorce, one morning, drinking coffee with you, after our son graduates in a few weeks.

What He Said Between the mini DDay (as affair partners call partial DDays) and real Discovery:

Yes, I will go to counseling. I want to figure out how I got to this place. I’m not committed to you, or to our marriage. I don’t think I want to go forward. But I am committed to a process of figuring things out. You are the better part of this marriage. You would be better off without me.

(MY THOUGHTS: Such a lie…I had spent more than half my existence with HUSBAND, had 27 years of shared life with him and our children. I was caring for a dying father, had a mountain of debt, little savings and a job that depended on government funding that could go away at a moment’s notice. BE VERY CLEAR: I would not be better off without him, and if he left me, it would be abandonment plain & simple. He would be walking out on me at a time when things were very precarious – a time when we could begin to enjoy some freedom together and pay attention again to ourselves, and to US. I would be devastated in every way. There was no part of my life that would be better without him – maybe HIS life would be better, and if so, he should be honest with himself).

What I DID Between mini DDAY and real Discovery:

I beat myself up for how hard I had been on HUSBAND. He had floundered a couple times, professionally, and my career continued to soar. While I did not throw it in his face in obvious ways, there were moments and decisions and directions and ways that I communicated my disappointment. I had told him I was lonely in our marriage…his walled up self would respond “I’ll do better…” As he wanted me less and less physically and I died a little more inside, I responded in anger with bitter words. Yes…I was to blame. SIGH.

Along with self-blame, I began to dig…he had given me access to his computer and to his phone, and I looked several times. I found some subtle things that began to cast doubt about whether he’d told me the whole truth about the dinner incident…that his find-a-phone had been turned off the night she came to town. That he’d “spent the night at the ranch” and not told me, but called my mom at the last minute to let her know so she didn’t worry. Since my mom was at the hospital with my dad all night, that left our son home ALONE…something we had never done through four children. NEVER. But when I questioned him, he met every question with a (sort of) consistent response. I had niggles of doubt, but no way. This man was always upfront, I could tell if he was lying, he wasn’t clever enough to make this stuff up.

And I RESEARCHED. I began the research with the impact of divorce on adult children, and was astounded to find heartfelt blogs and articles and quotes from children of later divorce who were still struggling five, seven…ten years after their parents’ divorce. My heart broke as I read words from these wounded people who spoke of “not knowing if their entire life was a façade…” I yearned to tell our kids, to gather them in my mommy arms and let them know that for me, it WAS NEVER A LIE. That I loved being their Dad’s wife, and their mom. I loved hanging out in our rental condo at the beach, watching movies on the king-size bed. I loved going to soccer games and ballet recitals. I loved college trips and going to our dear friends’ beach house and learning to play Mexican Train dominoes and having two Christmas trees some years. I loved going to our ranch and building a fire in the pit. I loved having the Party Ponies and the Snake Man and a crazy big ‘ole train for birthday parties at our first house and our second house. I loved Easter egg hunts in our yard, pictures in the park and Church and family nights with our closest friends. I loved going on boat rides on any boat with HUSBAND at the helm and our kiddos on deck. I loved watching them play on their riding toys on our big driveway and DAUGHTER singing in her loudest voice as she swung to MARS! I loved our first house and I loved our second house…loved chipping paint off and repainting and hanging cabinets and tearing down walls and building new walls and putting up trim and making it a home. Our Home.  For me-it was ALL REAL.

What HE DID Between mini DDAY and real Discovery:

What I knew – HUSBAND was gentle. He answered questions when asked. Over and over he said he’d not had an affair and that he was just approaching middle-age and thought there should be more. He told me gently that I was a great mother, and had always been supportive. He reached for me, at night, and by day was thoughtful in small ways that he had not been in years. But he was guarded, and distant in a way I could not pinpoint.

Later, I would find out that he was mourning…he was in a fog…THE fog. He was searching for his affair partner on social media, hoping she would be getting messages to him, hoping she decided to come to town as she had mentioned. They were in contact some, carefully, as he carried out their plan: NO CONTACT (which turned out to be low contact) while he got me off the trail, went to counseling where we would discover there was nothing left for us to try and MUTUALLY agree to part. And that months after we were in the divorce process, he would “run into” SW. They’d hit it off…you know…old friends and all that…and that way our kids would not blame her for our divorce…nor his family…nor our friends…

Why This Matters:

As I floundered through this process, I wanted to know what it should look like, what it should feel like. I wanted to know the “STANDARD” for how to deal with affairs, for what my actions and words should be and what his should be. I found many sources that talk about one side, or the other, but little that dealt with both – their journey – and gave insight into the heart, mind and actions of both the betrayed and the betrayer.

If it helps one betrayed spouse to hear my story, our story, then that’s why this matters. If one woman whose heart is now ripped in little pieces and strewn across years and memories can get an ounce of sanity or hope from my words, that’s why it matters.

I am NOT pretending to have any insight into illicit affairs other than that of my own marriage. But I can, with honesty and authority, share my story. Gratefully, as you may have noticed when HUSBAND commented on my last entry, I am sharing OUR STORY. He may choose, from time to time, to write on this blog. We are devoted to healing, we are on a journey of wholeness and we are not ashamed to share it – the filthy and ugly and scary and disgusting and deceiving  – and then, the baby steps and small gestures and breakthroughs and stitching and healing – if there is ANY WAY it can help even one person. That is why it matters.