More Hard Things

Today, I sat helpless in my kitchen knowing that a friend was facing a hard thing.

Her hard thing isn’t one that I have experienced. Her hard thing is one I can’t really imagine. Her hard thing is one that has stretched and limped and roared and picked but no matter what, she couldn’t make it go away.

Her young adult son has cancer, and today, he closed his eyes for the last time.

As I’ve sat here alone, I have tried to imagine. I have tried to imagine if you see the infant baby staring up at you with utter trust. I have tried to imagine if you see the first day of preschool or the last day of high school. Do you see the moments of frustration or fear that you undoubtedly had and wish you had do-overs? Do you feel the pudgy arms hugging you and the sweaty face pressed against yours with dirty tears running down after a crazy child-moment? Do you see the movies you didn’t allow and the parties you did, or the times you postponed a conversation  because the laundry wasn’t done or didn’t go on a walk because it was too hot out? Do you remember the last carefree laugh, or dinner that wasn’t carrying a shadow, or worrying about things that didn’t include forevers? Do you see past the pictures of the tubes and the needles and the possibilities of potential help drifting by and shouting NO! STOP! YOU DON’T GET IT- this is MY SON to the moments of caring about the color of tie for prom?

Oh my friend, this is a hard thing. A hard thing that will make you dig deep in your soul and shout out in pain and look at the rest of the world like it is nuts for moving on.

A hard thing that will keep you up at night and not let you get out of bed. That will create moments of thinking you could do more and moments of knowing everything was done. A hard thing of pain and sadness and loneliness and utter, despicable emptiness.

But beautiful girl, you can do hard things.

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And you are not alone. He did hard things first, and He will journey to and through this hell with you. Nothing you can throw on Him will make him leave you – not rage, or disappointment, or anger, or contempt, or doubt. Take his hand, beautiful girl. Go.

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Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 1

First…a note about my absence of late. I was winding down a big project at work and excited to blog on several things: forgiveness, unexpected trigger, new life. And then came Hurricane Matthew that forced HUSBAND and me to deal with our respective businesses/clients, our home, family…and to evacuate to safer space. Returning to our home we encountered a felled tree magnificently missing our home or any other home, but making serious disaster of our neighbor’s brand-new and beautiful workshop/office. hurricanmatthew2

And my office also was the victim of a large tree falling. It is requiring removal with a crane and a delicate positioning to avoid the master-power lines. hurricanematthew

Yes…it has been a crazy last ten days but we praise God for the safety of so many, while we grieve deeply at the horrific loss of life in Haiti, and to a far lesser extent, the US. Please…join me in praying with fervor for these hurting people…

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Infidelity. The word obviously means unfaithfulness between two partners in a committed relationship. But it also means disloyalty, breach of trust, a transgression. From my personal experience, no one really expects it, and no one – NO ONE – can imagine the intense pain that sears through every fibre of your being when you become the victim of infidelity. As I have embraced my personal path of healing, I’ve become dedicated to trying to understand how it can occur…how it happens…what are the root causes, what happened to HUSBAND along the way to enable him to make those choices, and what role, if any, did I play? It has haunted me…sometimes with self-blame, other times with he/she/them blame, so I’ve decided to start at the beginning of the one case study I know intimately, HUSBAND. What follows, for as long as it takes, is the Anatomy of Infidelity.

The Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 1

This is about infidelity. My infidel. My husband.

I’m not pretending or purporting that this is a profile, or what all cheaters look like. But it is the story of my partner, my spouse, and the road of life that lead to him becoming a cheater in our marriage.

At the end of the day, I believe no one wakes up one day while in a committed relationship and just ends up in bed with someone else. Long before I knew I was a betrayed spouse, ironically, I used to say to our children as they got to their teen years that very thing. That it is myriad decisions, choices, wrong thinking and justification along the way that leads to the BIG ONE. Oh, such prophetic words.

So back to the anatomy of my infidel.

He was born into an appearingly loving family with strong traditions of just that: loving family. His mama had a rougher childhood in the 50s…her mom was married several times when it was pretty taboo to do so, and her stability came from her hard-working but devoted grandparents. They, and especially her granddaddy, were hero-worshipped by her and carried saint-status as she began to raise her children including my husband. HUSBAND’s father was second-oldest son of (eventually) six children. FIL’s daddy was smart, hard-working and diligent and founded a very successful business. HUSBAND’s father joined him in the business early on, working side-by-side to build a mini-empire. Along the way, HUSBAND was born, along with four other siblings in close order and everything was hunky dory.

Early family life included week-end trips to the tiny but beloved home of the saintly grands where HUSBAND and his siblings learned to fish and whittle and brush away yellow flies at certain times of the year. The trip included the purchase of white milk and chocolate milk, mixed together, for the kids and a six-pack of beer for the parents to drink on the way to the river. These are some of HUSBAND’s earliest memories.

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He also recalls fondly having to sneak his great-grandma cigarettes even when they had been banned due to her health, and watching the beer crack open at day break. He learned about plants and still has seeds from those days that he cultivates every year, passing on plants to all of our children along with the stories of his great-grandad after whom our oldest son is named.

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HUSBAND’s home he was born to was a cute bungalow in a darling neighborhood not too far from where he and I live today. By the time he was in first grade, there were four children and his parents decided they needed more room. They made the move to the other side of town and into a much larger home with a pool. He remembers being perfect in his mama’s eyes. And yet, he remembers being anything-but-perfect in his mama’s eyes. He remembers being told he was strong and smart and yet why did he do such a stupid thing and go cut himself a switch and stop doing that. He remembers that his mama took him to church faithfully but that his dad didn’t go with them and he never questioned that and she never said anything about it, but there was no option for him. He remembers that he got to go to the woods with his dad, and he got to fish at the river, and he thinks things were pretty good. His report cards indicate that he was learning well, and getting along with kids well, and the writings we have from those early years show he was progressing.

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Such were the early years of a little boy that would grow up to be a man that one day would get his wires crossed and do things he didn’t want to do but didn’t know how not to do and didn’t know why he did them.

The anatomy of infidelity. Part one.

 

 

 

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 Squirrel. God. Me.

Ten years ago, my youngest son was playing outside in our back yard. Suddenly he was at my side excitedly working to get my attention. Follow me, mama…you need to see something…

We went out back, and he held my hand, pulling me to a corner where our off-grade house foundation came together. There was a tiny squirrel, squawking and pressing his little body into the structure as best he could, obviously terribly disturbed by the presence of looming and large humans.

Mom…we need to save him…can we, mom?

I went inside and got sturdy leather gloves and a shoe box with a lid…and we got the poor, scared little critter. Immediately I went to my trusty source of all information, google, and quickly read about the likelihood of the age of the little squirrel, how/what to feed him, how/what to put in his enclosure to help him feel safe and secure, how/what to help him potty…

My precious boy didn’t leave my side…helped to scald the milk…said soothing and comforting things to the scared little squirrel…found all the items we needed and put them in a big box…filled the syringe with the milk…and quickly calmed the squirrel to the point that he could hold him and feed him.

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Meanwhile I went back to google where I learned tons about wild, abandoned squirrels in no time at all. I found squirrel rescue sites and read their advice and information, and learned about the potential of re-releasing this little guy back in the wild after he was old enough. My son was completely captivated, and the squirrel seemed content to curl up in a nook or cranny of his body and sleep.

It was really sweet.

This went on for four days, with all of the family enjoying the antics of the baby squirrel and regularly talking about how and when we would release him. We each enjoyed holding him and feeding him, but it was the youngest son who adopted him for his own.

Until day four.

Day four, the baby squirrel was obviously not feeling as perky. He barely ate, he just wanted to stay curled up, and my mama heart knew we were in trouble. I went back to google, and frantically searched for some answer, some resource. I emailed several of the rescuers and tried calling a few more, leaving messages. Meanwhile, the baby squirrel was failing fast, and I held him, frantically willing him to continue living. I ended up in my living room where I have four large windows, two which look out into our back yard. Tears began to stream down my face…and I began to pray…no…PRAY…God…please God…please save this baby…I know, I know you have thousands of squirrels out there, and I know, squirrels don’t live that long anyway…but I am asking you to save this squirrel…God please save this squirrel…

Before I knew it, I was sobbing, and from deep within came this.

God…You are supposed to love us, not just “us” but me…God, please…please let me know that you hear ME…that you love ME…please God…save this squirrel…please let me know that you care at all about ME…

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The squirrel died.

HUSBAND had come into the living room midway through my begging. He had stood by me, put his arms on my shoulder. I begged him to pray, too, and have a vague memory of him doing so in some stilted fashion. But even with him there, I was alone. I was alone with him, and I was alone with God. We were there, the three of us, but we were there.                    And there.                     And there.

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A little of me died that day too. As the story of my life unfolds, however, it ended up not being the end of the story. In a very odd way, it was the start.