Reflections of Betrayal

A memory popped up on Facebook yesterday. It is a picture of me with one of my dearest friends, four years ago yesterday, enjoying a fabulous event given by a vendor for my company. We have huge smiles and look silly – a photo booth picture.

Photo booth

I was transported to that event, that moment. It was odd that HUSBAND wasn’t with me. We have always made a habit of supporting each other at corporate events, and for some reason, he didn’t really want to go to this particular one. I remember him saying he WOULD go, but… Despite the reality that it was at a very swanky place, with really awesome food, great company and open bar. I honestly didn’t care much one way or the other, and I didn’t think much about it at the time.

We weren’t arguing or at odds over anything. We weren’t seething or saying snarky things or sending mean texts. We were just living our daily lives of disconnection, plodding along, getting up in the morning and doing what needed to be done to take care of our home and our jobs and our kids and ourselves. We were living as we had much of our married life – no big ripples, just the constant pressure of dissatisfaction and hoping there was more but having too much on our plate to really think about it.

dinner disconnection

Yet there was a sub-story going on that that girl in the picture didn’t know anything about. I thought we were in this reality together, but there was another plot running concurrently that had a thick curtain covering it from my sight. Only 8 days prior, HUSBAND had taken the opportunity of delivering our son for a college sports tryout to meet up with his new affair partner. With SW. He had offered to take him, several states away, at the last minute claiming he would combine it with a couple work visits and get in a couple nights of camping – clear his soul – fish on a creek – cook his own meals by campfire –

Craigs Cabin Number 10

My heart had broken for him – this man who had sacrificed so much of his desire to hunt and to fish and to camp so he could be a good and present dad. All our kids were heavily engaged at high levels in a sport and he was almost always at every event with me, handling the coolers and providing encouragement and calming me down…leaving very little time for him to do the things he loves. I was excited he had figured out a way to nurture our family/son, get some work done AND find time to do the things he loves. We spoke on the phone after his arrival at the little cabin by the creek…I could hear the excitement in his voice…and I was happy for him.

Oh he was excited. He was excited to hear the sound of his new mistress’s voice telling him all the things he wanted to hear about himself as a person, as a man, as a lover. He was excited to have dinner with her and then head back to the cabin and culminate their phone relationship into a physical relationship.

That girl in the picture, with her friend, had no idea. No idea at all.

No Idea

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Then, then again, and now

On Valentine’s Day 1989, I woke to the cries of my almost year-old first-born. His nursery was next to our bedroom, and my regular routine was to change him, then bring him back to bed where he would nurse, and we would cuddle and snuggle. HUSBAND was long gone…on regular days his work schedule started in the early morning hours and this particular day, Valentine’s Day 1989, he was in New Orleans.

cuddling-baby-in-bed

Sixteen months earlier, HUSBAND and I had been in New Orleans for a convention in his industry. At the time, I was pregnant so we had enjoyed the sites, eaten some fabulous meals and taken in the bigness of both the city and the convention – but I had stayed away from alcohol and partying. I was surprised when HUSBAND told me he wanted to go this time…his industry has two main conventions and he had never affiliated with the one scheduled in February. He told me this alternate convention was far more policy oriented, and he wanted to engage at the policy level – to bring young energy and ideas and solutions to the old problems. I was proud of him and excited for his vision and enthusiastically endorsed his attending. My memory tells me that we talked for a brief minute about the logistics of me attending with him, but our baby…and I was pregnant again…and so I sent him off with good wishes.

In the later morning the doorbell rang, and a beautiful bunch of roses was delivered to the door. Our little one was taken by the pretty flowers, and we had fun smelling the roses. When the phone rang a bit later (pre cell phones and texting and facetime), I answered it. HUSBAND was on the line. I told him thank you for the lovely flowers and he told me Happy Valentine’s Day. And that he loved me.

red-roses-bouquet

The scene was lovely and sweet and appealing…just what books are written about. Considerate spouse. Grateful spouse. Happy home.

Except this wasn’t the whole story. It was only the part that I could see. I wouldn’t know the whole story for 25 years. The rest of the story was that before he made that phone call to me on Valentine’s Day, he had just had sex with his affair partner. He had flown her from our home town, arriving on the 13th and they had taken in alcohol and partying. And sex. Sex the night before and sex that morning. And then he rolled over in the bed, reached for the phone and called me to tell me Happy Valentine’s Day – had I gotten the flowers – that he loved me.

after-sex-hotel-room-3

Apparently his affair partner didn’t like this too much. She didn’t let him know then, but when she left that little love nest, she had decided she was done. That was the last time they saw each other during that affair. And 3 months later, our second baby was born.

If you have read our story, you know that I never knew about this affair. Or the other affairs. Until the last affair that broke everything open. The last affair, 25 years later, was with this same affair partner. Once she got him engaged again, she reminded him of the Valentine’s Day in 1989 and told him how it made her feel. You know, like a whore or something. To make it up, he invited her to a neighboring town for two days of dining and romance and ocean the week before Valentine’s, when I was out of town. And then he arranged to send her an enormous bouquet of flowers and for me, the unsuspecting wife both then and now, nothing. Interestingly, he mentioned to her that he was sending something to her office – she now lived in Atlanta – and she told him she wouldn’t be there that day. She went on to tell him she hated flowers (really??). So he cancelled the order. He did everything he could to make up those hurt feelings from 25 years before. To make her Valentine’s special.

This year, on February 14th early in the morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee, and turned to see a cup on my nightstand with the perfect amount of foam. HUSBAND embraced me strongly, looked into my eyes and told me he loved me. A bit later, when I got in my car to head to the office I found a card on my dash board. A loving, emotional, passionate card. During the day, HUSBAND and I were interviewed on a local radio show about how our marriage had gone from devastating to incredible…and a couple hours later, we appeared on a local television show sharing the same story. When I arrived back at my office, I got a delivery…two more fabulous cards with great meaning and lovely additions in HUSBAND’s own hand. When he came home from the office, he brought bunches of flowers in beautiful colors (and I love flowers – really). He had made a reservation for the two of us at our favorite French restaurant where we shared an intimate meal, fabulous wine and connected conversation.

jpsp-at-jjs-4

It’s odd. I needed to know the sub-story of our lives and HUSBAND needed to tell the sub-story of our lives if we were ever going to have a chance. If we were ever to have the transparent and beautiful relationship we now share. But lurking around the edges of the joy and the intimacy of today is the burned edges of yesterday. I can still see it in my mind’s eye…still see the naïve trusting young wife overlaying the sex scene of a New Orleans hotel…then, then again, now.

And such is the story of betrayal.

 

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.