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.

 

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Betrayal Story

healingdamagenolongercontrols

Saw this quote, and I read it. Then I read it again.

Then I read it again…and again…and rolled it around in my brain, in the way-beyond-just-the-glance-and-yeah-that-is-true part of my brain. I began to reflect on this journey of cheating, of being a betrayed woman, of realizing how lies had permeated the majority of my 27 year marriage when the truth began to unfold. And then the steps in to healing.

It’s going-on-three years: two years, seven months and 14 days to be precise since I had the full picture of HUSBAND’s deception laid out before me. Not that I am counting, although I guess I am. When I reflect on this time, I see some things that I don’t think I could until now. It is likely this process will continue throughout my life…actually…I hope it does, so all this pain can always be moving toward something better and good and beautiful. I never want the pain to suck me back, incrementally or in one big swoop, to the place of despair and blackness so it is essential to keep moving away from it with bold intentionality…right? I have learned…

The utter despicableness of HUSBAND’s actions: Don’t think that is really a word, but it is obvious what’s meant. There is nothing redeeming, nothing to support, nothing to cheer about a person who cheats. Nothing. NOTHING. There is no cause, no reason, no excuse that makes it okay to cheat. And cheating? Well…I see now that cheating is taking any part of who you are that is intimate (emotionally, physically, spiritually) and sharing it with another outside of the marriage and not being able to tell your spouse. This is NOT to say that I don’t see much more clearly now how affairs and cheating happen…I do…but the more I understand the twisted hows, the more I see how despicable they are. From start to finish they are lies. Lies to self. Lies to others. Lies upon lies upon lies that will not lead to anything but PAIN.

its-all-lies-darling

The ripple of pain: Cheating isn’t just about the cheater and his partner(s). They can’t keep their smut and filth in an isolated place. No…spouses are obviously at risk. First, there is the emotional devastation if they find out. But guess what? There is emotional devastation even if they don’t find out. There is no way a person can be engaging in giving away their intimate being to another on a chat room, or in a bathroom as they jack off to a porn-hub delivered video, or having a happy ending at a massage parlor or meeting up with their flesh lover in a hotel room and it NOT impact their spouse. The cheaters tell themselves there is no clashing of their worlds (unless there is discovery) but that just isn’t true. Let me be BOLDLY CLEAR HERE: I did not know my husband was cheating on me with other women, or with porn. I had no idea. But now that there are no other women between us on screen or in person, our lives are entirely different from start to finish. He spent all his time hiding, and worrying about hiding, and being concerned he hadn’t hidden well enough and there could be no real intimacy between us with all that shit present. Whether the spouse knows or not, cheating is devastating to the marriage relationship. PERIOD.  And then…then there is the physical risk. If the cheater doesn’t use protection, which shockingly they often do NOT???…then the risk of STD’s is high. Or a pregnancy with an affair partner. Lifelong ripple effects. And our children, our babies. Just like the marriage relationship, whether the kids ever know or not, whether discovery ever really happens or not, THEY ARE AFFECTED. Our four children ranged from 17 to 25 when the truth came out. Not babies, not little kids. Young adults. And they all admitted that things now made sense. That there was a hypocrisy they couldn’t quite put their finger on in our perfect little family, an underlying current of something they could not identify that was always present (uh….that would be that their dad was living a double life, perhaps??). So whether our children had ever found out or not, they were victims of the rippling out impact of pain caused by cheating.

hypocrisy

It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t about me: Such a hard one here. But if I am to continue to press toward healing and wholeness and away from the vortex of pain, I have to keep this front and center. HUSBAND’s cheating was never about me, always about him. It was never against me, always about him hurting himself. It was never whether we had enough sex, or my body was attractive enough, or my willingness to give him oral sex. It was always about his deeply hidden but widely open wounds that he covered with the sick salve of illicit sex. His healing has been a deep, deep dive into those gashes and slashes, taking him to places he never dared share with anyone. Places so raw that he had spent his entire life carefully covering and reshaping and renaming so he could keep living…

I had some wounds too: Obviously, when 4/12/14 followed by 4/29/14 followed by 5/9/14 followed by 5/13/15 followed by 5/24/14 followed by 6/12/14 occurred…successive trickle truth/DDays…there was massive RIPPING OFF of my personhood to reveal a bloody, wounded me. But there was so much more beneath those layers. There were wounds that I’d worked my whole life to bury deep in my soul…and for the first time, I had nothing to lose to look at that pain too. Look at them, name them, grieve them. And forgive them. For the first time ever in my life, I became free.

I don’t want my old life back: As the reality of betrayal unfolded, there were numerous times that I would say or think that I wanted things to just go back…I wanted to wind the clock back to April 11, 2014. Now I see I don’t want that. Even though I had no idea that I was married to a cheater, I was married to a cheater. All of the impact of his cheating was woven throughout our marriage and parenting and financial decisions and lack of ability to see, much less create, a real vision for our future.  I don’t want to go back there, ever again. I want to look into HUSBAND’s eyes and see a real man, and be connected and intimate and passionate. If I am brutally honest and don’t rewrite the past, it really wasn’t that way before. In our new marriage, I am valued. I am listened to. I am cared for. I am loved.

It isn’t the end of the story: It still, to this day, takes my breath away when I have those a-ha moments and I remember I AM A BETRAYED WIFE.  I can feel my heart race and my vision go dim around the edges. But more and more quickly, I am able to see this new marriage and new history we are creating. I am grateful for the chance to meet with hurting women and hold their hands and cry tears with them as they discover their lives are not what they thought. I’m overwhelmed to sit with HUSBAND in a restaurant booth across from a couple that is in a devastated place but wants to work toward healing and that together, we speak life into them. It is surreal when HUSBAND and I stand up in front of couples at retreats and intensive weekends and tell our story of filth and pain, and then tell our story of healing and intimacy. No…I see now that for me…for us…our story isn’t betrayal. That’s just a bunch of chapters. Our story is life. And in such an odd way that I know makes no sense at all, our broken/twisted/shocking story is moving toward beauty.

brave-new-ending

 

Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 4

Just looking back through the life of my infidel…looking at gaps and patterns and moments and experiences and ways-of-living that could give us both clues into how. Into why. This isn’t a treatise for explaining cheating; rather a process of working through for both of us…so we never end up there again.

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On to Part 4…

He was smitten by this crazy girl. She had a different kind of home life than the one he knew, and she had traveled roads he hadn’t been down. She was unpredictable and passionate in good ways and bad ways. They continued to party…drinking…smoking pot…going to concerts…trips to the Keys and the Bahamas… Between her voracious sexual appetite, knowledge of ways to please and strong personality, he was in a state of constant confusion. For the first couple years it was exciting…so exciting that HUSBAND decided to marry her which angered his family. They got engaged, but the ring came off and on depending on the status of their relationship. At one point she disappeared and left town with another man, but returned soon and the relationship resumed. Finally the ring never did go back on her finger, and there are lifelong wounds that have been difficult to reconcile.

returning-engagement-ring

But there was another side to the man, HUSBAND, during those years. I met him then, at the end of his tumultuous relationship. I was a determined and goal-oriented young professional and a mutual friend brought us together for business reasons. The man that I met was kind, a bit shy and open to the business assistance I could provide. He was a solid manager in a successful company, and seemed to have his future planned with quiet confidence. Even then…he was able to put on a mask when needed. We were both engaged at that point, and I thought nothing of our meetings other than what they were intended for.

hiding-self

A couple years later, a Board member and I were targeting HUSBAND’s company (along with several others). We provided several occasions to share our services and products and got some interest from the leadership team of HUSBAND’s company. Eventually I took a tour of the company, led by HUSBAND. I was impressed with his deep knowledge of a really complex business, his breadth of vision for upcoming changes in technology and business methodology. At the end of the tour, he walked me out to my car and asked if I’d ever gotten married…no…nor had he.

Within a few weeks, our business relationship moved to a personal relationship and six months later, we were married.

wedding

The man I was getting to know admitted he had partied some in the past. But not so much, really not much at all.

The man I was getting to know admitted he’d had sex with his long term girlfriend, and two other times/people. Not much of a conquest guy, really tame compared to some of the things I’d heard from other men.

The man I was getting to know had a vision and plan for his future. Yet he had a charming way of being humble, and uncertain that was endearing.

The man I was getting to know loved me so much. Loved me more than hunting. Loved me more than fishing. Loved me more than anything, and wanted to be with me more than anything. Told me on more than one occasion when we were forced to be apart overnight due to previously planned trips…just think…soon…we will never have to be apart again…

Turns out the man I was getting to know wasn’t the man I married. Not that I had any clue for a very long time.

And turns out that I did turn a blind eye to some things.

That all comes next.

So as you put on your masks and costumes tonight, think about how many people you know who wear them every day…wear them so well that they are nearly impossible to detect. Halloween…a celebration of illusion.

lifelike-masks

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…

two-faced-man

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.

turn-over-new-leaf

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.

 

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.

petes-river

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.