Bad things. Bad choices. Bad people.

I am a researcher. It is part of my DNA. No matter the issue or situation or challenge or victory, I research. Often when I’m watching a “historical” film, I pull out my lap top and begin to research to see how authentic the presentation actually is.

So when I found out that infidelity was a theme in my marriage, research immediately became a big part of the process. I researched to see the impact of divorce on older kids. I researched statistics. I researched methods of revenge. I researched practices for healing. I researched who and why men cheat. Why women cheat. How cheaters get away with their lies. Whether the betrayeds know. (How I could be so stupid).

I researched other women, and dug deep into the hearts of the betrayed. I tried to find evidence that there could be healing for me. Eventually, I looked into healing for us.

There is a recurring theme of conversations that niggles in my soul. It is about bad. Here is this healing, madly-in-love-with-her-former-cheating-HUSBAND betrayed’s view on bad:

Bad things:

Affairs are bad things. Period. No matter the situation or the circumstances. No matter the ten-year sexless marriage, or the financial trap, or the abuse. Affairs are not the way to solve problems, and ultimately only lead to more problems. If you are desperately – or even pretty – unhappy in your relationship – get help. If you have tried and your partner won’t (cause you cannot do it alone), get out. If you think you are trapped, that is a lie.  But so is the lie that an affair will be an answer. It is heaping more problems on an already really shitty situation, no matter how good it feels in the moment.

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Bad choices:

Affairs don’t just happen in an instant. There are always a series of small, infinitesimal choices along the way that get you to a place of vulnerability and risk. Choices like not addressing your spouse’s sadness at the dining room table. Agreeing to go separate ways more and more frequently, even in your free time. Not being brave or aware enough to see that the only thing you are talking about is finances, kids, or problems. HUSBAND and I both own these choices, and work hard now to press in to these places and not allow them to gather dust.

But then…there are choices like finding yourself talking about your spouse in less than positive ways. Sharing intimate details about your thoughts and hopes with someone other than your spouse. Forsaking real intimacy for porn. Hoping your feet don’t touch in bed. Every one of these moments is a choice. And then, taking her number, or texting back. HUSBAND shared that he sent a text to his last AP the morning after running in to her at his high school reunion, saying “Are you headed back to Atlanta?” (She had traveled to the event with her 16-year live-in-lover). She responded, “Not yet. Why…what do you have in mind?” His choice: text her. Her choice: respond provocatively. Choices. A series of bad choices.

The Town With Britain's Highest Youth Unemployment Rate.

Bad people:

No doubt, there are some really bad actors out there. Narcissists who are incapable of really deep compassion and affection for anyone but themselves. Serial cheaters who never own their painful behavior. Partners who continue to lie and deceive But aside from those scary people, the majority of people that end up in affairs and ripping the very soul out of their partner are men and women who can do and be positive and good in many ways. It’s one of the reasons I never suspected any betrayal…after all, HUSBAND was such a good guy. HUSBAND is the man who is the first neighbor to help in a crisis. He lends our equipment and stuff to friends, and shares our abundance with everyone. He loves to help people learn and takes time to teach the best methods of fishing and hunting to kids, to other dads, to anyone interested. He is dad-extraordinaire, creating fabulous science projects with each of our children and never missing a game or event throughout their lives. He was team-dad alongside me as team-mom, dragging coolers and water and meals and snacks and never getting cranky or frustrated (I did). He loves to engage and interact with anyone and has a real skill for making them feel good.

This goodness is real, but it was also a desperate and constant attempt to hide the dark side of himself, the reality that he was capable and culpable of lying and betraying and cheating the ones he loved most. His goodness convinced him for a very long time that ‘he wasn’t that guy’ and yet one day. One day he was gripped with the reality that he was that guy. That guy who cheated, who betrayed, who had taken the most precious ones of all and blighted them with lies and deception.

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As far as his cheating partners…one of them has evidence of goodness in her life too. She is married, and was married, when they had their year-long affair. To hear HUSBAND tell the story today, the work-place affair started years before with mild flirting and low-level sexual tension between them (see above: bad choices). They’d actually gone on one date many years prior to their affair, before either was married. It was around her ten-year and our seven-year mark that things shifted. All it took was that one choice – that one innuendo carried a little further with a “do we dare try it” kind of dangler and they were off to the races. Pure sex, nothing emotional on that one. If I’d known then, perhaps I’d be less able to see the evidence of goodness in her but…I see she reconciled with her husband. I see she loves her kids. I see she left the company after the affair ended. I see that she is caring for a dying family member. I see some good in this woman who stole from me without me having any idea at the time.

The other major AP…the one HUSBAND was going to leave me for…the one who showed up at his house before I was in the picture – when he was a young, single working man to tell him ‘she’d always wanted to jump his bones’ (after which they had their first roll in the hay). The one who came to our wedding and watched us pledge ourselves to each other. The one who, less than two years later, drove him to her house rather than home when he was too drunk to drive (where they rolled in the hay again) and then proceeded to engage in an affair – his first – while I unsuspectingly took care of his firstborn and was nurturing our second in my womb. The one who, 25 years later, asked the leading question after he made the (bad) choice to text and embarked on another affair with HUSBAND. The one who encouraged him to have the best rest of his life – with her – and to forsake me and his children and his faith and all that he deeply wanted to be. That one? I have a hard time seeing the good in her. Never married, works a corporate job, doesn’t spend much time helping others or making a difference in her community. Lies to her own long-term lover (and as it turns out, to HUSBAND as well). I do see evidence of her being good to her dog – guess that’s something.

And then I’m faced with the reality that she was someone’s little girl. She had hopes and dreams once. Now, she is at this stage in her life and can look at lots of things she has been able to accumulate, but little if any people and relationships in which she can find joy and hope and peace. When I can see her through those eyes, through the eyes of my Savior who gave His life for me – and for her – I feel sad. I don’t see her badness as much – I see her brokenness.

Bad people? There are some. Broken people? Seems like we all fit in that category. I’m grateful that there is a path from broken to healing, and that as rocky and dangerous as it is, I’ve found it. My plea for you is that whichever side of broken you may be…don’t stop fighting for whole.

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Still saving shards…

Susan

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Still More

A year ago, I wrote a post about how I began to understand the path to healing. Infidelity – serial cheating – rocked my world with four Ddays that started April 12, 2014 and finally ended two months later. Each revelation took me deeper and deeper into the abyss of pain and I had no tools, no belief, no comprehension that I could or would ever be able to become whole again.

But I have.

The funny thing is the whole I am now is MORE than I was before, when life was full of delusions that I could not see.

The path to my healing has been treacherous and raggedy and scary and I didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to go. My being screamed to run and hide and patch myself up with coverings and salve and platitudes and self-help books…to protect myself at all cost and be angry and build a fortress of protection.

Yet somehow, it didn’t work for me like that.

I ended up following the path forged by my Savior more than 2,000 years ago. The way was filled with stripping rather than covering. It required pouring out rather than patching up. It meant bleeding out rather than bandages. Nothing that made sense, and yet, it is in this dichotomy that I have found more…hope…more…freedom…more…love. I never would have chosen this way on my own. It was all because He went first, He did it first. All I had to do was follow.

CrazyLove

Not Paddy’s Day. Pedicures.

I’m not a woman who lives and dies for my weekly nail appointment. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t begrudge those women or those practices…it’s just never been my thing. Not just the act, but the whole ritual around it.

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When HUSBAND and I used to go to conventions for his business, the spouse package for when the men were off “getting the kill” of meetings and breakout sessions nearly always included a spa day. That’s why I chose to use the gender term here of the men since the spouse activities were always geared more to what the women would find interesting: spa day, fancy lunch and some shopping. Only problem for me was that I didn’t find those things terribly interesting…I don’t love the girl-rituals generally and especially not with women I don’t know…so instead I would rent a car, find a killer area to go explore, or a nearby town that captured my imagination. At dinner on the first night of the convention, inevitably one or two wives would ask where I’d been that day during the wife outing. When I shared my adventure, and where I was headed the next day…I almost always had a full car of co-adventurers.

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But that isn’t really what this post is about. It is about pedicures.

Now that my feet are a bit more tired, and those pesky callouses try hard to form. Now that my cuticles are more prone to grow closely to the nails. Now that I have time and a real reason, I get pedicures.

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I’ve not had THAT many, and I go months apart, but I do love them. The way my feet feel younger when I leave, and my nails are evenly cut and smooth and shiny. The way my toes and calves feel tingly and invigorated. It really is lovely.

The last time, I walked into the local shop where I’ve been enough that they know me but not enough that they REALLY know me and after telling my preference I proceeded to the chair. I had a young technician this time, a young man with a friendly face and a strong accent. As an aside, when I sat down my iphone fell immediately into the foot pool and he quickly snatched it out, dried it off and voila! It worked! He began the process…which you likely know…the soaking…the cutting…the filing…the scraping…the buffing…the sea salt wash…the massaging…the lotion…the painting.

Meanwhile, I watched the majority of people in the salon. I watched them on their phones (mine was working fine). I watched them be able to expect this service. I watched how they were completely detached from the human-being sitting beneath them offering them this service, a really intimate service in all reality. I watched them talk to each other, with hardly a word or a glance toward their technician. I knew that if they got the basic pedicure, they were paying $22 for an hour of service, of someone literally sitting at their feet. For someone to put their hands in and out of water and touch their toes and massage their feet and ankles and calves…to use various tools and salves to treat them and to make their very steps through life feel better and look more attractive. I began to be uncomfortable, and then I started to ask my technician some simple questions about his life, what he enjoyed, what his goals were and in answer to one question, he told me he worked 7 days a week. I encouraged him to find rest time for his own mental health. I shared that scarcity can create an environment to increase prices, and that most of us would pay more for the services…thus allowing them to be closed one day a week. The man tending to the cool and detached woman next to me started getting in the conversation, and within minutes revealed he had spent time in a refugee camp in Thailand while awaiting permission to come to the US from his war-torn country many years ago. A refugee camp…yet all he could do was be grateful for his life now. His life, sitting and serving at the feet of people who couldn’t even see who he was.

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I was so humbled. We just never know the backstories of the people around us.

I asked my technician if he had ever gotten a pedicure. If anyone ever gave to him the service I was paying for.

He looked shocked, and answered no. The tech next to him looked surprised, also. And then they broke into huge smiles as they shared it would be really nice, but they both would like a female to work on their feet, and we laughed together.

So now I have a dream. A dream that one day I will take a group of people who aren’t afraid to see in to my little salon, close the doors and lock them, and we will sit at the feet of these amazing people who day, after day, serve us. We will put our hands in that water, and use the tools, and apply the salves. For me it is a pretty challenging thought, and will take courage. Meanwhile, I am overwhelmed with all that I have learned about really important things from my techs. I can only hope to achieve such greatness one day.

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Intermission: Thankful and Thanksgiving

Taking another break from the chronicles of infidelity. Because I am overcome today with thankfulness that I can celebrate, no, really celebrate Thanksgiving in my home again.

In November, 2013, I have a moment encapsulated in forever. All my children had gotten home from college or travel, and were going about the business of reconnecting. HUSBAND was in the kitchen taking the turkey out of the brine and I looked up, was filled with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. I snapped a really awful iphone picture, threw it up on my social media captioned, “Heart is full…Everyone I love is right here…” It was just one of those moments, indescribable really, but the very essence of life.

Except that it wasn’t real.

I didn’t know it then, but HUSBAND was plotting the exit from our marriage to be with his AP. He was present but not present, figuring out when he could sneak his next text and make a quick call and send her a photo of the same scene I was savoring as sacred. He was getting through this last Thanksgiving with me, and his mind was anywhere but on the joy of our being together, the fullness of reaching this incredible stage of real relationship with our precious children. After discovery of his cheating then, and ultimately cheating numerous times, I was unable to process my naiveté, my foolishness and my complete ability to be deceived. I have not been able to spend a Thanksgiving in our home, to carry on the tradition of the 27 years…the pain was too great.

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But this year, we are home. This year HUSBAND and I spent days planning our meal together. It took trips to Costco, Fresh Market and Publix to get every detail right for the culinary prep which we started a couple days ago. It took purchasing flowers and arranging them just so. It took my mom helping me set tables and place candles. Our kids started arriving and there were hugs and joy and excitement. They weren’t aware of the pain related to hosting Thanksgiving. They know our story, but they don’t know details like this so we just gracefully decided to explore farm house dinners with friends and plantation dinners in other states for the last couple years. They don’t realize how special this Thanksgiving is for me, for us.

This Thanksgiving, I’m overwhelmed again. I’m overwhelmed to be able to look at the journey my life was on for so many years that had prepared me for the fight of my life. A fight for my sanity and for my wholeness and for my voice. I see the subtle brokenness that I so cleverly hid in myself and my marriage and that in its shattering was the choice to get rid of the pieces, or figure out a way to put them together to create something new, something so piercingly beautiful and so incredibly strong. I’m overwhelmed in thinking about the betrayeds that have gone before me, and shared their hearts and thoughts and struggles and pains and victories in this community – that have given me the strength to take one more breath and one more step and one more chance. That have helped me navigate my own screaming pain and challenge HUSBAND to be real and whole and transparent. I am overwhelmed with the understanding that it has been your care of me, your bravery to speak into me, your strength when I was weak that has helped me in this path that I never, ever would have chosen.

I am thankful that my house looks beautiful and welcoming, and that the seats will be filled by those I love so much. I am thankful that the smells are already permeating and that there will be laughter and good food and toasts and love. Yes, love. Real, true, love.

But around my table, I see each of you too. All of you…you amazing women and men who have taken time to care for me throughout these last 2 ½ years. I could not be at my table in my home with my family without you. You are here, tucked in every part of who I am now, and I am overwhelmed with my thankfulness, and my love, for you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Intermission: Grateful in the Chaos

Taking a break from the chronicles of infidelity. Because I am overcome today with gratefulness in the midst of the pain and confusion we are seeing around us here in the US.

It is Veteran’s Day. And I’m grateful. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that we have brave men and women who literally place their lives on the line for the rest of us unknown and unnamed Americans. I’m grateful for my father, a 25 year Air Force vet who flew over 150 missions in the Viet Nam war, and helped to identify a missile base that was blasting SAM missiles at US planes, shooting them out of the sky. I’m grateful for my brother-in-law, a 25+ year Army vet who fought hard for our freedom in several fronts around the world. I’m grateful for my friend’s son, her only child, who lost his life defending our country and our most precious freedom.

I’m grateful, too, for my overwhelmingly brilliant and opinionated and verbose children who eloquently and frequently express their thoughts on political and social issues. Who exercise their freedom of thought and choice and speech, and band together with such passion to bring change they desperately know will make our nation stronger and better. I’m grateful they listen well, and believe in collaboration and will leave this country, and this world, a better place.

And I’m grateful to live in the United States. A country in which we are allowed to disagree and duke out deeply dividing differences in public forums, yet free to choose to find the common places and spaces where we will…WE WILL discover and defend a better solution than any of us could singularly create. We are stronger, together, doing the incredibly difficult work of learning about, hearing, understanding, embracing, caring, loving. Anyone who doubts this is listening to forces and voices that need to be overcome – because they know we are weaker if we are pitted against each other – through our dedication to what this country is all about: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I’m grateful “they” cannot make us believe that this is not at the core of our people, our focus, our commitment.

I’m grateful, today, for this unique, diverse, beautiful tapestry of individuals that have chosen to allow a common thread to run through us and that is defended, brilliantly, by our service men and women. But also by those who work so hard to ensure their voices and causes and victories and battles are heard. We have so much in common, so much more than people outside our unique country could ever understand. I’m grateful for you.

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.

 

 

 

Glorious Moments

Last day of September, and here in the deep South, it is still feeling like summer. Yet…a small hint of the coming cool has wafted in the last couple days. You have to get up early to feel it, but it shows in the crispier glow of the sun, the clearer blue of the sky, and the magnificent sunsets almost every evening.

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I love this time of the year. I love all of it…the leaves, the clothes, the decorations. I love that I have a fall birthday, and there is college football to cheer (or cry) for. I love that I can wear boots again and that I got married in this glorious season.

Ahhh….marriage. Right.

Marriage that held such promise when we spoke our vows and danced our dances and toasted our flutes. Marriage that I thought would be so strengthening for me – a place in which I could bloom and grow. Marriage as an ungirding to all the potential choices and opportunities and prospects of a glorious future.

Ahhh…future. Right.

We laughed in the face of all challenges that came up (or so I thought). We had baby one and baby two and baby three and baby four and dreamed of their futures and taught them to dream and to believe and to try. Just try. At least try. Step into that glorious maybe.

Ahhh…maybe. Right.

But somewhere along the way he didn’t really believe it all and honestly, neither did I. We were set on a course though, and had no understanding of how to change it. So we kept up the façade on the outside. But he was finding solace in drugs. And alcohol. And other women. I had no idea – he hid that part of him so well – and I found solace in my work. And my babies. And my pretensions, you know, the ones that allowed me not to see the true parts of my life. The glorious mask.

Ahhh…mask. Right.

So when the truth began tumbling out in the form of infidelity, I could not pretend any longer. I could not pretend that what I wished my life to be was really what it was and I had choices. Choices to press down the pain and sweep it under the rug. Choices to run far, far away from the madness and blame it all on him and hate him with a vengeance and get lots of support because I would. Choices to be rabidly filled with vengeance and hurt everyone I could in my wake. Choices to sever any ties at all and refashion the rest of my life in whatever manner suited me. Choices to slow down, to watch, to listen, to learn about him and about me and to heal – and then decide which road I would take. Choices to learn to peel off the past and to dispel needing to design the future and accept…and live in…and revel…the present. The glorious present.

Ahhh…present. Right.

No. Wrong.

At least my perception of the present was wrong for most of my life, until infidelity revealed. Until horrible and dreadful and excruciating and soul-sucking and mind-blowing and self-blaming and him-hating and her-disdaining. Until my distorted understanding of my past and my fairy-tale view of the future crashed so horrifically with the reality of the present and I had to acknowledge it. Or lose me forever. The glorious forever.

For real, the glorious forever.

It was standing at the precipice of choices and seeing that the very path promising the most pain was the path to my freedom when I knew. I got it. I understood. My Savior was at that same place 2000 years ago. He saw the road to freedom and healing was about to be covered in blood and betrayal and abandonment and thrashings. He didn’t want the cup…He asked His Father to take it from Him. But He saw. He knew. He knew it was the only real path for all of our healing. He could have chosen another way, a way to save Him alone, but this way, this awful, horrible way ensured we could be part of His story. This way –going directly into and through the pain-was the only way He could provide us complete and utter curing from our bondage to our confusion and our self-inflicted wounds and our other’s-inflicted-wounds and our fears and our prejudices and our disappointments and our doubts and our… So He took the cup. In that moment, I saw that He did that – He took the cup. In that moment, that present, and here I was in a present and I had choices but most of them were about the past hurts or the future changes and I chose the present. The present with no understanding of the future, but the glorious realization that He had this. He had me. He loved me. Glorious love.

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Ahhh…love. Really. Love that led the way.

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