Better Alone. Or Not.

I heard a wife say this recently. That she would be better off alone. I used to think it, but never dared say it aloud. I used to think that it would be better to be alone than to be in an empty marriage. In my empty marriage. To have the wrappings of a partnership and the title of a partnership yet no workings of a partnership. I didn’t permit myself to think that often, but that loneliness would press its way into my awareness sometimes, and be almost overwhelming before I could squish it back down to its hiding place in my soul.

I used to say that if anything happened to HUSBAND, I would not remarry. I didn’t say that because ours was a love that couldn’t be matched – rather because I felt I’d given him the best of me, all of me, for most of my adult life and I would be better just taking care of me. That I would likely get some funky amazing old place in a funky amazing old part of town and live there with lots of books and more than one cat and I would be happy. That I would know I was alone and not be pretending to be able to depend on someone else who wasn’t really available and that had to be better than an empty marriage.

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I was alone in the midst of my marriage. It was so odd…being in the same room with another yet so utterly alone. I could see HUSBAND there in the house, and we would talk when needed. We functioned in this well-oiled machine of knowing our designated roles and doing them well, taking care not to tread into each other’s realm of responsibility, or dig too deep into each other’s realm of the heart. And I was so very lonely.

I knew that I would gather the laundry and make sure it was in the washer and then the dryer and then folded and then in each respective person’s room. He knew he would make sure the cars got oil changes and had the right air pressure in the tires and got washed and cleaned out. I knew that I would pay the bills and determine where to rob peter to pay paul as HUSBAND walked by the office on his way outside where he knew he would trim the bushes and rearrange things in the garage to accommodate the current sports paraphernalia of our kids’ lives.

We were good at living well in our lanes and making sure they never intersected. Even when we dressed up and went out, or headed to church or on vacation, we stayed in our lanes. We could smile broadly and stand together with HUSBAND’s hand lightly on the small of my back. We could laugh at people’s jokes and engage in lively conversation. But I was still alone. HUSBAND could not read my glance from across the room, or tune into the subtle nuances of a conversation and support me with his words or actions. We got back in the car or on the plane and it was if there was a wall between us buffered only by our mutual love and care for our beautiful babies.

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Alone. Lonely. My plight in marriage for much of it, and as I looked around then, and even now, the reality for many, if not most, marriages. It was, after all, what marriage was and lonely as I was, it was good(ish). Until somedays it wasn’t so good, but then I thought really, it was because I just expected too much because, after all, we make our own happiness.

A jumble of loneliness and confusion.

When HUSBAND’s serial cheating and porn addiction came to the surface, I remembered being alone all those years. It weighed heavily on my heart and mind and decisions about whether to stay. I was so angry that I’d been used to give him a home and a family and he’d not only been unfaithful, but he’d allowed me to be so completely alone throughout the journey. There seemed to be nothing to salvage, no reason at all to consider staying married. I’d been betrayed by his actions sexually and abandoned by his responses emotionally.

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And I was right. There was no way or no reason to stay in that marriage. He got it. It was like something turned on deep in his being and he got it. He began to awaken as a person and as he moved into recovery he began to awaken in his capacity to care, to empathize, to love.

Now I know it is not better to be alone. Now I know that I was wired to be cherished and to cherish. To be cared for and care. To be loved and love. It is a vital part of my being that I had turned off but that’s just it…it is crucial and to deny that part of me is to cut off part of my humanity.

I don’t want to be alone. And I won’t ever be lonely in marriage again. Lonely together is not marriage, not the way it can be and should be. Lonely in marriage is soul crushing and body killing and mind jamming.  So when HUSBAND walked in our bedroom a couple night’s ago and said, “Please know that I don’t want to be on life support, should something happen…we’ve never really talked about that before…” I realized that if he left me now, I would miss him. I don’t want to live in that funky old house in the funky old neighborhood with a couple cats without him. Then I would be lonely, a different kind of lonely, all over again.

Lonely

 

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Why. Didn’t. I. Know.

The question tortures betrayeds. We feel so stupid. We adopt guilt on many levels from many aspects of being cheated on, and one of them is that we are just stupid, right? Because obviously a woman in an intimate relationship, day-to-day, with a man pledged to her with his undying love that was not really living his undying love to her would be obvious. She would know it if he was panting madly after another woman…whether it was one-night-stands found in massage parlors or brothels or images portrayed on the screen and delivered to his phone or real-live-flesh in his arms that was joined with a fantasy relationship of constant messaging and plans for a future.

She would know, right? We would know, right?

I saw those teasers for outrageous tell-all shows through the years, or headlines on tabloids at the grocery store that screamed He Lived A Double Life And She Didn’t Know and my passing thought as I put the food on the belt was Well She Must Be An Idiot If She Didn’t Know.

Because I would know, right?

But I didn’t know, and when I found out I felt S. T. U. P. I. D. I still have to deal with that cropping up from time to time when everything crashes in and I find myself walking into a meeting and the tidal wave of HOLY SHIT I AM A BETRAYED WIFE washes over me…the immediate next thought is…and I am so stupid.

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But I am not. I am not stupid, and neither are the multiple other betrayed women that I have come to know intimately over the last two years. I look around at my group and they are beautiful. Seriously, they are beautiful. They are smart and own businesses and run non-profits and juggle family and work and myriad responsibilities and they are beautiful. No…these women are anything, anything but stupid. To a one.

So how did we get duped? How, collectively, are cheaters able to delve into their destructive behaviors and we don’t know?

I can only speak from my experience, yet think some of it may resonate with other betrayeds. I was always taught about privacy…and privacy meant things like knocking on the bathroom door when it was closed, not listening in on a call someone was on or opening their drawers and looking in them. I was taught it was rude to ask about money or why someone lowered their voice to talk to someone else in person or on the phone. I was taught that men hate nagging women and asking questions = nagging and that men aren’t as emotional as women and don’t like to share their feelings like women and that men can’t stand drama and feelings = drama. I was taught that any semblance of jealousy could lead your man right into cheating, and I was literally told by HUSBAND’s grandmother that if you don’t give HUSBAND freedom to (hunt/fish/play with his friends) he would end up with a blonde on his arm. (I was highly offended, scoffed at such a notion, but it was there now, in my soul, and helped shaped my responses whether I could see it or not).

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I was taught it was showed no trust to follow up about something slightly sketchy and for God’s sake, I would never have dreamed of looking on HUSBAND’s phone or asking one of his friends to verify his actions or really dig in to find out why there was a gap in time or money or people or place, because I didn’t want to meddle, or look like I didn’t trust him. I didn’t want to be that kind of woman – that kind of wife – the kind all the jokes are about and men hate and women roll their eyes about.

I watched sitcoms that made fun of insecure women and read articles about annoying habits men hate (google it).

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Those were all thoughts and ideas and attitudes deeply ingrained in me, socialized in my womanhood and wifehood by family and friends and culture and media.

But mostly, I never ever even considered that the man I found, loved, gave all of me to would consider cheating. So all the rules made sense.

It wasn’t stupidity, not at all. It was faith and trust. Wrongly placed, but that is what it was.

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I’ve stayed with HUSBAND, who by all counts has continued to show me now for nearly two years that he is a new man. His continued willingness to provide any information, answer any question past or present has not wavered since he finally bared his soul and all its warts and lies and filth. He is different in every sense of himself, and we are different together with this stark honesty constantly the stalwart between us.

But now? I do ask. I do verify. And I don’t buy the cultural encouragement to utter personal freedom, no questions asked, within a committed relationship. I went down that road for 27 years, but took a sharp turn after DDay, and will never head that way again. That…that would be…stupid?

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Mixed Up Marriage

I just happened to hear a news clip on a major network’s morning news show talking about marriage. The talk was that some people are now choosing a “menu approach” to marriage, and negotiating up front things like 3 free cheat days per year. Or sex with another person every 10 years.

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Cheating and sexual abuse is not new. Yes – I equate cheating with sexual abuse. So the oxymoron of writing in “cheat days” to your marriage contract? The term ‘cheat’ means to defraud, to swindle. It means to deceive or influence by fraud, to elude or deprive someone of something expected. Ergo, when a person enters into a marriage, it is with the intent that they are defining something unique and special about the relationship. They are declaring to the outside world and to each other that this is different, this one is for keeps, this is for the good times and the bad times and the reason I’m willing to this to everyone is because you matter, you are valued and I want to mesh with you like none other.

It’s somewhat easy to stand on the outside and look at news stories about new types of relationships, watch videos about girls who share their guy or listen to a podcast about a couple of folks in an “open marriage.” To kind of say “Oh, I wouldn’t do that, but whatever makes you happy.” Pretty much sums out how I lived – never really engaging in the conversation or caring. That is until it is about you. Until you find out your partner considered your marriage open but forgot to mention it to you. Until you realize that your partner invited someone else’s DNA into your vagina and someone else’s sexual desires into his mind. Until you see that he remembers, or maybe wants, to send her flowers on Valentine’s Day. But not you. Until you realize he can’t be bothered to make a restaurant reservation for you, but is planning plane trips and getaways with her. No…when it comes to your house, contracted or not, it is devastating. I know this personally, and I know it from spending hours and hours and hours with other women – both betrayers and betrayeds, and even some who agreed to open marriages or other such inane arrangements. It may look good on paper, but when it begins to be lived out…the pain…the agony…

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So I don’t buy it. I don’t buy any concept of marriage that isn’t committed and unique and sacred. We are humans – not animals thinking from just our limbic brain. Yes, our sexual needs are great and need to be met, but apart from engaging our minds and spirits and souls they are empty and uninspiring. They may release dopamine in our brains but don’t spur tenderness in our souls. Anyone who understands cheating knows it isn’t about sex anyway. And if your partner hasn’t dealt with whatever it is that causes him/her to need something else, something out there, then he/she isn’t bringing all he/she is to the table. To your table. To your life and your relationship.

I sat around a work table recently with five unique women from vastly different backgrounds. All are beautiful, and smart, and caring, and kind. All five…ALL FIVE…100%…have been directly impacted by infidelity in their lives. This was not a support group, or a women’s group for troubled marriages. This was a professional setting that had nothing to do with sex or sexual abuse or cheating or marriage. But the subject arose, and around the room, this is what came out:

One woman’s father had cheated on her mom…the aftermath a traumatic time for a preteen. The next one discovered after 20 years together that her husband was a cheater, and not the father of her children only. The next one is the daughter of a mom married to a cheater, watching her mom immobilized to move out of the abusive relationship and feeling completely and utterly impotent to help. The next? The daughter of a serial cheater who watched her own mother wither into oblivion, and who met numerous ½ siblings through the years…and is now grieving as her own daughter experiences a cheating spouse. Then of course, me. You know my story but in case you don’t, I’m the wife of a serial cheater, a sex addict, who artfully hid it from me for 25 years sending me into complete and utter trauma, and deeply impacting our beautiful children through his lies and manipulations to keep his double life secret.

No. Don’t buy it. We are selling out our humanity, our souls, our spirits, our minds if we allow ourselves to believe that having some sham of a marriage is healthy, or leads to wholeness or growth or peace. We are just furthering whatever hole is in the cheater, allowing him to fill it with temporary crap that ultimately leaves him more desolate than before.

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If you don’t want to have a marriage, don’t get married. If you don’t want to forsake all others, then don’t take on the promise. If you don’t want to press into the challenges and find strength you never knew you had, don’t enter the race. If you don’t want to bare all to become one, then don’t. Marriage is about so much more than sex – a commodity that is for sale on a street corner, on the internet or through a device. If you enter marriage…it is just different and about the whole you, the complete you, if you even know who that person is. The trail of turmoil and agony you leave behind when you forsake your marriage, not only for your partner, but for friends and family and any precious children just isn’t worth filling your emptiness or curiosity with lies. And I speak from one who has found deep intimacy; there is nothing and no one out there that can compare or who is worth the risk of damaging the beauty of real marriage.

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Close.

Close – the verb: to block or hinder progress; to stop or obstruct; to come to an end – terminate; to make imperceptive or impossible.
Close – the adjective: close proximity in space and time; marked by similarity in degree, action or feeling; based on a strong uniting feeling of respect, honor, love.

I’ve been close to love and then the opportunity closed. I’ve been closed to an idea and then a close call caused me to reconsider my position. I have yearned to be close to my teenager, but he was closed to it.

I think I spent a good part of my life being close to it, close to intimacy, close to love, but because there were so many deeply hidden places that were closed, I could never quite get there. I found someone else who learned to look open but was really closed, and together we got close but since we were closed we never could get really close…even though it appeared we were. We didn’t know that we weren’t close because we only knew close as we had seen it in our lives where there was a lot of pretending to be close while really being closed.

I tried to fill the emptiness of not being close without knowing I was empty, thinking it was just me, and just life, through work and God and volunteering and kids. HUSBAND was filling his empty with fishing and hunting and other women, both real and delivered to his phone, unbeknownst to me. The more we tried to find close through these things, the less close we found in ourselves and together but to the outside world and to all that knew us, we were CLOSE and then DDay…and everything changed. We had a moment…no…we had many, many moments…

And we decided individually, then we decided together, that we would seek why we had closed ourselves in trying to be close, although opening the tightly sealed closed places was hard and painful and risky. As I, and as he, opened the closed spots we found close…close the adjective…close the intimacy…close the love.

The dichotomy of close.