Anatomy of Infidelity, Part 5

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.

needlehaystack

Our wedding…was magnificent. Sort of.

At the time, it was everything I’d dreamed of. I wore a stunning dress and long-white gloves (it was a thing, honestly). My attendants looked gorgeous in their deep teal, ankle-length, satin dresses (that they could wear again – lol) and all the flowers were white, only white. The groomsmen looked distinguished in their black tuxedos, and the flowers…the setting…the band…the food…it was overwhelming. I remember looking at my dad and telling him I felt like a princess. Thank you.

I’m not sure why, but at the altar with my groom, I talked. I kept saying things like, “we are really doing this, getting married. Can you believe it?”

bridegroomkneeling

I think the reality is I couldn’t believe it. I think maybe, deep down in my gut, there was a little turmoil that I just could not allow to come to the surface.

That blind eye thing…even though I couldn’t see it, my gut may have had some insight that just disconnected before it hit my cognitive faculties. It’s hard to go back here, it’s hard to admit. But if I am ever to heal, ever to ensure that I’d never be in the same position again, I have to go here. Putting it on paper and owning my silence…I’m trying to be kind to this girl. I hope you will be too.

blind-eye

The first thing that I can now see that was really discordant but I just breezed right past at the time? HUSBAND and I had gone out of town together with friends for a couple days. When we got back to town, we went by his house where I had left my car. We walked inside and his roommate told us that he’d had an unexpected visitor the night before, actually, in the early morning hours. Seems HUSBAND’s former girlfriend that had once been his fiancé had been dropped off at the house expecting to slip into HUSBAND’s bed and resume their up/down relationship. Odd that she felt the freedom to show up. Show up and expect…but I justified it in my mind that they’d had such a pattern in the past…

Several weeks later, after HUSBAND had reportedly called former girl to tell her to never come by again…that it was permanently over, and he was moving on, he picked me up. We were headed to a ball game, and we always took his dog with us. When she wasn’t it the car, I asked where she was. To my great surprise, he told me former girl had her.

????Former girl, who doesn’t drive. Who he’d told there would be contact or ongoing anything????

He was surprised that I was uncomfortable with this. You see, they’d both loved the dog. The dog had been part of both their lives for the four years of off-again on-again relationship and he couldn’t really be expected to keep the dog from her, could he?

labrador-30-634

After the ball game, he took me home and I didn’t say anything about the dog incident. I did, however, disappear for several days. This was pre cell phones, and I made sure my assistant answered my phone at work. I went to a friend’s to spend the night directly after work. On the third day I came home to my apartment, and he appeared within minutes. I explained that I was not interested in sharing him with another person. If he wanted an ongoing we-are-going-to-share-dog-time-or-any-other-time with her, then I was out. He pledged his heart and apologized and I thought she was gone for good.

And she was, until he told me a few days later that she thought she was pregnant. Ended up she wasn’t. And I just kept plugging along.

Another day we were relaxing in his home, talking about our upcoming wedding. HUSBAND then decided to let me know that he hadn’t paid his taxes for the last three years. BOOM. When I asked why, he boyishly explained he’d just not quite gotten ‘round to it. And what does any smart, confident, independent young woman do when she finds out such a thing? Surely, she insists that he get it straightened out immediately…that he cleans it up and files and deals with whatever penalties and interest and admonishments that may be due. Right?

That is unless she turns a blind eye…justifying that he isn’t as skilled in finances as she is…that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong. And then SHE promptly digs through the past years, gets all the information together on his behalf, gets it all cleaned up. I did ask him to pay the accountant, which he did, and to pay the required financial penalties…at least that is something. I worked hard to clean up the mess. He said thanks.

Then there was our wedding night. I’m not sure what I expected…I was certainly influenced by romantic movies and thoughts of long-drawn out intimate moments and awe of consummating the commitment we’d just publicly made and being a wife. His wife. I guess I thought there would be a beautiful suite, and flowers, and candles, and champagne, and tender touches and…

But what there was instead was a regular hotel room (my folks said why waste the money on a special suite?) and taking his own clothes off and getting into the bed (okay, so I guess I take mine off too) and a self-satisfying romp (for him) and then roll over and proceed to a snoring sleep. Yes…there had been a crazy full day of festivities and food and spirits, but I was stunned. And sad. And got out of my brand-new marriage bed and went to the bathroom and started the bathtub and got in it, alone, and cried.

weddingnighttub

Yes. A blind eye. I had it, but it is open now.

 

 

 

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.

lessonspastmistakes

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 3

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.

diggingdeep

Prepping for college included the requisite compiling of necessary things (laundry detergent and personal hygiene items; clothes and underwear; school supplies). But for HUSBAND, that summer also included other prep. It included sex with a married employee a few years older than him who just wasn’t happy in her marriage…all fun and games until she indicated she was starting to have feelings for him…and then he ran far and fast. It included sex with another older woman that he knew from a local vendor…and lots of drinking and smoking pot and altercations with other drunk and stoned people.

alcoholpot

College. The young man, HUSBAND, was smart – having clepped several classes – entered university with one semester credit. He sees now that his dreams were not so much, rather, not-at-all, of achieving academic success or getting a degree, but pushing the limit of freedom and pushing his body beyond what it had known in the past.

He pulled a roommate with a similar goal and together they, and some of his childhood friends, found plenty of drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll. They partied from morning til night, got into drug/alcohol induced fights, interacted with campus police, interacted with girls in their dorm room, in overnights at the beach and anywhere else it happened and hit every concert that came to town. What he didn’t do was spend much time going to class, or studying. HUSBAND didn’t delve into relationships, just sex. Often sex numbed with drugs. The end of the first year brought the harsh reality that the university wasn’t excited about having him back. He was on disciplinary probation. He was on academic probation. The Dean told him he could not return to the school until he had obtained his associates degree elsewhere. And so he left.

If there was any recrimination from his parents, HUSBAND doesn’t remember. He doesn’t remember either of his parents being involved in his college decision, his college year, or his college failure. He doesn’t remember any consequence, or deep conversations or confrontations at the end of the year. He just kept going, and was shuttled to one of his branch offices 150 miles away where he moved in with a relative. A relative that was married, but only a few years older than HUSBAND. A relative who also enjoyed much of the wild life, and the college life basically continued on for him in his early professional life. Once a week, HUSBAND had to return to the home office for a specific job duty, and within six months, was called to return full time to headquarters.

HUSBAND and a couple of his friends found a rental house in a low-end area and moved in. The house quickly became party-central for his old friends and his new friends and friends-of-those-friends. People came and went, bringing their individual brand of fun and there was always something and someone to share an imbibed moment with. HUSBAND remembers one day sitting in his room, smoking a joint and listening to music while a few friends partied outside in the common areas. The door to his bathroom opened (it was also accessible through another bedroom) and a girl from his home room class walked in. She walked over to his bed where he was sitting and started talking about inane happenings. Then, she said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to jump your bones.” And so they had sex and she got dressed and left. She wasn’t the only one during that time period, and that wasn’t the only time with her, or with others. No interest in relationship, but lots of interest in sex. That characterized this period for him.

house-party

Eventually HUSBAND desired a little nicer space, and less constant company and he found a better townhouse in a better area and moved in with two friends. There was still some serious partying, but less of a frenetic pace inundated with known and unknown partakers. More of the semblance of a home. All three roommates were hard working, although the pot smoking before work continued, and usually after work, too. But they saw themselves as moving up in their respective jobs, and beginning to look toward growing up.

About that time, HUSBAND had some tense moments with members of his family. In somewhat of a rebellion from what they envisioned for his personal life, he went out with friends, and mentioned he wanted to find himself a “rock ‘n roll girl.” He ran into the former girlfriend of someone he knew…a beautiful girl…an available girl…a wild and exciting girl…and they came back to his place where they explored every part of each other’s anatomy. It was sex on steroids for him, and he was hooked.

rocknrollgirl

The story continues…

 

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.

turnoverblotsshow

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…

hurricanematthew3

 

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.

petes-river

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.

getmeaswitch

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.

 

 

 

Lessons in Living

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 – the steps to letting the reality no longer control me.

It’s been a little over two years: two years, three months, and 12 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.

cheatingsucks

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.

undiscoveredlies

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 or fix beautiful dinners or being nice/mean/happy/sad. 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 5/13/14 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. At first all I could do was exist and breathe through the pain at hand. Survive. Then slowly, slowly, slowly I began to allow myself to see pain in a wider circle around my marriage and then a wider circle around things before my marriage and so on. Stepping into my own pain with authenticity and allowing myself to see, to feel, to grieve, to forgive, to accept has given me more than I ever dared envision. I was trapped too, trapped by things deep in my soul that I had not dared consider and the reality of the cheating required me to either keep them buried and completely turn away into denial, or to summon courage I didn’t know was there.

Secrets are the enemy of intimacy: Ultimately I have learned this. My own secrets that I dared not look at, or even knew I was keeping from myself. His secrets – some of the same ilk…so painful and hidden he didn’t even know, others that were self-inflicted during our marriage and he was very aware of. Secrets destroy intimacy. The only path to the marriage we all think we are getting and want so desperately is through the pain of pulling off the mask of the secrets. Freedom comes through pain, through walking deep into the dark and hidden places of our own lives, and coming out with wounds and scars, but real. In this beautiful and tattered realness, I have discovered pure communion of souls and the strength and love of God all bound together in a messy relationship of beauty that is all-at-once bound tightly, yet offers complete freedom like I’ve never experienced before. Inexplicable, but the lies and the secrets kept us in bondage apart, and the truth has connected us together in opportunity. How can this be?

real

And so, two years, three months and 12 days into this journey – this new marriage – I see that healing doesn’t mean I can ever change the story – the events. But I can move toward writing new chapters and an ending that is…

 

 

 

 

The Language of Betrayal

We have all done it. We have all gotten to new places in life that bring a whole new language. Some are kind of mundane – like when I took my first accounting class in college. There was a whole host of new words like gross revenue and accounts receivable and cost of goods sold. Words like credit and debit took on new meaning.

Sometimes we learn a new vernacular at special times, like becoming a parent – a mom. Phrases and words like swaddling and breast feeding. Or bumper pads and touchpoints and pacifiers. We have to decide things that include a new language like cord-clamping and cord-banking…co-sleeping or crib sleeping…public or private or home…

And there are times of sadness or challenge that expand our vocabulary to words that may have lurked somewhere in our minds, but become routine. Times like medical challenges and death that make words like treatment or hospice or casket routine. Words that lived out there but not in here yet now they are uttered regularly right from our own lips.

Affairs, though, are different. I didn’t know the language of affairs, or the vernacular. I’d never perused Huffington Post for articles on affairs, or searched for the Other Woman. The words weren’t lurking somewhere in my mind. They just weren’t there in my conscious thinking. But the language is universal, and within literal days of discovery, the words were tumbling into my knowledge base almost like a download of a computer program.

Affair Partner.

Discovery.

Trickle Truth.

Hysterical Bonding.

Wayward Spouse.

Gaslighting.

Blameshifting.

Affair Fog.

The 180.

The acronyms: M. A. EA. PA. EMA. LTA. BS. OW. MOW. FWB. AP. WH. STBXH. MM. xMM. NPD. IC. CC. MIL. FIL. FOO. DDay. FWH. NC. SA.

Literally overnight these words became the language of my life. Any betrayed reading this right now gets it…they know these words…or if they are in the devastating newness of discovery, they are learning them. All of my being hated that I needed to know these words, yet some came absolutely instinctually, without even needing the betrayed-spouse-dictionary. No Contact. Please, please have no contact with HUSBAND anymore…and HUSBAND…have no contact with her. The Other Woman. The Other Woman that I discovered on that day – that Discovery Day. And now…I am betrayed. I didn’t need a dictionary.

language

There were options as this new language became my life language. I could have, and deeply considered, DIVORCE which would have launched me into another whole new vernacular. I danced at those words and that option, seeking advice on the process and laws in Florida and division of property. And then I did research on the impact of divorce on older children, on young adult children. I was astounded to see that these beautiful older children often take the divorce of their parents hard. So hard that 3 and 5 and even ten years later, they are posting on their blogs about the hurt they still carry. The questions they now harbor…was anything real in their childhood? Was there ever the family they thought they remembered, and if that family broke up and broke apart, what chance did they, or could they, possibly have at love themselves?

I hated these words. I hated these thoughts that were hidden away from public view, only found with intentional research and eyes. I hated that as much as HUSBAND’s unfaithfulness was ripping me apart, and casting pieces of my heart all over every part of what I thought my life was, now I had to make decisions. I hated him and force him to leave me and get all my just due in every feasible way. I wanted to think of just me and wanted that to be the best for me and for everyone I loved.

I did not – let me repeat that – DID NOT decide that I would stay married. No, I absolutely was not that altruistic, or able to consider the twenty-year-from-now impact on my kids over my own right-this-minute impact. But I did decided that I would not decide. That I would wait. That I would worry about me and what it would take for me to be able to breathe. And then think. And then maybe feel. And if, along the way, I wanted to look at my marriage, then I gave myself permission, but not a mandate.

forever

And then…slowly…there was another language that began to creep into the vestiges of my brain and soul. The language of healing. I pushed it away for awhile, wanting and needing to embrace the pain. But it was quietly persistent. This language is more complex, requiring me to grieve and learn transparency and become oddly more vulnerable in the face of fear and pain. I can’t say that I know the whole language yet. And that’s okay. One word at a time…

 

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?

destructivethinking2

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.

stop

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.

bikeride

 

Deep roots

Where we live, violent storms are a norm. During the course of a year, we may have multiple violent storms with winds and wind gusts exceeding 30-40 mph. Hurricanes make an appearance, although our protected land area rarely gets a full-brunt, we frequently get the bands with winds reaching 50-60 mph.

Falling trees are also not uncommon. The neighborhood HUSBAND and I live in is covered in magnificent trees of myriad varieties. We have water oaks and white oaks, maples and hickorys and ash and sweetgums and cedars. And we have pines…oh, we have pines. Some of these majestic trees soar over 90 or 100 feet in the air, and during storms, sway madly like dancers responding to the music. Inevitably, after a storm, our region of the state has numerous downed trees, some seemingly ripped out of the ground by the roots.

PineTrees

One summer day, not too long after we moved into our present home, I was in the kitchen on a phone call, blindly looking out the window at the rain which was coming down hard. Suddenly, the rain all blew violently to my left, then just as quickly was all driving hard to the right. I immediately got off the call and dashed into the family room where my four children ran into my arms, all very frightened as they could see the crazy weather and sensed something was different and not-so-right. As we all sat in the floor with our arms wrapped around each other and my mama brain was quickly thinking about safety, I saw an enormous, old tree in our back yard get literally uprooted and begin to fall to the ground. It wasn’t falling toward us, and the children were enveloped in my arms so they did not see my panic, but I waited for the BOOM as I anticipated it hitting the other end of our house.

After the storm, we went outside. The tree had fallen nearly between our home and our neighbor’s house, clipping one edge of our roof and one edge of theirs, but almost as if someone had carefully laid it between so as not to cause too much damage either way. For this, I was grateful. But the uprooted tree was literally shocking – the roots stood in the air well over six feet and the entire, tall, old, majestic tree was lying there. Gone.

fallentree

We asked our tree professional why this happened. He explained that trees need their roots to grow both wide and deep, and that based on soil and construction and water and other factors, they often fail to go deep…trees with surface roots only are far more subject to fall…and such it was with this tree.

Betrayal made me realize that I could learn a lot from trees. My roots needed to grow wide and deep, too.  I didn’t really see before, but I had paid more attention to spreading my roots out, and found others like that too. We were so much more likely to fall when the inevitable storm appeared. To be gone.

I work on deep now, but going there was hard…I had to fight the urge to give up and just go wide – it was the way of my past, the way of my family and examples – but instead for my very survival, I was compelled to do some deep digging in, digging down. Along the way, I found debris that had settled…debris from my own stuff, and from generations past. But now…the roots are going beyond that mess into a rich place of nourishment, a place of life-force. Deep is where I faced the giants, and found out I wasn’t alone – He hadn’t left or forsaken me. And there…deep…is where I found my voice, and strength. Strength to dare to love again.

deeproots

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.

Oh

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).

DontTouchPHONE

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).

TakeADeepBreath

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.

faithhopebelievetrustlove

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?

KnowBetterDoBetter