Cashing Checks

“You write checks with your words, and cash them with your actions.”

Profound statement, and one made by a beautiful young wife, pregnant with her first child, whose husband has struggled. The majority of his infidelity has been electronic relationships – porn – however he also reached out for a flesh person a couple times.

The brave young couple has chosen to work toward recovery (him – from sex addiction) and healing (her) and reconciliation (them). They have a long journey, but have made smart strides: individual and couple counseling. Recovery groups. Intensive marriage weekend. They have hope right now, and as coaches walking alongside them in the journey, HUSBAND and I have hope with them. And for their unborn child. And for all those who follow after their new marriage, their covenant of love.

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Back to the quote.

You write checks with your words. You cash them with your actions.

Therefore if your words are worthless, the check bounces.

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Redemption in Telling

Recently, the great wordpress blogger, @crazykat, posted this about sharing her story. It was a really great post, and one that I found resonated in many ways for me. It got me to reflect on my attitude, on our attitude of revealing our story…so here it is.

I kept things very secret for a bit, but HUSBAND and I have a small, close circle (4 couples) of friends with whom we have traveled some other challenges. One by one, I met with the wives and shared our story…my story. HUSBAND met with the husbands and shared our story…his story. I blogged about telling our children (difficult, but ultimately amazing) and his parents (awful and ultimately a mistake).

Then, when the Ashley Madison hack occurred, a local tv station decided to make a story and called (our therapist) to see if there was a couple who would agree to a confidential (voices changed, faces not shown) interview. He asked us, and we did it. Interestingly, as it was airing on the news that night, one of my friends texted me that she was proud of us (so much for anonymity). Of course, this was one of that small circle of friends who knew, so I still felt protected.

A few months later, at a small retreat, HUSBAND told a very abbreviated, cryptic story (just said he’d done “everything to trash our marriage” but we were experiencing great healing) but it started a tumbling down of transparency amongst a few people at the retreat. That led to our church asking if we would consider making a video. We did. The morning it aired, to kick off a series on being “Strong and Courageous,” I felt anything but. Yet the individual people, and couples, that began to reach out and share their pain with us made me certain we had done the right thing.

That led to a local tv station asking if we would do a more in-depth story/interview about sexual infidelity and the possibility of overcoming the pain. We did. It was for a daytime (11:00am) very-low-viewer talk show, and we felt fairly safe watching it, knowing few people would see it. Until about 4 that afternoon when a friend posted a link of it to our facebook talking about our bravery. By the time I saw it, numerous people had liked the link (or I would have removed it). HUSBAND and I decided that it was meant to be, and more people poured out their hearts to us about their lonely marriages, their quiet desperation and sometimes, their own sexual infidelity.

At every juncture, we have encountered other brokenness…individual sex addicts who didn’t have a name for it, didn’t know there was help. Spouses who have been devastated by infidelity in all forms and either stay in silence punishing themselves (because it had to be their fault, right?) or leaving the marriage with their gaping open, bloody wounds and no healing. Couples who were white-knuckling each day but living in misery, thinking they were alone in the situation. We have discovered the problem of shitty marriage with or without infidelity is so widespread, so vast and we are incredibly overwhelmed, but desperately want to shine light on the darkness of this reality. The darkness that marriage is mediocre at best, toxic at worst, and often leads to cheating. We meet with couples almost every day, coach couples through an intensive weekend monthly and follow up with group meetings weekly.

There have been casualties of our openness: We have “friends” who have smiled, nodded and walked away…not wanting to “catch” what we had. I get it, I probably used to be that person although I would have denied it. We definitely have family that wants us to be quiet, that have clearly shunned us, but they were unhealthy relationships anyway, so for us there is no real loss other than what we always pretended family to be. But mostly what we have found is an ever-increasing number of hurting, desperate people who need to know they are not alone. Who need to know there is help. Who need to know there is not a path that is predetermined and that they must take. Who need to know they are cared for, and loved. So much pain, who knew?

For me, there is redemption in sharing our story. There is sharing the redemption that IS our story, obviously. But now, there is the deep awareness I have of the widespread sadness amongst married couples. It is more the norm than actual satisfaction whether there are affairs or not. The impact this has…that our children then grow up with deeply imbedded (where they cannot even identify it) pictures of marriage that is less than satisfying – countered by literal fairy-tales on the big and little screen that can’t be replicated and lead to even more confusion for all parties. This is the legacy we are leaving our kiddos when we live in mediocrity, when we live together and “stay married” but really, have no intimacy or connection or love. Seeing this, and speaking/living/walking into it…this is redemptive.

It is redemptive to walk alongside broken marriages and provide hope, encouragement and skills to increase their ability to reveal, to be safe, to love. To watch them heal, or make a healthy choice to part but with more care and dignity and kindness. Now, HUSBAND and I see that sharing our story is an incredible privilege, and one of the sweetest outcomes is that evil did not win. Instead, love wins.

 

Her.

Ok, so today is H and that is Her.

Her the wife, me. The her that loved him imperfectly perfectly, bound in covenant and for the long haul. The her that stood beside him through the escapades of younger days: drinking too much. Sneaking around with old friends and pot. Setting up some private bank accounts to spend money without her knowing. The her that kept believing better days were coming and that better days were here and meanwhile bore him babies and kept the house and started a business and knew that one day we would have time together that was about her. The her that held the bucket for him to pee in when he’d had surgery and bought his clothes and floated the money when there wasn’t any and made sure there were presents under the tree for the children from him. The her that listened to stories about things she didn’t care about involving people she didn’t know doing things she couldn’t imagine. The her that always seemed to want to talk at the wrong time…either he was tired or he was getting ready to do something or he had to get to work early…and her waited. The her that believed everything was really okay and told herself all the good and the bad really wasn’t very bad and reminded herself how blessed she was. The her that didn’t care about emerald rings or diamond earrings or houses on the river or expensive trips, but yearned for being desired and cherished and valued. Her the wife, me.

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Her the mistresses. Them. The hers that saw him as being able to provide them with something they were lacking and beckoned him to join them in play. The hers that were willing to meet in secret, to be a secret, to live in the shadows. The hers that sent texts and emails and cryptic notes that were erased and destroyed. The hers that helped him believe the real her wasn’t able to see how really great he was and the hers helped him believe they were the road to happy. The hers that gave him an outlet of fantasy and moments of sex and words of allure and a false road to freedom. The hers that lied to their friends and their families and their bosses and to him and to themselves. The hers that began pretending it was all for fun but quickly declared they were real and wanted more and then the hers wanted to know when he would give them more. The hers that were okay being part of the plotting and creating destruction and pain and devastation and believing that there was good anywhere in that plan. Her, them, the mistresses.

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Her the honorable. The her that served HUSBAND while out of town, with kindness and engagement. The her that brought him beer and food and wiped the table. The her that the other men encouraged HUSBAND to approach because the her seemed to think he was interesting. The her that looked up when HUSBAND came over, and when the her heard his question “So what time do you get off?” the her that lifted up her left hand and pointed at her fourth finger. The her that responded to HUSBAND’s puzzled look and responded “You’re married. I don’t do married.” The her that the real her holds in high esteem, honors.

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H is for the hers in my journey.

Decisions

I’ve always been a fairly good decision-maker. A person who can discern between the time when deep thought and consideration need to be considered, and when it is okay to move quickly and with little thought. I don’t typically get overwhelmed or bogged down with decisions – don’t stress too much if the reds in the stripe on one material match precisely with the floral on another. Food tasting before an event is more to ensure the overall mix of selections than the specific ingredient of an individual item, and whether to attend one barre class or another is based solely on my schedule, not the teacher or the content of the class.

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I puzzle about people who struggle incessantly over some decisions – like how to wear their hair or what shoes to buy. Those types of decisions can be so easily changed…hair grows out, there is always another pair of shoes if you return the ones you ended up not liking…

Shoes

Some decisions, no matter how carefully considered, just are beyond our ability to completely control. Like college acceptance, when – and if – to have a baby.

And whether to marry a cheater.

HUSBAND came into our marriage with a past he chose not to share. To hear him tell the story now, he didn’t think I would marry him – decide on him – if I knew who and what he really was, so he pretended to be the person that he thought he had decided to be. Except he really didn’t know how. He didn’t know how to quit being the person with the choices and habits and ways that he’d been for the years before we married, but he knew how to talk as if he was that person.

So I decided to marry him. Even though, looking back, a couple people gave me little pieces of information that I could have delved into…I decided because what I saw, and what I heard from him, and what he acted like were just the man to love me forever, to walk with me through the ups and downs of life, to help me become the best me I could, and work toward the same in himself with me at his side.

The decision was made without some important information. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and for a long time, HUSBAND kept it all from me. Within two years he had slipped into old ways, hated himself for it, and I was none the wiser. A few years later, he repeated the cycle and again, I didn’t know. I was moving along in and through life oblivious that the decisions I had made on some very important issues were based on some blatantly missing information.

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HUSBAND danced a lot, creating diversions to keep me from being able to discern the spaces between truth and lies. He used lots of humor, always the nice guy, and tripped over himself to make sure his lies stayed hidden. He kept me away from some people, out of sorts with others, and at bay emotionally from himself. Meanwhile I – we – kept making various decisions but only he knew what the deck really looked like. It was exhausting for him, and crazy making for me and never really satisfying for us both.

So after affair three got revealed, and the woven in lies and infidelities and porn and sex addiction and pre-marital deceptions all came tumbling down, I got to make some decisions.

These were tougher than some of the decisions in the past. But at least I was now able to understand the missing pieces in my own life, and in his.

So what did I decide? Stay tuned, and we will find out.

BESIDE

BESIDE. A self-explanatory word that means to be by the side, or next to, someone or something. But it is a word that has changed through the years in its depth and width and breadth…

Beside was my mom next to me, holding me while I got stitches in my head when I was young after playing ghost with a blanket – that was obviously too long – and I tripped…sending me pitching downward to where my head met the ground violently. Beside was comfort.

Beside was my dad carrying me on his back, my arms wrapped around his neck, while he body-surfed at Waimea Bay…the water rushing and the waves crashing around me madly. Beside was security.

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Beside was the secret service man sitting next to me on the South White House lawn when I was present at the welcome ceremony of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi…gun revealed as he leaned over to glance at something. Beside was intrigue.

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Beside was the kind man who saw my tears flowing as I boarded a plane in high school, forced to move away from my dearest friends and beloved Colorado, and invited me to sit by him in the empty seat in first class…getting to experience the great food, the movie, the leather seats. Beside was diversion.

Beside was the weary but willing American traveler sharing my train compartment who answered a million questions since I’d just gotten off the plane for my solo trip through Europe…and realized how little I knew about how to go about doing what I was now doing. Beside was support.

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Beside was the eager man standing next to me at the altar, a bit uncomfortable in such fancy clothes, making vows to love and honor and protect me forever in this life…sealed with a kiss. Beside was promise.

Beside was seeing a plus sign on the test, and feeling movement and knowing when he had hiccups and not being able to breathe too well…then pushing and delivering and enveloping his perfection in my arms. Beside was hope.

Beside was sitting in the closet, holding her in my arms while she cried and wanting to lash out bitter words toward the mean girl but choosing instead to speak life into the broken girl…wishing somehow I could take the pain. Beside was helplessness.

Beside was sitting in the audience to honor the graduations, memorialized with a small pieces of paper, and knowing the time and effort and decisions and heart that had gotten one, two, three, four of my beautiful babies to this point…their own achievements that I could not claim. Beside was pride.

Beside was discovering infidelity and wracking sobs and how could yous and why did yous and why didn’t Is…thinking if onlys. Beside was pain.

Beside was my mom lying next to and holding the frail and weak body of my daddy, surrounded by all the ones he loved best…sharing memories of the good and the not-so-good, laughing, crying. Beside was passage.

Beside was anger and even rage, leaving no staying, desperate conversations and counseling and therapy and support groups…demanding safety and boundaries and rebuilding trust. Beside was risk.

Beside was wrestling with the One who said He’d never leave or forsake me, throwing everything I had at Him and finally understanding He’d  written my name, in red…and nothing could change that ever. Beside was Grace.

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Beside was standing next to her, hugging her and listening to her make the same vows I’d made, knowing she was full of hope and dreams like her mother before her…and believing with her that these could come true. Beside was faith.

Beside is waking up in the middle of the night, legs entangled with HUSBAND, hearing his even breathing…him murmuring I love you and realizing I’d forgotten to be mad for a little bit. Beside is healing.

Beside. It is where I live.

 

What Was It Like

I am in Atlanta on a business trip. On Monday, I boarded the crowded plane with no thoughts of anything other than the work ahead. My mind was occupied with the scheduled meetings, and I glanced at the itinerary, reviewed emails and planned the events during much of the flight.

As we began to descend and I could see the city below me, it hit me. Just over two years ago, another woman, literally, an OTHER WOMAN was on another flight into this same city, having just come from a tryst with HUSBAND. As I stared out the window, I tried to imagine what it was like. What it was like to be her. What she might be thinking and feeling and planning.

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Was she thinking about how she had lied to her live-in-lover about where she had gone, and how she would cover her tracks? Was she thinking about how she had lied to her boss and co-workers about her missed days at work? Was she gloating at the thought that she was one step closer in getting her man by taking mine? Could she still smell his scent…feel his touch…hear his voice…

What is it like to be a woman who can purchase a plane ticket…drive to the airport…park her car…walk to the gate…board the plane…buckle her seatbelt…make small talk conversation with her seat-mate…to a destination of secrets and evasion and deceit? What lies does she have to tell herself to keep the façade going – the fantasy that she is valued by her illicit lover in any real way – that she is anything more than a momentary illusory stopping point in the life of man who has created an out-of-sync fictional chapter in the true story of his life?

Then I thought about what it was like to be me. Me then, me now.

Me then was an oblivious wife, also on a plane headed back to my home which was HIS home. I was on the plane, thinking about the past two days in DC and all that had been accomplished…and all that remained to be done. I was on the plane, thinking about the laundry I would have to do when I got home, and hoping HUSBAND would be on time to pick me up. I was on the plane thinking about going to watch our son play soccer and whether we would have time to eat before his game and hoping HUSBAND had reminded him to get his uniform.

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Me then was okay with a few functional messages with HUSBAND during my time away as long as he took care of the things he needed to take care of. Me then was okay with a brief hello and perfunctory peck on the cheek upon my return, with conversation focused on kids and what had gotten done while I was gone and what needed to be done now that I was home. Me then was a strong me who lived in a detached manner with a strong him in which we knew our roles and duties well, did them well with little dissension. But also with little passion, guarding our deepness and wounds and wishes lest they get trampled on.

Me now is stronger than ever, and HUSBAND is a man who has embraced his strength like never before. Me now is dedicated to my own work and that of HUSBAND and even more so, the extra work we embrace together to bolster ourselves and our marriage. Me now isn’t worried about HUSBAND picking up on time…me now knows he will be waiting and will have taken care of all that needed to be taken care of including things I had not even considered.

Me now is in constant touch with HUSBAND…receiving texts and phone calls and emoticons expressing his mood-of-the-moment. Me now is anxious to get on the plane later today, to return to HUSBAND knowing that I will be enveloped in his embrace. Me now looks forward to his hands cupping my face, his eyes locked on my eyes, his voice telling me how much he missed me, and me now knows this is true. Me now still knows my duties well, as does he, but me now sees these are secondary, they are only functions of life. Me now knows that real life happens in the intimacy of our us, that it is because we, because I, no longer guard my deepness, and have seen his wounds and showed him mine…many which bear his mark…that real passion burns between us.

The counterfeit may be close, and fool some, but requires one to deny inconsistencies, to turn away from flaws, to ignore blemishes. That’s what it was like. I’ll opt for me now.

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The Important Becomes the Necessary.

We go along and live life. Seems like nearly everyone I know never has enough time to….to….we each can fill in that blank with the things we never have enough time to…as we juggle all that we have to do.

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Meanwhile, we spend our days doing the Necessary while wishing we could spend our days doing the Important. We do work and do carpool and do grocery shopping and do meals and do homework and do and do and do. We convince ourselves that tomorrow, TOMORROW, we will have a special conversation with our friend, or make the phone call to our family member, curl up – no agenda – with our child, read a book just to read a book, or set aside time to really work out touchy issues with our spouse rather than just gloss over them with unfinished sentences or frustrated actions.

Yet the darkness falls on the day and we finish up all those Necessary things and before we know it, another day has passed without demanding the space in our lives for the Important…but…tomorrow…

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Yet in One Moment, sometimes life changes that.

The One Moment when the phone rings and the voice on the other end is speaking words that you hear but don’t really understand yet you move into action as you grab your phone and your purse and your car keys and holler at those around you that your child has been in an accident and you’re leaving (work/home/church/friend/family member) right then and you’re not sure when you will be back, leaving WHATEVER Necessary behind undone for however long – hours. Days. Weeks.

The One Moment when the hospice nurse says the time is imminent for your beloved parent to die and suddenly there is nowhere and nothing else that can pry you away from the bedside even though the imminence turns into one day and a second day and a third day and a fourth day and Necessary somehow gets forgotten.

The One Moment when I found a letter from HUSBAND’s lover that revealed my life was not really my life and that there was a whole different life being lived alongside the life I thought I was living, right there, in my home, in my bed. The world stopped and suddenly I couldn’t even remember Necessary.

I stopped right then. Right there.

That One Moment, without me even seeing it or figuring it out or making plans, the Important became the Necessary. I have no idea how, but in that One Moment, taking care of me and my precious children and dealing with the shattered life and HUSBAND were all that mattered, and all that I saw or did. Those things that I would always get to tomorrow became the ONLY THING that I would get to today.

I had no idea prior to that One Moment that the next days and weeks and months of my life would be filled with counseling sessions and intensives and Marriage Weekends. I never imagined the days would include long sessions of holding children and sharing newfound truths and putting pieces together. I had no idea that the rest of my life would include support groups and daily readings and coaching sessions.

In One Moment, everything I knew about my life past and life future changed including how I measured Necessary and Important.

I would have told you no way. NO WAY did I have any interest, or even if I did, the TIME to make the Important the Necessary. Honestly, I wouldn’t even have been able to tell you some of the Important that WAS Important because I had so convinced myself that I could NOT pay attention to it so I buried it under the Necessary. But I did. I DID.

I like that the Important has become the Necessary, now. I like that the heart of those I love is more essential in my world than the dust bunnies in my living room. I like that the soul of my family is more prioritized than the meeting that I actually can skip since I realize there are other voices that can carry a message – sometimes better than I had perceived my message was to be. I like that HUSBAND and his spirit take precedence over being on another committee or heading up another project – even if it is a good political move for my business. And somehow, now that it has all switched around, the Necessary usually gets done anyway, although I could never see the way before. It’s a puzzle, but one I am okay not fully understanding.

For me, life determining the Important was really now the Necessary…it was shocking and painful and blindsiding…but perhaps it ultimately created a better path for the future I wanted.

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