Living With Grief

Grief is different than I used to understand. I used to see grief as something that washed over me briefly, although sometimes intensely, when news of a death or failure or loss happened. There was that moment(s) of shock, followed by the moving through of the other stages of grief…denial…bargaining…guilt…anger…depression…acceptance…

Betrayal grief is different. There are the stages, although for me, I’ve gone through them again and again. There are moments and days and even occasionally – weeks – in which the grief retreats. So when it comes back, like a wave crashing over me at the ocean shore, I’m shocked. Sometimes it will happen as I drive down the road and ssswwwwhoooooosssshhhhh….I have the thought HUSBAND BETRAYED YOU – HELD ANOTHER WOMAN – WHISPERED INTO HER EARS – SHARED HIS BODY WITH HER –

And in that split second I am propelled into the realization that the grief is still present, still intertwined into every part of the me that is now me, and the new marriage that I’m living. It is a struggle every time…creates an immediate fight or flight response in which I want to choose FLIGHT as  I struggle to find my breath and to calm my heart beat and to see the present moment. Somedays it is followed by one of the other stages, and if so, I allow myself to sit there for a bit, to consider the emotion I am feeling, to express it. I let HUSBAND know what I am thinking – how I am feeling, and thus far, he receives it. He hears, he listens, he responds. He holds me if I can do that, or lets me be if I need that, but at least now, we are more in sync in this new dance than we used to be in our old life.

I get weary, though. Grieving. Wondering why it continues to nip at me, and haunt me, and sometimes stop me in my tracks.

So last week I was in DC on business, and got to Reagan International on Friday for the return trip. The airport was predictably crowded with a Friday early afternoon flight, and my gate was even more packed. I sat near the entry to the plane, prepared to settle down with a book, and a group of young men caught my eye. There were five of them, looking rather normal from different ethnicities ranging in age from probably mid 20s to early 40s. What caught my eye is that they were all in wheelchairs, gathered into almost a circle as they talked and laughed together. I watched them and was taken by the automatic way that there broken hands worked to open a soda, to send a message on a phone, to rip into a package of chips.

After a few minutes, I walked over to them…and asked them who they were and what they were doing. They all looked up, surprised, but very inviting and several began to answer…Sectionals…Wheelchair Rugby…vying for Nationals…

I sat with them until we boarded, and then on the plane, they sat all around me, too. During the next couple hours, I learned a little about some of their stories. One was shot. At 23 years old, he’d gotten in a fight in a bar, then gotten kicked out along with his opponent. He went to his car, followed by the other fighter who noted what his car looked like and the direction he went. The other fighter hunted him down on the road, pulling up next to him and shooting repeatedly into his car. He was left a quadriplegic. And now he is a computer science engineer working with NASA.

Another one of them had just turned 16, played linebacker for a local DC high school football powerhouse. Opening play of the game, he was hit, and his neck broke. He was left a quadriplegic. The youngest of the group, he is still in college majoring in fine arts. He laughed as he told me he would be required to sculpt this year, as he picked up his barely functioning hands, and began to strategize how he would make that happen.

Another story was a 25 year old named Joe, driving during the day, and then a terrible accident due to weather. He was left a quadriplegic. I asked him how the doctor tells you, what he says, how you respond, did you know. He told me that he knew he couldn’t feel his legs, and the doctor came in and hit him hard: You will never walk again. You will never be able to dress yourself, or brush your teeth, or eat without help.

BOOM.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, for any of them. Every one of these amazing men pressed into their pain, their limitations, their brokenness. They had to learn new ways to do old things. They had to learn to ask for help sometimes. They had to change course in the professional direction of their lives, or make great adjustments in how they were going to get there. But their brokenness does not define them. In a very real way, I could see it, but it was not who they were.

The next day, HUSBAND and I went to watch Wheelchair Rugby. The players I met were joined by two additional players, one of which was a woman. When we walked in, they warmly greeted me…met HUSBAND…had us follow them to the gym where we watched two teams play as they told us the rules and explained some of the strategy. It was ASTOUNDING. The players are fearless athletes who play with every bit of heart and strength they have, never stopping until the last buzzer sounds. It was so exciting, so compelling, that we stayed for several hours and returned the next day to watch the DC team play in one more thrilling game.

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What I did not see from these exceptional humans was their grief stopping them. Of COURSE they wish they did not live life from a wheelchair and that they were playing able-bodied rugby. OF COURSE they would like it if they didn’t know an entirely new vocabulary related to level of injury. OF COURSE they wish they didn’t have to board the plane first because it is difficult to transition from wheelchair to plane seat. Every moment of every day, these people are living with the very present reality of the enormity that one move, one action, one second completely altered the rest of their lives yet they are living. No, they are LIVING – boldly, fully and with completeness.

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Grief sucks, no doubt. But it doesn’t have to take over. I’m overwhelmingly grateful to have found such role models to help me see this. Grief doesn’t have to have the last word.

 

 

To be loved.

So when you find out you have been betrayed, you are pierced and shattered and devastated. And you know that you know that you aren’t loved, at least in a way that makes any sense.

People that love you couldn’t do this.

People that love you couldn’t have conversations with others that are intimate. They couldn’t share details about you, your life, your children. They couldn’t complain to outsiders…to a lover…about your idiosyncrasies and how often you have sex and how well you received their various moods.

They couldn’t have conditional love that depended on what you did or didn’t do well…a love that was all about meeting responsibilities and obligations.

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That’s not love.

Right?

So what is love?

I started down a journey in the quest of recovering my soul after discovering the marriage betrayals. I had to find love, and try to figure out if there had been love within my marriage once, where it went, and whether it could be again. HUSBAND was adamant that he had loved me then and now, but if that was love…

I started with my earliest memories. I was loved by my family, by my parents. So what was that love…how did I know I was loved? I began to consider the evidence, try to unwrap what made me know that I’d been loved. First…I was always TOLD I was loved. I thought back, I tried to hear the words…and some of them were difficult:

“NO! YOU CAN’T (GO THERE, HAVE THAT, DO THAT, THINK THAT) BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU, THAT’S WHY.” I remembered those moments, woven in through early childhood all the way to young adult-hood.

I got the proverbial “hmmm…4 As and 1 B…why did you get the B?” I received the “don’t embarrass me” and “I would NEVER…” along with the “take that look off your face” and “I should knock your bloody-block off” (I was not physically abused, ever). I heard the stern words “We do so much for you…you should be GRATEFUL…” I heard my dad, sitting in his recliner after dinner watching tv, saying to me with a true snarl, “How…HOW can you sit in here while your MOTHER cleans up the kitchen?”

But, I was loved. Right?

I thought about several devastating issues through my youth and adolescence and realized I had not gone to my parents, but had sought solutions on my own. I did not trust them to still love me, or love those I loved, if they knew…and I did not dare tell them anything was off as it may cost me their affection. I remembered knowing I had to shape my message to one or both of my parents and time the “ask” of whatever it was I was seeking so I didn’t rock the boat, or irritate them, or flat out make them mad. I remembered asking my father once if he minded if ‘I don’t refer to you as my dad any more’ because I was so hurt by his reaction and response to whatever was going on.

I remembered being told that of all the things I could do wrong, lying was THE WORST, but that I had to keep a family lie and the logic was that it was another family member’s lie and it wasn’t our story to tell.

But I was loved, right?

So what was the evidence, because after those thoughts I couldn’t see the love.

There was always a well-kept home. There was always a well-balanced dinner. My clothes were always washed, dried and folded. I was driven to school and extracurricular activities. I was taken to church and given presents at birthdays and Christmas.

But what I couldn’t remember was either of my parents digging deep to understand my thoughts and feelings. Or asking me what I thought about things of the heart. Or if I had dreams, or fears, or hopes.

So I was loved, right?

Wow. I took my perception and belief that I had been loved as a child and realized that I had been cared for, well. But I hadn’t been loved…L O V E D…because I’d never really even been known. Not me, not the real me with angst and excitement and joy and anxiety and confusion. That little girl, that teen, that young woman had been hidden away neatly.

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I realized that I’d not been loved, not in a way that makes any sense.

Kind of like my marriage.

Now with my guts spilled out all over the floor of my life, and this man sitting in front of me saying he loved me, desperately wanting me to believe it, even though he was the one who had done the gutting, I realized I had no idea what love was. All I knew was that for the first time, I was bare…my soul exposed…all of me was there. My fears and hurts and distress and pain were known by the very person who had pierced me.

I could run, I could cover back up and patch up the wounds and make sure they were healed up and never exposed again. Or, I could leave them unwrapped, allow them to possibly heal but possibly fester and possibly get infected and possibly leave ugly, jagged scars.

Maybe it was shock. Maybe it was denial, or lack of being able to vision any options. But in that critical moment, with all of me uncovered for perhaps the first time ever, I decided I would stay, at least for a little while. I would stay…I would see if there was love somehow, someway. Love that made sense.

The Weight Transfer.

As you know, HUSBAND revealed a little. Then a little later, he revealed a little more. And a little later, a little more and a little more and a little more until finally all of his revealing was done. All the lies that he had carried and buried and stowed away so carefully for 25 years were out. He felt light and free like he’d never felt before.

But as they left his lips, they hit my ears and wriggled their way in. They traveled through my ears and down my throat and fanned out in my system…some entering my brain and finding nooks and crannies to live and taunt and distort…some piercing my heart and ripping it up into thousands of pieces…some stopping along the way in my esophagus emitting masses of acidity creating a burning so intense…some filtering into my stomach that tried to work hard to get rid of the invader by cramping and growling…some into my intestines where they expanded and my body screamed for release…and the rest traveling down into my lower spine and legs and all the way to my toes that ached and tingled…

He had transferred the filth, and was clean, but I was DIRTY.

When a cheater finally comes clean to his spouse, this is what happens.

Much of the betrayer’s life has been pulled inward to carry out the deception, and even if the affair stops without or before revelation, they are always on guard, fearing that a misspoken word will trip them up. This is how HUSBAND describes it. The freedom he was experiencing was literally euphoric, but I bore the heaviness for him to get to lightness.

A necessary part of the process, and one that I wish I could change for all of us betrayeds. It SUCKS, and the burden is so great, and so present. No relief in sleep as, at first, dreams swirl around and taunt with images and thoughts and alternate endings. No relief as we work and can’t concentrate and fail to meet deadlines and suffer in silence or experience out-of-bound emotions and coworkers think we have lost it (which we have). No relief as we parent our children and look at the image of our betrayer and want to scream out YOUR FATHER IS A FUCKING CHEATER when they receive the love and affection so readily from a man who betrayed not only us but them.

Oh those days – weeks – months were horrific. I nearly broke in two carrying the weight.

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Nearly, but not quite. And as my body began to get heal, and to expel the poison and I started standing straighter I found I was taller. And stronger. And I began to see – even though it was the little space right in front of me, that moment – I began to see, and to step into…

Life.

Unexpected Response.

So by mid-June, HUSBAND had disclosed all…multiple affairs beginning 2 years into our marriage. One night stand with a hooker. An on-again, off-again and more-on-than-off-over-the-last-five-years-of-our-marriage relationship with porn and self-satisfaction. A sex addict.

Life. Life was going on, and there was no way I could stop it. I tried at first. I stayed home from work, holed in my room, vacillating between denial and tears and rage. I searched every possible record I could find, frantically gathered every evidence of the life I thought I’d lived for 27 years, laying pictures and letters and notes out and begging HUSBAND to tell me what was real and what wasn’t. And how could he do this? And how could I be so stupid? And how could these sluts, all of whom I KNEW, fuck married men? I read blogs and forums and asked question after question after question. And asked them again. And HUSBAND answered, never getting impatient, never getting angry.

I cringed at the thought and the site and the touch of the man who’d betrayed me, my children, everything I was. Yet, yet…he held some of the answers I so urgently sought…and I craved his answers, his insight, his truth. Cringe, crave. Cringe, crave.

The cause of my pain, yet the source of my healing. Wickedly cruel twist of reality.

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But I had to begin to step back into life as much as I had no idea how to. We signed up for orientation at our son’s upcoming college campus and booked a hotel. Son was staying on campus for the two-day process, and we dropped him off then headed to check-in. We parked. We walked through the doors. HUSBAND walked over to the clerk – and I froze. I could not move. I literally sat down on something, my suitcase at my feet, and thoughts and visions and memories flooded into my brain at such a pace there was no processing. I saw pictures of hundreds of times we’d come to hotels alone and with various or all of our children and flashes of laughter and pools and breakfasts in the dining rooms and room service and then I heard HUSBAND saying, “come on honey…are you ready…are you okay?”

I mumbled something and got up and followed him, still in some sort of haze and then we were at the room and he put the key in and opened the door and went through. I could not go in the room. I stood there, with some kind of look of terror on my face. “i…I…I just can’t go in there,” stumbled out of my mouth.

HUSBAND came back outside the door, and asked what was wrong, and what could he do, how could he help.

I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure, but I just couldn’t go through the door.

After a few moments, I put one foot in front, and the next and then I walked in. The door shut behind me, and I stood, frozen again, looking around at the predictable mid-price lodging: two beds. A dresser sporting a coffee maker. TV. Desk, chair, mirror. One single reading chair. A bathroom.

I went to the single chair, sat down and stared in front of me. And quietly began to speak and to ask the things that were now running through my mind, tears falling the whole time. Women, these whores throughout our marriage, they came to hotels with you. They walked through doors of hotels. Did they stand by you at check in? Did they have the audacity to pretend like they belonged there? Was there a moment, a hint, of shame for either of you?

woman in a hotel

Where did they put their suitcase? Did they unpack things and put them on the sink in the bathroom? What about their clothes…put them in the dresser? Hang anything up? Did they walk around naked? In bra and panties? Did they wear lovely negligees? They acted like they belonged here with you. They took my place. They had no right, they had no authority, but they did it. How could they? How could you? How could you pull down the covers and let them get in the sheets? Was there ever, even just a brief moment of shame, of some inner voice crying out NO! STOP! Did you have to quiet a voice?

HUSBAND sat at my feet by the chair. He listened, he answered, he cried. Some of the answers stung…especially the ones that told me I wasn’t even considered in those moments. By either of them. There was no shame then. By either of them.

But then he told me there was shame now. Overwhelming and horrific shame that confronts him constantly. That sitting at the feet of his broken wife was a picture of the damage he’d caused and he was so sorry and he was willing to do whatever it took to help me find peace and healing.

Everything and anything, even telling me things he didn’t think I would want to know or hear.

I sat in that chair for a long time. He sat at my feet for a long time. Eventually, I said I would get in bed, the same bed in the hotel room with the man who I thought had kept sacred vows and with whom I had kept sacred vows. I got into that bed, and laid there. And after a bit, I moved closer to HUSBAND, who wrapped his arms around me. The irony of receiving comfort from the one who had shattered me was huge for both of us. I laid in HUSBAND’S arms, and we both wept, and somehow, one more piece of brokenness with a jagged edge was put into my box – my new box – of memories. The box labeled The Other Real Life Box. One day, I hope it is filled and after I go through it a time or two or ten, I will be able to put it up on a shelf where it can gather dust.

One day.

 

A Marker.

Two years. Two years ago, HUSBAND picked up his slut-whore (SW) at the airport and let her sit in my seat of our car. Two years ago, he drove off from the airport and headed to a neighboring resort town, pointing out sites along the way to a woman who had no business being with him, other than to fuck.

Two years ago, he walked on the beach with SW, and they ate the lunch he had packed in our kitchen in our home. Two years ago, he got a phone call while on the beach from my mother, arranging kids since I was out of town.

Two years ago, SW and HUSBAND went into a local famous watering hole, asking the bartender for a good eatery suggestion. Two years ago, they walked down the street of the town holding hands til they got to the local spot…and two years ago, HUSBAND called that bartender back to thank him for such a great recommendation.

Two years ago, HUSBAND and SW returned to the hotel and fucked, and in the morning, after another fuck, went down to eat some breakfast…SW wearing a fake wedding set since she ‘knew HUSBAND would not take his ring off, and didn’t want to look like a (ready for this) mistress.’

Two years ago, SW asked HUSBAND ‘how he’d liked it…being a real couple’ and pushed him to take the next steps. Two years ago, as they drove to the airport and sat in the cell phone lot, SW prodded HUSBAND to make the appointment with the divorce attorney and to remember, ‘they’d come too far to turn back now.’

Two years ago, SW got on the plane and flew back to her life of lies, and into the arms of her live-in lover. Two years ago, HUSBAND picked me up at that same airport just a couple hours later, and I got in my seat of our car oblivious that the filthy DNA of a whore was present and that HUSBAND was cloaked in illicit sex and deceit and false smiles and pretend greetings.

Two years ago, someone saw HUSBAND and SW.

Two years ago, the carefully crafted house of flimsy cards was poised to fall.

Two years ago. A marker.

LoveMagicalandCutting

Telling Our Kids. Part 2.

We both agreed, telling our kids was essential. It was still early on in the process of discovery…just 33 days…

At this point, we had been to two different counselors. We got their insight into telling our kids (18-26). We decided to write out the story, to make sure we covered what we wanted to share and didn’t get distracted or bunny-trail into other areas. We designated who would say which parts…wrote it into our copies…pressed print…

Seriously.

Here HUSBAND and I were, writing out a presentation to our children about the lie their lives had been. It was surreal, unbelievable. It felt to me as if I was watching someone else’s life, surely, not mine. Looking back, I have no idea how I was part of this process…bleeding and broken and shattered as every part of my being felt.

Our not-yet-engaged daughter and her boyfriend came to town for our meeting, but only daughter joined us that morning, along with the three boys. We traveled over to my precious and very SAFE office…a small, restored home in a revitalized area of our town…bringing donuts and milk and OJ…I brewed coffee…we sat on the comfy chairs in the “living room” and looked into the eyes of these most-beloved children. I could scarcely believe the scene.

And HUSBAND began. He began by saying that he had some really hard things to tell them, and he needed them to listen, and to not ask any questions until the end. He also told them we had prepared our words in writing, because we had thought them out carefully and wanted to make sure we shared the important things.

HUSBAND – This will be difficult to hear but we are confident that the best thing in the world when facing tough situations is to get them out of the dark…to kill the power that secrecy and uncertainty have over us, and to commit to the actions and attitude changes that are required for healing and restoration.

First thing we want you each to know is that we love each of you, completely and unconditionally.

ME- Parent love is a bit different than couple love. A wise woman once said the difference in the two is that a mom/dad would not hesitate to jump in front of their child to take a bullet. That same mom/dad MIGHT jump in front of their spouse to take a bullet. It doesn’t mean the couple love isn’t real, it is just different because it is two, independent, adult people who bring in their own “stuff” and perspectives and backgrounds and needs and wants into the relationship and sometimes those things can make the love feel dim.

HUSBAND – We married, as you know, 27 years ago. We married quickly and we thought we had tons in common because some of the “outward” things we shared-parents who were still married to each other, hard-working dads, moms who stayed home mostly with us kids, financially secure, etc. We walked down that aisle and said “We will…for better or for worse…for richer or for poorer…in sickness and in health…til death do us part.” We had guests there who had the opportunity to share any concerns, and when they did not, the Priest declared, “What God has put together let no one put asunder.” And our life together began. It wasn’t easy for us from the start. We had some quick differences that were kind of big…I spent many weekends away for pleasure to hunt and fish. Mom was pretty lonely pretty quickly. And I had some struggles with old habits that included marijuana and personal time and friends. But we worked those things out, and then decided we would try to have a baby…which happened immediately upon our “trying.” SON-1 was born when we had been married only one year and four months. Four months later, my ten year high school reunion took place, and I went while Mom stayed home with our 8 month old. It was a rough night…I did not come home til really really late, but explained to mom that I had really tied one on and slept it off in my car in the parking lot of the event. Since I already had one DUI on my record, it made sense and mom believed me.

ME – Life went on…we had Daughter…we had Son-2…we had Son-3. We faced some tough things – Dad’s DUI, economic difficulties, failed investments. And we had some really amazing and fun times…holidays and Disney trips, homeschool plays and soccer games and birthday parties and renovating houses. There was lots of good…we grew closer as a family and we sought to have God in the center, praying together, reading scripture (remember struggling to get through Leviticus and Deuteronomy)??? We made school decisions and car decisions and had a couple accidents and surgeries and braces and recitals and championships and animals to love and animals to bury.

And then the last few years, we both began to realize in our own ways that we were not spending much time talking to each other. We weren’t spending much time having fun with each other – most of our fun came when spending time with children-related activities. Both of us spent less and less time reaching out for each other for anything other than the “work” of the household. And both of us were beginning to wonder what was going to happen over the next couple years as our last children graduated and left our home although we rarely talked about it together. I tried to talk to dad a few times about my concerns. Dad would listen, not respond much and usually say something like, “I’ll do better.” Simultaneously, dad was coming to the conclusion that he was really dissatisfied, but he did not tell me.  We did not fight much, as a matter of fact, we did not interact much at all.

HUSBAND – There were some great times in the interim during the last year. You guys remember: fun holidays and dinners. A quick trip to South Carolina to help Daughter move, and senior photos for Son-3. A new condo for Son-2 and building furniture in St Augustine. There were nights out with Son-1, and US Men’s Soccer games. There was moving your grandparents into our home. There was National Honor Society Induction, football season (Go NOLES!!!), David Crowder Concert…Soccer…Ranch trips…visits to RAM…Holidays and Anniversaries…bowl games…National Champs…Senior Night…a new business…office renovation…

ME – Then, on April 12 of this year I got an email from an anonymous person who indicated they had seen dad with another woman in what appeared to be an inappropriate relationship on Feb 3, 2014. He told me it was true.

This started a journey for us. A journey in which dad told me that he was not happy and that he thought he wanted a divorce. A journey which started with an adamant denial of any affair- just a friendship, but eventually, the admittance to having an affair for the past-10 months. An affair that was emotional and physical, and that dad wasn’t sure at first he wanted to stop. Finally, on 4/28/14, he did stop the affair.

HUSBAND – Eventually, more came out. Over the next months, I admitted another affair with the same woman that began with my ten-year reunion, when mom and I had been married less than two years. It was someone I had known in high school…never dated, but had a brief casual sexual relationship with the year after high-school, and then invited to attend our wedding. I never told mom that she had been a former sexual partner. Not too long after this affair ended, I had a one-night stand…And then I had another affair a couple years later, lasting about a year, with a woman that I worked with. This last affair ended up going beyond just sex – the truth is I was even thinking of divorcing mom to have a future with the other woman. The details are devastating, shocking, painful and overwhelming for mom and we are working hard with counselors and a couple friends to get to a place of peace and forgiveness. I am very sorry now, and am ashamed. In looking back, we both realize several things:

ME –

  • Affairs do not just happen. There are all kinds of subtle precursors, including
    • Society’s casual view of sex, and a constant mocking of fidelity in all realms.
    • Cultural norms including adults who have affairs and are still loved and respected without consequence, the constant emphasis and lauding of “personal satisfaction,” and “doing your own thing,” Dad’s family emphasis on personal pleasure seeking…all while there is a huge lack of talk and understanding about the holiness of our bodies…and of sex…and holiness of the sanctity of marriage.
    • The ability to disassociate behavior from who you are as a person. Dad never saw himself as “that guy.” He did not integrate that he was my husband and your father, and also a cheating man. He looked at cheaters with disdain. But he was a cheater.
    • The concept that you can have things happen outside your marriage that don’t affect your marriage…as if one has nothing to do with the other. Marriage is a covenant and what affects one part directly and hugely impacts the whole. The lies and deceit surrounding dad’s ability to carry off these affairs affected every part of our marriage.
    • Early and past sexual relationships, even before marriage, are damaging and dangerous to a marriage.
    • The ease of communication these days: FB, FB messenger, Glide, Skype Snapchat and other forms of communication that are nearly untraceable and can be accessed mobile along with on the computer. They create the ability to be in contact with no one else knowing, even if you are sitting in the same room next to them.

HUSBAND –

  • I did not flee from the opportunity for sexual sin, from adultery, in our marriage. Instead I flirted: by inviting a woman that I had had a sexual relationship with to our wedding, by leaving mom and going to the ten-year reunion, by expressing interest with a woman on a trip, by engaging with a woman at work, by talking to the same women I had already had an affair with earlier in our marriage. Then, I flirted by facebook messaging her, and giving her my cell phone number and then by taking calls, and calling her back. And quickly each time the flirting turned in to an adulterous situation and/or a full-fledged affair.
  • I am really good at deception and covered my tracks well. Mom had no idea, none at all, and wasn’t looking or tracking anything. She asked me about things…and I lied. And mom believed me every time. I could never lie to her about anything else, but was very successful at lying to her about sex with other women.

I did a terrible thing that is super difficult to recover from, and mom is not to blame in any way. This behavior started early in our marriage, and affected every part of our lives. It was always there between us…but I was convinced that since mom did not know, it could not be affecting her, or our marriage. I know now that the early affairs destroyed our true intimacy, and the low-lying hurt, anger and disappointment mom had was due to my lies. Mom always felt unloved by me…she tried talking to me, and pursuing me.  The situation made her confused, and sometimes hurt and sometimes angry. You kids saw that. You saw her anger toward me and her sharpness. She had no idea what the real source of the distance was between us. Mom thought it was her. We attended counseling from time-to-time, and I never revealed my affairs, or my lies. After becoming a Christian, I confessed to a men’s group (“I was unfaithful.”)  I thought I had really overcome the behavior, and for the next years, I pursued God and we had a good family life, but I never told mom. For 18 years, I did not engage in the behavior, and for about 16 of those years, we were pretty happy and enjoyed each other overall, yet there was a gap that she could never quite figure out. Then I did it again.

ME – As the story has unfolded, I have experienced shock and pain and devastation. Son-2 and Son-3 saw this as I would be sobbing, or go out of the house and drive, or stay in my room all day in tears.

HUSBAND –This pack of lies has been between us for 25 years of our 27 year marriage. It was the “space” between us that impacted our intimacy. It was the wall that existed that Mom was always battling and never knew. After I broke, after the truth was out, I looked at Mom, and said “I am so sorry. And I love you so much.” And for the first time, Mom knew it was REAL.

ME – The damage to me as a woman is enormous. There is all kinds of data that shows that marital betrayal affects the betrayed and they suffer PTSD. The consequences for adultery, for having an affair, are huge and it will take gigantic commitment for us to recover. It will be a journey to rebuild trust. The very core of the relationship has been fractured, and trust is nonexistent right now. We have excellent counselors and a small group of mentor couples who we are leaning on heavily and we are hopeful that we will stay together. But it is one day at a time, and I cannot say with certainty that I will stay married to dad at this point. It is extremely painful for the betrayed spouse, and will be a very very long journey. That’s why we are telling you…we need your help and your support. And we need you to understand the TRUTH.

HUSBAND – For our possible recovery, I need you to know what I did. I need you to know how ashamed and sorry I am, and what I put your mom through. I need you to love her and to understand that I love her and that I treated her wrongly for a long, long time. Mom is my beloved, I adore her and I cherish her. I need you to never treat mom with anything but love and respect, and to know that she is a fantastic woman of faith to agree to try to work through this. Many women throw their husbands out. Most punish their spouses. Mom has done none of this.

ME – In the bigger picture, and equally important for us to talk to you about is communication. We have learned that we had some very unhealthy communication patterns and were dealing with each other from the mind-side of our brain v the emotion/heart-side of our brain – and that is how we have communicated with you. That is fine in business, but it is not the side of the brain that we should deal with the people that we love. We are reestablishing the patterns with which we listen, hear, process and react and the intimacy that we are developing is nothing short of astounding. You all have learned from US your patterns of communication, and it is not healthy. We want you to know this. We want you to have healthier ways to communicate and to build intimacy with your cherished ones. While this is NOT the cause for the affairs, the lack of emotional and physical intimacy in our marriage was one fissure. Our intimacy was doomed with the lies and deceit that dad was carrying, but our communication patterns were also damaging.  We NEVER want to see any of our children go through the unbelievable pain of an affair. It is nearly unbearable.

HUSBAND – So…here we are. We want you in this fight with us. We need your prayers, your support, and your grace as part of our support system while we heal from this grievous situation.

ME – This has helped us realize that we love each other deeply. And we love each of you so darn much it hurts. We are a family. We have warts and lumps and dark places and sadness. But we also have joy, and relationship, and safety, and dreams and commitment. We have each other. We are so blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark and Light…

The journey of my broken marriage has some real darkness, and difficult holidays aren’t necessarily real darkness (perspective). I realize as I write this post how many old pains, deep wounds there are to mend. Please bear with me as I work through these things. I’m sorry if I seem trivial…and thank you for visiting.

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Last night. In a beautiful connection, we felt each other and held each other and caressed each other. It was significant because Christmas was unexpectedly challenging-actually, painful. We struggled to stay connected over the last couple weeks, and I spiraled into a pretty dark place.

Last Christmas, the first following the discovery that much of my married life had been a sham, we fled. Husband, our three boys and I loaded up in the car and drove 20 hours to meet up with daughter and her fiancé, and to meet his family. It was a completely different environment, including places we’d never been (Adirondacks), places we love (NYC), meeting delightful new family and friends and a focus on the upcoming nuptials of daughter and fiancé. From beginning to end, the holiday season was entirely different than any year since our marriage, and our little family unit worked hard together to make it all work – and it did.

This year, Husband offered to let me “drive” the decisions for what our Christmas would look like, and I considered traveling again but having just hosted a wedding, paying for college for two students and thinking I was ready, I decided we could return to old traditions. The Christmas Eve tradition, in particular, in which we go to the in-laws along with 60 other people and lots of booze and presents and brokenness.

It was excruciatingly difficult to walk through the path and actions we had taken for the majority of our marriage, smiling and nodding at all the folks. The Christmas Eve events had always been marked with pain for me: my MIL had decided after year one of our marriage that I was the HATED ONE, and everyone else either agreed, or avoided me so year after year it was a miserable experience that I endured for HUSBAND and our children.

Everything in our world is so dramatically different than it was in December 2013, yet that scene played out just the same as it always had through the many years of our shared life. The same masks were tightly adhered to each of the players in the drama. Same words were falling out of their mouths. Same pretenses and cliques and ridiculous bullshit.

BUT IT IS ALL SO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Being present in the PRESENT that looked so much like that past was literal crazy-making. Then, MIL does her annual ding ding ding time…listen to ME because I pretend “it is all about Him and all about others” time…and then pats herself on the back for the good deeds she has done over the past year…

And this night, she reports her faith leader has declared the upcoming year the Year Of Jubilee. What does it MEAN? It means, she tells us, that the year is to be marked with mercy. MIL continues on, reading a description of what mercy is.

She described…ME.

You know, the one who was WRONGED from head to toe, beginning to end, for 25 years and chose not to seek retribution. Who chose not to seek revenge. Who chose to, despite her own personal and gut-wrenching pain and ache, to care for her husband, and to find a way to somehow include the lying, nasty, manipulative group who are his family in their lives…in my life. That would be me.

But the self-righteous MIL went on and read a whole page of words, smug look on her face, choosing from time-to-time to look at me (and she normally looks anywhere BUT me). Not with kindness or humility or appreciation, but with nasty little brows raised high in loftiness, daring me to forgive – her? Her son? It was so incredibly sickening; eventually I could not allow myself to look at her, and instead looked around the room. Such fraud played out before our eyes, but in this sick family system, no one calls BULL SHIT. This woman, who slays people with her tongue, lies and carries out retributive actions on so many, is educating us – ME – on mercy and forgiveness. And everyone stands there and nods despite having been victimized by her at least once through the years.

I’m SICK, literally sick.

Then, the annual gift-giving. HUSBAND and I had contributed to the group gift for MIL and FIL, but in addition, I gave MIL three more gifts, wrapped in lovely wrapping accompanied by personal notes. The frenzy of gift-giving happened, the 15 cousins exchanging, and then MIL giving out the child/in-law and grandchild gifts…there were diamond earrings and canvas photos and elaborate American Girl sets. Nothing for my kiddos, nothing for me. MIL comes along and says, Oh HUSBAND, come out here with me so I can give you your gift, and presents him with some camo chair for hunting. Nothing for our kids, nothing for me. MIL comes along and hands me 3 ornaments saying daughter already got hers, nothing for our kids, nothing for me. We are getting ready to go, MIL says DON’T LEAVE YET, I NEED ALL MY CHILDREN NOW BACK HERE and someone says Should Spouses Come? And MIL says NO! Off they go, to the back of the house with MIL’s oblivious husband/FIL remaining at the party, at the bar, engaged in conversation and laughter while the drama goes on around him. HUSBAND returns, we gather ourselves and our kids and our cousin gifts and our sister-brother gifts and make our way to the door…which takes 20 minutes…and eventually tell MIL goodbye (and she looks at me with a beady piercing stare and says curtly Good Night, stiffly throwing her arms toward me) and thank you and still nothing for our kids, nothing for me.

In the car, HUSBAND asks our kids if their grandmother gave them a gift.

No. They answer.

But it’s our fault I guess, says the youngest. Our fault because she didn’t know we were coming since you didn’t RSVP.

Stunning silence. I’m stunned, and can only remain silent.

My baby-boy has been made to believe by MIL – his GRANDMOTHER –  that if he doesn’t do things JUST SO – according to her rulebook or expectations, then he shouldn’t expect a gift. From his grandmother. On Christmas.

And it’s his fault.

And he’s okay with all that.

I realize how very very very broken my children are. I realize how very very very broken HER children are. This is their normal, and it is so not-normal, or loving, or kind, or merciful. But this is HUSBAND’s life experience, what shaped him, and is now – to a lesser degree – shaping our children.

There is so much work to be done to right the wrongs that started long ago.

Incidentally, there were gifts. When we got home, there was a bag that HUSBAND thought was from his SIL, but there were gifts inside for the boys and me:

Each boy got a hoodie, and a book on how to be a gentleman. And there was a $25 gift certificate to each for a fast-food chain. And for me? 8 Christmas-decorated hard plastic luncheon-sized plates.

I’m regifting the plates next year. Regifting them to MIL, since she obviously really liked them.

Finally, last night wrapped in HUSBAND’s arms, I began to see light again. I am thankful for that.

Reclaiming.

Tears. Anger. Counseling. Questions. Self-blame. Counseling. Fear. Disgust. Counseling. Leave. Stay. Counseling.

spirograph

These next weeks were a Spirograph of emotions. As all of this was unfolding, my dad was slowly dying, living in our home so we could help my mom out. It is a black time…a period shrouded in such an ominous covering of shadowy pain. To get through all of this, I allowed myself a couple freedoms:

  • Make NO DECISIONS until…
  • Get through the next minute, the next moment. Don’t even look forward to an hour or two, just the next moment.
  • Allow myself to feel honestly, and don’t apologize for those feelings.

As I struggled to fill the gap between the reality that I’d lived for 27 years and the reality that I now knew my life really was for 27 years, I frantically reread diaries and cards and looked at pictures. I pieced these things together trying, trying, trying to see where I had gone so wrong, how I had been so STUPID and searching for the WHY WHY WHY.

My city, the city we had met in, married in, had our babies in, lived in now was tainted from one end to the other with marks of his deceit. No matter where I went in the city, I experienced triggers and questions and sadness and disgust. In a crazy moment, I asked HUSBAND to take me to one of the places that he regularly met his second affair partner so we could look at it together. He agreed. We drove there, him glancing at me with a pained look on his face, and when we arrived, we sat in front of the place and I asked him to describe to me how he arrived, where they parked, what happened. Then we got out of the car, held each other, cried, prayed against the lies and filth that had existed there and begged for that to be replaced with love and beauty and covenant. It was a painfully healing moment.

I realized that we had somehow reclaimed that place. Reclaimed it for the truth and dignity of our marriage from the clutches of secrecy and degradation.

It became my goal to do this everywhere that we could. So, place by place, we traveled around our city, first, then the region. We went to the restaurants, to the “spots,” to the hotels and stood in front of doors or by the river or near the turn off and rid the place of the LIES and ushered in TRUTH. It was crazy bad and incredibly good. Unbelievably, dear friends who were walking alongside us in this journey who had also experienced infidelity, owned a home in the mountains of North Carolina…gave us their house for a week…the same precise week that one year before HUSBAND had been in that same town with SW in a little cabin fucking her and cooking for her and taking her to a restaurant. So on the SAME DAYS one year later, we went to that restaurant, sat in the same seats, tears streaming down my face. We went to the cabin together, sat outside it listening to the rushing creek and grieved together, holding each other, crying and praying. And then the anger started.

My anger escalated during that trip…alcohol may have also been a factor…and nothing HUSBAND did or said could soothe my feelings. He finally, very calmly, got up and started to walk out. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I screamed. His look of sadness covered him from his face to his posture to his toes and he said quietly, I’m just hurting you, I can’t help, I’ll just go on a walk.

NO! NO! NO! YOU CAUSED THIS! YOU CAN’T WALK OUT! YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT!

And he came back in, picked up one of the many articles we had with us, pulled me next to him and began to read and tears poured out eyes, down my face and onto my chest. At first, I was stiff and resisted, but he just kept reading. The article was written to betrayers, telling them how the betrayed felt and how to deal with their emotions. It was spot on…SPOT ON…EIGHT PAGES and he quietly read, and kept reading, and I got more and more calm and he kept holding me close and reading and telling me how terribly sorry he was.

And then we just held each other and cried and cleansed. Exposed, bare, raw.

He fixed me dinner that night. A beautiful dinner of all things good and we sat on the porch of our healing house, looking at magnificent stars. We reclaimed the place, and there was a small place of hope in me that maybe, we could reclaim us.

North Carolina