Going Back in Lies

I often contemplate how I married HUSBAND. How I chose a man who would begin cheating on me a mere two years after we married. A man who artfully hid his double life from me as it ebbed and flowed in and through his original life with me and I was not-so-blissfully unaware.

What was wrong with me that I couldn’t see it? That I didn’t know?

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My family valued honesty. I was told as a young girl that honesty was the premium value…that breaking a lamp while breaking rules would be not so good, but breaking a lamp while breaking rules and then LYING would be AWFUL. My parents were meticulous about keeping their word in so many ways: always paying bills on time, arriving at appointments, events or work early, and certainly never lying to us kids or each other.

And I believed that was the reality of my home, and my life. We were defined by our H O N E S T Y.

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Except it really wasn’t. We really weren’t.

I’m prefacing this by saying I have stellar parents who defied so many odds. They overcame myriad challenges individually and as a couple, and they were really fantastic parents using all they knew how to do and dealing with all they had to deal. But they were the offspring of their own parents and they of their parents and so on. I was raised by beautiful, hardworking, dedicated and loving parents who knew how to parent me as they had been parented, and to understand honesty as it had been defined for them and it ends up it wasn’t quite as black and white as I had been made to believe.

I began to have glimpses of the confusion between truth and sort-of-truth and not-so-much-truth and out-and-out-lies a couple days before our oldest son’s second birthday. My parents were headed up to spend a few days and celebrate with HUSBAND and me and 10 or so other little two-year-olds and I got an early morning phone call. Mom told me they wouldn’t be making the trip. My uncle, my dad’s brother, just 15 month’s his elder, had committed suicide and they had to go to be with his widow and children. The processing of that event left me overwhelmed…and I decided to go to a therapist to work through some of my confusion.

It was there, on his proverbial couch, that I found out that my fantastically honest parents might have lied to me – and I was only just seeing it – although I’d known it. See my dad’s side of the family was the bad side – included alcoholism and abandonment and now suicide. Mom’s side – the good side that did no wrong – until I began to recall the stories. The stories I knew that had been presented as rosy and pretty but when I shared them with the therapist I stopped myself part way: Wow…they are pretty screwed up too, huh? That side of the family included adultery and separate homes and an adopted child who never was told he was adopted although we all knew and were told to keep the secret (that wasn’t a lie) even when he asked us to our faces. So I wasn’t allowed to lie except when I was told to lie and it wasn’t a lie in that case.

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I was so confused.

I shared all this with HUSBAND who listened with his very young and distracted mind, nodding occasionally and thinking I was thinking too much. Thinking it was good I didn’t see lies since he’d already successfully completed his first marital affair and lied brilliantly and I was none the wiser. Of course I would not know about that lie of his for another 25 years…

Funny thing is because the surprise of discovering the inconsistencies within my own childhood I decided I would be hyper-honest with our children. I tried very carefully to tell them truth as best I could based on their maturity. But there is something about someone who grows up lying and that is they don’t see the lies. They don’t see how wrapped around truth they are, and how their (my) very default position is lying, justified in hundreds of ways…by sparing one’s feelings, or it not really being their business, etc. So even though I determined to not lie, I continued to lie, unbeknownst to me, but fairly consistently. Not about things that mattered, but instead about things like why my child couldn’t go spend the night with a friend (truth is I didn’t trust that friend’s judgement on movies and bedtimes and food choices, but I said we had another commitment). Things like why I was late to an appointment (truth is I was habitually a wee-bit late, but I said something happened with the dog or the kids or the car). Things like how glad I was that HUSBAND was able to __________________ (hunt…fish…play…leave me…. – fill in the blank – ) because it made me happy for him to be happy (truth is I was lonely and sad and felt like I had no value, but it wasn’t polite to say such things and they would get better, right?? RIGHT???)

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Yes…it is very hard for a person who has learned that the way to deal with pain or fear or shame or sorrow or sadness or regret or guilt or abandonment is to lie through it and pretend it wasn’t so to stop lying…mainly because I just could not see it. And that is how I married a man who could do this to me…

The real question is could I have married a man who was any different? A man who was honest? I don’t think so…

It was really tough to consider these possibilities. It was a new kind of pain and hurt, but it is the path that has led to me discovering I could be free from the bondage that engulfed me. And it was my path to take, or not. That’s where and when I thought I just couldn’t do it, and I saw Christ in the garden telling His Father…God…please, please take this cup from me. Yet even then, even when He didn’t want to, He still took the path. Despite all the odds, despite it making no sense at all, it led to healing. To freedom. So I took it too…

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How Could She?

In my desperate pursuit to put order into the chaos of my life, I spent hours and hours and hours researching the Other Woman. It started with a pursuit to hate them, to be able to categorize them into one neat little package of filth and desperation as they claw and fight their way into the lives of others.

I read articles and books authored by these women on how to be a good mistress, how to please their man, the rules of being a mistress. I visited websites and read blogs. And then found various forums in which other women share.

Before I knew it, I began to grieve. To be sickened and saddened about and for these women. Nearly all OW claim some version(s) of: I didn’t mean to fall in love with a married man; the heart wants what the heart wants; I didn’t know he was married; he pursued me relentlessly; he told me he was separated/divorcing; we are soulmates/twinflames/long-lost loves/always should have been together; he married the wrong person. Ultimately…all deceptions, all lies either made to themselves or by the MM. I found myself wanting to cry out to women about to delve into affairs, or newly in, NO! STOP! This will only lead to heartache…MY HEARTACHE…YOUR HEARTACHE. There are certainly outliers – women who are complete narcissists and manipulate and pick up and drop at and for their own pleasure. But the majority of the women that I was able to research are women who want love and somehow, they end up with a man who loves someone else. All the statistics show that it is rare for the Other Woman to end up with the MM, and when that happens, it lasts even more rarely. The odds are completely against them, yet OW are rampant amongst us. So how, how, how does it happen. How do affairs really start…how does the deception occur, who does what…I started with HUSBAND’s first OW, and asked how…

The first night with the first OW was his tenth high school reunion. HUSBAND had been married to me for a little less than two years. We had a darling 8 month old baby boy and (unbeknownst to us at the time) I was pregnant with our second child. I did not attend the reunion with HUSBAND…he had gone fishing that day and gotten home hours later than he’d promised, and was already feeling the effect of numerous beers. So off he went to the reunion and what he remembers is:

Talking with specific people. Dancing with specific girls. Standing at the bar talking to a specific guy who had always looked down at him, and did so that night too…to which HUSBAND just drank more. HUSBAND does NOT remember dancing with SW (slut-whore, his first and last OW), although she told him later that they did. He does not remember going to his car with SW, or getting in the passenger seat, or any of the 25 minute drive to SW’s apartment, except when he woke up as they stopped in the bright lights at the toll booth with her at the wheel. He does not remember walking into her apartment, or going to the bedroom or fucking her. All of which he did.

He does remember waking up, seeing his clothes on the floor, realizing he was not in his bed at our home, jumping up “in horror” and quickly dressing and driving home…devising his lies on the way there.

HUSBAND has been shockingly honest with me about all his encounters, intimate words spoken, promises of futures, etc. He does not have any recollection of the anatomy of the first-fuck…did he tell SW he was married to a raving bitch? Maybe. Did he tell her he never got sex at home? Perhaps. Did he tell her she was hot and he wanted her body? Could be. Did he tell her he was too drunk to go home and that wife would be mad? Possibly. He doesn’t remember, and any or all of the above are possible.

Liesnotworthtruth

But here is what I KNOW, what is indisputable.

He was at his reunion, having driven himself, which was between our home and her apartment, each being 15 or so miles away in opposite directions.

Whatever happened that night at the reunion…whatever words my lying HUSBAND poured on SW, she knew he was married – she had attended our WEDDING.

She got into his car, in control – she drove.

She invited him to her apartment – that is where she drove him.

She offered her body to him – they fucked.

She had so many choices…no matter what words he said (assuming he was the pursuer – he has no recollection, but is willing to consider that possibility). She could have offered to call him a cab, called me, had one of his male friends take him to their respective homes, driven him to our house and dumped him on the lawn, left him there to be dealt with by someone else…she could have reminded him he was married…refused any advances by a man who was married…

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But instead, she drove him to her apartment and allowed him to fuck her.

Who is the woman that makes that choice? Is she seriously thinking this is going to turn out well…lead her to the love she is seeking?

I try to imagine that even being in the realm of options…and it is not. I try to imagine how you feel as you are driving the car with a married man in it, knowing full well you are planning to be part and party to deception and betrayal. I try to imagine what it feels like to see him wake up, jump up and throw his clothes on, and rush out of the house. I try to imagine what it is like to get into the shower and let the water run all over your body that has just been felt by and connected to a man’s body that is going home to his wife. I try to imagine how you look at yourself in the mirror and don’t see embarrassment and shame. I try to imagine that there is any pretense that there is anything remotely like care or compassion or hope or love in this…

And I can’t imagine. So after it all, I’m left with how could she?

 

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.

Healing. For Me.

After the discovery of the porn, things began to break open in a new way. We were immediately at entirely different places…HUSBAND floating in a new reality of freedom that he had not experienced before…and me…duly and heavily burdened with even more knowledge of betrayal and inadequacy and shame and disgust.

Our therapist sensed the deep pain and inability for me to move forward, while HUSBAND was experiencing the opposite. He took us through an dastardly exercise aimed at releasing the dark emotions…ending with identifying the things I wanted to be different, and finally, the things that I could be glad about. It was excruciating…taking nearly 3 hours to get all the emotions out. I sat facing HUSBAND, holding his hands, looking into his eyes, as he asked me each of the prompting questions and anger after anger after anger after anger followed by sadness after sadness after sadness after sadness followed by fear after fear after fear after fear bubbled up out of my soul and spilled out my lips, accompanied by tears. HUSBAND’s eyes never left mine. He cried with me. He cringed with me. He received it, and heard it, and took it. And then he held me and said I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry.

I could breathe again. I could think, a little bit, again.

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Then our therapist suggested, again, that HUSBAND may be a sex addict, and we didn’t reject it this time. He recommended a couple things: another intensive weekend soon, this time with a small group of couples and coaches, and that we consider attending support groups.

Really? Support groups for perverts and their destroyed partners? This was my life now?

I didn’t want to go, but I honestly didn’t know how NOT to go. Every piece of this story was like a daytime shock-show and so completely removed from what I believed my middle-class, mundane life had been, and I still was operating somewhere between denial and hatred and denial and anger and denial and leaving and denial and staying. So I went. The meetings were at the same facility, but in different buildings, so HUSBAND parked near my building and saw me to the door then turned to go to his building. I stood outside, not sure that I could go in, or that I wanted to go in. This really wasn’t real, it really wasn’t my life. I wasn’t a betrayed wife with a sex addict husband. And what the hell was a sex addict, anyway? Isn’t that just an excuse for a man who is a fucking CHEATER? No way. And as I stood near the door, out walked a man. A man I knew. A man I knew well…my banker…and with a big smile he greeted me and asked what I was doing there?

Um. Um. Um.

I stuttered something quickly about a meeting, gave the brief smile and turned quickly – and now I was headed inside just to get away from the awkwardness of the moment.

I pushed open the door, and there were 8 or 10 women in the room, talking. Chairs in a circle, but no one yet sitting. A couple kind of glanced my way, not rudely, but didn’t say anything. So I asked one of them if this was the, uh, the, uh, MEETING. And she nodded, and said yes, you are in the right place.

I sat down.

The other women sat and 8-10 more women joined over the next few minutes. And then, they got out a book, and each person simply said their name, and a couple words to describe their feelings at that moment. I was told I didn’t have to say anything…which was good…because I just sat in my chair and listened and before I knew it, I was weeping. I heard women describe feelings of optimism and hope, and women describe feelings of despair and disgust. The facilitator taught a lesson about grief, and I continued to weep. No one ignored me, but no one embraced me either. It felt oddly right.

I looked around the room at these women…smart women…beautiful women…determined women…and all betrayed women. I had no idea, no idea that this scourge was real and present and reaching so many all around me. All total strangers, yet sisters in the deepest sense. It felt oddly good.

As I listened during the rest of the time together, I realized I was not hearing spouse-bashing or nasty stories revealing the disgusting things their husbands had done. But what I saw and heard was women determined to get healing, to get whole…women with courage, women of strength. It felt oddly safe.

That night, I curled up in bed, and realized how incredibly wrong I had been for so long about so many things. How deceived I had been about who I was, and what my life was, and even what my life could be. I had a couple flashbacks of moments…

Years before when I was required to get a vaccine because of working around kids and a breakout of a virus in our city, I’d gone to the Health Department for the shot, rather than my private doctor. The clientele was predominantly need-based/free care, and the woman sitting next to me in the waiting room told me she was there to get “checked out” because her man had ‘stepped out.’ I wasn’t even quite sure what that phrase meant, until she said that she’d kicked him out and thrown all his clothes out on the lawn, and now she was just making sure he hadn’t given her a disease. I remembered thinking, “Well, I’m glad that isn’t MY life…”thinking that my middle-class educated life exempted me from the possibility.

But it was my life, and always had been my life since very early in my marriage.

And I remembered when I heard an ad for a daytime talk show in which a man had a double-life thinking that was either completely and utterly made up bullshit or the people involved were downright stupid and ignorant because there was no way that could happen in my little pristine world without me knowing it which it couldn’t happen in my pristine world.

But it did happen in my world, and it was my world which really wasn’t so pristine and hadn’t been since very early in my marriage.

And curled up in the bed that night, I was humbled and knew that somehow, someway, I wanted to become whole. And to heal. And to be strong. And to be courageous. However the story ended, I wanted it. For me.

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THE OTHER ROOM.

In August, 2013, HUSBAND and I had a fight.

We didn’t fight very much. Not to say we had a fantastic marriage but we didn’t fight much. We were just sort of plugging along as really good co-parents and not-really-so-good lovers. We shared passionately our vision for our children’s health, faith, education, future and didn’t talk about too much else with any depth or care, so we didn’t fight much.

But this particular day ended up differently.

As a consultant, I had several different clients and one was a very large youth sports club in our city. My role was managing the vision and mission, developing a strategic plan and connecting the club with various strategic partners. The club had an annual, regional tournament and I agreed to volunteer, and HUSBAND agreed to help also. Our jobs included distribution of the awards to the various fields around our region that were located at six sites spread over 20 miles. The boxes of awards were already packed and labeled and while this may sound simple, because there were gender divisions, age divisions and level designations, there were thousands of awards packed in nearly 100 boxes and each site could be hosting vastly different combinations of those variables.

We made the distributions and my cell phone rang. One of the sites reported missing one of the gender/age/level awards for their location. We returned to the headquarters, assuming we had missed gathering the box when we packed up. It wasn’t there. I was puzzled, concerned. HUSBAND was oblivious, disconnected. I considered calling site managers but knew how in-the-weeds each of them were with other issues, and decided the better plan would be to just go back by each and look ourselves. I got no feedback from HUSBAND, other than he started the car, and started driving. We went to site 1, then 2. On to 3 and 4 and 5 and 6. No box that matched the missing stats. I was beside myself. I had no idea how or where or when or what…just a missing box of awards that would leave some young kids without their medals and the tournament looking bad. Not so good for developing strategic partners.

HUSBAND remained detached through the whole process. He sat in the car and played with his phone while I ran in to each site, looking for the missing box. When I returned, increasingly distraught, he said, “What’s next.” I was definitely in this one alone.

As we sat in the parking lot of the last site to visit where hours earlier we had made the delivery, he suddenly said “I wonder if it is the box I put in the other room?”

“Other room. What other room,” I asked.

“The other room, here. When we first walked up, I took a box into another room. No one was in there. When I took the second box up, I was directed into a different room with the box,” HUSBAND answered.

“Did you go back and move that first box into the different room?”

“I don’t know.”

HUSBAND sat in the car while I got out and walked up to the “other room.” There it was, the missing box. The one that HUSBAND and I had just spent three hours retracing our steps to find. The one that he had left in THE OTHER ROOM. The one that was left in THE OTHER ROOM that I didn’t even know existed because I hadn’t seen him put a box in THE OTHER ROOM and then be so obtuse/lazy/disconnected/downright MEAN to not move to THE DIFFERENT ROOM.

I took the box from THE OTHER ROOM to THE DIFFERENT ROOM, handed it to the site manager and profusely apologized and began to walk back to the car where HUSBAND was sitting, texting. I began to flash back to delivering to this site earlier that day. I remembered how right after we got all the boxes delivered, the volunteer had come in and we had begun to open the boxes, and discussed the awards and how best to segment/display them. And HUSBAND had disappeared, and I had glanced around, found him sitting on the couch area with his nose in his phone, texting and completely disconnected from the situation. I remembered being frustrated, because while the client was handled by me, the consulting firm was OURS, and I was handling the lion’s share of our client work at that point. I began to reflect on how incredibly wrong it was that I had been in a panic over something that was completely, utterly AVOIDABLE if HUSBAND had been even remotely in-the-game that day…as he was the ONLY ONE who knew that he’d put one box in THE OTHER ROOM.

So when I got to the car, got in, told HUSBAND that indeed, the missing box had been in THE OTHER ROOM and I’d found it and delivered it safely to THE DIFFERENT ROOM…and nothing…just a blank stare my way…no apology or even a “wow…wish I’d remembered”…the conversation went something like this…

Me: Why didn’t you mention there was THE OTHER ROOM and that you’d put a box in there?

HUSBAND: I don’t know.

Me: Didn’t you think it was important? That it might be the missing box?

HUSBAND: Not really.

Me: Not really? Come on, HUSBAND. We just drove around for three hours and I’ve been in a panic thinking I’d majorly screwed up, and you had the answer the whole time!

HUSBAND: It’s your fault; you’re the one who told me to carry the boxes up there.

When we got to the site earlier that day, I noted an open door and while I was getting out the list, etc, had said something like “Why don’t you look for SITE MANAGER (who he knew) and ask him where to take the awards. He’d taken a box with him to look for SITE MANAGER, going through the open door into THE OTHER ROOM and set down the box. He saw the site manager on the way back who told him to go into THE DIFFERENT ROOM. I didn’t see any of that as I was getting all the documentation together, etc)

Me: Are you seriously saying it was my fault that you took a box into THE OTHER ROOM and left it there after being told about THE DIFFERENT ROOM?

HUSBAND: Yes.

Me: In seriously, the loudest, most desperate, most god-awful voice that has ever been uttered out of my chest, borne of complete desperation and exhaustion and frustration and shock at how he could turn this into something that was my fault) – I didn’t even know THE OTHER ROOM EXISTED! YOU ARE BLAMING ME WHEN I DIDN’T KNOW YOU PUT A BOX IN A ROOM AND SET IT DOWN AND THEN EVERYTHING ELSE WAS TAKEN INTO THE DIFFERENT ROOM AND I HELPED SET UP THE AWARDS WHILE YOU SAT ON THE COUCH AND PLAYED ON YOUR PHONE AND YOU CAN TWIST THIS INTO MY FAULT? OMG!!! YOU MAKE ME CRAZY!!!! TAKE ME HOME, TAKE ME HOME NOW!!!

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We drove home in silence. The tension was like a thick wall between us and I don’t think I made eye contact with him for another 24 hours as I was so hurt and angry and confused.

Confused. The whole incident was so completely unlike the person HUSBAND had been through our marriage. The way he’d sat in the car as I looked at each site, very unlike the helpful nature of HUSBAND, the problem-solver. Lack of suggestions along the way, not recognizing the role he’d played and not mentioning earlier in the process about THE OTHER ROOM. All of these were uncharacteristic of how he’d shared a life with me for 26 years. Looking back now, both of us recognize this was a sign. He was already deeply engaged in his last affair, and preoccupied with his affair partner, SW, that day. His mind was on her, his attention on exchanging messages all throughout the day while I ran around like crazy. He was present, but not present. I could sense it, but had no earthly idea what was up.

The distraction. The lack of presence and intentionality. The disconnection. And meanwhile, the case he was making up to justify his betrayal, his cheating, was being lived out in my confused, angry response. As he saw me lose it, his brain said, “Yup. I deserve more. Look at her. She’s crazy, she’s a bitch.”

No, SW. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t a bitch. I was living with a cheater.

 

More Truth Revealed…

HUSBAND and I had been through an excruciating, six-week disclosure process. Our counselor had asked, point-blank, if HUSBAND had used porn…self-satisfied…during our marriage, and HUSBAND had responded that he had looked once or twice, but it “just didn’t do it for him.”

Our counselor had also asked us if we thought HUSBAND might be a sex addict…and we both had shunned that idea. The counselor indicated that he thought it was a possibility, and encouraged HUSBAND to take a screening, which he did, and he scored in the possibility range.

Now, this new information revealed by Son-2, changed several things for me.

First…another lie. ANOTHER LIE. After the deep revelations and Night From Hell that ended in sobs and disclosure and what I thought was everything, here was more. Additionally, porn. Porn. PORN? To what extent? Enough that my son had found it multiple times? AND…the possibility of sex addiction? In my mind, knowing how he’d responded on the screening, went from possibility to probability.

It sent me spinning into another gut-ripping state.

After I left Son-2’s room, I quietly found HUSBAND and suggested we go for a drive, knowing that the conversation we were going to have should not be had at home near our two children and parents. So we left on a drive.

HUSBAND spent the first thirty minutes spinning and circling and justifying and finally just started telling the truth about porn, the role it had played and what it lead to. Again, I was astounded at how long it had been present in our marriage, how long he had sought some kind of solace or refuge or satisfaction in this smut. How it was often easier to partake and satisfy this way, then drive into the intricacies of our marital relationship. How easily it transferred from the screen to the flesh with an affair partner with whom he lived a fantasy life.

It was a difficult night. It was a night that left the carefully, barely-taped-together-parts of my heart ripped back open and spilling out all over and it was hard to see how they could get back together again. Lies on lies on lies on lies. Loneliness on loneliness on loneliness of loneliness. Rejection on rejection on rejection on rejection. Through the years, all those nights, lying in bed, wondering why he didn’t want me now made sense, but it STUNG. My husband didn’t really have a low-libido like he hid behind. He had just handled things differently.

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I wanted to know the sites and his routine, which he disclosed sadly…with shame… We returned to the house, and I could not bear to be near him. I quietly moved to one of our other bedrooms, where, during the night, HUSBAND came in and slept on the floor. Although I heard him, I did not acknowledge him, or invite him to join me on the bed. I was broken. Again.

Telling Our Kids. Part 3.

We finished reading. We looked around the room. It was one of those suspended moments…a split second of time in which time doesn’t really exist. A moment in which I could see the confusion and hurt and pain in each of their eyes, yet no one yelled, or got up and ran or stomped out of the room.

The oldest, our brilliant former national-merit-scholar son who’d spent time seeking his own way and returned to start a company locally only a year or so before was the first to speak. He fumbled around his words, saying something that sort of tried to bridge the gap between his understanding of his life and what he now knew his life really was; something laced with an attempt at logic for a situation that defies logic. He twisted in his seat and got up to refill his coffee.

Our daughter, number two child, had an interesting, quick insight. She said that so many things made sense now…mom’s craziness wasn’t really so crazy…that she was shocked yet not shocked…that she sensed the discord in our lives but it was so under control…and that she was glad we were going to at least try to work things out.

Number three child, Son-2, was angry. His eyes would NOT meet his father’s eyes. At first, he hid behind some kind of sarcastic dig at his dad, and he pretty quickly told the room he thought I should divorce dad. Then he said it more emphatically, and was pretty disdainful toward me if I stayed with him.

Son-3…our quiet and introspective son…the one who had heard the sobs regularly and imagined all kinds of pain or tragedy around my outwardly visible disintegration…was sad. Just sad. He didn’t meet his dad’s eyes either, but it was less with anger and more with…well, the best word? Sadness.

We got up and the kids hugged me and felt awkward about their dad and we came home.

That afternoon, HUSBAND and I took our daughter and soon-to-be SIL out. It was very important that he know about this since it was now a big part of her life. We felt like it was unfair to not share it with him…what a bombshell to learn ANYWAY, but specifically as you are planning your own marriage with visions and dreams of a future, and your past has just been shattered in some ways. So we told him the gist of the story, with HUSBAND sharing how affairs came to pass and encouraging SIL to make different choices. SIL’s mom and dad had a difficult marriage, filled with alcohol abuse and other women. When he was 7, the marriage ended and he had no relationship with his father. He had looked to HUSBAND as a father-figure, an example of a husband, so it was a sober moment when he realized that even the person he held up as a model was broken. He was very gracious, and encouraged us to continue our counseling and work toward reconciliation if it was possible.

Some days passed, and Son-2, who was home from college for the summer, was staying away from our house and completely distant from HUSBAND. One day, I went into his room and he asked me, no, he sort of yelled at me WHY AREN’T YOU DIVORCING HIM MOM? WHY? He’s an ass…he’s never going to change… HUSBAND came to the door and Son-2 told him to LEAVE! I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU OR TALK TO YOU! HUSBAND honored it, went out the door. I sat on the other bed as Son-2 sobbed and told me what a jerk he was. Son-2 began to recall some events in which his life and HUSBAND’s life had crossed the secret life: That Friend (see prior post) who had been complicit in the last affair was a great cheerleader of Son-2, texting him from time-to-time and supporting him with an occasional gift in the mail, or check for good grades, that kind of thing. That Friend had mentioned to Son-2 that he should plan to come up for the opening of his new building with HUSBAND and me. Except that That Friend had also told HUSBAND that if I didn’t come, SW (slut-whore) could come and he wouldn’t tell. Son-2 didn’t know that, of course-about SW, and mentioned to HUSBAND that That Friend had invited him…and could he go…and HUSBAND had empathically and overbearingly said NO! YOU CAN’T COME! Son-2 had been surprised at his response, and hurt and wondered where that response had come from. Now he knew. He felt so used by HUSBAND and That Friend. He felt so manipulated.

I listened, held his hand as he sobbed.

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I tried to explain softly that I didn’t KNOW if I would stay married to dad. That I was involved in a process. That I didn’t want to make fast decisions, and had a lot to consider. That there were years of faithfulness and good and that it was so much.

Then Son-2 gave me new information. He told me he’d found porn on his dad’s phone several times.

Porn. On his phone. Several times.

I did not react, but I asked when.

In high school.

Why didn’t you tell me.

You were his wife, Mom.

My mind reeled back. One time…one time…the younger two boys were in middle school…siblings off at college…we were getting into the car…HUSBAND was in the driver’s seat….boys were in the back seat…I was fumbling with my blackberry trying to look at something on the web, which worked so poorly on the BB, and asked HUSBAND if I could use his iPhone…reaching for it as I asked…and when I swiped it there was a PORNOGRAPHIC picture and I LITERALLY shouted THERE IS PORN ON YOUR PHONE!!! He grabbed it from me and closed that page. I was shocked, and did not try to hide my shock from anyone including the boys. IT WAS COMPLETELY, UTTERLY, TOTALLY OUT OF CHARACTER FOR MY HUSBAND, OUR HOME, OUR WAYS, OUR LIVES. So when he told me that he was so sorry…someone from his office had sent that to him and ‘he was so shocked when he saw it he just closed his phone…he’d meant to delete it and confront the co-worker’…I bought it. I sat down in the car, and he told me how sorry he was, and I looked at the boys and said something mom-like such as “isn’t that disgusting…who would ever…”

 I comforted Son-2, asked him to bear with me, to just support my journey, hugged him tightly and left the room.

Son-2’s words resonated…. Yes. I was his wife.

And I was his mom.

And I was so so stupid.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift 4: In Strange Packaging

This one is odd…and for some may not be a gift at all. I think many betrayeds will understand, will see why and how it could be such a gift. I found it to be a gift on several levels…

So remember me? I was the digger, the one who had an unstoppable need to try to find every answer to every question, every piece of evidence, every phone call or text or message, every email or present or FB comment. I created charts and excel spreadsheets and somehow gained sanity through the insanity of putting semblance to chaos in my own strange way.

But there wasn’t much, because HUSBAND was a master deceiver, and adept at deleting, so during that frenzy I was often frustrated with the lack of evidence that what he told me was able to be backed up. I wanted to see the messages, watch the videos, read the emails, but there were so few. I asked questions, though, and he painfully answered them.

HUSBAND told me they sent pictures with frequency to each other. I wanted to know what kind of pictures, and he told me mostly just mundane things as life happened: pictures at work, or pictures of an outfit or pictures of her dog.

“Naked pictures?” I asked…and he answered…a few. He told me she’d taken a stance like a flamingo (one leg folded up with foot on knee) while looking into her full-length mirror and snapped selfies, sometimes lifting her shirt to reveal her breasts. That she’d never spread her legs for the camera, but she had taken full-body photos while lying on the bed. That she’d sent photos frequently of herself in mirrors and from work and from the car.

So here is where the gift comes in. The odd, muddled, maybe-not-a-gift-for-some-but-an-incredible-gift-for the insatiable searcher comes in. After six weeks or so, and a million combinations of searches, I happened to uncover some photos that HUSBAND had somehow overlooked.

Photos of her, of SW.

And incredibly, they were just as HUSBAND had described.

The awkward stance in the hall, shirt raised. The selfies over and over and over and over into the mirror. Mirrors, mostly in bathrooms…at work. At her house. At her cabin. And a few, in an elevator. I enlarged every photo, observed every flaw, saw every deceitful, nasty piece and part of her expressions and fingers and toes and ass and breasts that I could, but every photo – EVERY PHOTO – was just as HUSBAND had described.

He hadn’t lied.

Another tiny step toward rebuilding trust, and these disgusting, trashy photos helped me get there.

Gifts sometimes come in strange packaging.