Gift 3: Two Gifts In One

HUSBAND loves to fish. And hunt. And do all things in between. This is one of the ways he conducted his affairs through the years because he legitimately was involved in these activities…he loved them from his core…so it was quite easy to sell me on a fish/hunt when in reality he was meeting one of his whores.

He had carefully orchestrated protections for himself…no reception out in the woods or 60 miles off shore…his phone battery died, calling me “after the hunt” from the car after he plugged his phone in, etc.

So this next gift may seem like such a little thing for many people, but it was so HUGE to my shattered heart a few-weeks-post-devastation. It was a gift to me, because it demonstrated a powerful shift in attitude, in connection with my heart. It was a gift to me because it was a dramatic shift in conduct by HUSBAND, and one that revealed I had not been crazy all those years when I reacted with frustration and anger at the lack of contact and communication intermittently, whether I was home with a very sick baby or had a huge flood in my house with TWO babies (another story I’ll write about one day)…

This was a gift of changed behavior, new choices.

HUSBAND went fishing. He gave me the REAL choice to say no…no hidden recriminations or guilt or passive-aggressive words thrown over his shoulder. I thought about it, told him I was uncomfortable, but wanted him to get out a bit so with great trepidation, I told him to go.

HUSBAND called me right after they left. He told me his phone was dying so he was going to turn it off. YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME my mind screamed. But then sent me his fishing-buddy’s number in case I needed to get ahold of him. And twice, during the ½ day trip, HUSBAND called…he texted…sent me a picture of himself and his friend and a fish…

That evening, I told him how much I appreciated him thinking of me like that. He answered, “I figured you might be really uncomfortable if you couldn’t get in touch with me for several hours and thought I should do that.”

There was a pause.

Then he continued, “You know? I should have always done that anyway. That is how I should treat you all the time.”

WOW. That was really lovely.

Two gifts in one: doing the right thing, when he had always shamed me into believing I was overly needy, or intrusive, or crowded him…and recognizing it was what he ALWAYS should have done.

Gifts 1 and 2

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This week, I am going to share gifts of those early weeks. Things or people or support that, looking back, I see were such gifts to me, my heart, my journey. I am deeply grateful for each of them and realize how important they were in mending the unraveling tapestry.

Overbearing SHAME was a crushing emotion I experienced early on. Those first weeks…I walked around in regular life feeling like everyone could see that I WAS A BETRAYED SPOUSE. I checked out of the grocery store and felt like the cashier was looking at me with pity. I took my cat to the vet and felt like the tech was sadly shaking her head…Oh…That Poor Woman…Her Husband Messed Around On Her…That somehow I hadn’t been pretty enough or good enough or supportive enough or cooked enough. That I hadn’t been enough. Bearing the weight of the shame was crushing me, and while sharing in counseling was helpful, I see now that I needed someone – NOT MY BETRAYER – to give me care and validation. Me, for me, and me for the choices I was making at that point.

So one day, when a friend asked to meet for breakfast, I said yes. I had breakfast with this old, dear friend  who had been woven in and through my marriage-kids-life for nearly the whole of it. Before going, I asked HUSBAND if he wanted me to tell Ann or not tell Ann or do anything in particular, and he told me he wanted me to do what would move me toward healing (Gift 1). I went in to the breakfast with no plans to tell Ann. The first 30 minutes, I had no plan to tell Ann. But at the same time, it was like this literal present cloud hanging over our conversation and our presence. It was almost like I could not talk, could not concentrate, could not really focus on anything because this HUGE LIE was looming up between us. This thing that had, in the time it took to read one 3 page letter, forever changed every-single-aspect-of-every-single-moment-of-every-single-day for the rest of my life. And she did not know it. So how could I be sitting in a booth having a conversation about every-day life and our college kids and the service in the restaurant? Eventually she talked of her sadness about some of the pain she was part of…a person close to her saying “so I can’t pay my mortgage and my house is being foreclosed on…do you still love me?” and the next person saying, “I am drinking. And drinking. And drinking. And I can’t stop. Do you still love me? And the next person saying, “I don’t love my wife and I’m seeing someone else. Do you still love me?”

And that’s when I had to tell her.

I softly said, “Ann. Ann.” She looked at me. I said, “HUSBAND had an affair.” She just looked right into my eyes. She asked the caring questions…is it over…how do you feel…what are you going to do… So I told her VERY simply & quickly about the discovery process. And the pain and hurt and fear and recrimination and sickness and all else that goes with it. And I told her that I did not KNOW what I was going to do, but that I was shocked to say I still loved HUSBAND. And that I wanted us to have the chance to work through this situation. HUSBAND was picking me up from this breakfast. I’d texted him to let him know I’d be right out…and then he came in. Slid in the booth next to me. I told HUSBAND that I’d shared our story with her, and then Ann told HUSBAND she loved him, and that we could recover from this. She had amazing words of healing, sharing that it had taken her seven (7) years to get to the point of truly forgiving and forgetting her husband’s affair. She was supportive and wise and loving (Gift 2).

Gift 1, Gift 2. Beautiful things.