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.

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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.

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.

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.

That best friend.

The collateral damage from betrayal is an odd an inconsistent thing. As the months wore on in New Marriage History, there were additional peripheral discoveries that sliced off little pieces of my heart and forced responses.

The life-long best friend of HUSBAND had planned a visit to our home while the last affair was in progress. We had traded dates, and shared excitement at his upcoming visit. The trip included fishing with HUSBAND and two of our sons. At the last minute, it was interrupted due to a serious illness within best friend’s family. During the year of the affair, best friend intermittently sent me encouraging facebook messages which I happily responded to.

HUSBAND had promised me that no one knew of his affairs…any of the affairs…NO ONE, ANYTIME. Anyone who has been cheated on understands the multiple layers of pain and of shame and of embarrassment and of anger and of disbelief and of so many other things. I took comfort that no one knew…that at least HUSBAND had kept his filth to himself.

But…HUSBAND told me that he HAD let best friend know that our marriage was in a tough place, and he wasn’t sure we were going to make it. Per HUSBAND, he had asked best friend about his divorce and best friend had STRONGLY encouraged him to work out our marriage at all costs…that divorce SUCKS and that “we could work through anything.” I was grateful for best friend’s support of our marriage, and sent him a facebook message saying “I know HUSBAND shared we had been going through a tough time. Thank you for your faithfulness…for being a rock for him in hard times…for your encouragement. Not sure if it’s possible, but we are trying to work toward reconciliation…” He’d responded with words of warmth and reassurance about our love for each other, and our future. I was thankful for best friend.

A couple weeks later, out of the clear blue, best friend sent HUSBAND an email suggesting HUSBAND come up for a visit for a few days…to get away and get his head cleared. He even went so far as to say that he would pay for the flight, and that he wouldn’t “corrupt HUSBAND’s morals.” Here came that niggling feeling again…

So predictably, over the next few weeks, it came out that best friend was a confidante for HUSBAND’s slime, a safe place for both HUSBAND and SW to go with their thoughts, feelings and plans for the future. That best friend was the one who “sent HUSBAND that shirt” and willingly became the standard cover. That best friend, opening a new company, had invited HUSBAND and me to attend the festivities and let HUSBAND know if I could not attend, SW was welcome too. SERIOUSLY? That best friend was sending me sweet little facebook messages and planning to come stay at my home and go fishing with my sons and meanwhile, that best friend was complicit in the fucking AFFAIR my husband was having with the slut-whore? That best friend sent HUSBAND and email, months after the affair was in the open, saying “contact me asap on the D.L. It’s impotant to you.” I saw the email. HUSBAND called that best friend in front of me, and that best friend said SW had reached out to him the night before and asked him if loved her. IF HE LOVED HER. GOD IT JUST DOESN’T END! The pain of betrayal RIPPED through my entire being all over again. HUSBAND had allowed me to, not only believe that best friend was supportive of our marriage, and an encouragement when HUSBAND was in the dark-fantasy fog of affairdom, but he sat right there and let me send him a thank you. A THANK YOU.

The utter and complete humiliation of it all. The SHAME cloaked me in a bizarre combination of guttural despair and bellicose fury. Somehow this went beyond just the abhorrent indignation of my own betrayal, it now involved best friend and his willingness to be part of my life, our family’s life, while harboring the dark secret of treachery. Oh. The pain.

That best friend. Collateral damage.

 

 

 

Digging really does matter. For me.

After the confession of May 13, including the unbelievable admission that HUSBAND had fucked someone when we’d been married merely two years (but NEVER any contact or other dalliances between that and the affair of the prior ten months) I went into high gear. I now had a picture in my mind that my young marriage had been scarred by a one-night stand with an old high school whore…HUSBAND had repented and devoted himself to me and our family…until the same whore reappeared at a reunion 25 years later. My mind teetered, struggling, trying to figure out if there was any truth in any of his words, in any of our life or MY LIFE for virtually all of my marriage.

I know there is a great debate amongst counselors, the betrayed and certainly the betrayers about the bounds of disclosure – what needs to be told, what is healthy. For me, the truth had to be discovered and uncovered. I wrote questions every day, used my iphone to record them as they came to mind. HUSBAND was incredibly patient, willing to endure the most minute of details that I wanted and needed. He tried to answer honestly, although sometimes claimed he could not remember. Our counselor encouraged meeting me where I was if HUSBAND wanted healing for me and potential healing in our marriage. Initially the questions were the obvious ones, but they transcended to things related to their conversations, and whether he shared intimate details of our daily life, our children’s lives, moments of fun and times together. But was any of that real, or just my illusions of a life?

The way I made sense of it, this desperate need to reconcile life and LIFE was that I had a filmstrip imprinted in my brain, that when I slowed it down, could sometimes see frame-by-frame-by-frame various moments and times. Now, I was realizing, that the filmstrip did not tell the whole story. Instead there was a broader picture, another camera capturing other parts of the set of my life and I needed to see the whole picture. I needed to reconcile the film I knew and could see with what the REAL film showed.

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I went on a diligent search to gather all our pictures from every frame and nook and cranny…cards…letters…children’s art and notes from camp and programs and awards…what is real…what is not…I researched insatiably, about betrayed spouses and their responses. I saw myself over and over and over again and knew that I was now bound forever into a fraternity of universal devastation and pain with very common responses. The pain was so present, so real, so inescapable yet somehow I kept waking up and going to sleep and it was another day. As patient as HUSBAND was, there were a couple areas that he got defensive about…going through his paypal account…a couple small details that he slightly but consistently recoiled at…and the pit of my soul thought there HAD TO BE MORE.

No. No more, he insisted. I knew it all now.

My questions and digging continued, my begging him to be honest and his promises that he would and that he would not lose patience and that he would do whatever it took to help get us through this and make me whole. This was a literal LIFELINE for me at this point…there was something that seemed to destroy the bond between SW and HUSBAND as he opened up about the details of their relationship to me. Somehow it had less and less power over him and over us – if there could be an us. The more his AFFAIR could be a story that HUSBAND was confident in sharing with me, the less I felt like he was protecting her or holding on to something and the more I could believe that he was not hanging on.

The intimacy between us was unbounded, constant, but seeped pain and tentativeness (if that is a word). I lived those days trying to reach the ground and stop feeling as if I was falling falling falling…tried to hang on to the belief that someday, the pain would deaden some. Tried to believe that maybe one day I wouldn’t think about HUSBAND and SW and promises and talks and plans and sex and pictures and texts and phone calls and distance and memories putrefied and and and and. I begged Lord please heal me. Please heal us. Please deaden the pain. I am so terribly sad and hurt. It is so big. God help me see it isn’t bigger than you.