Reflections of Betrayal

A memory popped up on Facebook yesterday. It is a picture of me with one of my dearest friends, four years ago yesterday, enjoying a fabulous event given by a vendor for my company. We have huge smiles and look silly – a photo booth picture.

Photo booth

I was transported to that event, that moment. It was odd that HUSBAND wasn’t with me. We have always made a habit of supporting each other at corporate events, and for some reason, he didn’t really want to go to this particular one. I remember him saying he WOULD go, but… Despite the reality that it was at a very swanky place, with really awesome food, great company and open bar. I honestly didn’t care much one way or the other, and I didn’t think much about it at the time.

We weren’t arguing or at odds over anything. We weren’t seething or saying snarky things or sending mean texts. We were just living our daily lives of disconnection, plodding along, getting up in the morning and doing what needed to be done to take care of our home and our jobs and our kids and ourselves. We were living as we had much of our married life – no big ripples, just the constant pressure of dissatisfaction and hoping there was more but having too much on our plate to really think about it.

dinner disconnection

Yet there was a sub-story going on that that girl in the picture didn’t know anything about. I thought we were in this reality together, but there was another plot running concurrently that had a thick curtain covering it from my sight. Only 8 days prior, HUSBAND had taken the opportunity of delivering our son for a college sports tryout to meet up with his new affair partner. With SW. He had offered to take him, several states away, at the last minute claiming he would combine it with a couple work visits and get in a couple nights of camping – clear his soul – fish on a creek – cook his own meals by campfire –

Craigs Cabin Number 10

My heart had broken for him – this man who had sacrificed so much of his desire to hunt and to fish and to camp so he could be a good and present dad. All our kids were heavily engaged at high levels in a sport and he was almost always at every event with me, handling the coolers and providing encouragement and calming me down…leaving very little time for him to do the things he loves. I was excited he had figured out a way to nurture our family/son, get some work done AND find time to do the things he loves. We spoke on the phone after his arrival at the little cabin by the creek…I could hear the excitement in his voice…and I was happy for him.

Oh he was excited. He was excited to hear the sound of his new mistress’s voice telling him all the things he wanted to hear about himself as a person, as a man, as a lover. He was excited to have dinner with her and then head back to the cabin and culminate their phone relationship into a physical relationship.

That girl in the picture, with her friend, had no idea. No idea at all.

No Idea

Then, then again, and now

On Valentine’s Day 1989, I woke to the cries of my almost year-old first-born. His nursery was next to our bedroom, and my regular routine was to change him, then bring him back to bed where he would nurse, and we would cuddle and snuggle. HUSBAND was long gone…on regular days his work schedule started in the early morning hours and this particular day, Valentine’s Day 1989, he was in New Orleans.

cuddling-baby-in-bed

Sixteen months earlier, HUSBAND and I had been in New Orleans for a convention in his industry. At the time, I was pregnant so we had enjoyed the sites, eaten some fabulous meals and taken in the bigness of both the city and the convention – but I had stayed away from alcohol and partying. I was surprised when HUSBAND told me he wanted to go this time…his industry has two main conventions and he had never affiliated with the one scheduled in February. He told me this alternate convention was far more policy oriented, and he wanted to engage at the policy level – to bring young energy and ideas and solutions to the old problems. I was proud of him and excited for his vision and enthusiastically endorsed his attending. My memory tells me that we talked for a brief minute about the logistics of me attending with him, but our baby…and I was pregnant again…and so I sent him off with good wishes.

In the later morning the doorbell rang, and a beautiful bunch of roses was delivered to the door. Our little one was taken by the pretty flowers, and we had fun smelling the roses. When the phone rang a bit later (pre cell phones and texting and facetime), I answered it. HUSBAND was on the line. I told him thank you for the lovely flowers and he told me Happy Valentine’s Day. And that he loved me.

red-roses-bouquet

The scene was lovely and sweet and appealing…just what books are written about. Considerate spouse. Grateful spouse. Happy home.

Except this wasn’t the whole story. It was only the part that I could see. I wouldn’t know the whole story for 25 years. The rest of the story was that before he made that phone call to me on Valentine’s Day, he had just had sex with his affair partner. He had flown her from our home town, arriving on the 13th and they had taken in alcohol and partying. And sex. Sex the night before and sex that morning. And then he rolled over in the bed, reached for the phone and called me to tell me Happy Valentine’s Day – had I gotten the flowers – that he loved me.

after-sex-hotel-room-3

Apparently his affair partner didn’t like this too much. She didn’t let him know then, but when she left that little love nest, she had decided she was done. That was the last time they saw each other during that affair. And 3 months later, our second baby was born.

If you have read our story, you know that I never knew about this affair. Or the other affairs. Until the last affair that broke everything open. The last affair, 25 years later, was with this same affair partner. Once she got him engaged again, she reminded him of the Valentine’s Day in 1989 and told him how it made her feel. You know, like a whore or something. To make it up, he invited her to a neighboring town for two days of dining and romance and ocean the week before Valentine’s, when I was out of town. And then he arranged to send her an enormous bouquet of flowers and for me, the unsuspecting wife both then and now, nothing. Interestingly, he mentioned to her that he was sending something to her office – she now lived in Atlanta – and she told him she wouldn’t be there that day. She went on to tell him she hated flowers (really??). So he cancelled the order. He did everything he could to make up those hurt feelings from 25 years before. To make her Valentine’s special.

This year, on February 14th early in the morning, I woke up to the smell of coffee, and turned to see a cup on my nightstand with the perfect amount of foam. HUSBAND embraced me strongly, looked into my eyes and told me he loved me. A bit later, when I got in my car to head to the office I found a card on my dash board. A loving, emotional, passionate card. During the day, HUSBAND and I were interviewed on a local radio show about how our marriage had gone from devastating to incredible…and a couple hours later, we appeared on a local television show sharing the same story. When I arrived back at my office, I got a delivery…two more fabulous cards with great meaning and lovely additions in HUSBAND’s own hand. When he came home from the office, he brought bunches of flowers in beautiful colors (and I love flowers – really). He had made a reservation for the two of us at our favorite French restaurant where we shared an intimate meal, fabulous wine and connected conversation.

jpsp-at-jjs-4

It’s odd. I needed to know the sub-story of our lives and HUSBAND needed to tell the sub-story of our lives if we were ever going to have a chance. If we were ever to have the transparent and beautiful relationship we now share. But lurking around the edges of the joy and the intimacy of today is the burned edges of yesterday. I can still see it in my mind’s eye…still see the naïve trusting young wife overlaying the sex scene of a New Orleans hotel…then, then again, now.

And such is the story of betrayal.

 

The Prism of the Present

I just took a shower. Routine event…sometimes I get out of the shower and am toweling off and realize I had not remembered, specifically, washing my hair or using conditioner or shaving because I do those things so rotely they take no real awareness.  Sometimes I even have to rub my hand down my leg to make sure I did do all the shower tasks (but don’t tell ok?)

I do a lot of thinking in the shower. I write blog posts, or a book. I solve problems and have imaginary conversations. I often think of the past or something I didn’t do or something that is weighing on my mind…

There was a bad shower day: it was a few days after I discovered HUSBAND was a cheater, and that he had shared a cabin by a creek in a small town in North Carolina with the OW. As I reached my arm up to get my shampoo, suddenly it was her arm, SW, and it was her in the shower and his hands were on her and I couldn’t discern her from me and his touch on me was really on her…it was horrible and I sobbed.

CryingintheShower

So today, I had a different kind of experience. Turned on the water, just like always and stepped in when it was the right temperature. I let the water roll down my hair and my face and my body and suddenly, that was all there was. Me, the water, the shower. I noticed the tile and the perfect force of the showerhead’s delivery of water to my body – why had I not realized this before? And when I squeezed the shampoo onto my hand, I smelled the gentle fragrance that appeals to me, and makes me think clean, and I noticed, no – REALLY NOTICED – the way it sat in my hand. I put my hands to my head, and washed my hair and felt the stress and the debris and the stuff work out of my scalp and hair and fall with the water into the bottom of the shower and run down the drain. For the first time ever, I moved every moment of my shower with intentionality. Intentionally in the present, fighting off the urge to look behind or ahead.

A crazy thing happened. I saw and smelled and felt and sensed so much to be grateful for. In the shower, in my shower. Things like: A clean shower. Hair product that I like. The ability to take showers any time I want. To make the water temperature just so. To have delightful homemade soap to clean my body. To wash my face and get every nook and cranny clean and fresh and new. The gratefulness in the space was palatable, it was real, it was present in the shower with me.

It hit me how hard we have to fight to live in the present. To fight off the what-ifs, and the I need to… And no matter what our past story is, whether it is betrayal, or rejection, or abandonment, or fear, or addiction, or success and power…we really only have the present. This moment. Right now. As I breathe in the present moment, I discover that my eyes are often opened to both flashes of beauty, and possibility. Possibility that the next moment may hold a flash of beauty…and if not, finding the thing in one moment that is strong can carry me through the ugly and hurtful and dark until the next time I can see a moment of good.

BreakingThrough

It was pain that taught me to live in the present. It was the pain of discovering I was a betrayed wife that overcame me with such force that all I could do was take the next breath. Literally, the next breath. I learned that I had to allow the pain to be, to look at it, to feel it. This was the first time in my life the pain was so enveloping and strong and permeating that I could not shove it aside or just smile and nod. I had to let it be and experience it and let it own the moment. That present moment because there was no way I could look beyond where all I could sense was more pain. So I was forced to the present. It was there, in the present pain that I began to find healing. I survived. I slowly saw a flash of beauty. Just a flash, mind you. But then another and another.

Happy Labor Day…and may we each find a sliver of beauty in one present moment today.

flashofbeauty

Transported

Have you ever had one of those moments…drifting into, or out-of, sleep, and time is suspended. Caught in a state of not being, yet being; and everything is completely not real, yet incredibly real.

I just had one of those moments. One of those moments between the state of sleep and awake, of reality and fantasy. And in that moment, I was watching my first born get out of our car at his new university campus and walk up to his freshman college group as instructed. I was dropping him with people that would now take my place – that would tell him right from wrong, and move into his head to determine priorities….and plans…and the future.

In that moment, I was there, I was RIGHT THERE and I was grieving and yet excited…not sure I’d given him everything I was supposed to give him and wishing I had just a little more time…just a couple more days when he was an infant and a toddler and a boy and a teen. I was desperate to turn back time, yet so excited to watch him step into his future.

BoytoMan2

All that was real.

And then I saw me, and HUSBAND and for a moment, we were untarnished by betrayal. We were there in that car, together, yet quickly my mind saw that we were the young couple that had pledged love and fidelity, that had birthed this boy now leaving us for college, that had spent tears of worry and mountains of time and money together for his best, that had figured out how to make sure there was always good food to eat and clean clothes in everyone’s room and school supplies and he’d gotten all the required shots, and it took us both and even though we were older, we’d achieved this and it was good and we were real, we were us.

As this all fluttered by quickly in my head as dreams do and then suddenly the images froze.

And shattered.

shatteredpicture

All that wasn’t real.

It wasn’t real, that picture that I thought was our life, and our family wasn’t the only story going on during much of our life together. I gasped, I jumped, I awoke fully.

In a rush, the pain and grief engulfed me, and I couldn’t get enough oxygen and I was being CRUSHED beneath the weight – yet as quickly as it came, it left. I still see it, but it is not covering me, and I can breathe again. I sit here now, contemplating the reality that I’m not sure what is reality then. Or then. Or then. So. Many. Thens.

overwhelmed

So I will choose to live in now.

present2

 

 

 

Distorted Perception

It hit me today.

It hit me when I was thinking about a friend who is kind and gentle and trustworthy. And a cheater. Although I am far more hardened, less naïve and see cheating around me regularly now, this one took me by surprise. It hit me that I never thought he would cheat any more than I thought HUSBAND would cheat, and that the cheater persona, the very aura of who they present themselves to be is one of the reasons we betrayeds are exactly that: betrayed.

Betrayed

I have beat myself up over the last two years for not seeing. For not knowing. For being fooled by a cunning man who slept in my bed and sat at my dinner table and cried with me at the birth of our babies and worried with me about sending our kids off to college. I know that I have gone back and retraced moments in my mind that I now know were not as they appeared to see what I missed, to see how I was so oblivious to the deceit right there before my eyes.

But that’s just it.

It wasn’t right before my very eyes.

deceit

Because right from the start, from the first date to the day of discovery, there were parts of HUSBAND that I never knew. Never, ever dreamed or thought or figured. He was so very careful to keep any vestige of them from me, to cover the tracks of that part of his being over and over and over. To shake his head in dismay when the pastor spoke of men using porn. To gasp and fold his brow when we heard about one of our friends’ husbands leaving the marriage…for another woman (although to date, only one of those has resulted in a new marriage). To join me in earnest conversation of ‘how could he’ when hearing a news report of a politician engaged in a dalliance.

shockedman

There is no shame for us. The shame is in these incredibly adept pretenders, posers who from beginning to end – until their gig is up – present to us, and to most of the world, an entirely different person than they are underneath. Our perception, crafted so very carefully and steadily and consistently, is what results in their ability to carry out deception. We are not flawed, we are only trusting and believing what we see and feel and hear every day.

trust

And then we find out, and we learn that we are not only trusting and caring. We are strong, and brave, and eventually…whole. How ironic that our belief in the skewed perception of our cheating lovers is what ultimately reveals to us our inner strength. A twisted path and one we would prefer not to have taken, that cost us so much, yet leads to its own kind of beauty…our beauty…

path2

 

 

 

Hypocrisy. Again.

Two years ago, I madly searched for any insight into the last woman HUSBAND was fucking. As the sordid details of his 25 years of deception and cheating and double life and, what I eventually learned, sex addiction, were unfolding, I was desperate to try to find out everything I could about this woman.

I read the things she had written to HUSBAND again and again. I watched the videos she had made for him several times (only a couple of what he tells me were hundreds). I read her facebook postings and comments on HUSBAND’s page, on my sisters-in-laws pages, on other friends pages. And I began to get a glimpse of this woman who had so willingly played a role in the drama of my life without me knowing.

The perversion of her sensibilities became obvious. Obvious on her posts that talked about all kinds of things from a crass perspective, and from an “it’s-all-about-me” viewpoint. Obvious when she posted a shocked response at the reported theft of some items from a mutual friends’ store: “How dare he…they should throw him over the boat” (it involved some fishing equipment). Seriously? This other woman who was stealing and destroying parts and pieces of the unit of our family thought she had the right to stand in judgement of another thief? Could she not see that she was a master thief?

Well…I thought I’d long gotten over this madness, the impact to me of her hypocrisy. I certainly have gotten over the searching, looking for her or “stalking her,” and think about and of her less and less. But today, today when looking at a mutual friend’s facebook, there was a short video showing a homerun hit and the subsequent fans-in-the-stand reaching for the baseball of a recent game. The disturbing portion of the short video is when the ball is caught by a little girl and simultaneously snatched, literally out of her hands, by an older woman…likely in the general age range of HUSBAND’s last whore. Of SW.

snatching

WELLLLLL…on that post….SW posted a response that caught me by surprise.

“Wow. Heartless.”

No words from this betrayed.

The Dance I Now See

I took the red-eye home from Vegas last night. Left a little before midnight and connected in Atlanta with literally just time for a quick bathroom stop between flights.

I suffer from motion sickness, so always need to be at a window seat. When I boarded, the aisle seat occupant was already there, so I had to ask him to please let me in. He was wearing professional clothes, not unusual for a 7:00 am flight out of Atlanta, and when I got there, his head was bent down intently looking at his phone screen. After I spoke, he glanced up, got out and let me in…all was well.

ManTextOnPhone

Immediately, my 50-ish seat-mate reattached himself to a furious texting conversation, and I got out my headphones along with my phone and texted HUSBAND to let him know I’d made the tight connection. We shared a few back-and-forth texts, and I was glad to know I’d be back in his arms within two hours. It was a sweet moment…yet the complete and utter intensity of my seat-mate’s phone communication drew me to glance…where I saw this that he had just texted:

“Last night was amazing. I’m crazy about you.”

I felt sick to my stomach. I saw the telltale band around the ring finger of his left hand, and began to watch his behavior in earnest. He was completely unaware of all that was happening around: the other passengers loading, people placing things in the overhead bins, the flight attendant asking people to be seated. I thought about what HUSBAND had told me he said to his affair partner, and “being crazy about you” was a common phrase between them. I thought about HUSBAND’s admissions to the nonstop texting, the obsessions with fantasy talk. Attention poured and lavished between them in the illicit relationship unlike the pittance of attention offered in our real relationship.

ManWeddingRing

I thought about a wife sitting somewhere in Atlanta, knowing her marriage was disconnected, aching to understand why her husband seemed to care about all things except her and their marriage. A wife who washed and folded the underwear he wore the night before that his slut had removed with her dexterous fingers so she could make his night amazing. A wife who made sure his kids had their school supplies and were taken care of when they get sick or got their hearts broken. A wife who showed up with bells on to greet a family member or client at her husband’s beckoning, even though she had worked a 50 hour week. A wife who invested so much of who she was wondering desperately why he felt like she expected so much from him, what was wrong with her, why couldn’t she just be happy…

lonelywoman

I texted HUSBAND what I’d seen, what I was observing, realizing I never would have even had eyes to see this before, or understand the secret dance that I was now part of, and that is so often danced all around me. HUSBAND responded, telling me he was so sorry that he had put me in the situation to grieve what I could now see. He told me that he was so thankful for my grace…for our life now.

I struggled with wanting to grab my seat-mate, tell him to look me in the eye and that I knew what he was doing and he had to STOP…that he was killing, no KILLING a woman out there, that he was stabbing and slashing and hacking at her heart and her life and that of his children. I fantasized about standing up in the cabin and telling the whole flight that I was sitting next to a cheater. I waited for the moment to ask the right question to let him know slyly that I knew utilizing innuendos and hidden meanings, that he hadn’t hid his smut from me.

But none of that happened, and I didn’t do any of those things.

I just grieved.

Right after we landed, making that long taxi around to our gate, my seat mate finished the trip in crowning glory. He pulled HER up on his phone, scrolled quickly down a long series of messages, seemingly rereading them at a fast pace. Then, quickly in a well-practiced pattern, he swiped and deleted, swiped and deleted, swiped and deleted message after message after message until there were none.

Delete-Button

Evidence gone.

Just like that, his transgression was erased.

Except, not really. The dance? I can see it now. Everywhere. And for that, I weep.

dance