Cashing Checks

“You write checks with your words, and cash them with your actions.”

Profound statement, and one made by a beautiful young wife, pregnant with her first child, whose husband has struggled. The majority of his infidelity has been electronic relationships – porn – however he also reached out for a flesh person a couple times.

The brave young couple has chosen to work toward recovery (him – from sex addiction) and healing (her) and reconciliation (them). They have a long journey, but have made smart strides: individual and couple counseling. Recovery groups. Intensive marriage weekend. They have hope right now, and as coaches walking alongside them in the journey, HUSBAND and I have hope with them. And for their unborn child. And for all those who follow after their new marriage, their covenant of love.

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Back to the quote.

You write checks with your words. You cash them with your actions.

Therefore if your words are worthless, the check bounces.

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Broken-Open

So I took the 30-day alphabet challenge during the month of April, writing every day of the month except Sundays. I do not write ahead; rather each day I search for the direction of the moment and follow those thoughts and they result in my posts. Doing that for 26 days out of thirty took lots from my soul. HUSBAND asked me to take a respite after that and at first I scoffed thinking I did not need a break. Seems he knew me better than I knew myself – I needed it. I’ve missed you all and am glad to be back.

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And that brings me to here.

Today. June 1, 2016. A day that I can boldly say is better than June 1, 2015 or 2014 or 2013 or for all my married years prior to now.

How…why…can it be better to be the wife of a sex-addict, to know it? Wasn’t it better to live in the bliss of naiveté? To be unaware that HUSBAND found other women repeatedly throughout our marriage – whether real flesh and blood – or screen images that gave him things that only exist in fantasy?

No. No it wasn’t. It wasn’t for me.

Today is better than the last two years because I am two years out from finding out the awful reality of being a betrayed. Two years of living a progressively less violent emotional roller coaster. Two years of rolling memories around in my brain and reliving moments and trying to make sense of them and going through the cycles of grief again and again. Two years of learning to deal with triggers and a flood of pain that takes my breath away and mind invasions and questions with no answers and self-blame and hatred and overwhelming love. It is who I am now, indelibly stamped on my being and whether I remained married or left to have a different life this is me – me – forever and always.

Today is better than last year when I was a year out. 2015 was filled with anniversaries: One year from anonymous email and finding out HUSBAND was unhappy. One year from several weeks later and finding out HUSBAND was having an affair. One year from several weeks later and finding out HUSBAND’s affair wasn’t what he first revealed and included more time with his AP and more, well, more. One year from several weeks later and finding out there were more affairs. One year from several weeks later from finding out about family betrayal and friend betrayal. One year from several weeks later from finding out there was porn and masturbation and addiction. A year of one years, each one forcing me to take out that date and hold it in my hand and heart and try to decide if it was worth it. I could only look at that one moment, that one day, and step forward.

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And the year before…2014…such a looming wall of torment when I go back to those moments. Reading the anonymous email. Finding the letter of love and devotion from the current affair partner. The conversations and conversations and conversations and conversations with HUSBAND. The realization that pain inside could seep into every fiber of my being and wrack me with sobs that started in my heart and raced into every limb and digit and through every vein and capillary and occupied every cell and screamed and cried and begged for the hurt to stop. Oh the moments of not-wanting-to-die yet not-wanting-to-live or rather not-knowing-how-to-live or not-knowing-what-living-was and just not even being able to breathe. The shame. The guilt. The anger. The hurt. The abandonment. The confusion. The lies and the lies and the lies and the lies that I now knew had been my life.

The years before. They were good. I thought they were good. Or at least mostly. I thought that and yet now that they are good – really, really good – I can see they weren’t so good. I didn’t know about the women in HUSBAND’s life, true, but I always knew I wanted more with and in our relationship. I wanted to be cherished, to be considered deeply from a heart place. I wanted to share dreams and be able to be sad together when they didn’t happen without worrying it would make HUSBAND feel bad or like a failure. I wanted to be able to dream more and again and different without worrying it would make HUSBAND feel like I could never make up my mind. I wanted to be able to touch and be touched in public and private and to exchange glances that spoke volumes across a room and have private jokes that weren’t laced with sarcasm and know that above all else, I could count on being adored and protected.

Sometimes I pretended I had that throughout my marriage. But I didn’t.

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Up until the time the true nature of my marriage was revealed, I counted my words. I timed my conversations and wrapped that in the lingo of various women’s magazines and self-help journals and even religious teachings about wisdom and being gentle-tongued and a Proverbs 31 wife. I wanted so badly to have a deeply allied and intimate relationship that really was one flesh in every sense of the word and I acted like that was what we had and told myself that was what we had. But it wasn’t true.

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That is why June 1, 2016 is so incredibly different. So incredibly good. Because now, it is so incredibly real.

No walls. No masks. No space between our one flesh.

My addict HUSBAND became broken open through the revelations. My addict HUSBAND has committed all the fiber of his being to recovery and loving himself and loving me. I became broken open through agony, and that pain has poured out all the layers and layers and layers of pretensions and excuses and craziness and self-lies. No layers now between us. No secrets and hidden things and carefully (manipulated) thought-out words to try to get the other to respond the way we want them to. All those things that I wanted and had convinced myself only exist in chick-flicks live in my house now. They live in my words and my relationship and my bed. I. Am. Loved.

June 1, 2016. Two people, broken-open and meshed together into one. Battle-scarred, far-from-perfect but oh, so beautiful.

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Decisions

I’ve always been a fairly good decision-maker. A person who can discern between the time when deep thought and consideration need to be considered, and when it is okay to move quickly and with little thought. I don’t typically get overwhelmed or bogged down with decisions – don’t stress too much if the reds in the stripe on one material match precisely with the floral on another. Food tasting before an event is more to ensure the overall mix of selections than the specific ingredient of an individual item, and whether to attend one barre class or another is based solely on my schedule, not the teacher or the content of the class.

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I puzzle about people who struggle incessantly over some decisions – like how to wear their hair or what shoes to buy. Those types of decisions can be so easily changed…hair grows out, there is always another pair of shoes if you return the ones you ended up not liking…

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Some decisions, no matter how carefully considered, just are beyond our ability to completely control. Like college acceptance, when – and if – to have a baby.

And whether to marry a cheater.

HUSBAND came into our marriage with a past he chose not to share. To hear him tell the story now, he didn’t think I would marry him – decide on him – if I knew who and what he really was, so he pretended to be the person that he thought he had decided to be. Except he really didn’t know how. He didn’t know how to quit being the person with the choices and habits and ways that he’d been for the years before we married, but he knew how to talk as if he was that person.

So I decided to marry him. Even though, looking back, a couple people gave me little pieces of information that I could have delved into…I decided because what I saw, and what I heard from him, and what he acted like were just the man to love me forever, to walk with me through the ups and downs of life, to help me become the best me I could, and work toward the same in himself with me at his side.

The decision was made without some important information. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and for a long time, HUSBAND kept it all from me. Within two years he had slipped into old ways, hated himself for it, and I was none the wiser. A few years later, he repeated the cycle and again, I didn’t know. I was moving along in and through life oblivious that the decisions I had made on some very important issues were based on some blatantly missing information.

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HUSBAND danced a lot, creating diversions to keep me from being able to discern the spaces between truth and lies. He used lots of humor, always the nice guy, and tripped over himself to make sure his lies stayed hidden. He kept me away from some people, out of sorts with others, and at bay emotionally from himself. Meanwhile I – we – kept making various decisions but only he knew what the deck really looked like. It was exhausting for him, and crazy making for me and never really satisfying for us both.

So after affair three got revealed, and the woven in lies and infidelities and porn and sex addiction and pre-marital deceptions all came tumbling down, I got to make some decisions.

These were tougher than some of the decisions in the past. But at least I was now able to understand the missing pieces in my own life, and in his.

So what did I decide? Stay tuned, and we will find out.

Close.

Close – the verb: to block or hinder progress; to stop or obstruct; to come to an end – terminate; to make imperceptive or impossible.
Close – the adjective: close proximity in space and time; marked by similarity in degree, action or feeling; based on a strong uniting feeling of respect, honor, love.

I’ve been close to love and then the opportunity closed. I’ve been closed to an idea and then a close call caused me to reconsider my position. I have yearned to be close to my teenager, but he was closed to it.

I think I spent a good part of my life being close to it, close to intimacy, close to love, but because there were so many deeply hidden places that were closed, I could never quite get there. I found someone else who learned to look open but was really closed, and together we got close but since we were closed we never could get really close…even though it appeared we were. We didn’t know that we weren’t close because we only knew close as we had seen it in our lives where there was a lot of pretending to be close while really being closed.

I tried to fill the emptiness of not being close without knowing I was empty, thinking it was just me, and just life, through work and God and volunteering and kids. HUSBAND was filling his empty with fishing and hunting and other women, both real and delivered to his phone, unbeknownst to me. The more we tried to find close through these things, the less close we found in ourselves and together but to the outside world and to all that knew us, we were CLOSE and then DDay…and everything changed. We had a moment…no…we had many, many moments…

And we decided individually, then we decided together, that we would seek why we had closed ourselves in trying to be close, although opening the tightly sealed closed places was hard and painful and risky. As I, and as he, opened the closed spots we found close…close the adjective…close the intimacy…close the love.

The dichotomy of close.

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.

 

 

The Weight Transfer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life.

Unexpected Response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One day.