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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reclaiming.

Tears. Anger. Counseling. Questions. Self-blame. Counseling. Fear. Disgust. Counseling. Leave. Stay. Counseling.

spirograph

These next weeks were a Spirograph of emotions. As all of this was unfolding, my dad was slowly dying, living in our home so we could help my mom out. It is a black time…a period shrouded in such an ominous covering of shadowy pain. To get through all of this, I allowed myself a couple freedoms:

  • Make NO DECISIONS until…
  • Get through the next minute, the next moment. Don’t even look forward to an hour or two, just the next moment.
  • Allow myself to feel honestly, and don’t apologize for those feelings.

As I struggled to fill the gap between the reality that I’d lived for 27 years and the reality that I now knew my life really was for 27 years, I frantically reread diaries and cards and looked at pictures. I pieced these things together trying, trying, trying to see where I had gone so wrong, how I had been so STUPID and searching for the WHY WHY WHY.

My city, the city we had met in, married in, had our babies in, lived in now was tainted from one end to the other with marks of his deceit. No matter where I went in the city, I experienced triggers and questions and sadness and disgust. In a crazy moment, I asked HUSBAND to take me to one of the places that he regularly met his second affair partner so we could look at it together. He agreed. We drove there, him glancing at me with a pained look on his face, and when we arrived, we sat in front of the place and I asked him to describe to me how he arrived, where they parked, what happened. Then we got out of the car, held each other, cried, prayed against the lies and filth that had existed there and begged for that to be replaced with love and beauty and covenant. It was a painfully healing moment.

I realized that we had somehow reclaimed that place. Reclaimed it for the truth and dignity of our marriage from the clutches of secrecy and degradation.

It became my goal to do this everywhere that we could. So, place by place, we traveled around our city, first, then the region. We went to the restaurants, to the “spots,” to the hotels and stood in front of doors or by the river or near the turn off and rid the place of the LIES and ushered in TRUTH. It was crazy bad and incredibly good. Unbelievably, dear friends who were walking alongside us in this journey who had also experienced infidelity, owned a home in the mountains of North Carolina…gave us their house for a week…the same precise week that one year before HUSBAND had been in that same town with SW in a little cabin fucking her and cooking for her and taking her to a restaurant. So on the SAME DAYS one year later, we went to that restaurant, sat in the same seats, tears streaming down my face. We went to the cabin together, sat outside it listening to the rushing creek and grieved together, holding each other, crying and praying. And then the anger started.

My anger escalated during that trip…alcohol may have also been a factor…and nothing HUSBAND did or said could soothe my feelings. He finally, very calmly, got up and started to walk out. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I screamed. His look of sadness covered him from his face to his posture to his toes and he said quietly, I’m just hurting you, I can’t help, I’ll just go on a walk.

NO! NO! NO! YOU CAUSED THIS! YOU CAN’T WALK OUT! YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT!

And he came back in, picked up one of the many articles we had with us, pulled me next to him and began to read and tears poured out eyes, down my face and onto my chest. At first, I was stiff and resisted, but he just kept reading. The article was written to betrayers, telling them how the betrayed felt and how to deal with their emotions. It was spot on…SPOT ON…EIGHT PAGES and he quietly read, and kept reading, and I got more and more calm and he kept holding me close and reading and telling me how terribly sorry he was.

And then we just held each other and cried and cleansed. Exposed, bare, raw.

He fixed me dinner that night. A beautiful dinner of all things good and we sat on the porch of our healing house, looking at magnificent stars. We reclaimed the place, and there was a small place of hope in me that maybe, we could reclaim us.

North Carolina