Better Alone. Or Not.

I heard a wife say this recently. That she would be better off alone. I used to think it, but never dared say it aloud. I used to think that it would be better to be alone than to be in an empty marriage. In my empty marriage. To have the wrappings of a partnership and the title of a partnership yet no workings of a partnership. I didn’t permit myself to think that often, but that loneliness would press its way into my awareness sometimes, and be almost overwhelming before I could squish it back down to its hiding place in my soul.

I used to say that if anything happened to HUSBAND, I would not remarry. I didn’t say that because ours was a love that couldn’t be matched – rather because I felt I’d given him the best of me, all of me, for most of my adult life and I would be better just taking care of me. That I would likely get some funky amazing old place in a funky amazing old part of town and live there with lots of books and more than one cat and I would be happy. That I would know I was alone and not be pretending to be able to depend on someone else who wasn’t really available and that had to be better than an empty marriage.

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I was alone in the midst of my marriage. It was so odd…being in the same room with another yet so utterly alone. I could see HUSBAND there in the house, and we would talk when needed. We functioned in this well-oiled machine of knowing our designated roles and doing them well, taking care not to tread into each other’s realm of responsibility, or dig too deep into each other’s realm of the heart. And I was so very lonely.

I knew that I would gather the laundry and make sure it was in the washer and then the dryer and then folded and then in each respective person’s room. He knew he would make sure the cars got oil changes and had the right air pressure in the tires and got washed and cleaned out. I knew that I would pay the bills and determine where to rob peter to pay paul as HUSBAND walked by the office on his way outside where he knew he would trim the bushes and rearrange things in the garage to accommodate the current sports paraphernalia of our kids’ lives.

We were good at living well in our lanes and making sure they never intersected. Even when we dressed up and went out, or headed to church or on vacation, we stayed in our lanes. We could smile broadly and stand together with HUSBAND’s hand lightly on the small of my back. We could laugh at people’s jokes and engage in lively conversation. But I was still alone. HUSBAND could not read my glance from across the room, or tune into the subtle nuances of a conversation and support me with his words or actions. We got back in the car or on the plane and it was if there was a wall between us buffered only by our mutual love and care for our beautiful babies.

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Alone. Lonely. My plight in marriage for much of it, and as I looked around then, and even now, the reality for many, if not most, marriages. It was, after all, what marriage was and lonely as I was, it was good(ish). Until somedays it wasn’t so good, but then I thought really, it was because I just expected too much because, after all, we make our own happiness.

A jumble of loneliness and confusion.

When HUSBAND’s serial cheating and porn addiction came to the surface, I remembered being alone all those years. It weighed heavily on my heart and mind and decisions about whether to stay. I was so angry that I’d been used to give him a home and a family and he’d not only been unfaithful, but he’d allowed me to be so completely alone throughout the journey. There seemed to be nothing to salvage, no reason at all to consider staying married. I’d been betrayed by his actions sexually and abandoned by his responses emotionally.

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And I was right. There was no way or no reason to stay in that marriage. He got it. It was like something turned on deep in his being and he got it. He began to awaken as a person and as he moved into recovery he began to awaken in his capacity to care, to empathize, to love.

Now I know it is not better to be alone. Now I know that I was wired to be cherished and to cherish. To be cared for and care. To be loved and love. It is a vital part of my being that I had turned off but that’s just it…it is crucial and to deny that part of me is to cut off part of my humanity.

I don’t want to be alone. And I won’t ever be lonely in marriage again. Lonely together is not marriage, not the way it can be and should be. Lonely in marriage is soul crushing and body killing and mind jamming.  So when HUSBAND walked in our bedroom a couple night’s ago and said, “Please know that I don’t want to be on life support, should something happen…we’ve never really talked about that before…” I realized that if he left me now, I would miss him. I don’t want to live in that funky old house in the funky old neighborhood with a couple cats without him. Then I would be lonely, a different kind of lonely, all over again.

Lonely

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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So I will choose to live in now.

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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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Redemption in Telling

Recently, the great wordpress blogger, @crazykat, posted this about sharing her story. It was a really great post, and one that I found resonated in many ways for me. It got me to reflect on my attitude, on our attitude of revealing our story…so here it is.

I kept things very secret for a bit, but HUSBAND and I have a small, close circle (4 couples) of friends with whom we have traveled some other challenges. One by one, I met with the wives and shared our story…my story. HUSBAND met with the husbands and shared our story…his story. I blogged about telling our children (difficult, but ultimately amazing) and his parents (awful and ultimately a mistake).

Then, when the Ashley Madison hack occurred, a local tv station decided to make a story and called (our therapist) to see if there was a couple who would agree to a confidential (voices changed, faces not shown) interview. He asked us, and we did it. Interestingly, as it was airing on the news that night, one of my friends texted me that she was proud of us (so much for anonymity). Of course, this was one of that small circle of friends who knew, so I still felt protected.

A few months later, at a small retreat, HUSBAND told a very abbreviated, cryptic story (just said he’d done “everything to trash our marriage” but we were experiencing great healing) but it started a tumbling down of transparency amongst a few people at the retreat. That led to our church asking if we would consider making a video. We did. The morning it aired, to kick off a series on being “Strong and Courageous,” I felt anything but. Yet the individual people, and couples, that began to reach out and share their pain with us made me certain we had done the right thing.

That led to a local tv station asking if we would do a more in-depth story/interview about sexual infidelity and the possibility of overcoming the pain. We did. It was for a daytime (11:00am) very-low-viewer talk show, and we felt fairly safe watching it, knowing few people would see it. Until about 4 that afternoon when a friend posted a link of it to our facebook talking about our bravery. By the time I saw it, numerous people had liked the link (or I would have removed it). HUSBAND and I decided that it was meant to be, and more people poured out their hearts to us about their lonely marriages, their quiet desperation and sometimes, their own sexual infidelity.

At every juncture, we have encountered other brokenness…individual sex addicts who didn’t have a name for it, didn’t know there was help. Spouses who have been devastated by infidelity in all forms and either stay in silence punishing themselves (because it had to be their fault, right?) or leaving the marriage with their gaping open, bloody wounds and no healing. Couples who were white-knuckling each day but living in misery, thinking they were alone in the situation. We have discovered the problem of shitty marriage with or without infidelity is so widespread, so vast and we are incredibly overwhelmed, but desperately want to shine light on the darkness of this reality. The darkness that marriage is mediocre at best, toxic at worst, and often leads to cheating. We meet with couples almost every day, coach couples through an intensive weekend monthly and follow up with group meetings weekly.

There have been casualties of our openness: We have “friends” who have smiled, nodded and walked away…not wanting to “catch” what we had. I get it, I probably used to be that person although I would have denied it. We definitely have family that wants us to be quiet, that have clearly shunned us, but they were unhealthy relationships anyway, so for us there is no real loss other than what we always pretended family to be. But mostly what we have found is an ever-increasing number of hurting, desperate people who need to know they are not alone. Who need to know there is help. Who need to know there is not a path that is predetermined and that they must take. Who need to know they are cared for, and loved. So much pain, who knew?

For me, there is redemption in sharing our story. There is sharing the redemption that IS our story, obviously. But now, there is the deep awareness I have of the widespread sadness amongst married couples. It is more the norm than actual satisfaction whether there are affairs or not. The impact this has…that our children then grow up with deeply imbedded (where they cannot even identify it) pictures of marriage that is less than satisfying – countered by literal fairy-tales on the big and little screen that can’t be replicated and lead to even more confusion for all parties. This is the legacy we are leaving our kiddos when we live in mediocrity, when we live together and “stay married” but really, have no intimacy or connection or love. Seeing this, and speaking/living/walking into it…this is redemptive.

It is redemptive to walk alongside broken marriages and provide hope, encouragement and skills to increase their ability to reveal, to be safe, to love. To watch them heal, or make a healthy choice to part but with more care and dignity and kindness. Now, HUSBAND and I see that sharing our story is an incredible privilege, and one of the sweetest outcomes is that evil did not win. Instead, love wins.

 

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.

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

“Wow. Heartless.”

No words from this betrayed.

Father’s Day – Then. Now.

Father’s Day, 2014. Oh it was an excruciating time. The pain of discovering a lifetime of infidelity was still fresh, and we were only a couple weeks from having told our children (January, 2016:  Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.)

Daughter was gracious. Daughter was hurt. Daughter was conflicted. Daughter wrote this on her blog:

LesterdaysGone-Father’sDay2014

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Father’s Day, 2016. But today, TODAY daughter knows a father transformed. Or a father, as she puts it, who is free because he is living in the design of the Creator. Here is what our daughter wrote on our facebook today:

Two years ago, celebrating Father’s Day was hard. I had just found out that there was another side to the goofy, laid-back, gentle, and sweet father of mine. I had just learned that he made some terrible decisions that deeply altered our entire family. And I was learning what it meant to love (read: forgive) THAT dad, instead of the dad I thought I knew.

Well, two years later, I get to love the best father that I never knew I didn’t have. He’s the best dad by loving Jesus first–living in awe of His sacrifice and grace every day. He’s the best dad by loving my mom second–putting her needs above his own and always making sure she knows she is adored. He’s the best dad by loving his kids third–always there to make us laugh, be a calming force, and tell a good (bad) joke.

I am so proud of my dad. He is 100% a completely different man than the one I grew up with. All his wonderful personality traits are in tact (the reasons my mom fell in love with him!) but the way he loves his God, his wife, and his family are entirely new. My husband grew up without a father, and I am very glad that we both now have a powerful example of what a father should be. The thing is, my dad is far from perfect. He’s not even close. But what he did and what he does are two entirely different things. And what he does now is pour himself into his faith and his marriage. The result is a dad who both experiences grace and gives it out.

When he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, I was beaming with pride, because I knew that this was a man who understands the depth, weight, significance, sacrifice, and beauty of marriage. When he and my mom “gave me away” to Tim, they did so with endless prayer for our marriage, but also an intense knowledge of the covenant we were entering into.

When you’ve had to forgive your dad, you learn to love him in a new way. In a strange way, I am grateful for the mistakes that he made because they’ve allowed me to see my dad be totally enraptured by the mercy of God. And getting to love THAT dad is an indescribable gift.

I love you, Dad. Happy dad’s day.

 

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Going Back in Lies

I often contemplate how I married HUSBAND. How I chose a man who would begin cheating on me a mere two years after we married. A man who artfully hid his double life from me as it ebbed and flowed in and through his original life with me and I was not-so-blissfully unaware.

What was wrong with me that I couldn’t see it? That I didn’t know?

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My family valued honesty. I was told as a young girl that honesty was the premium value…that breaking a lamp while breaking rules would be not so good, but breaking a lamp while breaking rules and then LYING would be AWFUL. My parents were meticulous about keeping their word in so many ways: always paying bills on time, arriving at appointments, events or work early, and certainly never lying to us kids or each other.

And I believed that was the reality of my home, and my life. We were defined by our H O N E S T Y.

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Except it really wasn’t. We really weren’t.

I’m prefacing this by saying I have stellar parents who defied so many odds. They overcame myriad challenges individually and as a couple, and they were really fantastic parents using all they knew how to do and dealing with all they had to deal. But they were the offspring of their own parents and they of their parents and so on. I was raised by beautiful, hardworking, dedicated and loving parents who knew how to parent me as they had been parented, and to understand honesty as it had been defined for them and it ends up it wasn’t quite as black and white as I had been made to believe.

I began to have glimpses of the confusion between truth and sort-of-truth and not-so-much-truth and out-and-out-lies a couple days before our oldest son’s second birthday. My parents were headed up to spend a few days and celebrate with HUSBAND and me and 10 or so other little two-year-olds and I got an early morning phone call. Mom told me they wouldn’t be making the trip. My uncle, my dad’s brother, just 15 month’s his elder, had committed suicide and they had to go to be with his widow and children. The processing of that event left me overwhelmed…and I decided to go to a therapist to work through some of my confusion.

It was there, on his proverbial couch, that I found out that my fantastically honest parents might have lied to me – and I was only just seeing it – although I’d known it. See my dad’s side of the family was the bad side – included alcoholism and abandonment and now suicide. Mom’s side – the good side that did no wrong – until I began to recall the stories. The stories I knew that had been presented as rosy and pretty but when I shared them with the therapist I stopped myself part way: Wow…they are pretty screwed up too, huh? That side of the family included adultery and separate homes and an adopted child who never was told he was adopted although we all knew and were told to keep the secret (that wasn’t a lie) even when he asked us to our faces. So I wasn’t allowed to lie except when I was told to lie and it wasn’t a lie in that case.

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I was so confused.

I shared all this with HUSBAND who listened with his very young and distracted mind, nodding occasionally and thinking I was thinking too much. Thinking it was good I didn’t see lies since he’d already successfully completed his first marital affair and lied brilliantly and I was none the wiser. Of course I would not know about that lie of his for another 25 years…

Funny thing is because the surprise of discovering the inconsistencies within my own childhood I decided I would be hyper-honest with our children. I tried very carefully to tell them truth as best I could based on their maturity. But there is something about someone who grows up lying and that is they don’t see the lies. They don’t see how wrapped around truth they are, and how their (my) very default position is lying, justified in hundreds of ways…by sparing one’s feelings, or it not really being their business, etc. So even though I determined to not lie, I continued to lie, unbeknownst to me, but fairly consistently. Not about things that mattered, but instead about things like why my child couldn’t go spend the night with a friend (truth is I didn’t trust that friend’s judgement on movies and bedtimes and food choices, but I said we had another commitment). Things like why I was late to an appointment (truth is I was habitually a wee-bit late, but I said something happened with the dog or the kids or the car). Things like how glad I was that HUSBAND was able to __________________ (hunt…fish…play…leave me…. – fill in the blank – ) because it made me happy for him to be happy (truth is I was lonely and sad and felt like I had no value, but it wasn’t polite to say such things and they would get better, right?? RIGHT???)

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Yes…it is very hard for a person who has learned that the way to deal with pain or fear or shame or sorrow or sadness or regret or guilt or abandonment is to lie through it and pretend it wasn’t so to stop lying…mainly because I just could not see it. And that is how I married a man who could do this to me…

The real question is could I have married a man who was any different? A man who was honest? I don’t think so…

It was really tough to consider these possibilities. It was a new kind of pain and hurt, but it is the path that has led to me discovering I could be free from the bondage that engulfed me. And it was my path to take, or not. That’s where and when I thought I just couldn’t do it, and I saw Christ in the garden telling His Father…God…please, please take this cup from me. Yet even then, even when He didn’t want to, He still took the path. Despite all the odds, despite it making no sense at all, it led to healing. To freedom. So I took it too…

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