Did I Choose Wrong?

This year has been full of doubts, flip-flopping, and wondering if I made the right decision. In one moment I am happy, confident, and blazing forward. In the next moment I am hesitant, untrusting, and overwhelmed with fear. Luckily, the latter moments are not in the majority. But the mere fact that they exist bothers me. All the books and articles say it takes two years to heal from infidelity as a betrayed spouse. But what does it truly mean to be healed?

To love is to be intensely vulnerable. To choose love means we also choose to know the loss of love. We are raised to believe that love is the antidote to loneliness, and all the emotions that accompany being alone: sadness, rejection, misery, and heartbreak. We live in a world that equates love with hope. But the truth is that choosing to love another person is the equivalent of asking them to hold a glass egg forever – at some point it will be dropped. And heartbreak is, well, heartbreaking. I believed with all my heart that my marriage was unique, our love was pure and unbreakable. The heartbreak I felt, and sometimes I still feel, was as if I lost something essential to my existence. Sometimes I still yearn to touch what I lost; to grasp it in my hands, pull it tight into my chest, close my eyes, and cherish it one last time.

Recently a friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook:

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Heartbreak is heart breaking. It is painful and it is paralyzing. But we cannot let it define our future. Love can break us into a million pieces but it can also fill all the dark places that we never thought could be filled. Love, at it’s finest, feels as though I finally fit into myself. I clearly see myself, feel myself entirely, and my confidence exudes from my being when I give and receive love. Betrayal made me doubt all of that.

Somewhere along the path of healing I asked myself, repeatedly, did I choose the wrong man to marry? What if the answer is that we all choose wrong. It’s impossible to expect I knew at 23 years old what my needs would be at 35 or 46 or 52. I chose my husband because he offered familiarity, a compliment to me. I chose him because I never felt love in the way he gave it to me. I needed him and he needed me back. For better or worse.

Is it ever possible to know if we married the right person?

Every time I begin to fall into the doubts that still linger in the shadows of my mind I remember that love does not mean perfection. Love is having hope that as we break we will recover. Love is having the courage to believe that heartbreak does not mean devastation. Loving is risky business but somehow it’s the most desirable dream we share.

Sometimes I feel as if I am stuck in a Chinese finger trap – the more I pull, the more I am stuck in the same place. I just need to push, redefine the things I cherish, and move forward.

 

 

Can I Ever Trust You Again?

Last week I stopped listening to music during my commute and started listening to podcasts. Which means that I come home and retell all the stories that I just listened to in my car for my colleagues, husband, children – anyone that will listen. Tonight, my retold story is for you and the topic is trust and reconciliation. Maybe we can answer the question:

Can I ever trust you {my spouse} again?

Trust is like holding a bird in your hand. If you hold the bird too tightly then you will crush it and it will die. If you hold the bird too loosely then it will fly away. This metaphor is an adaptation from a story told within the podcast but I believe it is brilliant. It tells you there is an appropriate balance required to trust another person, and falling out of balance and into extremes is destructive or negligent.

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Prior to my husband’s affair I believe I trusted him naively. He promised he wouldn’t cheat and therefore he would never cheat on me. And the longer we were married the more I believed it would never happen because we were the center of each other’s world, the most intelligent mate, my trusted confident, and my best friend. And vice versa – I was undoubtedly all those things to him too. Except I naively trusted that nothing could ever change between us and that we did not need to worry or cultivate this trust post-wedding or post-kids. I believed in status quo.

Except I didn’t really. During my husband’s affair I realized that our marriage was no longer fulfilling my needs. My husband was failing me. I was lonely and felt as though I was raising our children solo. He would go to work and come home unconcerned with anything within our household that required effort or dedicated time. I cried alone many times throughout the year of his affair because I couldn’t understand why my marriage was not working for me anymore. I wanted more too.

Post D-day, I was holding the “trust bird” too tightly. In fact, there are still times I am clutching trust like it’s a stress ball and releasing the tension that trust requires from me. Just last week I practically put my husband on trial to find out what he did before going to work that day. It turns out he ran errands for his business. For me, those two hours of errands were a reminder of the affair and his behavior.

The question remains: Can I ever trust him, or anyone, again?

Trust is fragile and when trust crumbles it can have a ripple effect on every relationship in your life. It has been very difficult for me to trust anyone on an intimate level after discovering my husband’s affair. I had to redefine trust, rebuild relationships with the people I truly care about in a way that fits into my new definition of trust. For me trust will never be absolute again. I have learned that in order to trust I must accept the unknown. I must understand that in trust there is doubt and I need to learn to be comfortable with that the unknowns.

For my readers that are in the beginning stages of discovering their spouses affair I implore you to find out the meaning and motivations for your spouse’s affair. You do not need to know the facts or the story of the affair. The goal is to restore trust, not create a narrative. Understand the crisis you are going through together and this will become the beginning of your new relationship.

Learning to hold the bird in your hand is a delicate balance of holding on and letting go.

The Weight of Failure

I’ve never been comfortable with failure. I was the child that sat in the front row, center desk in school if seats weren’t assigned. I learned very early that not only do teachers tend to favor those students, but it is literally the best seat to learn from in a classroom. I also recall this feeling of failure or separation within me if I was seated in the back of the room.  It was hard to be a part of the discussion and I no longer felt included. I believed I could control my successes and limit my failures if I made all the right choices.

I was never taught to plan for failure. Relationships are not very different from everything else we engage in life. Yet, in business we understand that getting fired or a failed business plan can lead to success. One of the most famous stories of failure turned success is Steve Jobs. We herald Steve Jobs and view Apple dumping him as a catalyst for what we now use to define success. Steve Jobs may have never reached his full potential if he hadn’t been betrayed, devastated, and faced with failure – reassess and rebuild. Steve Jobs is quoted saying that what separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest is perseverance.

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Very few of our failures are fatal. Yet, post D-day I felt as though I might collapse. I felt as though the weight of my husband’s affair might slowly suffocate me and there was a piece of my soul that was suddenly stolen. There is an emptiness within us that accompanies failure. I’ve spoken about this emptiness many times throughout the blog. There was a time I believed I could solve why I felt this way or maybe with time whatever was broken would heal, or maybe even regenerate like a starfish. My therapist told me three years ago that I should mourn the loss of this unnamed feeling/sense/being and acknowledge that it is gone.

Gone but not fatal.

Failure is a part of my story. But I keep going. I’ve picked up the pieces, reassessed, and rebuilt my life. My marriage is not the same as it was when we first fell in love. It’s different. Not every betrayed spouse can forgive and stay with the partner that cheated but we can all heal ourselves. The healing part of my story is what has defined this journey.

Secrets Keep You Sick

I cringe as I admit I heard that statement on a recent episode of the Real Housewives of New York. Yet, as the woman said those words they struck a chord with me. Secrets have enveloped my life for more than four years. Secrets crafted behind my back, secrets that I uncovered, secrets I chose to keep private, and secrets I have conceived on my own too. Secrets are ultimately destructive and, yet, the excitement that embodies the pure psychology of a secret is so damn tempting.

This blog started out as a catharsis for me. A place to purge all my emotions, fears, and secrets. As much as I write and divulge it’s never a complete story, never enough to fully purge my fears or heal every emotion.

My marriage is different now. The truth is my marriage will never be the same. I don’t think I will ever be able to completely breathe a sigh of relief or go to bed and not feel this weigh down on me. It’s hard to admit but I know I am responsible for so much of this.

5d1d495bdae42e3941e8e5103182b0e4When my husband and I first met our relationship wasn’t by any definition “normal.” The foundation of our relationship may have not been constructed on the sturdiest of soil and with the best pieces us. We were both involved with other people when we met and those relationships and their issues bled into our relationship. My insecurities were compounded by his request to not discuss the former relationships.

Secrets.

We tried to bury those secrets and paint over them with our life together. We painted this beautiful story together on a really crappy canvas. The “us” part of our picture or story was solid, good, beautiful, and wonderful. It was the bits and pieces of us as individuals that were cracked. All of my insecurities kept me from being the best version of me and being a good partner. If I couldn’t discuss my husband’s failed relationships then how could I fully understand him? His needs? His insecurities? We buried layers of ourselves and pretended like it was unimportant. I learned the questions I never asked were the most destructive. They created triggers, defense mechanisms, and insecurities that I never should have harbored.

I chose my blogging username, ThisWillNotDefineUs, because I truly believed that my husband’s affair should not and would not define our marriage. While it doesn’t define our marriage, it did end up being a definitive part of my life and our life together. Secrets have a riptide effect on relationships. The emotions, fears, and moments I didn’t talk about ended up impacting my decisions and the people around me. I often filled in the empty spaces with answers that complete the sentences.

Three years later it’s hard not to fall back into the same relationship patterns from our past. Sometimes I have to stop myself when I feel recognize myself slipping inside myself, building walls, because it will only lead to me pulling away from my marriage. I also fear repeating the same mistakes that pushed my husband into the arms of another woman. I am not saying that it’s my fault, but I am saying that how I treated him and how I was living was a factor in his affair. Post-affair, as life settles back into normalcy, I fear that it’s not enough to keep him here. As the words flow through my fingertips I realize that I have this fear and it’s a secret harbored within me. The cycle continues… I need to be brave enough to end this pattern of secrets.

Surviving Infidelity

There are stories that hijack our lives. They freeze our thoughts and capture our minds, taking hold of our emotional and physical state. My husband’s affair hijacked my life. I chose my username on WordPress, thiswillnotdrefineus, thoughtfully because I rejected my husband’s actions. My disappointment was fueled by rejection, loss, and pain. I had to believe his affair could be cleaned up like spilled milk. I wished I could get to a point where I forgot the affair ever happened.

His affair has been over for three and a half years and I have not forgotten it. It’s not a gushing wound anymore but the affair redefined our marriage. It changed me, him, and us. How could it have not?

The moment I fell in love with my husband my life was hijacked. It was permanently set on a course I had not planned but I embraced it. Most of us would be fools to reject love. We watch movies and cry for lost love and wistfully champion the story that captures our inner longing to be loved. We all want to be loved – and we want to believe in the moment of falling in love.

My love story is my favorite. In the wake of my d-day I began a long road of questioning if my love story was ever real and if I made the right choices. I spent most my life believing that finding love may be a struggle; getting the guy to commit may be difficult; but once you both fall in love and promise for better or worse – the rest is “happily ever after.” I thought that once we promised each other forever it would be smooth sailing.

So here I am. Post affair. I am long past the two year point where therapists claim it becomes easier or that healing is more complete. Yes, I am better. It’s easier and I would consider myself healed. But the thing is, “healed” doesn’t mean the pain is erased or that I even understand how I feel all the time.

I read in Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong that for forgiveness to occur something must die, you must face the pain, and simply hurt. I agree.

Recently someone asked me if I had gotten past the affair – you two are solid now, right? Yes, we are solid but let me clarify. I now understand not only the strength of my love for my husband but my limits too. I know our marriage is different. We have changed and it’s really freaking uncomfortable to change. Most of us resist change, especially in our most treasured and intimate relationships. My husband and I, we are changed. There will always be the knowledge of this affair between us. There will alway be an awkward silence when a friend brings up their opinion on infidelity, or we watch a movie and the main character discovers her husband’s affair. There will always be the squeeze of my hand on his knee to say: I love you in spite of this.

Infidelity is not black and white to those of us that have survived it. On a daily basis it can be more than 50 shades of gray. The point is we are surviving infidelity.

Love, Acceptance, Belonging

A Mindfulness Objective Takes Root

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I find myself craving love, acceptance, and belonging in my weakest and best moments. I want to be worthy of being loved, accepted, and to belong; and I want to love, accept, and belong to my life story. My struggle with all three became magnified in the aftermath of my husband’s affair. To understand my struggle, I identified the opposite of these mindsets:

Love – Indifference, Neglect

Acceptance – Rejection

Belong – Disconnect

There have been so many times during the last three or more years that my mind felt chaotic. I would be fine and then one stray thought about the affair sent me into a panic, making me feel neurotic. I could trust my husband completely and not trust him at the same time. I’ve spent countless hours writing mental rationalization lists of why or how my husband is not still cheating on me or lying to me. I often have to be mindful of what is real versus the triggered emotional memories that awaken in my most insecure moments. My most insecure moments were affirmations of the opposite of what I truly need and want to feel. In the movie, Pretty Woman, Vivian and Edward are lying in bed in an incredibly intimate moment and she says:

The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

Yes, I have noticed the bad stuff is easier to believe. So I’ve made a resolution for 2016: Mindfulness. For me, mindfulness means awareness and acceptance of my thoughts and feelings without judgement or belief. My goal is to bring myself closer to truth and become more objective of my experiences and see my life with greater clarity. My life choices and motivations need to align better with my authentic essence.

On Christmas Eve I sat in the back of the church sanctuary next to my husband and children. As I held my lit candle in my hand I felt a moment of complete stillness and peace wash over me. There can be so much discontent after an affair. We are left with thoughts that race through our minds when there are no distractions, and mindfulness can feel unattainable. My moment of peaceful mindfulness on Christmas Eve was comforting. In that moment, I felt content.  My mind was not wandering to sadness, anger, frustration, or guilt. Instead, as I sat in my pew, I meditated on those three words:

Love, Acceptance, Belonging

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Three Years

Three years. As I was planning to set aside time to write this post last week I had to stop and think: “When is my D-Day? What’s the date?” Which is odd for me because I generally recall everything especially marker dates in my life. [Un]Fortunately, one of my friend’s was married on my D-Day and she reminded me her anniversary was Tuesday. Thanks, I thought, I was just getting to a point of possibly erasing that date from my mind. BUT, reaching a milestone is an opportunity to reflect, take inventory on the journey I’ve been on, and look forward and into the future. This process has taught me a lot about who I am.

So much of the beginning of my journey was wrapped up in the magnitude of the pain I felt. I directed my disappointment, anger, and sadness at Bat Shit. I named her Bat Shit and I hated everything about her and I needed to be nothing like her. She became the representation not just of my pain, but my failure. Three years later I can honestly say I do not obsess over Bat Shit at all. I do not compare myself or fear she’s lingering in the background waiting to reemerge. I will confess that I do not want to bump into her at all and I am starting to wonder how long I can dodge that bullet. I guess that chapter is yet to be written (but let’s hope not).

One of the biggest struggles was dealing with the death of my expectations. I was disappointed in my husband for cheating and lying, I was disappointed in myself for not being a “better” wife, and I was disappointed in my marriage because it wasn’t strong enough to prevent an affair. I was facing a roadblock of shame. I was ashamed of myself, my marriage, and how my husband’s affair reflected on me. What I valued most in life had been tarnished and damaged, and I wasn’t sure that I would ever recover what was lost. I wanted to go back – back to how I felt pre-affair because then I was whole.

During the last few months I’ve begun to accept that what was lost is gone. I cannot regain whatever it is you want to label that feeling – maybe it’s innocence, or naivety, or purity. It’s hard to let go of that yearning because there is a wholeness connected to whatever that feeling is. Instead, I desire to live wholeheartedly. This journey has taught me not only who I am but also how strong I can be. My failures can be just as meaningful as my triumphs.

I wish I could say three years later that my life and marriage are better than ever. The truth is that we are two imperfect people in a lifelong partnership and there will inevitably be highs and lows. Our goal is for the lows to never be as low as they were during the affair and post-D-Day. The highs should always be contenders in the grand view of our marriage and lives. Our sex life is still amazing but we’ve fallen off the wagon lately as work and children’s schedules have become an obstacle. What is amazing is that once a week now seems like not enough. We’ve managed to align intimacy and desire (for the most part).

This year more than last, I recognize this is my D-Day and I am carrying this burden alone. What I mean is that my husband has no memory of what today is. My instinct is to not say anything with the hope of giving this day a new definition but I think that may be the wrong reaction. My healing stems from understanding my emotions, being honest about my story so that I can get to a place of genuine truth. Ignoring the emotions and memories stirred by this day would not be authentic.

I’ve spent the last three years rebuilding myself and learning to accept this affair and the failures in my marriage as a part of my story. I’ve learned that I can never go back to who I was or how I felt before the affair. I’ve let go of the fear that I am broken. I am writing a new story and I am all in.

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Infidelity Trax | Little Do You Know | Alex & Siera

I am sitting at my desk and this song just began playing on my Pandora. And even luckier for me, the lyrics were right there on the screen for me. How could this song be about anything else besides infidelity?

Little Do You Know by Alex & Siera

Little do you know
How I’m breaking while you fall asleep
Little do you know
I’m still haunted by the memories
Little do you know
I’m trying to pick myself up piece by piece

Little do you know
I need a little more time

Underneath it all I’m held captive by the hole inside
I’ve been holding back for the fear that you might change your mind
I’m ready to forgive you but forgetting is a harder fight

Little do you know
I need a little more time

I’ll wait, I’ll wait
I love you like you’ve never felt the pain,
I’ll wait
I promise you don’t have to be afraid,
I’ll wait
The love is here and here to stay
So lay your head on me

Little do you know
I know you’re hurting while I’m sound asleep
Little do you know
All my mistakes are slowly drowning me
Little do you know
I’m trying to make it better piece by piece

Little do you know
I, I love you ’til the sun dies

Oh wait, just wait
I love you like I’ve never felt the pain,
Just wait
I love you like I’ve never been afraid,
Just wait
Our love is here and here to stay
So lay your head on me

I’ll wait (I’ll wait), I’ll wait (I’ll wait)
I love you like you’ve never felt the pain,
I’ll wait (I’ll wait)
I promise you don’t have to be afraid,
I’ll wait
The love is here and here to stay
So lay your head on me
Lay your head on me
So lay your head on me

‘Cause little do you know
I, I love you ’til the sun dies