I know it’s been a while since I last posted. I keep beginning to write and walking away. But today I was thinking about this journey and realizing how it all began. One of my biggest struggles over the past year (+) has been accepting that my marriage may not have been as perfect as I thought. I spent over ten years believing that my marriage was special, better than most and rock-solid. I was one of those people who rolled their eyes when someone said: “marriage is hard work.” I whole-heartedly believed that marriage was only hard-work for those who probably shouldn’t have been married in the first place. So should I add my name to that list? Maybe.
The truth is I was naïve. I grew up believing in fairytale romance. I fell head-over-heels in love with my husband from the start. Whenever we recount our first meeting we both say it was love at first sight. Not some crazy, unrealistic love but the understanding that something real and life-changing was beginning. I believed in true love, destiny, and fate. I believed that good always conquered evil. I believed that the prince defeated the evil witch in the name of love. Most of all, my beliefs were a security blanket from all the fears and insecurities I feel now.
In the beginning of my love story, I forgave and understood mistakes more easily. I believed that love was more powerful than me/us and sometimes those beliefs allowed me displace blame when something went wrong. I kept a diary during the entire dating period of our relationship. My diary was a security blanket for me. A place for me to store my thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. I stopped writing in a diary after we were married. I look back and wonder if I stopped writing because I was too busy and exhausted or because I no longer felt the need to store my thoughts on the pages of a book. It’s also possible I was afraid to express that I had any fears or frustrations because we were perfect for each other. If I wrote down on paper that something wasn’t perfect then I would need to accept it. Then what? Even more interesting, I started writing this blog shortly after D-Day; a journal open to anyone to read. Why was I willing to expose my fears, insecurities and failures after my life’s most tragic experience? Maybe I wanted some confirmation that I wasn’t alone. My new security blanket.
I realize now that my husband’s affair wasn’t my choice but I indirectly share part of the blame. In the beginning of our relationship my husband often put me second. Not with his heart but with his actions. He’s older than me and he had a career. At the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable for him to be late because of work commitments. I wanted him to be successful so I often allowed myself to take a backseat. Then we married and had a family. He clearly loved me and was devoted to me but he was also dedicated to whatever job he had at the time. He sometimes missed family celebrations, holidays, birthdays and weddings. Everyone understood. His career required him to work odd schedules; weekends and holidays weren’t always a given. He was willing to sacrifice being present in our lives for his career. Family and friends became accustomed to me attending events alone. People joked that my husband was imaginary and it bothered me but I knew he loved me. We were soul mates so it didn’t matter if he missed Christmas with his family or our niece’s baptism. I rarely pushed back. In fact, early in our relationship I decided I didn’t want to miss out on events. Regardless of whether my husband could attend I went to everything I could. Being present and supportive for my family and friends is something I hold sacred. Ironically, I wonder if it’s because that is something that I’ve never received from my most significant relationships.
Through the years, our perfect relationship/marriage was built on this tacit agreement that my husband may not always be available but his love would always be genuine. When I went back to work I also invested myself into my job. The kids came first in my life but I invested too much of my energy into my job. It was easy though. My husband was working again, the kids were all in full-time school and I was being rewarded for doing an outstanding job at work. I was earning bonuses, raises and promotions. I had watched my husband invest his time and energy in his career for over fifteen years and now it was my turn. Except my husband saw my commitment to my work as a reflection of how I felt about him. In a way, he could dish it out but he couldn’t take it. I became aware during the time of my husband’s affair that our marriage was not perfect. It’s funny because if I had listened to myself I would have known immediately he was cheating. I told a girlfriend one month before his affair became sexual that my husband and I weren’t connecting on an intimate level anymore. She convinced me we needed a romantic weekend away but we weren’t able to take it until the next summer. That happened to be the weekend getaway when my husband realized how much I loved him and I was attracted to him except he was almost a year in to his adulterous affair.
Marriage is work. It can both strengthen and break us. I spent the first ten years of my marriage believing it was easy because I married my soul mate. I don’t know if I even believe in having a soul mate anymore but I do believe that we are all human. We are all capable of failure even in our most sacred relationships. Often our failures are rooted in our own hesitation, insecurities and doubt. I had a false sense of security for almost my entire adult life. Tragically, that security is what was lost in my husband’s affair. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever recover that feeling of safety or if the loss is just part of life. Maybe as we grow older we shed our childish beliefs and the harsh reality is there is no security blanket large enough to keep us forever safe. I know when my husband holds me close in bed I’ve never felt more safe but life can’t be lived in a bed. I am beginning to accept that I need to be the one providing my security blanket. Step-by-step I’m reconstructing my life and relationships with the hope that I will be stronger and better than before. I need to have faith in myself and not in the ideas of soul mates, fate and destiny.