The Shadow of Pain

When I was a teenager I babysat for this family. They were perfect. The husband was charming and handsome. He reminded me of one of my old Ken dolls. The wife had the right combination of sweet and assertive characteristics. They had three children that they often dressed alike, which may seem alarming but it was cute in the 80s. I became their regular Saturday night babysitter and sometimes even slept over when they were at social events until late in the night. I admired both the husband and wife because they appeared to have the life I might want someday. They looked after me and I always knew that I could come to them if I ever had a problem or question about life.

The husband passed away from cancer last month. The services were this week and it was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he was gone. It’s hard to imagine her without him.

As his wife and I hugged in the funeral home, she told me that it didn’t feel real. She told me she hasn’t been able to eat. Being alone is difficult. She doesn’t want to drive alone because the emotions come flooding in all at once. I understood those feelings and fears. I understand that food just seems so unnecessary when your heart is breaking and your dreams are disappearing. Death of a human is different, but maybe it’s that death of a marriage doesn’t always have to mean the passing away of one spouse. Marriages die every day.

I stood watching the video montage of his life. I stared at the pictures of their life and I wondered if life was as perfect as it had always appeared. I wondered if their marriage was as idealistic. The pictures sure made it look like it was just as wonderful as I believed it was as a young girl.

I’ve always loved video montages. I was a soap opera fan for twenty years and soap operas make the best video montages. Before my wedding day I would play a video in my mind of all the moments that defined our relationship. In true soap opera-style, ours included a few “tragic” moments too but it always ended with the most romantic kiss and always a perfect ending.

The night of my friend’s wake, I wondered what my life’s video montage would look like and if anyone would ever know or see that sadness that has cast a shadow over the last five years. I hate saying that. My husband’s affair still feels like a darkness that fell over our lives. I still have days I struggle to reconcile his actions. They are fewer and further between but I hate that I can’t just put everything in the past. I’m hurt and I’m struggling to let go of the fear. I look at the pictures and moments that make up my life and I wonder how many smiles were genuine, and how many were artificial. How many moments are legitimately true? No lies, no faking it, no dishonesty. In the end, I believe there are so many more happiness than not. It’s when the shadow feels heaviest that I need to push it aside and remember to feel and love again.

handmaids tale quote

Marriage always seemed so simple. Once upon a time, I didn’t understand people that said that marriage was complicated or hard work. I thought that meant their marriages were doomed or perhaps they settled for an imperfect mate. I believed my marriage was simple. And in so many ways it is picture perfect. We have a pictured lined hallway that showcases some of my favorite memories from our life. The details from the past eventually become foggy, and all those pictures become the memories I’ve engraved in my mind. I keep hoping with time that the emotions recede and my memory will be filled with the moments captured in the pictures lining my hallway.

I don’t know if all my ramblings tonight make sense. I’m sitting in an airport alone watching busy travelers on their own journeys. These moments will likely not be remembered in the video montage about my life, but they are real. They may not define my life, but they have changed me.

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32 thoughts on “The Shadow of Pain

  1. Your reflection of 5 years and moving on hit quite close to home.
    I myself am recovering with my spouse and his infidelity with a beautiful girl 20 years my junior. It has been almost 5 years as well. My husband and I are both fit, attractive, successful, and live a very fortunate, exciting life that many would admire and hope for in many ways, but it has a sadness lingering over it now that never seems to leave. My husband has done EVERYTHING to recapture and recommit, but though I appreciate it all, a sadness never leaves me. Of course I don’t let it come to the surface, but it’s in my heart….sadly. Sometimes not really sure if I still love “the man”, or just “the image” of our love.
    Your thoughts on the “montage” are very much in my own consciousness. Your 6th paragraph feel like my own deepest thoughts.
    What would my montage look like? Do others see my sadness now, even though my spouse and I present ourselves as whole and are truly trying to live in a recovering and loving manner.
    The fact that my life is broken still has not been something I can accept.
    I unfortunately live in a small community and feel very exposed, since many/most know what has happened.

    • Your words touch me because I can hear myself in them. I feel the same sadness lingering and I just want to be able to push it out the door. I want happiness. I want to trust. I want to be able to love without fear.

    • So sad and so similar, however, the individual my husband had an affair with was (is) not beautiful. She was (is) ugly on the outside and the inside. The only talent presented was that of a gold digger going after naive targets. It is pathetic really. This person has done this more often and has not stopped. How could an accomplished and smart person fall into the trap of a perpetrator like that? As you write, we too are fit and healthy, successful and if I may say attractive. But he did, he fell into the trap and betrayed me and his kids. He takes full responsibility and is doing the work. He wants us to heal. He is ashamed and he should be, but by now he’s better put that energy where he should have placed it in the first place.
      The pain is still present, after nearly 5 years. It is still hurts. Couples never fully heal. The montage of our lives will never be made as I hate to fake my happiness. That woman who once was is gone. Betrayal does that.
      Only those who have experienced this understand it. It has nothing to do with all the b.s. on the internet about the falsely held beliefs about “everlasting love”. I never had these unrealistic expectations. “love at first sight” and all that nonsense is for those who do not know what real love is about. it is about sacrifices and giving. Our love was deep and real. He however, took us for granted and imagined himself “in love/lust” with a person, he now knows is a deceiving poisonous snake. The damage is done. We can only try to keep on going the best we can, but we carry with us this heavy burden of grief.
      Another E…

  2. Thank you for being you. You have been my saving grace since D day. We have so many similarities, both physically and how you are feeling emotionally.
    There are days when I can’t wrap my head around things – even a year later – and I’m crying alone in my room; where I wish I somehow knew you. Just so you can make me feel not alone. That it’s normal and that I will be ok.
    Thank you for being my crutch when I couldn’t move.

    • Thank you for writing, reading, commenting. This journey is very lonely and so personal. There are days that I wish I had friends to share this with and days that I want to hide under a rock. This story is part of my life and sometimes it is hard to keep it so close. I only have one friend that knows and sometimes I wonder if I’ve burdened that person with this pain and other times I am reminded that I found the right person to share my story.

  3. I’m wondering if you’re saying that your marriage as you knew it is dead and that you now accept that and are moving on, with your husband, in a ” new” marriage but are still mourning the “old” marriage?
    I have tried to do this but am still too wrapped up in the hurt and sadness and still grieve too much for the “old” marriage. I wish it were not so. We are forever changed I guess and accepting that is yet another very difficult facet of all of this. Kate

    • My “old” marriage is definitely changed and there are parts that do feel as though they have passed. There is a grieving process that you go through post-affair discovery because there is something that is forever lost. My therapist told me that on Day 1. She said that I needed to accept that the marriage we had was over and now we begin building a new definition of marriage. It’s hard. It hurts and it’s not easy. There were times I wanted to just run away but my kids kept me grounded. It’s also hard recognize that you still love your spouse in spite of the pain he/she has caused. I used to have to remind myself that was in the past and it was his actions that hurt me. It feels like a circle that is hard to break of pain, forgiveness, love, and acceptance.

  4. I completely understand. Next month will be 4 years to the day when I found out. I will never be the same and we will never be the same. I still think about it way too much. It’s not far and few between for me, maybe less painful now. I feel like I was let completely down by the person that I never believed would do that to me, to us. He was betrayed by his ex and so was I. We discussed prior to marriage that we could overcome everything in our marriage, except infidelity. He says that is why it took so long to tell me, because of those words. Now, here we are about to celebrate 17 years of marriage. Every couple has struggled if they are together for a long period of time. I just know it.

  5. Yes, your ramblings make sense. Reflecting on your friend’s death, the loss his wife feels – maybe you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel that way without a little twinge somewhere. We’ve lost that illusion of purity, of having a real, true, honest love. Or at least a spouse that has enough character and morals to never think of betraying us. And since this whole process is so secret, we always wonder if someone we know is suffering in silence, if there’s more they’ll never tell. Or if their marriage had been shattered as ours was, were they able to pick up the pieces and fill the cracks with gold to create something different and even more beautiful? Is that possible?

    I hear you. I’m right there with you. Sometimes I feel my husband and I have created a new marriage and I have so much to be grateful for in life. Sometimes I feel so deeply wounded and wonder if I will ever be able to trust him, if I’ll ever forgive so fully that I’ll never have conflicted feelings about him my marriage. And sometimes I’m just tired that I have to carry this burden.

    I appreciate this blog. Thank you.

    • Thank you for listening and reading. It’s comforting to know that you (and so many more) understand the complexity of how it feels to discover a spouse’s affair. Like you wrote, somedays are filled with joy that we’ve rediscovered our marriage and other days are more difficult and I struggle with those lows still. Everything we go through we’ve been told is wrong but what if this is just life? And, like life, marriage is both filled with wonder and sorrow.

  6. Hey Hun
    I know how it goes how it feels… im 2 years down … there are still stormy days… some days its like a knot in ur heart that tightens holds ur breath and leaves u struggling… but every day has a sunset… and a new sunrise… 💚💙💖

  7. I have dark days still but am hopeful for the future. I never really understood when I’d hear from other people that marriage is hard work. Now this resonates so much! It’s a little comforting to know that no marriage is perfect, is that weird to say? I guess it’s up to us to deal with the struggle, carry the burden and keep moving forward. It’s hard to not look back even though I know forward is healthier. Thank you for this.

  8. I always think about the saying that you never know what happens behind closed doors. What may seem like a perfect marriage can just be a facade. A Facebook post. A photo touch up.
    I understand what you mean about looking back at our life. Those happy smiles. Memories. What was real? I found some old videos on my Mac that I did not know were there via the cloud. A video that I took of the land we bought and my husband walking and talking about building our dream home. It was taken smack in the middle of his affair. It really upset me. 2 years later I still am astounded at how well he portrayed living a normal life with me. Had there been no affair I would have treasured that video. Now it makes me sick.
    Like you it’s better but I have to keep my guard up. It’s a fine line between keeping it together and letting the memories take over.
    I am sorry for the loss of your friend and the grief his wife is experiencing. Grief in the loss of loved ones is the price we pay for loving them so well.

  9. 5 years, 1 mo & 18 days ago was my d day – it is still hard at times – going past Best Western motels – the brand of choice for them etc etc. There arent any reasons i suspect any other affairs or relapse. But the reality is it is ever present in the shadows. Sometimes the light pushes the shadows out and still times when the shadow of darkness swallows the light. Maybe someday ….. and het people who know us think we have such a wonderful life without a hint of the turbulance that lays within my heart still. He tries hard to do the right things but the damage to me certainly changed who i am as compared to who i was

  10. I am sorry for your sadness, but I needed this tonight. My husband’s affair ended 8 months ago, but I still struggle daily with the pain. We were so close, soulmates, you know, but now there is a breach that I just don’t know how to repair. I feel the worst kind of mixed emotions, and I can’t reconcile anything in my mind. How can you go to the one person who used to comfort you for comfort now, when they are the source of your agony? And they can’t understand why you aren’t comforted? I can’t make any sense of it, though I’m trying.

    • I shared my agony with my husband. I told him that I was not going to hide my pain because he caused it. My advice is to be honest, be raw, respect yourself. You are right that is difficult to find comfort in these moments. The first 9 months were the worst days of my life. It gets better. There will be a day soon for you that you feel better, and then slowly each day will get better. While there are times I felt comfort from my husband, comfort came from within me but that meant it wasn’t always a constant.

  11. yes it makes perfect sense. It is 3 years this friday since my husband told me he was leaving me. We are still together and are happy but i still have days where i think about what he did and it still hurts. I also used to think our marriage was perfect and my friends would winge about their husbands and I would think how lucky I was to have such an amazing husband, then he had an affair and all that went. I now feel like I cant praise him as everyone will laugh because hes done the worst thing possible. We bought our house whilst he was having his affair and when i think back it was such a lovely time which is now tainted with hate and upset. There are lots of memories that are tainted now and i think was that real or was he acting but i have to look forward. Its hard ! I once said to a friend during the time my self and my husband were separated that it would have been easier if he had died as that wouldn’t have been his choice to leave us. xx

    • I have said that exact same thing. Death would have been easier. That is how crushing betrayal is. You can read about it and empathize with those who have gone through it but until it happens to you ….

    • I also say this a lot about a death being easier. I also wish I was on my own death bed most days. I just want to escape from this horror. It eats at you and life is becoming just something to get through. It’s the betrayal from that one person you trusted the most- your best friend, child’s father, lover, person you shared your most intimate self with. That’s what is devastating to think POOF! It’s gone just like that. It will never quite be the same. My husband is really trying to mend us. He is extremely remorseful and sickened by his affair. Everything about it nauseates him. He can’t stand her. Now?! Why?! It’s so bizarre. He’s a dream husband: romantic, loving, doting, etc – except you know, that one thing that tarnishes marriage more than anything else- he cheated. It just sucks! I know if he could go back and do it over he would never do it again. Most men feel this way so why? Why?! Ugh

  12. Ohhhh Michelle I am right there with you. I would comfort people whom I thought had crappie husbands but when the chickens came hatching in my own farm I was devastated. I look at our pics on the walls and snicker at how naive I was .

  13. I have thought the same things! My husband’s affair was 3 1/2 years ago and the pain is still there but I keep moving forward. We also purchased a home, supposedly, before the start of the cheating. Now I wonder if his motivation to move so I would be within a couple miles of our kids and grandkids then I would be extra busy with them while he was doing other things. I hate the house. Also, I found out she was in here. We have changed a lot of things in the house and worked really hard on our marriage and most days are really good,but then, I thought they were really good before. We are on our way of celebrating 45 years of togetherness. I often have said no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. You only can assume!
    We also change our thoughts on funerals. Our wishes are to be cremated with a memorial service with immediate family only.
    I am sorry for your loss of a friend. Everyone grieves differently and I hope you find the peace you need

  14. Trying to reconcile the life I thought I was living with the life that was really going on has been an enormous part of the journey for me. It became important for me to understand…to be able to look at a place in the time of our us and know if there was more than us… Mostly, now, 3 years in and after hard work, these thoughts don’t haunt me as much. i hope this for you too.

  15. Same for me….almost 1,5 years since DDay. I had no clue he had an affair for a few years as our life was great. Lots of travelling, fun, parties , great social life, best friends. Together for over 30 years….when I look at pictures or hear about events of that time my stomach turns, get nauseous, sad or mad. The first year was hard, very hard. Now we seem to get back to some ‘normal’ again but there isn’t a day I won’t think about it or feel pain. Trust is gone and I hate of who I have become.

  16. Reblogged this on takingbackmylife and commented:
    I understand. With all my heart…this post was the most real and unedited…it gave way to so much truth because I felt that connection down to my core, not on a surface-level where I can agree that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or that each day is a new beginning….no, this was raw and in the moment. It seems to me that, without any intention of doing so, I live my life mainly by trying to sugar-coat those raw “in the moment” truths, because they are just too hard. THe truth is – this shadow is only getting bigger each day, as I become better at pretending that I can ignore it or be strong enough to fight through it by only focusing on the positive. Yes, I’ve grieved, I’ve allowed myself to feel sadness, but this is different – it’s a death – a total loss of something that once filled me….maybe it’s hope or belief in something that was never able to be real….maybe it’s the death of my innosence….they always say that you lose that once you give away virginity, but I don’t think so – maybe it is for some, but for me – I somehow kept that hope, belief…that inosense that made me feel that it IS possible to find someone who you can feel safe with and TRUST with all that is raw inside of you.

    I have lost that…and it’s so gray now….and as time passes since the affair, it seems that others expect me to be better – so I put on my show, for both them and for me. But everything is so grey….just small glints and glimmers of colors that I see in my children, in all children. I grieve for my inner child…I miss my colors.

    thank you for being raw….for helping me not fee so alone, in a totally different way…in truth

    • Your words ring so true as I read them. The shadow sometimes feels like it has grown bigger, perhaps so big it has it’s own identity. I struggle with the desire to push on forward and the hole that has left a mark within me.

      • I too feel that I have lost my colors and everything for me inside is gray. I pray this fog will lift and I will re-emerge the happy person I used to be. Thank you everyone for your words, it helps to not feel so alone in this torture.

  17. I have put this entry into my favorites and reread it now and again when I am feeling really sad. It makes me feel that I am not a freak to be still so sad. It has been four years since I found out about an affair that I think happened 14 years ago. I know that they remained friends and he said that they would get together for coffee now and again on the campus where they worked. Just found out on the weekend that he lied, he used to go to her house, even designed a nice deck system on the back of her house. It makes me want to vomit and I can’t bear to look at him right now. He has done everything right in the past 9 years, been the perfect husband but I cannot get past the lying. He says he lied to keep the peace, just to get past it and on with our lives. Refuses to talk about it and gets mad when I am upset. I just want to crawl into a hole and cry, and when I wake in the night and hear him sleeping I just want to punch him I am so angry. ( Don’t worry, I don’t) Hopefully this too will pass, but when I read your blog and the responses I know that I am not alone. It is the nature of the beast that we all have to suffer in silence, talking about infidelity makes people uncomfortable. Thank you for this site. It gives us a voice in the darkness.

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