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 is so much more happiness than sadness. 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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The Cycle of Anger, Hate, and Forgiveness After the Affair

Recently I’ve experienced these surges of anger that take hold of my emotions. It’s almost like a visceral hatred rises out of nowhere and fills my brain. I was sitting on the couch saying good-bye to my husband as he left for work and as I watched him walk out the front door I was angry. But not just angry, I was vexed with idea of him having sex with Bat Shit. As I stared at my husband I was internally infuriated, but on the outside smiling and wishing him a good day at work. He closed the door and it took everything inside of me to breathe out the hatred and let go of the past. Two weeks later, that same feeling swelled inside me as I watched my husband getting ready to go to a meeting.

During the first two years of this blog I regularly received comments from women (some OWs) that pointed out that my anger was misdirected. I was seething with anger for Bat Shit and there was a huge part of me that wanted to prove that she was a horrible woman and my husband was a pawn in her game. While I think that my mindset during that time was essential in order to move forward and continue to care about my husband, I know Bat Shit is not part of my marriage. Her intentions and actions have nothing to do with my husband’s decision to cheat on me.

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Is it possible that all of those emotions just caught up to me or is this just a normal part of forgiveness?

During the first few years it felt like it was up to me to forgive my husband. He apologized, showed his love for me, and met me more than halfway. He did everything I needed. He answered every question I asked. He was opening up and bringing me back into his world. I was falling apart and trying to find my balance in a world that seemed more foreign than I ever imagined. Loneliness took over after D-Day and I still have to remind myself not to completely disengage from the world. It’s easier to be sad when you are alone and sometimes I have just wanted to feel the pain.

I just read a quote that said:

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.

A few years ago, I might have pinned that quote on my Pinterest board and agreed. Forgiveness has been largely about me needing to make peace within myself and not continuing to fault my husband for his actions. It meant letting go of my hurt. But what if forgiving my husband for his actions is superficial serenity? Obviously, my anger means that I haven’t dealt with something.

cd04430dcf9befa46df1f3dad0d4727bBoth times I was able to let go of the anger and fill my mind with loving thoughts of my husband. I had to tell myself that I am happy with our life together. I focused on our future and thought about how much I love not just our life but the way he loves me. Maybe angry emotions are normal post-affair but I am not comfortable with them. Even in the beginning, I was uncomfortable hating or being angry at my husband. Is it possible I buried all these emotions so deep that they are now just surfacing? I know anger is a response to my problems. I just need to figure out where those problems are arising from and why am I still angry about the affair? I thought I was over that part.

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.

 

 

Love, Acceptance, Belonging

A Mindfulness Objective Takes Root

mindset

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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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

Will it ever be possible to fully trust again?

I just went through his email.

My husband was in a bad mood yesterday. He had the day off from work so it should have been a decent day. When I came home from work his mood was sour and he blamed it on a conversation he had with one of our children. He was being evasive about what he did during the day and I froze. I tried to control myself but I couldn’t not push to find out what he did all day. I could see from the state of our home that he had breakfast and then left for the day. His coffee mug and plate were still on the counter dirty. The laundry pretty much in the same state it had been in when I left for work. So what did he do?

I’m pretty sure he could see the stress and concern on my face so he quickly filled me on details. Ran to Store A, returned this at the mall for you, went into work because we were doing a photoshoot for a marketing piece, drove the kids to their after-school activities. During the drive with our middle child they butted heads and both walked away irritated.

I let it go. I kept telling myself not to jump to conclusions and ask for what you need.

Fast-forward to Friday evening and he calls to let me know he’s on his way home from work. He’s distracted and I try not to point out that he should have been home an hour ago. He says he had a meeting with his boss. On Friday night at 5 p.m.? It’s not improbable but still it makes my stomach drop.

So I open up his iPad and start going through his email. Sent email. Trash. All his folders. Everything.

I found nothing incriminating. Nothing out of the ordinary. Emails from all sorts of people. Nothing suspicous.

I check his cell phone usage. Calls, texts… no red flags.

And I sit wondering if I’ll ever trust him again? Will I always have this sinking feeling that he’s sneaking off? Why am I even feeling insecure about this now? After all we’ve been through I am still afraid that I’ll be able to trust again.

Am I harboring resentment from the way he treated me during his affair?

The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do? 

-Nick Dunne, Gone Girl Movie

Last night my husband and I watched Gone Girl. I started reading the book the summer before my D-day, but for some reason I never got further than the first two chapters. I might be the only woman in America that didn’t realize the movie plot was surrounded by infidelity. If you peel away the movie layers and focus on the infidelity – it hit a little close to home for me.  I think my husband and both froze when Amy said: “Want to test your marriage for weak spots? Add one recession, subtract two jobs. It’s surprisingly effective.”

As we walked out of the theater my husband said: “I guess I’m lucky.” And I responded: “Lucky, I’m not a psychopath? Yes.” I changed the subject, not because it was uncomfortable but because I didn’t want to change the mood of our evening. There are times when I really don’t feel like talking about the affair.

This morning as I woke up and the movie was still fresh on my mind I thought about the affair portrayed in the movie. It was relatable. Feeling used for sex. Feeling like something that was “ours” was no longer private. I could feel myself almost go blank, if that makes sense. It’s as if in order not to feel sadness or depressed about the past I need to go numb to the pain of the affair. The movie evoked feelings that still make me uncomfortable even if our marriage no longer resembles the shell it was during his affair. Why? I am still vulnerable to the way I felt during his affair. Not his affair, not the affair partner, but the way I felt about my marriage and my husband, and the way he treated me during the affair.

I amresentment not sure if I am harboring resentment or it’s just some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. I have made peace with what he has done and his relationship with Bat Shit. What I am struggling to let go of is the way he treated me. I felt diminished, I felt unappreciated, I felt disregarded, and I felt used. And it still haunts me. There are days when I just feel this divide – whether it’s real or imagined, I don’t know – but it renders me defeated. I don’t know how to function when he is having an off day or maybe he just needs time to himself. For me, it’s a trigger to the past, how I felt during the affair. And I question how I manage this too because I approach it as a mind-over-matter issue. Just focus on what is real, what is important, and not how you feel in this moment. I assume I am projecting his mood onto my own fears and emotions I would rather leave in the past. Then I fear, that’s how I dealt with those emotions during the affair – I didn’t acknowledge them then.

Resentment. I honestly don’t know if that’s what I feel or not. Do I resent my husband for what he did and how he treated me? I want to say no but I can’t say for certain. I just looked up the definition of the word resentment as I am typing. It’s possible I am.

resentment

/rɪˈzɛntmənt/

noun

the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person,etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.

What if he really did love her?

This post may not be what you want to read if you recently discovered your husband’s affair or are within the first six months after D-day.

Immediately after my D-day I hated Bat Shit and I wanted my husband to hate her too. I’ve never hated anyone like I hated her. I wanted to destroy her life. I wanted her to suffer and hurt the same way I was in pain. It seemed like the easiest way for me to hurt her was to be absolutely positive that my husband no longer was attracted to her, no longer cared about her, and he didn’t want to be around her. When I wrote the letter to Bat Shit (that I never sent), my main focus was to invalidate every emotional connection she thought she had with my husband. I tore apart their relationship in my letter and I used words that I knew would cut like a knife if she ever read them. I wanted her to know that my husband had revealed intimate details of their sexual affair to me. I wanted her to know that I knew her insecurities and the secrets she had shared behind closed doors with my husband were exposed to me. I wanted her to know that I was the one holding all the cards going forward. She was powerless and meant nothing to me and my husband.

then it hits youAs I dissected my husband’s affair I never wasted an opportunity to point out when Bat Shit was manipulating him. It was more important that my husband hate Bat Shit than it was for me to hate her. I needed him to feel nothing and sever whatever emotional bonds that remained of their relationship. My husband needed to hate her. And honestly, I think I was successful in reaching that goal.

My husband told me he knew he never “loved” Bat Shit yet, I read emails that not only said “I love you” but were also gentle, affectionate, and sounded sincere. There were words in those emails that I still haven’t forgotten. They sting. They hurt. They still have the power to bring me to tears if I let them. He shared with her intimate thoughts and emotions. He shared with her things he couldn’t tell me. Now, two and a half years later, I am realizing that some of what my husband might have told me was not whole truths. I don’t think my husband lied to hurt me, I think he lied to save our marriage. I think he told me what I needed to hear, and perhaps, what he needed to believe too. I wanted him to tell me she meant nothing. I needed to believe she meant nothing to him. I wanted to believe there was no passion, no real relationship.reality

I have a different perspective now and I think he did care about her. He probably did love her in some way. Some people may minimize these feelings to infatuation, but I think there was an element of love. Their relationship was invented out of fiction and the lies they told each other were to avoid the truth. Fiction or not, they still felt something.

I guess it wouldn’t make sense to risk our marriage for someone that he didn’t care about. It wouldn’t make sense for a man who’s never even had a one night stand to cheat on his wife with a woman that he didn’t feel connected to intimately. I’m not saying what he felt for her rivaled our marriage, love, or passion, but I am recognizing that she meant something to him during the year they were involved.

This recognition doesn’t make it any easier or harder to move forward.