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.

bird-in-hand.jpg

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.

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

Revising Infidelity Beliefs and Theories

Infidelity Does Not Have to Mean the End of Your Marriage or Relationship but it Will Change You

I’ve been struggling with this idea that if most marriages will encounter infidelity in their lifetime then why is open discussion of infidelity taboo? Why are we not more prepared? And why do we continue to teach that affairs are unacceptable and represent the end of marriage?

I realize now that my entire life has been relatively easy. I grew up in a normal upper-middle class home, my parents are still married, my siblings are highly functional, and I was married to my husband a year after graduating from college. There were “struggles” along the way but nothing that changed my way of thinking. My family dealt with my sister going through teenage-angst and defiance which meant drug experimentation, sex, and risky behavior but she came out of it unscathed. In fact, she has become the embodiment of everything she was rebelling against. I was always the good girl and never broke the rules. I’ve never smoked a cigarette or been high. When I met my husband I bent the rules. I was completely infatuated with him. He was perfect and for the first time, a man loved me and I loved him in return. I’m certain our love story is probably more romantic in my head then on paper but because it was ours it was special.

A little over a year into our relationship I found out I was pregnant. I was twenty years old and pregnant. Prior to the affair this was what I would point to as the most difficult time in my life. I finished college, had our first child, and we were eventually married. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows before we were married either. I was scared that I might end up raising our child alone. It’s not until recently I realize that as difficult as that period in my life was and as much as I fought for our relationship and our baby – it wasn’t traumatic. It didn’t change my way of thinking or my belief system.

chaos-in-your-soul-infidelityMore importantly, my romantic idealism was never challenged by the struggles we faced at the beginning of our relationship because he chose me. He was “the one” and I was his other half, his greatest love, best friend, and lifetime companion. We were made for each other – soulmates, lovers, whatever you want to call it. I believed all of it.

My husband’s affair shattered that belief system. If he wanted, desired, craved, and (gulp) loved another woman it was not just a betrayal of our marriage but a betrayal of a sacred belief that we were special. It shattered my sense of self because my identity was so wrapped up in my marriage – how my husband felt about me was my anchor. I felt our life was like some cheesy romance song or movie where the couple can live off ramen and barely scrape by but their love is what makes it all worthwhile. But betrayal? That signified I was no different than anyone else and our marriage was no different either – maybe even less.

Yet, in the wake of D-day I didn’t want to end my marriage. In fact, my husband and I slept in the same bed every single night after D-day. Even when I was crying and upset I didn’t kick him to the couch or ask him to leave. I needed him. Maybe I needed him to see the pain he had caused or maybe I didn’t want him to go to Bat Shit. I don’t know but I knew this was not the end of us. I may have been the end of our first marriage but not us as a couple.

I keep asking myself how you can enter a marriage understanding that infidelity is probably going to be encountered. Is it possible to marry someone and accept that one or both of you may cheat in the lifetime of your marriage but it does not need to be the end? Or does the affair need to be revealed in order to salvage the marriage? For a long time I questioned whether my discovery of my husband’s affair saved our marriage. There is an intimacy we discovered in hitting rock bottom in our marriage. There’s honesty different than anything I’ve ever known revealed by his affair. And, as much as I would never want to go through that pain again – I wonder if I needed to be shaken to my core. I needed to discover my own sense of self and self-love. I needed to learn that there are things that even a good and happy relationship cannot provide.

There’s an amazing Ted Talk on infidelity that I recently watched that touches on all of this and I recommend it highly. But if you don’t have time to watch the entire video just read the closing from the video:

I look at affairs from a dual perspective: hurt and betrayal on one side, growth and self-discovery on the other — what it did to you, and what it meant for me. And so when a couple comes to me in the aftermath of an affair that has been revealed, I will often tell them this: Today in the West, most of us are going to have two or three relationships or marriages, and some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?

Marriage Without Guarantees?

Last week I read an article that was entitled 7 Rules Guaranteed to Prevent Infidelity. The article means well and has some good advice but the title made me roll my eyes. The list of guarantees also removes the element of trust from the marriage with rules like share all your passwords and cc your wife on all messages to females. The rules on the list are actually many of the guidelines I demanded after D-day so I see the value – but after D-day I had zero trust in my husband. I needed 100% transparency because I lost faith. Two and a half years later we’ve regained trust in our marriage. We may not ever have the same level of trust we once had but I don’t want to live in a world where my husband cannot have a conversation with another female without my knowledge or involvement. Frankly, it’s unrealistic.

I don’t believe there is a guarantee to prevent infidelity. Here is what I do believe.

Marriage is a commitment. It’s not just a promise but it’s keeping the commitment. Love is a decision and we make it many times every day. Marriage is when you commit to love someone even when you might not want to anymore. Marriage was the moments after D-day when I didn’t know what to do or how to feel but I stayed.  It means doing what it takes to make the relationship work.

The goal is happiness but there are going to be times when you aren’t happy. It’s kind of like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities:

healing-after-my-husband's-affair

Even when I felt like I reach my lowest low after D-day there were still moments in my life that were good. Not just good, wonderful. Don’t let the bad be the defining factor.

There is bound to be disagreements in a marriage but conflict is a choice. Life is not always black or white; wrong or right; yes or no. There is grey space and sometimes we are both right (and wrong). My husband and I don’t argue often but when we do it’s often because one of us cannot concede there’s a possibility the other one could be right. I’m learning to be more accepting of our differences. We don’t need to agree on everything all the time.

Our friends (regardless of whether they are his, mine, or ours) are friends of our marriage. Our friends need to like and want us to be together. Before my husband’s affair he had a friend at work that was openly cheating on his long-term live-in girlfriend. I was aware of this guy’s behavior and my husband and I openly disapproved. But yet my husband was friends with him and had conversations about this man’s affairs. I think subconsciously his behavior gave my husband permission to cheat when the opportunity presented itself. It’s the if everyone else is doing it why can’t I? concept. Needless to say, that guy is no longer my husband’s friend anymore.

Marriage requires maintenance. Just like a car – a marriage may need a tune-up or require service after a few thousand miles. There may be moments you don’t know what is going on with your marriage but you hear rattling sound. Don’t ignore the rattling or check engine light. Before my husband even started his affair I was concerned about our declining sex life and considered going to a sex therapist. I could see the yellow check engine light and knew my marriage needed service but I ignored the warning signs.

Communication is key. Communication is not just talking and honesty, it’s also listening and being open to hear things you may not want to hear. There are times in my marriage that my husband tried to talk to me about his concerns but I felt criticized and shut down. It’s okay to disagree. I also learned (the hard way) it’s important to validate my husband’s feelings. Our emotional state isn’t always rational or a reflection of the love from our spouses, but they deserve validation.

L.L. Bean 100% guarantees your satisfaction with their products. That doesn’t mean their products are perfect and won’t fall apart. It means that I can buy a backpack for my son and when the zipper breaks I can go back to their store and exchange it for a new backpack. The guarantee is a promise that even when things go wrong L.L. Bean will stand by their product. That’s a guarantee I  believe applies to marriage too. Even when the relationship has a malfunction take it back to the beginning and try again. Perfection is unrealistic. Even the best marriages are going to experience failure on some level at some point.

The more I write this post I realize it takes more than just five or seven bulleted points to sustain a marriage. There are no guarantees for a perfect marriage and the more we learn to let go of the idea that we can control the negative elements in life and marriage, the better off we will be.

healing-after-my-husbands-affair

Letting Go of Control

My journey after D-day has made me examine my life through a different lens. At times, that new image is difficult to accept. I used to find myself asking: how did infidelity find its way inside my marriage? And now that it’s part of my story – will it ever recede to the background or disappear altogether? Or is it just going to lurk in our midst forever?

control-healing-after-my-husbands-affairI would be a liar if I said that I never had any doubts or worries about infidelity before D-day. My guess is that just about every married woman considers the idea that their spouse may or could cheat on them. My way of dealing with this fear before D-day was to make it into a joke. I would find a sock on the floor that I didn’t recognize and say, “Tell your girlfriend not to leave her socks here. I’m not doing her laundry too.” [Before anyone says: “Wtf? A sock you don’t recognize?!” You should know that we have family stay at our home often enough not for it to be alarming.] Or if I was traveling, I would tell him that his girlfriend wasn’t allowed to sleepover. Maybe I was being passive-aggressive but it was my way of managing my insecurities. Until September of 2012 when these jokes became no longer funny.

Two and a half years later I still have anxiety that I don’t know everything (which I recognize is impossible). Some days I don’t care. I look at my life, my children, and the husband and I am happy and can’t imagine a better life. Then there are moments when I wonder if there were other affairs, other women, and how many lies I believed before I got the truth. I start to wonder if my marriage was ever what I thought it was or if it was always an illusion. I also start to wonder if I even care – which I’m not certain is the right reaction either.

control-healing-after-my-husbands-affairI know that I need to accept and relinquish my control and attachment to what I believed was the “right” path for my marriage and accept it was not. . The perfect marriage and the notion of the perfect wife and husband are gone.  When I say perfect, I don’t necessarily mean flawless or believe in some idealistic, unachievable concept. My former definition of a perfect marriage would be an unadulterated relationship with mutual respect. It’s unrealistic to believe or expect that I can control my future. Life makes no promises or guarantees.

Control is rooted in fear and I am tired of being afraid of what could be or has been. I want to move towards a more peaceful, focused attention and learn to accept my life’s flaws. I was watching the new Avengers movie with my children and the character the Vision says:

Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings.

I know advice from a Marvel movie? But I tried to commit that quote to memory because it struck a chord within me. I need to accept that I cannot control what will or won’t be. I need to accept my failures and leave the past in the past. I need to trust that life will play out the way it is meant to be. Disappointment, failure, and pain are opportunities for growth.

Mother’s Day Wishes | Infidelity Trax | Britt Nicole | The Sun is Rising

It’s so easy to focus on what is lost, what is missing, and the hurt. When I woke up this morning, on Mother’s Day, I was alone. My husband was snoring away and my children were still asleep in bed. The dog needed to go out so I threw on some yoga pants and took him out for a walk. I was awake now so when I came back inside I made coffee and sat down with a pile of magazines and my phone. I figured if I was going to have some quiet time to myself I might as well catch up on all the magazines collecting dust on my coffee table. As I thumbed through Real Simple I started to feel lonely. I wasn’t enjoying the solitude of having a moment to myself. Instead my mind was wandering away and I felt not just lonely, but alone.

I am not a fan of a quiet, slow, relaxing day. I like being on the go. I like being surrounded by chaos and the constant chatter of my children. I like that my kids enjoy spending time with me and together. So I turned on the TV and started to make noise to wake up the household and pull myself out of my funk. Mother’s Day is no time to feel alone or sad. We should be excited, happy, and looking forward to whatever the day has in store.

I want to restore genuine sense of happiness within me. I don’t want to be reaching for moments or sinking into a funk of self-pity. I want to appreciate my life and, moreover, myself. I read an article the other day about traits that “happy” people have in common. It was one of those articles shared on Facebook that I usually scroll right past in my feed but this time I stopped and clicked on it. I think the list is a good one and here is a snapshot of the nine traits of happy people.

  1. Love Themselves For Who They Are
  2. See Relationships As An Extension To, Rather Than The Basis Of The Human Experience
  3. Embrace Change
  4. Celebrate Rather Than Compare Themselves To The Accomplishments Of Others
  5. Never Dwell In Being A Victim
  6. They Live In The Present
  7. Trust That Everything Happens For A Reason
  8. They Don’t Let Money Dictate Their Lives
  9. Look Within For Solutions

I wish you all a wonderful Mother’s Day and wish you happiness. Genuine happiness in the face of whatever you are facing today.

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 Will Never Be | Scott & Zelda | Tiny Victories

Yesterday I had a crappy day. I was in a cruddy mood from the start and it never really improved from there. My sour mood had nothing to do with all of this (the affair) but somehow by the end of the day it was all I could focus on. I stood in my kitchen waiting for the teakettle water to boil and all I could focus on was this lingering feeling of needing something I’ll never get. Or maybe something I’ll never get back.

Last night, I was mulling over this thought that has floated through my brain on more than one occasion. I have this fantasy that someone who knows me would say that they would never cheat on me; that someone could just tell me that to them I worth more than any affair. I just want to believe I am worth more to someone. I know how I feel doesn’t make sense but none of what has happened is based on rational thought. There’s a part of me that wants this impossible validation. Add this to the list of things lost in the affair.

What would never beI was listening to this song, Scott & Zelda by Tiny Victories, in my car yesterday while picking up my son from school. The lyrics seemed to hit the nail on the head for me. The song is about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. At the beginning of their relationship they were young, beautiful, and full of life. Their relationship and life started out with dreams and aspirations to build a better life through art. They began their lives, but then Scott’s fame and fortune started to destroy and screw with their lives. Zelda ended up going crazy and dying in a fire in an insane asylum. Scott drank himself to death. Tiny Victories said in an interview this song is about whether you can escape your fate.

Well we were flying down the road
and you were telling me about your past life
You were Zelda I was Scott
And all we ever did was drink champagne and fight
You said that’s how it goes
I guess it’s alright
That we just waste the best years of our lives
I said well I don’t know
Yeah, maybe you’re right
But if the good years
the bad bad years are out of sight
And I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore
Get a little colder every year
Get a little colder every year
Well I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore
Get a little colder every year
Get a little colder every year
And later on we went up to the roof
And drank some jack and coke without the coke
Tangled up in some old story
Lost the plot and ended up in the same old joke
That’s how it goes
I guess it’s alright
You have something and you lose it for the rest of your life
Yeah, I don’t know
I guess that’s right
Cuz if you lose yourself enough
then being lost will feel alright
And I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore
Get a little colder every year
Get a little colder every year
No I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore
Get a little colder every year
Get a little colder every year
Come on and let me down
One last time
One last time
Come on and let me down
One last time
Well I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore
Get a little colder every year
Get a little colder every year
No I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore
Get a little colder every year
Get a little colder every year
No I don’t know myself anymore
No I don’t know myself anymore