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.

healing-after-my-husbands-affair-three-years

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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?

Two Years Later

730 days. 2 years

The past two years have been building up to this so-called anniversary. I read in a book shortly after my D-Day it takes two years to heal from betrayal/infidelity. All I wanted in the beginning was to get to this point: Two years after D-Day. In two years I hoped that I would have clarity on my husband’s affair. I hoped that I wouldn’t be angry, sad or damaged in two years-time. I hoped that the affair would be far behind me. . I hoped that I would be healed in two years-time. As I was approaching the two year mark I started to ask myself: Am I where I hoped I would be or has this journey led me to a place I did not expect?

Year One = Survival Mode

Healing after my husband's affair-move onThe first year I counted each day following my D-Day, then weeks, then months. I wanted time to pass quickly. In the beginning I wanted to wake up from the nightmare that had become my life and reawaken years later in a happy place. I believed there was something I could have done to prevent my husband from cheating. It was also the year I put my husband and marriage on trial. I asked him questions about his affair. I wanted to know everything. I believed that if I knew every detail of what went on behind my back that I could evaluate and figure out why my husband cheated. I wanted to have a reason this happened to me and my marriage. I needed to understand how Bat Shit penetrated our life. I couldn’t understand how we got to a place where my husband was having sex with another woman, writing her emails, lying to me and risking his career for his affair. If I had all the facts, understood the deception and intention then I would know what to next: stay or leave.

The first year was the emotional rollercoaster year. The first year was full of tears. I cried on my way to work on a daily basis. I cried at my desk at work. I cried at night when the house was dark and quiet. I cried as I watched my husband with our children. I cried until I became numb. The first year was full of triggers. By the end of year one I was beginning to focus on learning to live with the affair and not letting it control my emotions.

Year Two = Moving Forward

As I began year two all I wanted was to leave the affair in the past. I hated the baggage that I was carrying. I hated that I was left with a scar on my heart. I hated that my mind would drift to thoughts about the affair arbitrarily. I resented the control the affair took over my emotional and mental sanity.

Healing after my husband's affair-acceptanceI began year two with some acceptance of the affair in my life but I still felt unsettled and frustrated. I still hated Bat Shit. Hated, detested, cursed, etc. I wanted her to live a miserable life and I was still processing thoughts of what I would say to her given an opportunity. A year ago I was still contemplating contacting Bat Shit and having fictional conversations with her in my mind. At some point during year two I let go of the anger I was harboring towards Bat Shit. I do not forgive her. I do not like her. I do not empathize with her but I do not have to spend my energy hating her anymore either. I accept she targeted my husband, offered him the opportunity for an affair, and he accepted.

Year two was about moving forward and leaving the affair in the past. The pain subsided over the past twelve months but this feeling of emptiness lingered. The more I felt like I was moving past the affair, the more I felt a hole inside me. My husband’s affair attacked and shattered my inner-self (soul/heart/?) and left me with an empty space. I’ve spent the last six months trying to fill that empty hole I feel inside myself. I wish I had the answer on how to feel whole again but I don’t. Maybe year three will bring more answers.

What I’ve learned in two years is that marriage is not easy or black and white. I understand that choosing to stay or leave a marriage after infidelity is not always clear. Immediately after D-Day I decided to stay in my marriage until or unless I reached a point where I knew I needed to walk away. In two years I’ve had more instances that pushed me to stay in my marriage than leave. Actually, I can’t think of one moment I considered walking away. The last two years have been about appreciating the love and the relationship in spite of failure. I’ve learned that perfection is not everything. Sometimes the flaws in our relationships can transform into our most attractive features. I’ve learned more about myself during the lowest point in my life than any other time.

Healing after my husband's affair-chaosSo here I am, a little more than 730 days later. I am confident in my marriage. I am in love with my husband. It’s possible I am more in love with him now than when we first married each other. I’ve learned to let go of the pain from my husband’s affair but that doesn’t mean I’m over it yet. I still cried the day before my D-Day. I still struggle with my emotional memory of the past two years but, mentally, I know it’s in the past. I am certain I am where I need to be right now in my life. And really, that’s all I could ask for.

Questions I Asked After Discovering My Husband’s Affair

A few weeks ago I wrote a post and mentioned some questions I found right after discovering my husband’s affair. I was searching for answers. I was completely unprepared for what happened to me and I wanted someone to just tell me what to do next. The truth is no one could ever tell me how to navigate my life or make decisions about my marriage but I just wanted to hand my life over to someone else. I wanted to escape my life.

I’ve mentioned this before but the first question I asked my husband when I discovered his affair was:

Did you cheat on me because you wanted our relationship to end?

Truth Healing After My Husband's AffairThe reason I asked that question was because I needed to understand if he had already decided that our marriage was over. The media, Hollywood and everything we are ever taught teaches us that people have affairs to escape their marriages and begin new relationships. I find it interesting that now I’ve lived through an affair I see that affairs are generally not about the betraying spouse wanting out of the marriage. My husband never considered leaving our marriage while he was cheating. When I discovered the affair he had the opportunity to leave. I didn’t beg him to stay. I didn’t ask him to take care of me. He chose me and he chose to work on our marriage and himself. 

Some of my readers asked me to post the questions. I don’t know if I can find them all but while I was cleaning my bedroom today I found a notebook that I used after D-Day. It’s a little funny that I took notes on articles and books that I read since there wasn’t going to be an exam or a test on this crap. I guess I wanted to make sure I was paying attention. Here is what I wrote:

Gain Control

What are my emotions really telling me? 

What needs to change and what can I do to take those necessary steps? You cannot change what has happened to you but you do need to take responsibility for how you are handling the situation. 

Should I trust my feelings?

How can I tell if my partner is right for me?

Free yourself from the betrayal, the blame game, live in the present and move forward with positive thoughts. 

Trust-> Rebuild

Actions speak louder than words. Feeling safe becomes paramount. 
“I’m committed to you. You are safe.” You need to feel valued. 

Forgiveness

You are not pardoning the betrayers actions, forgiveness is an emotional release. You are not condoning. You do not need to accept the behavior.

Forgiveness is not a reconciliation. Forgiveness is about lessening our emotional burdens and healing the pain of your heart.

People harm us from weaknesses that compel them to act. 

Forgiveness is inner healing not behavioral change.

We are responsible for what we do with our hurt. 

Courage Healing After My Husband's AffairBetrayer -> Solely responsible for their deception. Holding onto guilt is a choice. Self-forgiveness doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility for words or actions, but it releases you from self-contempt. With self-forgiveness brings compassion and understanding of who you are and why you acted the way you did. Reclaim what you must value in yourself. 

What is required for us to stay the course?

That’s all I wrote. I can tell you that after I asked my husband the first question about his affair we spent two hours sitting on a grassy hill near our house. I cried, I yelled, I felt hatred, anger and pain. I don’t really remember the questions I asked on that grassy hill but I do remember my husband kept saying Bat Shit was his friend and things spiraled out of control. I remember questioning if I would ever be able to forgive him. I wasn’t sure if an affair was something I could get over. He was terrified that I was going to leave him. I didn’t make any immediate decisions because I didn’t want to disrupt our children’s lives. I felt strongly this was our issue as a couple and we would only involve the kids if there was no other choice.

The questions I asked my husband continued from these notes for months. Almost the entire first year was spent asking everything and anything I could about my husband’s affair. He answered everything. I asked some pretty crazy questions too. I found that if something was bothering me or stuck in my head it was always best to just ask my husband. Usually, whatever was paralyzing my thoughts was much worse than the truth. I found that in asking questions that were so intimate and difficult my husband and I became closer. We started talking about topics that couples don’t generally discuss openly. Sex, emotional insecurities… everything. Looking back now I realize I wasn’t just asking my husband the tough questions, I was asking myself too, 

Strength Healing After My Husband's Affair

 

Love, Life and Marriage After the Affair

The words in my head, the emotions I am feeling and the moments of my day-to-day life don’t always make it onto paper. Finding time and the right words has been a struggle lately. Finding the right words to express my experience is even harder.

I feel as though I am in a good place in my marriage right now. That does not mean I am always happy or that I don’t still feel the betrayal but it does mean that I am not consumed by it anymore. While thoughts of my husband’s affair may enter my mind or be passing thought, I no longer spend much of my day focused on his affair or Bat Shit. I’ve reached a milestone where I can even hear her name (not in reference to her) and be okay. My decision to keep her name off my blog was not to remain anonymous but to remove the emotion from her name and keep the blog neutral because I know some readers share her name. I realized I no longer felt a burning singe of pain when I sat at a table this summer drinking wine with a woman with her name. It didn’t bother me. It did mildly bother my husband and I watched him out of the corner of my eye, worried about me-which I didn’t mind at all. He should be aware of possible triggers and be my support. I’m not saying I want to be friends with any female that share’s Bat Shit’s name but I can be in the same room without getting angry or falling part.

I want to spend more days appreciating the good things in my life. I want to stop the mental focus on the negative and holes I still feel within me. Sometimes I struggle to find a balance between letting go of and repairing what is broken. There’s a strange guilt I feel in moving past the affair. I question whether I am healing or if I’ve just become numb to my own experience. I know it’s less of the latter but I do feel there is a hardening and separation from the emotional pain over time. Perhaps it’s part of the healing process. My brain protecting me from my own negative experiences and emotions or fears.

soulmate-eat, pray, loveThe last few months I’ve been thinking about love, soulmates and marriage. Every relationship scars or changes us for all the other relationships in our life. A boyfriend that tells a girl she looks beautiful in pink will likely wear the color pink throughout her life and feel pretty. A boyfriend that resists acts of romance and love could make a girl feel like flowers are overrated and random acts of kindness are unnecessary. Years ago when money was tight in our household I told my husband that buying me flowers was not important and not to waste money on them. Over the years I’ve seen women receive flowers from their husbands/boyfriends and realized that it’s not about the money. Sending flowers is part keeping the romance alive. But it doesn’t even need to be flowers—just tokens of affection. I watch my son beginning to navigate through his first real relationships with girls. I watched his heart break this year and I’ve seen his expectations change as he entered his next relationship. The second girlfriend filled the void the first girlfriend left behind. Is that fair? Or is that just how love works? We drift through life just trying to fill the gaps left from relationships from our past. I think we also learn from each relationship what we need and want in our lives but I don’t know if we ever heal completely from heartbreak. This makes me wonder if my acceptance of where I am at right now is me healing or accepting there are parts of me that may remain broken. I  wonder if we actually have multiple soulmates over a lifetime. People we connect with and need at different points in our life. A soulmate is supposed to make you feel whole and complete-something I lost in the affair. So what does that mean? Do I redefine my belief in a soulmate or accept that maybe my belief was based on the fiction that Disney movies are created from? I’m not sure how to reconcile all this yet. My love for my husband is true, deep and passionate but that doesn’t fill the hole inside me. 

Despite saying all this I feel content with where I am at right now. I realize love does not need to be perfect and having love does not mean your life will be perfect. I read this definition of love on Urban Dictionary and feel I cannot say it any better than “kb ss candy” (obviously a legitimate source for knowledge):

Truly loving someone means that you care deeply about another person. You care if they screw up their lives as you want them to learn to love themselves. Love doesn’t mean life is going to be perfect, it shouldn’t be taken lightly, and the word shouldn’t be misused, if it is used in a romantic way. There will be arguments and misunderstandings, but love will mean that you will try and get over any hurdles and issues together. True love isn’t selfish and can bring people together in a way nothing else can, it is a soul connection, a commitment of the heart. Life can tear people apart but love may bring them back together again. Love should never be taken for granted, although often it is. Love is more balanced than the highs and lows that passion and frustration bring. Love will conquer all, but only if work and effort from both sides is implemented in order to not destroy love. Love can be slowly destroyed piece by piece by violence, abuse, neglect, dishonor, and disrespect. So always make sure you honor true love. Understand that it is not perfect, then you won’t feel let down by love. Each time you fall, love should be there to pick you up again, but sometimes it takes effort to remember not to misuse love by taking it for granted. Love doesn’t happen as often as people think, but if you have lost love, you will find it again one day, – never lose hope.

 

Nothing ever goes away quote