Is Normal Overrated?

I feel a shift in me. The shift is both within me and in the world around me. Things have changed and once again I need to adjust and adapt or I’ll be left behind. I don’t think I struggle with change but I do think I have difficulty accepting that sometimes I just don’t have a say in what happens next.

Part of the shift is falling back into normalcy. I’m very uncomfortable with normal right now. Some days I feel the same way I did the month before I discovered my husband’s affair. I feel like something is wrong and I can’t put my finger on it. My guess is there is some form of PTSD attached to how I feel right now. So I can blame the PTSD for the doubts that creep into my mind when my husband gets caught up at work and comes home two hours late. When he comes home late there is always a legitimate reason but yet I can’t help but wonder if he’s lying. I can’t help but question my trust in him.

So the doubts creep in and there are moments I’m not sure I can trust myself. So I start to wonder, is this how I’ll feel for the rest of my life? Will I always struggle to trust my husband completely? Will I always wonder if he’s cheating? Why is it so hard to be normal again?

Kites rise highest against the windThe second part of the shift I feel in my life is in reflection of the friendships I’ve created in the past two years. New girlfriends, new work friends. Most of these new friends have unknowingly been my shelter from the storm. During the past two years I’ve detached myself from my closest friends and family. I’ve disengaged from my life because being in my life was breaking me down. So I found new friends. These new friends wouldn’t notice any changes because they didn’t know the pre-affair me.  They wouldn’t point out my silence when I couldn’t find words to speak. They wouldn’t bring up the past in stories late at night when we’ve all had too much to drink. I made new friends. I made friends that I felt I could create a future with because my past needed to be forgotten.

I never let go of my closest friendships but there was a shift. I stepped back. I let go. I tried to hide my pain and suffering from the people I love most. I lied. I avoided contact. I wore a smile when I was crying inside. Most of my closest friends don’t live near me so it was easy to hide the truth. My best friend had a baby during this time and her life changed dramatically. For the first time in her life she didn’t have as much time for me as she had in the past. She sensed my pain but she knew not to push for the truth. Most people sensed I was going through something but no one asked. No one called when I stopped calling them. Things just changed without much commentary.

Now things are shifting back and I’m uncomfortable with normal. I want nothing more than to feel content with my life and relationships. I don’t want to doubt, worry or question. I need to figure out that next step along my journey.

Normal

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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

The Triggers Aren’t Done With Me Yet

Feeling Broken. Tyler Knott GregsonDuring the year following my D-Day triggers were expected. I hated them, but I expected them. I bought him new underwear so I didn’t have to think about Bat Shit’s hands pulling them down, touching him. I destroyed a pair of his jeans with a Leatherman because they aged to display the worn outline of the iPod Touch she gave him.

When the triggers became more sporadic I saw it as a sign of progress. I was healing and not everything reminded me of my husband’s affair. Even after a year I was still being triggered to think about Bat Shit when I wanted nothing more than to forget about her. It seemed as though I could erase every physical trace of the affair but I would never fully remove Bat Shit from my memory. Just after the one-year mark from my D-Day I wrote about how Bat Shit was still a daily passing thought. No longer was she a trigger for pain but she was a ghost haunting my mind, appearing and disappearing without warning. She was not doing damage anymore, just lingering around.

Then one day she was gone, in my mind, anymore. The mind triggers were lessening. I was replacing thoughts of her with positive, new thoughts. My mind was filled with authentic moments and memories in my life that she could not touch. People that she did not know about and she could never connect with. Bat Shit’s power over my life was gone. My life was my own again.

I haven’t been triggered in months. I recall breaking down in tears about the affair just after Christmas. I remember telling my husband I needed him to go to therapy on his own. I needed him to figure out the answer to Why and How he was able to cheat on me. And so he went. He found a therapist, made the appointments and he’s been going for three months now. My triggers seemed to diminish in direct correlation to my husband’s efforts to better self-understanding.

Dave Matthews Space BetweenThen two weeks ago I was triggered. It wasn’t the affair; it wasn’t a remnant of the affair or a reminder. It was the way my teenage son treated me that pushed me over the edge. He told me that he had been lying to me for over a month about a romantic relationship in his life. The type of secret I kept from my parents at his age. But this was different to me. My son lied to me because he was afraid of my response—a response he could anticipate but did not want to hear. The same exact reason my husband chose not to tell me about his “friendship” with Bat Shit.

I was falling apart. The trigger was not about the affair this time. My son triggered me to feel how I felt in the days just after D-Day. My son assumed my reaction and made the decision to lie to me about something he’d been honest about prior to this relationship. In that moment, I felt everything had changed between us: mother and son. It wasn’t necessarily the lie that bothered me; it was the intent of the lie.

I did not anticipate being triggered back to that feeling of insignificance. Maybe it hurt more because this is the same child that held me in his arms as I cried uncontrollably on my D-Day. Maybe it hurt so deeply because I thought our relationship was different. (How did I get caught up in that notion again?) Regardless of why I was triggered, this was a reminder that the affair and its aftermath aren’t done with me yet.

Filling the Void After His Affair

ironic1There is a tragic irony in the story of infidelity, or at least my story. My husband was drawn into his affair because he felt like something he and I once shared was gone. He displaced his insecurities on me, believing I was no longer attracted to him and that our diminished sex life was a symptom of my indifference. He felt like something was missing so he cheated. Paradoxically, his affair left me feeling like I lost something, something important to my definition of “us”. The irony is that he cheated to fill something he felt was lost but in reality, his affair robbed me and left a hole.

It was a year ago my therapist asked me what I would do if I never found those missing puzzle pieces as I was struggling to find a concrete explanation for my husband’s affair. I sat in silence on the couch with my husband to my left and therapist in the chair across from us. I was silent because I didn’t know the answer to her question. At the time I wanted to believe if I asked enough questions that I would figure out why my husband cheated. I wanted evidence that my decision to stay and rebuild my marriage was the right one. I wanted to believe that I could fix what was broken. I wanted definitive clarity.

Six months after that therapy session I made an appointment to go back alone. I was struggling to move forward again. We had passed the one year mark, we were now a stronger and healthier couple but I now felt like something was missing from me. His affair had stolen my sense of security in my marriage. As I sat across from my therapist she suggested I make a list or write about what I was feeling. I wrote this post. My therapist also told me that I might never be able to find that missing piece again; I needed to accept the loss. The missing puzzle piece I had been relentlessly searching for was in fact, missing from me. The question still remained: What if you never find that missing puzzle piece?

The tragic irony in my story transpired because my husband believed I was the spouse with the lack of love and affection, yet while I was faithful he abandoned our marriage and began an affair. I accept my husband’s choices but I still feel like I was stripped of something I once believed was essential in our marriage. As time moves on, the hole inside feels smaller but I sometimes wonder if it’s actually shrinking or if other people in my life are filling the gap. Is it possible this empty hole within me can no longer be filled by my husband? Or does it just take time to fill the void?

And then I remembered my favorite childhood author, Shel Silverstein, wrote  about a missing piece. Sometimes it just takes a deep breath in to realize that my journey is creating me and I need to trust in the journey.

Infidelity Trax | Ingrid Michaelson | Sort Of

Baby, you’ve got the sort of hands to rip me apart
And baby, you’ve got the sort of face to start this old heart
But your eyes are warning me this early morning
That my love’s too big for you my love

Baby, you’ve got the sort of laugh that waters me
And makes me grow tall and strong and proud and flattens me
I find you stunning but you are running me down
My love’s too big for you my love, my love’s too big for you my love

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I would leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Baby, you’ve got the sort of eyes that tell me tales
That your sort of mouth just will not say, the truth impales
You don’t need me but you won’t leave me
My love’s too big for you my love, oh, my love’s too big for you my love

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I would leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Tell me what to do to take away the you?
Take away the you, take away the you
Take away the you

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I would leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Navigating

I followed the sound of the hockey game into our bedroom last night. It’s the NHL playoffs and our home team was playing. I would never label myself a hockey fan but when you live in Boston you inherently become a Patriots/Red Sox/Celtics/Bruins fan. I stepped into the bedroom and saw my husband folding laundry with his eyes focused on the television. I had just come home and had two cocktails in me so I fell down onto the bed, atop all the laundry and positioned my head right under my husband’s crotch. In this moment I was teasing him, although if he asked me, I would have happily pleasured him. I looked up into his eyes as he dropped the t-shirt he was folding and placed his hands aside my head.

“I love this position,” I said.

“I’m not sure who enjoys it more,” my husband responded.

“Can you imagine a position we haven’t tried yet?”

He smiled and replied: “I don’t think there are any left. We’ve done everything I can think of.”

I smiled and rose to my knees to kiss his lips. My thoughts were drifting; after all, those two mojitos were floating through me. I felt good. I picked up a pair of black lace panties my husband recently gave me and displayed them on my fingertips for him. “I love these.” I remarked.

“I love taking them off of you,” he said.

And then, in a moment of cocktail euphoria, I began a conversation that had an uncharted course. “You know, if you had never met me you would never have seen a woman in panties like these. I mean, in real life. All your previous lovers wore cotton panties. I wonder how many men have never been with a woman wearing sexy panties. I just realized how many men don’t have the pleasure that you do.”

I kept folding laundry as I spoke and I heard a little voice in my head warn me: Watch where you are going. But I didn’t listen.

“I think we are lucky. We are so sexually compatible. I could have told a million men that I wanted to be handcuffed and they wouldn’t have responded or pushed my fantasies further. It always felt like you were waiting for me to come along in your life. I mean, you can sexually do anything with another person but it will never compare to what we share.  “ [here we go] “It’s like kissing someone and not feeling that rush. Why kiss them again? I couldn’t be in a relationship with a bad kisser or with someone that I wasn’t completely sexually compatible with. We have something special and I doubt something like this comes along twice. You know?”

Then I saw my husband’s face change and I realized the conversation had turned the corner. I knew I should have stopped talking but those two cocktails were like truth serum. His eyes were on me as the hockey game played in the background. Then he turned to put his clothes away in the closet.

“I’m not trying to drag up anything.” [and then I started back-peddling but it was too late] “I just was thinking about how many men probably wish they have what you have. You are lucky, you know. You have a hot wife that wears sexy lingerie, will try anything in bed and she adores you. You have it all.”

And then, standing in the middle of our closet he said: I do have it all. I always knew I had everythng I wanted and more but my narcissistic needs told me I needed more.

That wasn’t the direction I thought the conversation was going. I wasn’t picking a fight or trying to spark a conversation about the affair. I was [drunkenly] pondering the fact that my husband was lucky to have me because I love being his fantasy. But he brought up a good point.

What makes us think we deserve more, even when we know we have more than we ever wanted or dreamed?

What makes a person risk everything they hold sacred in their life?

I think we never consider the risks of betrayal, only the immediate gratification. It’s a secret box stored on a shelf. A box we not only want but begin to believe we deserve. Temptation is a power that taunts our vulnerabilities and entices our insecurities. I often wonder if my husband’s betrayal damaged his psyche more than mine or our marriage. Relationships with other people heal or you close the door and move on. The view you have of your own character when forced to really look in the mirror is a much harsher and difficult to escape. I know he needs to reconcile his actions with himself but I don’t think he ever expected he would face this mirror when he began his secret relationship with Bat Shit. I don’t think he ever thought anyone would find out or that it would last longer than one encounter. I don’t think he ever thought I would read his email messages to her. It was all part of the temptation. Preserving the temptation kept him involved in the affair. Yet, why are we all tempted at one point or another to believe we can have more than we need or want?

I realize this affair is never going to be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s embedded in our relationship. Sometimes I still wish it didn’t always have to be there, lurking under innocent [or not so innocent] conversations. It’s funny how things can feel so normal but then one word can bring up emotions that you thought were resolved.

Freud Quote