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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

Insecurities & Infidelity

A million insecurities that had been long been buried deep inside me rose to the surface on D-Day. I would never classify myself as insecure or lacking confidence but I have doubts that linger under the surface just like anyone. In the moment I discovered my husband’s affair all those doubts and insecurities became true.

insecuritiesI felt insignificant. I grew up a middle child. I was never neglected.  I was loved and supported but I learned from a young age to fend for myself, work hard and be self-reliant. I developed a strong sense of identity inspired by my desire to differentiate myself from my older and younger siblings. Like most middle children there is a lingering belief that I was unimportant. I pushed that idea deep down inside. It only came to the surface when a friend snubbed me or a boyfriend broke up with me. In those moments it was clear that I was insignificant. I remember falling in love with my husband and believing he would never make me feel insignificant, unimportant or second.

As my husband’s affair was beginning I was disconnecting with some of my closest “mom” friends in town. I became a working mom therefore I was no longer invited to birthday lunches and Bunko nights. My friendship was obviously insignificant to these mothers. About five months into my husband’s affair my best friend neglected to tell me about a life-changing event in her life before she posted it on Facebook. I found out in the same moment as the rest of the world, or maybe even later than half her Facebook “friends.”  By the time I discovered my husband’s affair I was already feeling insignificant to most the people in my life. The affair was just the icing on the cake.

I felt fat and ugly. I suffer from the same disorder most women do. No matter what my body looks like it will never be good enough. I look in the mirror and see flaws. I stared at all my imperfections and blamed them for my husband’s infidelity. After the affair, every trip the bathroom became a staring contest with myself in the mirror. What did she have [physically] that I didn’t? Why was he willing to push-off sex with me and schedule sex with her?

I wasn’t sexy enough. I wasn’t beautiful enough. I wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t good enough. No matter how far I travel down this road to healing that’s the one thing I cannot wrap my head around: our marriage wasn’t enough for my husband to hesitate before starting a relationship behind my back. I know now that’s not true, but for a long time I felt like I wasn’t good enough for him. Or really anyone.  If the love we share didn’t prevent him from cheating then is it really possible to have an affair-proof marriage? I hate to sound jaded but the more comments I read on my blog from women just like myself, the less I believe that fidelity is possible in a marriage.

I remember asking my husband why he told Bat Shit he wanted more sex in our marriage but not me. He told me: “Sometimes it’s easier to be honest with a stranger than your wife.” I recall being angry and dismissive of this comment. I want to disagree completely but I realize now he’s right. My husband’s affair was about something lacking within my husband that he was trying to fill and not something lacking in me. His own insecurities pushed him from asking me for help. At some point in our relationship something happened to make him believe that I wouldn’t understand what he needed. Is it possible for two people to fulfill every need for the other person throughout a lifetime? I have no idea but I have hope.

Still a work in progress at (almost) fourteen months.

1growOne of the things I hate most about healing from my husband’s betrayal is my desire for this period of time to pass quickly. The first moment I read the average woman takes about two years to heal from an affair I began to look forward to September 2014. I would pray: Just get me there and I’ll be okay. As I went through the first year I began to think I had the system beat—I was going to conquer this well before the two year mark. It was like I believed that I was in an AP course and I could accelerate the healing process. Now, a little more than a year later and I realize that I can’t rush anything.

I hate wishing time would pass while my kids are young and my days with them are limited. I feel bad when I just want to lock myself in my bedroom and ignore the world around me. I wonder how many hours… days have been lost crying, feeling sad and lonely. I’ve missed opportunities to spend precious time with my children because of this damn affair. I believe I could have been a better mother to my children over the last year or so if my husband didn’t betray me. He obviously would have been a better father if he hadn’t cheated on us. We have amazing kids and they deserve amazing parents. Things have gotten better in the last few months but I’m not always happy. I’m committed to not letting this affair suck any more of my life away.

I hate the time period in my life that my husband cheated on me. The other night my husband mentioned that a certain band was his favorite in 2012. I told him to never mention the word favorite and the year 2012 in a sentence again. I hate that year and time and wish to have no memories of it. It’s funny how even if there is a good memory from the time he was cheating it has now become painful. Mostly, I look back at that time and remember only the bad moments between us. As much as we had a great marriage before the affair, my husband changed when he was cheating and became a stranger to me and my kids. His behavior wasn’t normal and I let him get away with being an asshole. I didn’t hold him accountable because I didn’t understand what was going on. Maybe it’s good that things were off during his affair—it shows he was affected by what he was doing and not in a good way. But still, don’t bring up the time period he was cheating on me because my mood will instantly turn sour.

I also hate that I’ve distanced myself from my friends in the last year. I needed to deal with some of what happened on a personal level and I didn’t want every friend and family member in my life involved and worried about me/him/us. I have never doubted my decision to keep things private but I doubt I have been a good friend. I am beginning to invest more time in my friendships again. I am realizing that sometimes friends do need room to grow and revitalize their spirit and it has no reflection on the relationship when you need space.

I hate that I still attach pain to the affair. I have this fear that I will never fully recover from this pain. There is a song on my iPod with the lyrics: Bullets don’t make dents // they make holes. I think that lyric just about sums up what an affair does to a betrayed spouse. It leaves a hole somewhere. I am skeptical that it ever heals completely. I remain hopeful but the doubt lingers.

I don’t hate everything about the last fourteen months. I’ve learned to speak even in great fear. I rediscovered a relationship with my husband that is richer, deeper and more loving than the one we had when we first married. I am not afraid to tell him anything now. I am not afraid to tell him what I need from him. I am not offended if he tells me he needs more from me either. In the past I would feel criticized if he said he needed more affection or time with me. Now I realize he’s telling me because he wants me not because I’m not good enough. I’ve let my husband inside the most sacred and private parts of my being this past year. I have entrusted him with my heart and life again. I am not afraid to be vulnerable anymore. In fact, I’ve learned there is a certain strength that comes from vulnerability. Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand in a marriage. I wish someone had told me this fourteen years ago.

I realize now how I will help my children have better marriages. I can’t promise my children won’t fail, after all they are human. But I can teach them how to be good men, good husbands. I can teach them how to be honest and trust their spouse with their fears and dreams, the good and the bad. I can’t go back in time and change the course of my marriage but I can put what I learned into action.

This post may be a bit all over the place but that’s a reflection of where I am right now on this journey. A bit scattered but forever hopeful.

A Day Without a Thought of the Affair (Please)

I can’t seem to find the right words to express where I am right now on this journey. I feel like I am in this very strange place where I am content, happy and connected with myself and my husband but yet I am disappointed that thoughts about the affair continue to enter my mind on a daily basis. Maybe I am being overzealous by thinking that I could get through a day without a thought creeping into my mind but that is what I want.

Let me hit the rewind button for a second. My husband and I went on a romantic getaway around the one year mark. To pack up and get away from all the stresses of everyday life (plus the affair crap) was wonderful. I am not sure if it was being alone together; the timing of our vacation or where we went but it was perfect. The only moments where thoughts of the affair drifted into my mind’s eye were mostly questioning why it took an affair to push us to take the vacation of our dreams. But those thoughts were fleeting and minimal.

Within twenty-four hours of returning home I had thoughts of the affair invade my mind and I became frustrated and angry that these thoughts persisted. Those words sound worse than they actually are. When I say “invade my mind” I intend that to mean I have about five minutes each day where I am triggered to think about either the betrayal or Bat Shit. It angers me because I have such a feeling of happiness and contentment in my life yet I cannot stop my mind from wandering to the affair at random moments during the day. Is this my new normal or can I overcome this phase?

Two nights ago I knew I needed to tell my husband this was bothering me. I knew he needed to know just how far I’ve come but also what I am struggling with right now. I unexpectedly wept as I told him because I feel like as much as I just want to be over this phase, I also understand there is value in my struggle. It just strikes me that I feel more connected now than ever to my husband but there is still ghosts from the affair lingering around.

My husband’s response to my emotional frustration was to both comfort me and tell me he wants to help me heal and move forward. He said he feels like I’ve helped him figure out what happened, how he fell into the infidelity trap and why he couldn’t find the courage or voice to leave Bat Shit until I discovered the affair. Now he wants to figure out how to help me get to the next phase of our healing.

I hope to hear from other women out there that have conquered these mind triggers. When I have thoughts in my mind they don’t necessarily hurt me anymore either. I would like to be free from these thoughts. I am not sure how many pages in my story have been written since D-Day but I am certain a new chapter has begun. I keep looking forward and I know now that if this is the worst of it right now, I will be okay.

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Trusting Myself Again

Everything happensDon’t you hate that quote? I hate it because I think people intend to mean everything in life happens for a good reason. While I can accept that my marriage has become stronger as a result of discovering my husband’s affair; that strength is more a result of the discovery and how we dealt with it, not the affair. We chose to fight for our marriage, rebuild our relationship and let go of the marriage we believed was perfect in order to survive our new reality.

What could be the reason for his affair? I have spent the last year trying to make sense of how a moral, family-focused and loving husband has an affair. If you evaluate the consequences of my husband’s affair on him, me and our marriage there is no reasonable justification for his behavior. With time, my anger and pain has dissipated and the rollercoaster ride has ended. In the past three months I’ve had two moments where I gave in to the triggers and pain. Meaning: I cried and curled up in the fetal position for an hour. Other than those two nights, my triggers can still fire at me during the day but I have the power to stop them before they hurt me.

His affair has permanently damaged my trust in him. I don’t think I will ever give him 100% of my trust again. I recently told him that the most I trust he can earn is 99.9%, like birth control there will always be that .1% that I keep for myself. My trust has to be in myself now. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I should have trusted my instincts from the beginning. I was aware there was something wrong or off with my husband from the beginning of his affair but I suppressed my gut feeling because I trusted him. I trusted him more than I trusted my own instincts. As I type those words I feel my stomach cringe at the thought of my naivety. I had no reason not to trust my husband but I had every reason to trust myself. Somewhere along the way, I began to justify questionable behavior from my husband because I believed in us more than myself. I don’t believe that the damage in my trust in him is a bad thing because I have more faith in myself than ever before.

1Throughout the past year I’ve had the opportunity to really look at myself—my actions, words, the love I put into the world and the love I take back into my soul. I haven’t evaluated myself this deeply in a long time. My adult life has been focused around my husband and my children. My dreams and aspirations were pushed aside in order to provide everyone else with what they needed. I gave and gave until there was nothing left for me. The assumption from the outside world is that a man cheats because his wife does not tend to his needs and desires but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I gave up so much for my husband, always keeping his happiness first and pushing my own needs to the bottom. I never told him what I needed. By the time my husband’s relationship began with Bat Shit began, my desires were undecipherable even to myself-how could I ever communicate them with him or anyone else? I continued to give up myself to take care of my family and no one ever asked me what I needed, they continued to take from me. I think that’s when you see mother’s become so focused on the success and lives of their husband and children. They became the measure of me. The discovery of the affair pushed me out of the shadows and made me evaluate what I need and want. I realized in less than a minute that everyone in my life is capable of disappointing, deceiving and/or leaving me. At the end of the day I am responsible for my own happiness and love.

Trust in marriage is not about will he cheat or keep his promises. Trust is about having faith that we can communicate our vulnerabilities, emotional and physical needs with each other. The moment I stopped taking care of myself was the moment I stopped being a partner in my marriage. I take no responsibility for his choice to cheat. I take responsibility for not having a voice when I needed one most.

How do I make sense of his affair? What is the reason it happened? I’ve decided I need to just let that question go. There is no reason. Sometimes shit happens. I’ve decided not to change the direction of my life based on shit. I cannot focus my life on something that was destructive to my spirit. I’m about to hit that one year anniversary and I’ve decided this is not a day to reflect on the misery but the fact that the cloud lifting on that day. The measure of my marriage since that day is incredible. The measure of me from that point forward is infinite.

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