“I fell apart, and I survived”

c703fee12ef1a6dbf67106408e55054aWe all have days that mark different moments in our lives. Some of those days are remembered for joy and others for devastation. Today is a marker for me.

Six years ago I felt my world implode. I was utterly devastated, confused, and broken when I discovered my husband’s affair. As I type these words, my memory surges and the pain I haven’t felt all day is now lingering in the back of my mind… the back of my throat… like a dark shadow that can flood my being at any moment. But I’m okay. I’m really okay.

Six years later and my emotional attachment to my D-day is no longer a weight. Today could have gone the other direction completely. For starters, the exact day of the week aligns with my D-day in 2012. The other strange piece is that my husband is, once again, away on a camping trip just like he was six years ago. I spent a lot of time alone today just like I did six years ago. But I was okay. I haven’t cried. I haven’t been sad or melancholy.

I worry that an emotional detachment from my D-day is signifying something is wrong. Lately, it feels as though my marriage has slipped into that comfortable place it was before he cheated. Sometimes I worry that I am sharing everything with him – but is he sharing everything with me? I notice how much I talk and how much I feel the need to fill the silence. I also notice how much he doesn’t share with me and that I have to probe to find out what is going on during his day. I try not to be suspicious, but I am. I try to trust, but I don’t think I can give trust completely. I live in this space of uncertainty – can I trust him? Is he faithful? Were there other women before Bat Shit? I try not to dwell in this dark space. I find myself asking if I should even care if there are other women because he’s here with me.

That. Is. Fucked. Up. Or is it my reality?

During the last six years I’ve experienced the most rickety emotional roller coaster ride. Surviving an affair is no small feat. Every day I think about all the women out there that are on this ride with me – whether we know we are on it together or not. I think about how hard that first month was after my D-day. I didn’t know if I wanted to live. I just kept waking up each day and focusing on getting through each day. Survival mode.

I was naive once. I believed love equaled faithfulness. I believed marriage was pure. I believed my husband loved me more than I loved him, which meant he could never hurt me and never, ever cheat. I had chosen him time and again. Now I know he didn’t always chose me.

This post is feeling really glum and I that wasn’t my intention when I opened my laptop and started to write. The reality is that on this day, six years ago in the wee hours of the night… my heart stopped and it’s never truly beat to the same rhythm again.

Yes, I am happy.

Yes, my life is blessed.

But my heart beats differently now.

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5 Years Later

Life keeps moving. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Five years ago, the life I thought I had was shattered by the discovery of my husband’s affair. His affair flattened me, it buried me, and it changed me.

I am not the same person I was five years ago, nor can I return to the person I was before my D-Day. I’ve accepted that last part even though I am still nostalgic for the old me that trusted, believed, and loved without fear. I’ve learned more about myself and grown into a stronger woman in the past five years. Here are some truths I’ve learned along this journey.

d99c7cd528f128497ec8993a540e77dd--ocean-quotes-beach-quotesFive years later so much has changed in my life. We sent our oldest child off to college this fall and our younger two boys are in high school. We live busy lives and our children are becoming increasingly independent.  It’s bittersweet to see your children become adults. In the same moment I am feeling love and pride, I am also feeling sad and alone. Love is not always brilliant. Sometimes love means letting go. Sometimes love means change. Relationships exist as waves. We need to learn how to ride them if we want them to grow, expand, and succeed. Sometimes we must simply ride the waves with the people we love, regardless of where they go. Because ultimately, none of these waves last.

There have been many days over the past five years where I felt lost and alone. It’s normal to have these days but I’ve learned it’s important not to fall down into rabbit holes. Being the victim of an affair can make you obsessive compulsive — or at least that has been my experience. I can find myself hyper-focused on an idea, a moment in history, or words that once meant nothing but now have meaning. I’ve learned to push away pain that serves no purpose but I still have moments that creep up on me and doubts that surface. There are days I question every decision I’ve made. I still have days where I crave to touch what is lost. Every so often I have a day that I’ve lost my capacity to trust. Those days are hard because I feel most alone and I am afraid that I’ll never get past it. I wish I could stop myself from feeling or thinking this way.

Five years later I can’t remember what life was like before D-Day. I think I know how it was but I question my memories all the time. Was I really as happy as I say I was? Or did I have plenty of lost and alone days then too? I don’t know. I’ve adjusted to life post-D-Day and all the permanent self-doubt that his affair introduced into my life. Sometimes I held my story so close it became airtight and began to suffocate. I have learned to take a step back and let the air in. I must learn to live with my past before I can live in the present.

Being vulnerable is tough. After my D-Day I built a wall around my heart. It felt like my heart retracted and a steel wall was erected around it. I’ve opened my heart again and it’s scary. I have found that I am more accepting of my own flaws, weaknesses, and to ask for what I need. I have found that when I am genuinely vulnerable that is when I feel most connected. I am gaining strength, love, and courage as I am learning to embrace and expose my vulnerabilities.

Resiliency and acceptance is key to moving forward. Affairs break marriages. Regardless of whether the couple decides to work it out and stay together, the marriage is forever changed. Five years ago, it felt as though my marriage had become a broken promised land. Letting go of what I believed defined my marriage was hard. And I don’t know that I am always moving forward but I must keep going.

Knowing that you can heal allows you to be open to the power of resiliency. I’ve faced my failures, setbacks, and pain with confidence and courage (and sometimes fear and tears too). This journey is hard but it’s not impossible. Affairs don’t have to be a dead end for marriages. It is okay to decide to stay or go. Love is not perfect. It is not always kind, but love can heal.

Raymond Carver

 

 

Trying to find the right words.

I hate my last post. I won’t delete it because I think this is all part of the process.

The truth is being at the two-year mark means the honeymoon is over. Strange to think of the first two years as anything special or celebratory but there was a renewal in my marriage during those first two years. Immediately on my D-day I had to make the decision: fight or flight. I chose to stay and that means that mixed in all the pain, sadness and anger, that were clearly present, there was also hope. There was a revitalization of our love. We had to remember what was at the core of our relationship and take solace in a belief that we were still special and our love was worth the fight. The first two years may have been a nightmare (that I would never want to relive-ever) but there was also a tremendous amount of love, honesty and support.

Letting go-Healing-After-Husband's-AffairTwo years later we fall back into our old habits again. We don’t always tell each other our needs because we fall into the trap of not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings. I don’t bring up my doubts or fears any longer because I feel like I need to push forward. So when I fall apart, I keep it to myself. Don’t get me wrong, most days are good and I don’t harbor any resentment or sadness. But how is this different from our relationship before his affair? We were happy then. We spent time together. The only difference is our sex life was “normal” then and now it’s more than healthy. Keeping intimacy at the forefront of our marriage is one of the best results from this mess. I realize how much I need to feel desired, wanted and feel that closeness to my husband.

The biggest struggle with entering into this new phase of our relationship is realizing the riptide of sadness and depression can still pull me in. I know how easy it could be to drown in the pain. There’s a hole in my life. For two years, I’ve searched for the missing pieces or a way to fill the cracks. I wanted to believe that I could fix my brokenness. In the first year it was a search for information. If I could understand and figure out exactly what happened then I would feel whole again. During the second year, I accepted that what was missing may be gone forever and I tried to fill those empty spaces with other people, other activities, ignite a new passion. I’m just starting out into year three and I have spent that past month looking back at my life. I’ve analyzed my marriage and how our relationship began. I’ve pinpointed warning signs and recognized that I chose my husband in spite of those red flags. I chose him. I wanted our relationship and I fought for him. Our relationship did not come easily. There were obstacles but I was young, in love and I believed we were invincible. I loved him.

I love him. I define love differently now.

I’ve spent my entire adult life with my husband. He’s been with me as I grew from a teenager into a young woman into a mother. He’s nurtured me and I still believe he is the love of my life. I do not think I will or could ever love anyone more than him. Yet, I am beginning to believe the strength of our love is a result of time, children and family. We choose our spouse. We choose to continue to love even when we feel empty. And I am beginning to wonder if that’s what makes a marriage last, a trust that no matter what shit is thrown in your face you will come home, eat dinner together, clink wine glasses, and kiss lips before falling asleep at the end of each day.

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My story: How I discovered my husband’s affair

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I discovered the truth on September 22, 2012. I guess the truth had been haunting me despite a happy marriage and three amazing children… there was something wrong. Funny thing is, I thought I was unhappy with my job or something. No idea that the root of my unhappiness, discontent and insecurity was stemming from my seemingly perfect marriage.

But there I was at 2 a.m. going through his emails trying to find something. And then I saw the email to her that read:

I miss you……

Why would he tell another woman he missed her? And why did he email her a photo of my children? And why was her comment that it wasn’t like the other photos they had been sharing? And why was there no other photos in his email to or from her? My heart was pounding and my body was shaking. And then I found it. A sexual photo downloaded from Tumblr and emailed to another account. An account I didn’t recognize. It took less than two minutes to hack into the account and as my computer screen refreshed I prayed that all I would find was a collection of erotic photos. But it wasn’t. I found 73 pages of emails from her to my husband detailing a year long affair. I wanted to scream but it was the middle of the night. My husband was away for the weekend  with one of our kids. I couldn’t even scream at him.

I sobbed in my bed alone wondering how and why we got to this point.

I knew I shouldn’t torture myself with the emails but I began to read through them. Her messages to him were mostly sexual, describing their encounters detail by detail. I skipped through the emails picking dates that had meaning to me–did he write her on my birthday? Our anniversary? Valentine’s day? Was he responding to her or initiating the emails? How did this begin without me noticing? Was I blind? Was I that far removed from my husband’s life?

tears

The questions flooded my brain. The pain of what he had done was overwhelming. I physically got sick. I couldn’t sleep. I kept going back to the emails.

Did he want our marriage to end? Did he ever love me? I’d never felt pain like this. Ever. It was straight to my core.

I loved this man. I gave him everything. I loved him dearly and we discussed our love as though it were unique, something everyone wants but not everyone receives. So how could a man that looked me in the eyes and say he would never risk losing me enter into a year long affair?

I knew who she was too. She was removed from me but I met her once and didn’t care for her. The first time he ever told me about her I didn’t like the way he seemed to idolize her–saying that she was amazing at her job when I couldn’t hear anything remarkable in his comments. I told him too. It’s only now that I know that when I told him I didn’t like the way he seemed to talk about her that he decided not to talk about her to me from then on. Funny thing, she was barely his friend at that point. But once he decided to continue that relationship purposefully behind my back, it became an affair. He still denies that was the turning point in the relationship. Trying to believe he was just being a friend to her as she ended her marriage. He says he wasn’t attracted to her. Claims he didn’t find her sexually appealing. Yet when she started making passes at him through email, that was when he suggested opening private email accounts. About a month after the private email accounts were opened he had sex with her.

I struggle with how many details I want to know. Once you know something, you can’t un-know it. He says she invited him over to her house to help with some “work” stuff. She didn’t work at his office but she kept inserting herself into his business. He says she kissed him that day. He kissed her back. Then two weeks later he drove back to her house in the middle of his work day and they had sex. This continued almost on a weekly basis until the day I found the emails.

So here I am 35 days later. We are still married, living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed and we are still in love. When I confronted him, he acknowledged everything. At first, he tried to defend himself by saying our sex life had dwindled. Then he tried to say that I am the love of his life but he doesn’t think he is the love of my life. Then he tried to say that I never initiate sex or go down on him. All of this was displacing the blame and he has since realized that this was HIS choice and it wasn’t about me.

It took him a full day to break down. I think he realized that he risked our marriage, his relationship with his children, his job and everything that is meaningful in his life for a woman that he doesn’t even care to see again. When I told him that if she wasn’t 100% out of his life then I was going to be–he didn’t bat an eye. He said he was relieved. He said he tried to end it twice. I don’t know if that is supposed to make me feel better or not? He says he slept with her for her needs, not because he wanted to. He was trying to be a friend to her as she went through a bad time in her life. Wow. Not to lighten the mood–but have I been a bad friend because I haven’t been sleeping with all my friends going through tough times?

He begged me to forgive him and said he would do anything. I believe him. I’m not saying that I trust him again. But I believed him when he said he loved me.

We’ve spent every night for the past 35 days talking. Talking through the pain, tears, anger and fears. He takes responsibility for his decisions and actions but he struggles with how he even let himself sink that low. He was self-destructing and he failed to recognize that the real devastation was to me, his wife. He may live with the guilt, but I live with the pain, the endless images in my mind, the triggers that catch you off-guard and the sadness that fills my heart. I can’t sit on the toilet without thinking: my husband cheated on me.

I guess I am writing this blog because I want to know why he did it. Honestly, we had (have) not just a good marriage–a great marriage. We are that couple that our family and friends try to emulate. We have amazing children–because we invest time and love into them together. We talked. We made love. We got along with each other’s families. We went on vacations. We supported each other through really tough times. Yes, we had our moments but we were thankful for each other. When we heard of people divorcing we acknowledged how lucky we were to be married to our soul mate. So why did he doubt my love? Because he wasn’t getting bj’s or laid enough? Because I went back to work? What makes a person risk a life they built with their true love for someone that is meaningless? How did he allow it to continue for a year? How did he live with the guilt? How did he look me or his kids in the eye? How did he tell our kids to surround themselves with honest and good-intentioned people if he was not doing the same? Why was his need to make her feel better more important than our marriage vows?

I am hoping these questions will be answered here.

In the end, I love him. That’s all I know right now.

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