4 Years

Sometimes I forget the date.

Most of the time I try not to remember when my D-day is but it’s difficult to separate myself completely. There will always be reminders or connections to my D-day. I’ve always had a unbelievable memory, so it’s unlikely I will ever truly forget.

After four years I don’t have the same emotional connection I once felt on this date. I did find myself emotional yesterday but it’s not the same feeling I once had. I no longer spend time wondering or wishing I could have done something differently that could have changed life’s course or my husband’s decisions. I accept the decisions that were made. I don’t agree with them but I can recognize that his choices are not within my control.

I no longer feel that knife in my heart, or lump in my throat, or sinking feeling in my stomach. I’m no longer physically impacted by the affair. Yes, I admitted  that I cried yesterday but I think that’s normal. I was also realizing how far we’ve come since September 22, 2014. I also remember that it was more than one day that I suffered. I had been suffering before my D-day without a clear understanding of why and I was devastated for a long time after my D-day.

Four years later there are still reminders that I am not completely healed.

I struggle with trust. There are times when my husband works early, or late, or maybe it’s just a normal day and doubt creeps into my mind. I find myself questioning him about his day every so often in a way that is not healthy for me or us. I try to let go of my doubts but I’ve found burying doubts can lead more to stockpiling my fears than a peaceful resolution. I want to trust again but it’s difficult not to doubt. It’s difficult not to wonder if I am a fool to believe a cheater can change and be faithful. Learning to trust again is my goal for year five.

There are times I still feel like something is missing. The strange thing is I don’t really feel broken anymore, but I feel like there is a piece of me missing that my husband can no longer complete or fill. With every day that passes I find that this hole is being filled, but not by him. Sometimes that scares me.

In four years, I’ve learned that I love my husband with a love that I cannot define. I spend days and nights with him and realize our lives are forever intertwined and I do not want to change a thing. Over the past four years I’ve witnessed my husband become more engaged with our children, our families, and our marriage. Sometimes I am afraid that I have become less engaged as a result of his affair. I often have to check myself to make sure I am not pushing myself away from the rest of the world. It would be so much easier to hide and block out the rest of the world. The challenge is to keep going and be an active participant.

lionkingI no longer feel so absorbed by the pain of my husband’s affair that I would characterize it as the worst thing that ever happened to me. I won’t say his affair is the best thing that happened to me but the pain is separate from me now. I can look back and remember the horror of the first week, month, and year, but it doesn’t suck me in now.

One difficult part of being at four years is that we no longer talk about the affair or how we are feeling. I know that I could bring it up if I needed to but I also know that I don’t want to open up that box. I don’t want to have to talk about all of this with my husband. I don’t want him to feel like I am punishing him. I know it’s not good to stay silent but I guess I am not ready to go back to the past. I know I need to learn from the past but I’m not always sure how to navigate this now.

Four years after the affair I feel like we have begun a new chapter in the story of our life. Maybe it’s even a new section – Part 3. Life goes on and we must continue on too.

Did I Choose Wrong?

This year has been full of doubts, flip-flopping, and wondering if I made the right decision. In one moment I am happy, confident, and blazing forward. In the next moment I am hesitant, untrusting, and overwhelmed with fear. Luckily, the latter moments are not in the majority. But the mere fact that they exist bothers me. All the books and articles say it takes two years to heal from infidelity as a betrayed spouse. But what does it truly mean to be healed?

To love is to be intensely vulnerable. To choose love means we also choose to know the loss of love. We are raised to believe that love is the antidote to loneliness, and all the emotions that accompany being alone: sadness, rejection, misery, and heartbreak. We live in a world that equates love with hope. But the truth is that choosing to love another person is the equivalent of asking them to hold a glass egg forever – at some point it will be dropped. And heartbreak is, well, heartbreaking. I believed with all my heart that my marriage was unique, our love was pure and unbreakable. The heartbreak I felt, and sometimes I still feel, was as if I lost something essential to my existence. Sometimes I still yearn to touch what I lost; to grasp it in my hands, pull it tight into my chest, close my eyes, and cherish it one last time.

Recently a friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook:

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Heartbreak is heart breaking. It is painful and it is paralyzing. But we cannot let it define our future. Love can break us into a million pieces but it can also fill all the dark places that we never thought could be filled. Love, at it’s finest, feels as though I finally fit into myself. I clearly see myself, feel myself entirely, and my confidence exudes from my being when I give and receive love. Betrayal made me doubt all of that.

Somewhere along the path of healing I asked myself, repeatedly, did I choose the wrong man to marry? What if the answer is that we all choose wrong. It’s impossible to expect I knew at 23 years old what my needs would be at 35 or 46 or 52. I chose my husband because he offered familiarity, a compliment to me. I chose him because I never felt love in the way he gave it to me. I needed him and he needed me back. For better or worse.

Is it ever possible to know if we married the right person?

Every time I begin to fall into the doubts that still linger in the shadows of my mind I remember that love does not mean perfection. Love is having hope that as we break we will recover. Love is having the courage to believe that heartbreak does not mean devastation. Loving is risky business but somehow it’s the most desirable dream we share.

Sometimes I feel as if I am stuck in a Chinese finger trap – the more I pull, the more I am stuck in the same place. I just need to push, redefine the things I cherish, and move forward.

 

 

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.

The Weight of Failure

I’ve never been comfortable with failure. I was the child that sat in the front row, center desk in school if seats weren’t assigned. I learned very early that not only do teachers tend to favor those students, but it is literally the best seat to learn from in a classroom. I also recall this feeling of failure or separation within me if I was seated in the back of the room.  It was hard to be a part of the discussion and I no longer felt included. I believed I could control my successes and limit my failures if I made all the right choices.

I was never taught to plan for failure. Relationships are not very different from everything else we engage in life. Yet, in business we understand that getting fired or a failed business plan can lead to success. One of the most famous stories of failure turned success is Steve Jobs. We herald Steve Jobs and view Apple dumping him as a catalyst for what we now use to define success. Steve Jobs may have never reached his full potential if he hadn’t been betrayed, devastated, and faced with failure – reassess and rebuild. Steve Jobs is quoted saying that what separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest is perseverance.

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Very few of our failures are fatal. Yet, post D-day I felt as though I might collapse. I felt as though the weight of my husband’s affair might slowly suffocate me and there was a piece of my soul that was suddenly stolen. There is an emptiness within us that accompanies failure. I’ve spoken about this emptiness many times throughout the blog. There was a time I believed I could solve why I felt this way or maybe with time whatever was broken would heal, or maybe even regenerate like a starfish. My therapist told me three years ago that I should mourn the loss of this unnamed feeling/sense/being and acknowledge that it is gone.

Gone but not fatal.

Failure is a part of my story. But I keep going. I’ve picked up the pieces, reassessed, and rebuilt my life. My marriage is not the same as it was when we first fell in love. It’s different. Not every betrayed spouse can forgive and stay with the partner that cheated but we can all heal ourselves. The healing part of my story is what has defined this journey.

Surviving Infidelity

There are stories that hijack our lives. They freeze our thoughts and capture our minds, taking hold of our emotional and physical state. My husband’s affair hijacked my life. I chose my username on WordPress, thiswillnotdrefineus, thoughtfully because I rejected my husband’s actions. My disappointment was fueled by rejection, loss, and pain. I had to believe his affair could be cleaned up like spilled milk. I wished I could get to a point where I forgot the affair ever happened.

His affair has been over for three and a half years and I have not forgotten it. It’s not a gushing wound anymore but the affair redefined our marriage. It changed me, him, and us. How could it have not?

The moment I fell in love with my husband my life was hijacked. It was permanently set on a course I had not planned but I embraced it. Most of us would be fools to reject love. We watch movies and cry for lost love and wistfully champion the story that captures our inner longing to be loved. We all want to be loved – and we want to believe in the moment of falling in love.

My love story is my favorite. In the wake of my d-day I began a long road of questioning if my love story was ever real and if I made the right choices. I spent most my life believing that finding love may be a struggle; getting the guy to commit may be difficult; but once you both fall in love and promise for better or worse – the rest is “happily ever after.” I thought that once we promised each other forever it would be smooth sailing.

So here I am. Post affair. I am long past the two year point where therapists claim it becomes easier or that healing is more complete. Yes, I am better. It’s easier and I would consider myself healed. But the thing is, “healed” doesn’t mean the pain is erased or that I even understand how I feel all the time.

I read in Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong that for forgiveness to occur something must die, you must face the pain, and simply hurt. I agree.

Recently someone asked me if I had gotten past the affair – you two are solid now, right? Yes, we are solid but let me clarify. I now understand not only the strength of my love for my husband but my limits too. I know our marriage is different. We have changed and it’s really freaking uncomfortable to change. Most of us resist change, especially in our most treasured and intimate relationships. My husband and I, we are changed. There will always be the knowledge of this affair between us. There will alway be an awkward silence when a friend brings up their opinion on infidelity, or we watch a movie and the main character discovers her husband’s affair. There will always be the squeeze of my hand on his knee to say: I love you in spite of this.

Infidelity is not black and white to those of us that have survived it. On a daily basis it can be more than 50 shades of gray. The point is we are surviving infidelity.

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.

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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?