The Good, the Bad, and …Well, Yeah

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When our “R” (reconciliation) is going well, it’s easy enough to feel at least calm, if not entirely confident. It’s easy to think, “It’s going to be okay.” It’s maybe even easy to think that the marriage is going to survive this nightmare.

But there are always snags, it seems. Little “twigs” that might reach out and cause me to pause for a moment or two, but also giant trees that have been felled by some storm, and that cause me to trip, fall, and reevaluate the path I’ve chosen.

One of the things I know about my husband was that during the A (or leading up to it) with OW1, he commented on a Facebook picture she’d shared of herself, “Just beautiful”. This weekend, he told me that part of what drew him to her was that she was my exact opposite, in every way. Yeah…let that sink in. EVERY way. I mean, except that we both do have girl parts, I guess. Hers were just A LOT more appealing to him. So much so that her “interest” in him meant that he must be something special. That’s also why, whenever I said anything positive to him about his appearance, it meant nothing. Truly…because my appearance to him was apparently so unattractive, that I had no street cred, I guess. I’m not exactly smokin’ hot or even very pretty, but it reminded me how much he values women who are attractive (and resents men who are attractive).

We – or perhaps it is just me – encountered a fallen tree this weekend. And it is causing me to reconsider my decision to reconcile. I don’t know when I will know the answer about this path, but I trust that at some point, I will know. It actually has little to do with appearance, except tangentially. While trying to explain that he does want to be with me, he pointed out that prior to DDay, he would have been checking out the lady who sat at the bar where we had dinner this part Saturday evening. “But now,” he said reassuringly, “I only have eyes for you.”

And…I’m supposed to be happy that my husband has managed to convince himself that I’m good enough for him after all? Or that maybe his internal moral compass didn’t allow him to wander this time? What about when I’m not around?

I don’t know, friends. But I think we have a long, long way to go, and I realize now that there is a chance that we’re not heading toward celebrating our silver or gold anniversary, but rather, that a divorce judge may indeed be the wizard at the end of our yellow brick road.

Through the Lens of Infidelity

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That’s how I view things now. Everything is filtered through the lens of infidelity, which is how our brains are rewired after DDay. Good or bad, or anywhere in between – somehow, it all goes back to what my husband did. I’m told that it gets better over time – A LOT of time – but I also hear that it never quite goes away, and that triggers can spring up ten, fifteen, even twenty or more years down the road. I cannot tell you just how sad that makes me.

The other day, I asked my husband if he’d read this article just before he’d cheated, would it have mattered. “Maybe,” he said at first, then, “Probably.” Now, honestly, I don’t believe him at all, and I wonder if he actually does think it would have made any difference back then. Of course, we’d both like to think it would have helped to redirect his behavior to something more honorable, but at least I know better. Because most of these wayward spouses convinced themselves that we, the betrayed, would never find out…because they were going to be so smart and clever about their deception that we couldn’t possibly notice anything awry. That, coupled with their supreme selfishness (and their other wayward characteristics), is almost always a lethal combination (maritally speaking, anyway), so I bet even if he’d read it back then, he would have dismissed it as not applying to him because I’d never know anyway.

So now, each interaction, each experience, we have – individually or together – I process through post-DDay knowledge. If my husband wants to talk about <fill in the blank>, I wonder if he ever talked about it with OW. Or, when my husband does something, my brain automatically compares the now to the then – well, to both the ‘during-the-affair-then‘ and the ‘before-he-destroyed-everything-then‘.

I think our traumatized brains do that so we avoid the risk of experiencing that trauma again, and because it is crucial to rewrite – well, overwrite – the reality we thought we knew with the truth that we’ve learned since then.

Except that this isn’t just about analyzing my husband’s actions and thoughts back then. Now I see combinations of these behaviors even when the subject isn’t about infidelity at all. I see them in other people – that self-serving tendency to rewrite the story, to blameshift and rationalize, and then to get angry when they are called to account for their actions.

I see it in the family member who moved out of the home she shared with her husband, and promptly became involved with another man. For awhile, her husband begged her to come back, but after more than a year, her husband met someone else and now, suddenly, she is upset because she can’t have her cake and eat it, too. Suddenly, she wants her husband back. Suddenly, she’s angry with her husband because he seems happy with another woman.

I see it in the supervisor of a friend, who unilaterally made changes to her position without discussing these changes or the expectations around them, and then judged her harshly in her annual review for not meeting still-undefined performance benchmarks she did not know she had to meet…and then getting angry with her for asserting her right to know.

I see budding signs of it in the adult child of a friend of mine, who lies to her mother and then, when her lies are discovered, tries to blame someone else for both her actions and her lie, and gets angry when her mom is attuned enough to know what’s really going on.

And no, I don’t mean that I see that all of these people are future cheaters (though in my family member’s case, that’s already come to pass, though she disagrees), but I see the signs. I see that these people are playing with boundaries, both in their interactions with other people, but also with regard to what is, or should be, their own moral compass.

And in a sense, even when it’s not specifically marital infidelity, lying to others is an act of self-betrayal. It’s astonishing to me how there are so many people walking around with such unhealthy behaviors and coping mechanisms. And sad, too. Because they’re not just hurting themselves; they hurt so many others, too.

 

Yesterday was good; today, not so much

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Infidelity:  the “gift” that keeps on giving.

Yesterday my husband made a joke about someone having a side chick. Seriously. How is that funny? I want to know how anyone who has experienced this shit sandwich could ever joke about infidelity. Reminded me of the Valentines Day, just six days before DDay, when he told me that in his friend’s culture, it was common to have a side piece. I remember telling him that I thought that was awful, and he agreed with me (!) but of course he didn’t stop calling OW. How the guilt didn’t eat him up right then, I don’t know. And how he could keep calling? I’ll never understand.

Anyway, he apologized almost as soon as he said it, but not before he’d laughed a few seconds…before realizing what he’d said and with whom he was speaking. What I want to know is, if he’d not been speaking with me, would he have kept laughing? Would it have just been a funny joke? Does he think that having a side chick is still okay some of the time?

Then, last night, the woman I call almost-OW3 messaged him on LinkedIn, even though last year (and the year before) he told her that he was recommitting to his marriage and that he would no longer have opposite-sex friends that his wife didn’t also know. And at that time, she even said that she “fully supports that” …as if her approval was relevant in any way. I mean, who the hell did she think she is to have the nerve to give her approval to our marriage…to think she had any say at all? Rhetorical question – I know exactly who’d previously allowed her to opine about the state of our union.

And yet, once again, this woman messaged him last night to tell him she misses his friendship. Between these two incidents, my head was about to explode. It’s days like this that I keep asking myself, “How is this my life?” Lady, you miss his friendship? I’ll see your missed friendship, and raise you missing a faithful husband, an untainted marriage, and my sanity. Stay the fuck away from us. Just go.

I wish I had some wise or funny ending to wrap up this entry, but I don’t.

I am so tired.

A Pretty Good Day

At more than two years past DDay, the roller coaster rarely comes around anymore, but that doesn’t mean that emotions have mostly leveled out. The sadness hasn’t ever gone away and maybe it never will, but there are times when it feels less…prominent in my day-to-day thoughts.

Last night I asked a question that had been on my mind for several weeks. Sometimes my husband stumbles when it comes to recognizing when a situation calls for empathy and compassion, but last night, he handled it well, and it has made all the difference. It’s nice to feel like the heavy weight of infidelity doesn’t have quite the grip on my world that it once did. I so long to be free of it and still with my husband; sometimes I even think it’s possible.

We Have a New Air Conditioner

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I know – pretty exciting, right? LOL But seriously. Back in November 2014, when I thought my husband and I were trying to put our marriage back together, I asked him what he thought about getting a puppy – a new LGD (livestock guardian dog) because our older semi-LGD was getting, well, older. He seemed to like the idea, which I took as a positive sign that he really did want to keep our family intact.

Gilbert was a troubled pup almost from the get-go. I hadn’t known then that his behavior, even when we met him, was exactly what we should have avoided. I also didn’t know that while my daughters and I drove to Tennessee and back to get our new puppy, my husband was texting two women, and that he’d had a 25-minute chat with OW2 just before we got home; conveniently, I’d called him and told him we were about an hour away, so I guess he figured he’d better squeeze in that call. So while my daughter was texting puppy pictures to her dad, her dad was talking to someone who didn’t give even one damn about his kids or the new puppy – she just wanted him to leave his wife and children.

We continued to have trouble with Gilbert; his behavior became increasingly unpredictable and very unsafe, and earlier this year, we made the decision to let him go. It broke my heart, and I reflected on the fact that at the time, I had thought that my husband’s willingness to get a puppy meant that we were going to be okay. That he wanted us – to work on our marriage. That he was “all in”. My husband has apologized for not being the husband/father/man he should have been then, but that doesn’t make it hurt less. Those who’ve been the betrayed spouse will know exactly what I mean when I say that reflecting now on that trip in 2014, I can recall how excited we all were about Gibby, but then my brain immediately reminds me that my husband was talking to someone who was actively intent on breaking our family apart. It doesn’t compute…until it does, and then it just hurts.

Since last year, my husband has talked about needing to get a new air conditioner. Our home is twenty years old and both the a/c and the furnace were original equipment, so after soliciting bids and doing our research, we had a new a/c and furnace installed last week. My husband leaned in to me and said that he hoped I saw this as a sign that he truly is all in – that he had chosen the better option because the additional financial investment was important to him – his way of saying that he’s putting his money where his mouth is, I guess.

…which, okay, is both weird to me but sometimes makes me laugh, because – well, because infidelity does weird stuff to your brain and if you can laugh instead of crying, that’s what you do.

Also, we have a new puppy. Her name is Caoimhe (Keeva) and my husband even shared her picture on Facebook. And he quietly, gently promised me that the only person he talked to while my girls and I went to pick her up, was me. Well, and our girls and our son. So yeah. It’s all lovely, though I wish my brain didn’t add an asterisk to every new experience, as if I could forget that time when my husband pretended it was perfectly okay to be unfaithful to our us.

Caoimhe ~ 8 weeks old

Do You Have What It Takes To Be a Cheater?

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I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now, because despite what some people may claim, I do not believe that we are all susceptible to cheating, given the “right” circumstances. On this topic, I can say without reservation that when it comes to marital infidelity, “there but for the grace of God, go I” does not apply to me; I couldn’t cheat, and I know it.

However, I do think that cheaters tend to have certain traits in common, none of which has much to do with anyone else but the cheater. That it is to say, no matter what the entertainment industry and even society at large may portray, choosing to cheat is solely an individual problem, not a relationship or significant other problem. I do understand that there may be marital issues that can lead to deep divisions if both partners are not actively committed to each other and to their marriage, but it only takes one partner to choose to disengage…and to expose the relationship and the unsuspecting partner to betrayal.

So, what do most cheaters have in common?

  • Cheaters have poor self-esteem. They have holes in their emotional buckets and though they are probably unaware of it, cheating is all about attempting to make the cheater feel better. Have you ever listened to a cheater talk about what’s so great about the affair partner? They say things like, “She makes me feel wanted” or “He tells me I’m beautiful.” They might as well be saying, “In my mind, somehow I am not ‘enough’ and this person is willing to blow sunshine up my arse so I don’t have to be alone with myself and own my shit.” The AP could be anybody…who is willing to mirror whatever is lacking in the cheater. Because let’s be honest – good people don’t encourage those they love to be their worst self.
  • Cheaters lack empathy. This one’s huge, because the ability to empathize would necessarily lead one to want to avoid hurting others, whether they are loved ones or random strangers. In a stunning (and devastating) example of this, my husband acknowledges that moments before he had sex with OW, he thought to himself that what he was about to do would hurt me…and then, -bam- the thought was gone and he did it anyway, easily and readily. On the flip side of this, when an old high school boyfriend of mine indicated that he would be open to arranging a business trip my way so he and I could “…spend some time together and catch up on things”, my immediate thought was that even if I were single (and I was not), and even if I were interested in “…catching up on things” with him (and I was not), his wife would be crushed if she ever found out. I was offended – NOT flattered – that he thought I might consider stooping that low, and disgusted – NOT flattered – that he had proposed it. This is the same guy whose wife shared on Facebook how much she adored her wonderful hubby, and yet…he seemed to be able to cast her aside rather quickly. Not so wonderful, right?
  • Cheaters lack boundaries. If you have to hide it, you shouldn’t be doing it, and if you need to be reminded of that, you’re already at risk. For a cheater, though, boundaries are …negotiable. Permeable. In infidelity circles, we talk about the slippery slope. Perhaps you start out by watching porn and getting off on seeing another woman or man naked. Or maybe you are frustrated because your job has hit a snag, and you get a coffee with a coworker, and talk to him about your troubles instead of your spouse. Every incremental step away from actions that honor your marriage and your spouse, is another boundary that you’ve allowed yourself to ignore.
  • Cheaters have mastered compartmentalization. This world. That world. The cheater moves in and out of them effortlessly, even though the two worlds would be incompatible if he tried to live in them simultaneously. And by incompatible, I mean that social mores would not permit a married man to also have a girlfriend, or to go to strip clubs, or to have NSA sex with a string of random people. Instead, the cheater puts his wife and family in a mental box in a mental closet, and heads off to see his affair partner (AP). While he’s with the AP, he doesn’t think about his wife and children; if they cross his mind, he quickly pushes them away. Back at home, however, he tries to pretend that he didn’t just do something repugnant and cruel and wrong.

    On DDay, my husband came home, kissed me hello, said dinner smelled wonderful, and wandered off to our bedroom to look at photos of OW and post a couple of comments on her Facebook page; fifteen minutes later, he came back to the kitchen, noticed that I seemed upset, and with great concern, asked me if I was okay. My husband also says that after DDay, and when he started to read Not “Just Friends” (not an affiliate link), he was shocked to realize that he was that guy – that he was a cheater, and that he had betrayed his wife and family. How was this a surprise? I mean, he was there…with the OW…he had sex with someone other than his wife after we’d been married for over 17 years…and yet, somehow, this was news to him.

  • Cheaters are dishonest, and usually have been for a long time. Maybe they learned to lie in their FOO – for example, in order to avoid criticism or punishment. I think it’s true for many cheaters that lying becomes second nature to them, so much so that they often can’t remember the truth. In the early days of our marriage, my husband would lie about seemingly inconsequential things, and I eventually pieced together that this had become a coping mechanism from his early childhood, as a way to deal with his mother’s hypercritical nature. Over and over, I would point out to him that I wouldn’t have been upset with the truth, but it was such a deeply ingrained habit that, over time, I just accepted that he lied about “little” things.
  • Cheaters are immature. Oh, I know – a cheater can be a competent leader of a large corporation, or a skilled surgeon, or a high-ranking political figure, but in the end, they lack the emotional tools to handle certain life challenges in an emotionally sophisticated way. Perhaps they learned unhealthy coping mechanisms from their family of origin (FOO), but then again, many emotionally healthy people do, too. Those who cheat, however, never seemed to reach a point where they could rely on and learn from introspection and self-awareness, and therefore, they remain stuck in certain patterns that they may know to conceal, but not enough to address.

I started this post nearly two weeks ago, and while I am not certain it’s complete, I think it covers a lot of ground and that these behaviors and tendencies, especially in combination, are going to be true for most, if not all, of those who have or will eventually cheat. If I’ve missed something, please let me know and I will include it here.

Empathy? What empathy? I ain’t seen no empathy ’round here. 

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Overheard today: “So my friend is dating a married guy and I told her that it just isn’t going to end well for her. I mean, no judgment or anything, you know? He and his wife have two kids at home. Maybe they have an arrangement or something and she’s seeing someone too?”

No judgment? WTF is wrong with people? I wanted to speak up for the poor woman, since no one else was. Why is it so hard for people to see the inherent cruelty in cheating, or “dating” a married man? He’s fucking married – stay the hell away from him! And then …there’s THAT GUY! Don’t be that guy. Don’t be with him, either. He, of course, should be the first line of defense for his marriage, wife, and family. He should be avoiding potential interlopers – not, you know, fucking them. 

Empathy is apparently a very rare bird, Along with honor, integrity, and respect. 

Makes me sick to my stomach.