We bought a car

For our daughter. I’ve been hyperfocused on this task since last week, and marginally so for several months now. 

This process triggered some twinge-y feelings, such as that my husband helped OW pay for a car. That he still needs to sell his truck since she rode in it. That for a brief portion of our marriage, he prioritized his time, attention, and even his wallet, away from our family. That this is the same daughter he yelled at that he had nothing to be happy about a few months before DDay. It kills him that he made her cry that day. 

He’s excited about giving her this car. It’s really nice. Drives beautifully. Well-cared for, for an 11-year old car. And he will score major points because we will be surprising her with a convertible, which she has always wanted. He’s proud of what he can do for our kids, and so am I. 

But. 

At least for now, there is always the reminder of what almost happened. What did happen. The choices he made and the consequences he risked. It paints every joy with a touch of sorrow. 

I hope that one day it will be different, and that we can just be happy without remembering the hell he dragged us through. 

I often try to remind myself to stay in the present, but oh how I wish that we could change the past. Or if not, that the past could just stay there and not intrude on today’s joy. 

I wonder, how do you balance the good stuff from today while still going through the process of recovering from infidelity? 

Roller Coasters

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I used to love them but after DDay, the term “roller coaster” has a new meaning, and frankly, it sucks. As they say, recovery is not linear; instead, it is up and down, over and over again…though in the earliest days, it’s mostly just DOWN, and the prospect of feeling up ever again seems impossible. In infidelity circles, that feeling of utter despair is often called “in the hole”, but before I found my support forum, I remember telling my husband that I was lost in the abyss …of mourning, of grief, and of unbearable agony. And if I didn’t usually say it, I still often thought “How could you?” as I looked at the man who was my husband, and at the same time, a stranger who merely looked like someone I once knew.

A few days ago, my friend wrote about this very topic. As we get farther out and away from DDay, and as we make more progress in healing, I think these roller coaster days, where we dip down after have relatively good days, are shocking in a different way. When we’ve enjoyed hours or days where our thoughts stayed in the present, where life feels almost normal again – not the old normal, but at least a new normal that isn’t so volatile – and then we’re thrust downward because of an unexpected trigger or just because those thoughts are still like open browser tabs just waiting for us to “click” on the page and bring everything to the fore. Or like this morning, when I read an article written by a delusional OW who seemed to attempt to justify her feelings about another woman’s husband. You know what? Fuck that noise. …but not literally, Mr. Cheating Man. Keep it in your damn pants.

Anyway. Happy Friday, Internet. I’m ready for a good weekend. I bet you are, too.

Some Days are Hard

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Today, I just feel sad and angry and resentful that he did it. I’m glad that I finally have more good days than bad, but I still have not managed to put away the resentment I feel that he was so unbelievably selfish, that he even allowed those bitches to think that they had any value at all, but especially that he did not immediately convey to them that they would never be more important than our kids.

Like I told him after DDay, sure, he can go ahead and throw away our marriage. I will never ask him to stay – if he doesn’t WANT to be here, I sure as hell don’t want him here, either. But you mess with my kids – or if you allow someone else to hurt them – the hell you will unleash will make you realize that there are no fucks worth crossing this mama bear. That he didn’t feel the same way about his children just blows my mind. It simply does not compute. What kind of man cheats his kids out of having a dad they can look up to?

So yeah. Some days aren’t so great. Yes, I see him working his arse off to support us and to be a better man. To make up for what he did. And most days, that is enough to keep me in the present. But the thing is, my two older kids KNOW. They know at least some of the story, because they overheard us talking that first week. And my sweet teen daughter especially is so sensitive; she would see my crying, give me a hug, and whisper, “I love you, mama.”

And some days, I worry that I am showing them that it’s okay to stay after being betrayed, when everything in my body screams, “NO IT IS NOT.” It’s moments like this when I can read something like what I wrote yesterday, and wonder who I was then. I feel like I’ve been split in two.

Some days, it’s just hard.

Am I Betraying Myself If I Stay?

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Before it happened to me, I believed that infidelity within a marriage would – and should – automatically result in divorce. Why would anyone stay with a cheater, right? What’s the saying? Once a cheater, always a cheater? So staying would be …well, it would be foolish. Even God says that adultery is some dastardly juju, and gives the betrayed spouse an automatic out.

When I married my husband, I believed that we had certain values and traits in common, among which were respect, integrity, commitment, faithfulness, and monogamy (at least after marriage). We spoke vows in which we promised to love, honor, and protect each other. I trusted that he was a man of his word, and that he meant what he said as much as I did. I think most of us who find ourselves in this situation started out similarly – you meant your vows, and you had faith that your spouse did, too.

So a few days after DDay, when my husband confessed to having sex with another woman, I was blindsided. Gutted. Whereas I might have understood that he no longer loved me and wanted a divorce, the notion that he would have sex another woman while he was still married to me was never something that I believed he would do. Because there are simply no shades of gray:  adultery is utterly and unequivocally WRONG.

After his confession, he started to read Sharon Glass’s Not “Just Friends” and shortly after, came to me and suggested that we could work through this and remain together – that the author of the book had suggested that it was possible. He may as well have been speaking a different language, because it made no sense to me. Hell, I didn’t know why he was even speaking to me – I didn’t even know who he was anymore.

Except here I still am, more than two years later. We’ve been fortunate to have benefitted greatly from the wisdom and good examples of couples who’ve survived the crucible of healing and reconciliation after infidelity. And yet, one recurring theme from the betrayed spouse is whether or not staying after the abuse of infidelity is a self-betrayal.

Infidelity is torture of the heart, callous, calculated and cruel. It feels like acid eating through the depths of your soul, burning away the innocence of hope.

For our own safety, we learn over time to stay away from situations and people who are toxic or otherwise unsafe to us. We don’t put our hands on a stove burner unless we know it’s cool enough to touch. We stay away from kids on the playground who are mean, or co-workers who steal our ideas and take credit for work done by others. We don’t get in a car with a drunk driver. And we sure as hell don’t stay with someone who has inflicted on us the most traumatic pain most of us will ever experience.

Boundaries are designed to keep ourselves from being hurt again – our brain’s way of protecting us from a known source of pain. Additionally, when we, the betrayed, adhere unwaveringly to values like fidelity and empathy and integrity, the suggestion to stay with someone whose actions indicate that they do not share those values, feels like a compromise where the price of participation is the selling of our very soul.

At two years and two months past DDay, I haven’t fully resolved this dilemma within myself, but I know that while infidelity is never justified and always wrong, the willingness to stay with a spouse who is willing to do the hard work of “owning and fixing their shit” and helping to heal the marriage, may well be a sign of greater emotional maturity and depth than is possible to imagine until and unless you are faced with that situation.

…which isn’t to say that leaving is wrong, because I don’t think there are any good “right” choices after you’ve been cheated on, even with a remorseful spouse. It’s just that I don’t think that this decision is as black and white as the action that precipitated it. Life is complicated, and so are people. My husband cheated, and it felt like it might nearly kill me. My husband doesn’t see it as “getting away with cheating”, though; instead, he tells me every day that he is grateful to be with me, and thankful that I believed in his essential goodness even when he lost sight of that himself.

If you’ve worked through this, and especially if you are in the process or have reconciled after infidelity, why did you stay? How did you handle the question of whether or not staying was betraying yourself?

 

 

The Terrible Thing about Triggers

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The terrible thing about triggers
Is triggers are terrible things.
They remind you of unbearable trauma
And from anywhere, they may spring.

They ambush you when you least expect them
And from them you wish you could run!
But the most terrible thing about triggers
Is reliving the horror again.

   (with apologies to Mr. Milne)

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I used to be among those who never gave much thought to triggers, trauma, or even PTSD. I knew of them, but they were so far outside the scope of my life experiences that they fell within a catch-all box of detached sympathy:  the whole thing sounded awful, and I’m sure I knew it was, but no one I knew personally had ever talked about (the experience of) trauma or recovery.

So I was especially unprepared when it happened to me. On page 9 of her book, Not “Just Friends”, Sharon Glass writes that

The revelation of infidelity is a traumatic event for the betrayed partner. Understanding it as traumatic has important implications for healing. People who have just found out about a partner’s affair may react as if they have been viciously attacked. Where they formerly felt safe, they now feel threatened. In an instant, the betrayed spouse’s assumptions about the world have been shattered.

Shattered, indeed. And so I began to read. I first read Ms. Glass’s book, which gave me a framework to approach the overwhelming tasks of understanding and healing from my husband’s affair. That included the terminology and definitions we both would need to begin to comprehend the devastation that lay all around us. Trauma? TRAUMA? How could you? How could you do this to me? To us? If your partner has ever been unfaithful, you may even have a visceral response to that question:  even now, at more than two years past DDay, that question – How could you? – occasionally bubbles up to the surface of my thoughts and I can feel a twinge of the agony that came from it, over and over again, in the earliest days.

In my mind, there are two types of triggers:  there are the lower case reminders, and then there are the times when some seemingly random event takes you back to the scene of the crime, and you experience the surge of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight response, and the panic and fear and confusion of the moment. I still like fireworks, but I can more readily appreciate how they might induce a war veteran to believe that he or she has been thrust back into a war zone and are again in imminent danger. Except in my case, the enemy wasn’t someone from an opposing army – the enemy was the man who’d vowed before God and everyone to love, honor and protect me always, but who willingly snuck in the enemy through the virtual back door of my life and allowed her (well, them) to put our marriage and family, and my health, at risk.

There are plenty of little reminders everywhere, though they don’t hurt me like they did in the earlier days, especially in the first year to maybe 18 months. I guess that is part of the healing power of time and repeated exposure – you become inured to the pain and gradually, those reminders lose their power.

But big triggers? They’re an entirely different beast. The first time I experienced one, I didn’t realize what was happening initially; I just knew that it felt like DDay all over again. At one point, I was hyperventilating, and without thinking about it at all, I went and hid from everything, burrowing into my closet as if all a curtain of clothing provided enough of a barrier to keep me safe. Eventually, I texted a friend who is walking this journey with me, and she pointed out that this was a trigger, and helped talk me through it until I was calm enough to tell my husband what had happened.

So what was the trigger? Well, for one thing, it had nothing to do with his infidelity. At all. My husband and I, along with our daughter, were in our yard planting a few trees. I wanted the oak tree to be planted in one particular location, and our daughter wanted it about ten feet away; my husband agreed with me, so that was that. But then, when he thought I wasn’t looking, my husband winked conspiratorially at our girl and told her to go ahead and move it about half-way between the two spots. And without warning, I was suddenly transported to the first time I learned that my husband had convinced himself that what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me, and that it was okay to give in and allow someone else to do something directly counter to what he knew I would want.

If you’ve never experienced betrayal, that probably sounds silly. After all, it was just our daughter and planting a tree five feet over probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. But that is the thing about triggers:  the reaction isn’t rational in the moment. According to PsychCentral, a trigger is “something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.” That means that the traumatized brain is processing the triggering event in a way that vastly different from a non-traumatized brain. So my husband agreeing with me upfront, but secretly “stabbing me in the back” by going against my wishes, apparently tripped the trauma meter, and away I went.

It helped me to think about that event and to deconstruct it enough to identify ways I might handle a similar situation next time. It also helped that we talked about it so that he understood how important it was to be true to himself – if he didn’t agree with me about something, then it was crucial that he own that instead of feigning agreement but secretly making a choice I might not like. After all, I’m not unreasonable – if he’d admitted that he wanted the tree in a different spot, I could have been given the opportunity to agree with him or make my case otherwise. But lying is not an option. Not ever. Own your truth, or leave.

Ironically, our dog dug up that tree and we’ve never planted another one. Maybe it’s time we did.

I’m curious about how others handle these big triggers. Is there some other tool I can add to my resource kit for when these things hold us hostage for a few agonizing moments? Please share!

My Story, part 5

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DDay

The end of January and for all of February, I sensed that something was off. He seemed to be more and more “in” the marriage, but there were odd and even troubling occurrences that kept me in a state of uncertainty, and of heightened awareness. I started to look at the public pages of his Facebook friends. That was enlightening, informative, and ultimately, heartbreaking.

On February 20th, I decided to closely watch OW1’s page to see how quickly he commented or “liked” anything she shared that day. I remember that evening when he came home – he was actually very sweet to me. But after checking in with me as I made dinner, he slipped off to our bedroom, and I stood in my kitchen, refreshing her page and “watching” as he commented on and/or liked everything she’d posted that day. I think I stopped breathing then, and the room began to spin.

About ten minutes later, he came back to the kitchen and with tender concern, asked me if I was okay. Everything after that is a bit of a blur. I know I told him that everything wasn’t okay, and that we needed to talk. Back in our bedroom, I asked him what was going on with him and OW1. I said I’d watched her page just now, so I had seen in real time that he’d just liked or commented on her Facebook page. That I’d gone back through her page and seen all of his likes and comments over the last few months and beyond, which were extensive. I accused him of being obsessed with her.

“Not obsessed” he quietly insisted, so I asked how he would characterize it.

He sighed and looked at me sadly, hesitated, and then with his voice just above a whisper, answered: “Infatuated.” As if that were an improvement.

In my mind, I can think of a hundred things I wish I’d said and done. Instead, I think I was too stunned to say much of anything, though I think may have asked how that was much different than an obsession. But you know, I was relieved that she was a lesbian – at least I knew it was one-sided.

You won’t be surprised, I’m sure, to hear that I learned later that I was wrong. In the moment, I felt numb. I am sure that I was in shock. He tried to hug me, but I wouldn’t let him. I think he was surprised. Why? Really, why would he be surprised? What wife wants her husband-who-is-infatuated-with-another-woman to touch her at all?

That night, he slept on the couch.

The next morning, I wrote out all that I knew to a close-knit online group of women I’d come to know through my parenting circles. Many of those women gave me sound, excellent advice, but I didn’t think it applied to my husband. What more could there be? Why would I need to ask to see his texts and emails? Why should I check phone records? Why should I see a doctor to be tested for STDs? Those things might be necessary for men and women whose spouses had actually cheated, but clearly it didn’t apply to me.

Over the next few days, I begged him to tell me if there was anything else. I pleaded with him to “rip off the bandaid” but the truth trickled out like a tiny stream struggling to exist in the drought-stricken landscape of what remained of his honor.

On day 3, I discovered pictures of OW2. A second woman? Hell. She’d sent photos and selfies, one of which showed her in a shirt unbuttoned to show off her little red bra. I also found photos of him and her at same state park as the t-shirt and receipt I’d found last November. He told me that evening that she’d come on to him, and hung his head, admitting that he’d tried to have sex with her but “couldn’t get it up”. That was…the first acknowledgement that he’d removed clothing. That he’d crossed that line. But in the way that we betrayed spouses often do at first, I was in my own form of denial. I was relieved again that he hadn’t actually had sex with her or anyone else. At least there was that.

And then there wasn’t even that. On the fifth morning after DDay, he leaned over my shoulder and told me that he had to tell me something, but that he was afraid to say it even though he knew I deserved to hear the truth. And then the biggest wave came crashing over my world, and I was drowning in a sea of tears and sadness and fury and indescribable pain.

My Story, part 4

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When I asked him if we could save our marriage, he didn’t say no and he didn’t say yes. He said that this is what he’d been hoping for over the last year, and that he was proud of me for getting medication and for finding a well-paying contract job. So in those first few days, we sort of very awkwardly co-existed, but not much more than that.

But within that first week, he started to reach out to me when he got home each evening. Kiss me hello before escaping to the bedroom to shake off the work day. That lasted for a few days, but about a week and a half into the month, I woke up to silence. He didn’t speak to me, didn’t look at me, and when I spoke, it was as if he was looking right through me – like he heard the sounds my voice made, but they weren’t registering.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable except that it was my birthday, and while I didn’t expect much, I suppose I did expect some kind of acknowledgement – even a simple Happy Birthday would have been enough. And yet it was more obvious over the next few hours that he had forgotten, and that I was almost invisible to him.

So I left and went for a long drive. I was gone for much of the afternoon. I thought that perhaps they’d all realized what the day was, and that when I returned, we’d go out to dinner as is our custom. But no, that didn’t happen either.

They’d all forgotten – my husband and all three kids. It felt almost surreal to have him look at me so coldly and ask, as if my absence had been utterly inconsiderate and even irresponsible, what we were having for dinner. I didn’t know what to say or think; I told him that I didn’t know.

A friend rescued me that evening. I’d texted her that my family had all forgotten that it was my birthday; she suggested we meet for dinner, and I agreed. As I was walking out the door, my husband asked again about dinner, and I said, through tears I wished I could have hidden, that it was my birthday and that I was meeting a friend for dinner – and that I was sure he could figure something out for himself and the kids.

When I returned home four hours later, they’d bought a birthday cake and a pine-scented Christmas candle for a birthday gift. He’d also bought flowers. What I wouldn’t discover for another four months is that minutes before I’d returned home, he’d booked a flight to visit OW1 in December, and had told OW2 that he’d forgotten my birthday. Apparently she replies, “Why do you care?” Why, indeed.

The next three and a half months were filled with the weirdness of being married to someone whose loyalty has been transferred to someone outside the marriage. He was in, then out, then in, then out. Sorry, no pun intended, but yeah.

In late November, I found a bag to a national park in which there was one t-shirt but the receipt was for two shirts – one for a man, one for a woman.

In December, he was angry at the world and yelled at our then-13 year old daughter about something. She said, “Aw dad, please don’t be so angry. Be happy!” and he retorted, “I have nothing to be happy about!” and a few hours later, left the house without saying a word to anyone. Our daughter cried; his words had hurt her deeply.

In January, he started “dating” me again. But the distance came back toward the end of the month. At one point, he told me that  he needed to visit his family again and go skiiing with them. He was referring to his cousins on his father’s side of the family whom he’d visited in October, but still – he clearly did not mean to include his own wife or children. Of course, that was only an attempt at a cover story to go see OW1 again anyway. And the only slope involved was the slippery slope from which he’d already lost his grip on integrity and self-respect.

There were many other red flags, but who ever questions that their spouse is being faithful until suddenly the possibility becomes so blatant that we must pay attention to the signs? If you have been betrayed by your spouse, were you able to look back and see signs you’d missed because you had trusted that your spouse? Because even more than love, you believed that he or she shared your values?

My Story, part 3

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Moving back east was a dream come true for me; I had missed the lush green landscape and it was a balm for my soul. But my brain needed the medication I had stopped taking, and my husband was grieving his mother’s loss as well as dealing with incredible work-related stress. Plus, of course, we’d never really resolved our marriage issues anyway.

In late 2012, he learned that a segment of the group for whom he worked would be relocated …but as he was not technically part of their division, he was neither asked nor offered a relocation option. He was stressed about his job and in the spring of 2013, he accepted a transfer to another division to avoid the risk of a layoff. That position was a couple states away, but he viewed it as temporary – maybe a year or so, and he planned to live with his dad during that time.

Six weeks after he started the position, his father died suddenly and unexpectedly. He went into the hospital for a resistant strain of pneumonia, and they discovered that it wasn’t pneumonia after all – that it was lung cancer that had spread everywhere. He died 36 hours after admission.

My husband, who had kept his parents on a pedestal his entire life, was suddenly adrift. Unmoored. Certainly our marriage couldn’t have buoyed him – he resented me and our children because we were all together in our home, while he had to look for a place to live on an extremely limited budget.

He found a room for rent on Craigslist – a woman his age, who he described as both a grandmother and a lesbian. Seemed safe, right? …sigh. She would eventually become the first of two OW/AP/ACC (other woman/affair partner/adultery co-conspirator).

He lived there for only two months, telling me that he had to move out because “she’s crazy”. He stayed in touch with his new “friend”, though, giving her rides occasionally to or from her job as a stripper. Yep – that grandma was a stripper. A month or two after he moved out, perhaps to thank him for all of the taxi money she was saving, she offered to give him a “dancing lesson” which landed them in her bed. I guess it scared him, and he didn’t see or even contact her again for several months.

A couple months after that encounter with her, he asked me for a divorce on New Year’s Eve. He even asked me if I was cheating on him, going so far as to shed a tear or two because imagining me with another man just broke his heart. Apparently, it is common for a wayward spouse to accuse the faithful spouse of cheating. I was very deeply depressed by then, and asked him if we could talk about it later. By then, he was infatuated with his current housemate, who thankfully had healthy boundaries.

After the New Year, he heard again from his old roommate, who had moved halfway across the country, and who invited him up to visit her and her fiancée, a woman she’d known for a few weeks. In fact, my husband attended their courthouse wedding as a witness and friend of (one of) the bride’s.

Right around this time, a former co-worker started calling him. A lot. She was much younger, single, and a serial OW/AP for older married men; her prior MM (married man) refused to leave his wife for her (after a three year affair) so she moved on to a fresh target. Within weeks of their renewed contact, she was calling my husband frequently and inviting him to visit her.

It was also around this time that I accepted that I truly needed medical intervention. I was diagnosed with major depression and once again started taking antidepressants. It was a low dose (I’m not sure why) and it would take nearly five months for me to begin to feel healthy again.

My husband returned home and to his original job sixteen months after he’d left. He says he felt like a stranger in his own home, and that is probably an accurate assessment: our son was also dealing with major depression and our older daughter was hitting her stride as a teen; only our youngest child seemed happy to see him.

Sometime in October, however, I experienced a huge mental shift:  I’ve described as if a fog had lifted, and suddenly, I saw my life, our family, and my husband for the first time in a very long time with a renewed clarity, and on Halloween, I asked my husband if we could save our marriage.

My Story, part 2

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Our first child was born seventeen months after we got married, though perhaps we should have waited until we had our bearings as a couple. When our son was nine months old, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home parent. This was unwise – my plan was to live off my 401K as my husband was still in grad school – but it happened and there’s nothing I can do to change it. Along the way, I completed my graduate school degree, racking up $50,000 in student loans to add to my husband’s eventual $30,000. I cringe when I think about my contribution to our financial issues, especially since it has been a huge part of the wedge that continued to grow between us.

Mind you, we had good times, but they were outweighed by the slog of day-to-day life with young children. Two years after our son was born, our first daughter joined us; three years after that, our caboose was born. They were good babies and sweet kids, but we were struggling with the challenge of not knowing how to be healthy spouses.  We disagreed on many parenting issues, which surprised me because I was sure we’d discussed them. As it turned out, again, my husband’s propensity for avoiding conflict meant that he’d simply agreed with me when we’d talked about all of this pre-children, but in reality, he seemed most inclined to model his own parents’ “do as I say, or else…” approach, which wasn’t at all similar to my own. So, whenever we disagreed, which was often, he complained to his parents, who of course assured him that I was wrong. It was the three of them vs. me, except I didn’t know it, officially. I suspected, but did not get confirmation of this until after DDay. I would tell him that it felt like we weren’t a team, and like I was an interloper in his (IMHO, unhealthy) relationship with his parents, and he would usually say nothing unless it was to tell me he didn’t know what I was talking about.

It was after our third child was born that I first saw a therapist. I didn’t go for long, though – we couldn’t really afford it – but I was so unhappy. I suspect that I was already experiencing depression, but it would remain untreated for several more years. When my husband was offered a position with a significant leap in salary, in 2007, we jumped at the chance to move our family from the east coast to the west; for myself, I was glad that we’d be on the opposite coast from his family and I hoped that the additional distance would help our marriage somehow. He believes that that move was mistake, but I think we’d have continued to unravel no matter where we were.

A couple years later, I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with severe ADD and mild to moderate depression. He prescribed medication for both, with a warning that I might feel better but that it wouldn’t fix my marriage. The approximately six months I took the antidepressants were actually fairly good months for us, though; my husband still had considerable anger issues, but they seemed to lessen in response to my own improved attitude…or maybe I could just handle him better.

Ultimately, our challenges were that he was incredibly unhappy in his job, but then, he’d never really been happy at any job since I’d known him, either. There were always people who didn’t like him, who were out to get him, who were stealing his projects, or who were the beautiful, “golden” men and women who were favorites of someone higher up, and he was almost always the victim. We also still disagreed strongly over how to parent our three kids; he would sometimes spank our son (which we had agreed not to do to our children) and then taunt him, “Are you going to tell your mommy?” And finally, I still didn’t work, and we had mounting credit card debt, largely from my own poor financial mismanagement.

I stopped taking my antidepressants about six to eight months after I started them because I was embarrassed. I also believed that my primary issue was the ADD, but I was very wrong. At around the same time, my husband’s anger became a huge concern. He’d call on his way home from work most days, and my kids would ask if daddy was in a good mood or a bad mood. He told our son that he wished his car would wreck or that the plane he was on would crash so that he wouldn’t have to come home. We rarely had sex; to me, it felt like he only wanted the sex and didn’t care that it was with me – it was all about his pleasure. He watched porn often, even though I was not comfortable with it. I would tell him again that I didn’t feel like we were a team, that I didn’t feel like he even “saw” me, but he’d shrug as if those words meant nothing to him.

In our own ways, I do think we tried to ask for help from each other, but to say that we didn’t communicate very effectively is putting it mildly. Nor were we receptive to what the other one was going through – we were each flooded by our own issues which drowned out any chance that we might connect with each other.

About nine months before we moved back east, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer; she died seven months after her diagnosis, and in that year, 2012, the unraveling of our world began to accelerate. We were about to reach free fall.

My Story, part 1

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We met in the spring of 1996, and our first date was at the California Pizza Kitchen in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. It was a blind date, and he told me years later that when he first saw me, he thought to himself that I couldn’t possibly be who he was supposed to meet because I was too pretty. And …sigh, my boobs were so big that he couldn’t be that lucky. I know…groan, right?

We were married in late 1997, in a small, intimate ceremony lovingly shared with our families and a few dear friends. At the time, my husband was a graduate student, so money was limited and our honeymoon, such as it was, was a long weekend in a quaint little town in central Virginia. It didn’t matter to us because we were just happy to be together, and quaint towns are nice anyway.

The first sign, post-marriage, that there might be a problem, was about five months later. My husband told me that he’d been talking to his dad about us, and that he’d complained a little about my weight. I was maybe 40 pounds heavier than my ideal weight, but I hadn’t gained any since we’d met, so this wasn’t a sudden change. Anyway, he told me that his dad asked him why he’d married me, and he said that he answered, “I don’t know.”

His answer has stayed with me, and in my mind, was the first obvious chink in the armor of our story. I was so hurt by it, though. We’ve talked about it since then and he says he told his dad that he loved me, but…if that’s true, he didn’t tell me about it then. It’s only come out since our post-DDay conversations, and I have my doubts that his memory is very clear about that conversation.

There were other signs, but they all seemed simply confusing to me then. My own parents had divorced when I was only five years old, and I never had any close role models from which to learn the reality of marriages and even just relationships. But my husband’s parents were still married, and that was important to me because I hoped that we would beat the odds and avoid divorce – that they would be role models for us both. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

For example, about six months into our marriage, he told me that we would need to visit New York because he was considering graduate school up there. Grad school? He was already in grad school! He’d never brought up his intent to pursue a doctorate; truly, I had no idea, and yet he had applied to several and was in the process of choosing between three of them. But his parents knew. He talked to them about everything, but not to me.

I remember one day, he was visiting his parents while I remained at our home. I called to ask him when he’d be on his way so I could plan dinner. Apparently, he told his mom that he had to leave or else I’d be angry. I didn’t understand why he’d say that, but about twenty minutes later, his mother called me and chewed me out. Told me that I was trying to control him and that he was pu&&y whipped, and called me some pretty awful names. In hindsight, that was at least a yellow flag – my husband was conflict-avoidant, and rather than tell his mother that he wanted to go home to be with his wife, he lied to her and “blamed” me. If I’d known then what I know now…

If you are a betrayed spouse, can you now identify early signs of unhealthy or troubling behaviors that your unfaithful spouse showed long before he or she cheated?