For the first few days after this revelation, I think I was in shock….I didn’t fall apart, scream or yell…M asked me if I wanted him to sleep in the guest room, and I know I looked at him like he was crazy. Whenever someone or something upsets me, I always try to step back and understand it….this was a big disaster to try and understand. From the first moment of her introduction into my life, when I thought that they had just shared an emotional connection that shut me out, I have questioned his characterization of her. What type of good, sweet devout Christian gets involved with someone else’s husband, or tells him that he is the love of her life, and that they are supposed to be together? Or that she was engaged to be married, but she couldn’t settle into the relationship without looking for him because he was the love of her life, the love that had sustained her through all of the horrors of her past life, including sexual abuse by her father, marriage to the wrong man to get out of the house, a twenty six year loveless marriage that fell apart when her husband decided that he was gay and left her. She stressed her love for her two sons, and the problems with their relationships since they blamed her for the divorce. He found it very heart wrenching, but it just made me mad.
Since the affair started on Facebook, I went to Facebook and Twitter and other internet sites, and I will admit that I actually investigated her as thoroughly as I could – which it very thoroughly since I am now working as a research librarian. What I found, plainly available through her profile, was that she was not a person that I would be interested in knowing, and in normal circumstances she is the type of person that M would have actively avoided. Based on her appearance and her comments on Facebook, she is pretty and obviously places great value in how other people view her. She is an elementary teacher who turned her hand to interior decorating but could not make a go of it and was forced back into the classroom. She is a very conservative Republican, but not involved in politics or very clear on the issues. She is very conservative socially, believing that a woman’s place is really at home taking care of her family – her decade on Facebook is the 50s. She is anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, suspicious of the entire Islamic religion. She spends a lot of time at the gym and focusing on makeup and clothes. She belongs to a Christian singles group and appears in pictures of their activities with her friends. For this group of women, mostly in their 40s and 50s, the hair is mostly blond, the makeup is slightly overdone, and the clothes tend to the too tight, too short, and show too much cleavage. She is the most attractive of her peers, but the pictures give off a certain atmosphere of desperation. Her posts on her wall are all shallow, trite and feel good, unless she is responding to compliments. The one that summed her up for me was posted during Facebook’s celebrity look alike week. A male friend suggested that a perfect choice for her would be either Linda Evans or Bo Derek. She immediately posted back that both were much TOO OLD, which is interesting since Bo Derek is actually a year younger than she is. Her Christian singles group has discussions about relationships that frankly made my head spin, or perhaps skin crawl (yes, I read her friends’ FB pages too). They think that women, no matter what age, shouldn’t date until they are in a committed relationship, only socializing in a group instead. They must not make the first move, not even asking someone to a group activity. They must never seem like they are interested in capturing a man, but they must also not play hard to get. Objectively, I feel very sorry for her; she is in an impossible situation. She is single, in her 50s, watching her friends look older every day, with a peer group that allows her no mechanism to actively pursue what she wants from life – a husband to take care of her and validate her existence. Truthfully though, I cannot be objective. I don’t really care about her trauma – she is not entitled to my life because she doesn’t like her own.
In the last six months, I have worried about myself a little, because I did seem a little obsessed by her, and I couldn’t figure out why. I have always believed strongly that the “other woman” is unimportant in this type of situation. We had no relationship, so she owed me nothing, but I still couldn’t let it go… And then he finally told me the second installment of the truth. After a few days spent processing the most painful news that I have ever been given, both in my head, as well as in discussion with M, several things became apparent to me. He is struggling with a huge load of guilt and shame, partly because of the damage he had done to the relationship between us, but also because of the “evil” way he had treated her – by pushing her buttons to get her to let him come to see her and by “taking advantage of a damaged and vulnerable woman”. In addition to the pain I was feeling on my own accord, this infuriated me. I just do not think that a woman who professes to be a nice, extremely devout Christian woman should have sex with someone else’s husband! According to him, she was the one that sent the message about the kiss, she was the one who, when he invited her for coffee, suggested that he come to her condo. She let him into her bed – he didn’t force his way in. The more I thought about it, the more that his defense of her and his insistence that he was evil just made me mad – it didn’t help, mostly because I did not believe that she was really the injured party. I eventually decided that I wanted to talk to her – to at least find out what she thought had happened – so I sent her a message on Facebook, saying
I know about your affair with my husband. For me to come to some sort of resolution, I need to know your perspective on your involvement with him. I realize that this is difficult, but as a Christian, taking responsibility for our actions is a part of our faith.
I will be honest, although I am a devout Christian, I belong to a very liberal church that believes very strongly in personal responsibility and which does not stress a literal translation of the Bible. This woman, however, belongs to a very fundamentalist, Bible literalistic faith, and if I have learned anything in twenty years of teaching, it is that you must speak to people in a language that they understand. Predictably, I did not receive a reply from her, but she called M’s work phone and left a panicked message in the middle of the night, insisting that he do something, and that she would not talk to me. He felt like she was afraid that I was going to post messages on her FB wall or somehow “out” her inappropriate behavior. He totally fell apart, and actually had to leave work. Again, his guilt and shame for the way he had treated her made the situation that much more difficult for me. He still insisted that he had greatly wronged her, that she was sweet and vulnerable, and that he behaved toward her with “great evil”. After brooding for a day, I went from sort of mad to very mad and decided to put together a damning message couched in biblical terms which would hopefully push one or two of her religious buttons…I know, not very nice.
As I was pulling passages out of Isaiah and Deuteronomy to shame her with, I realized that none of this was about her – I needed to be able to make peace with her so I could concentrate on more important areas – like repairing my marriage. I sent a very different message than the one I had planned, simply saying that I needed to be able to forgive her to find peace for myself – which had the advantage of being absolutely true.
I am not interested in punishing you, yelling at you, or humiliating you in any way. I need to forgive you to be able to heal, but I must understand for what I am forgiving you. I understand your reluctance to put information in writing, although it would be the easiest medium for both of us. My cell phone # is ———— or my home phone is —————–. Any information that you give to me will be between you and me – I intend you no harm, I am just struggling desperately to come to terms with what has happened. I understand that communicating with me in any way is very difficult for you.My husband broke his wedding vows, and your faith should have caused you to wish to honor those vows as well. You both also broke a handful of commandments.
I assume that you have achieved peace by confessing to God and receiving forgiveness, since unrepentant sin creates a barrier between you and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Finding peace will not be as easy for me, since I must actually forgive you as Matthew 6:14,15 commands “for if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Please do not make this situation more difficult for me in an attempt to save yourself embarrassment. We both need to move forward with our lives.
I sent the message to M as well so that he would not be taken off guard if she contacted him again instead of me. He called totally freaked out and then went home early again with a stomach ache. When I got home, he was stomping around slamming things, obviously beside himself. When I called him on it, he was somewhat incoherent, but the fear and shame came off of him in waves. He was not, however, able to articulate exactly why he was so freaked out – other than he was afraid that my message would push her over the edge in some way. I think, because she had expressed such emotional distress and feelings of worthlessness when he told her that he wanted to work things out with me, that he was afraid she would go off the deep end. I think he was also afraid that she would tell me something that would cause me to reject him. He stressed over and over that he had not had contact with her since November and so she was not important in our lives. I tried to understand his trauma, but stressed that I believed that three people had been involved in the situation, and that I had a right to try and understand the whole picture. As we were discussing it, the phone rang and it was her.
I don’t know if it was the combination of Isaiah and Matthew, or the hope that perhaps we had split up, but she did call. M freaked and disappeared into the woods behind our house, and I had one of the strangest phone conversations of my life. She was very friendly and self-possessed, and stressed that she was sorry that I had been hurt, but insisted that my husband was the love of her life, that she had loved him since she was 14, and that she had been searching for him for years. She also insisted that he was her soul mate and that they had so much in common that she felt as if she was the female M. She repeated this theme several times, stressing what a wonderful man he is and that he had stressed that I was a “good woman”. She said that she knew he was never going to leave me, and that she had been praying that we would reconcile. She did indicate that she felt that they would always be a part of one another’s lives because he was her soul mate, but that she really hoped and believed that our marriage would be fine, saying that she thought that he and I had worked everything out months ago and that our marriage was completely healed. I realized, after the third such question, that although the religious truth in my message may have pushed her to call, she mainly wanted to find out if we were not OK – if she still had a chance.She did not apologize for sleeping with my husband, and only got emotional when I responded to her query about our relationship with an assurance that our marriage was stronger than ever, that I had forgiven him and the last piece in our recovery was for me to forgive her. She actually began to fall apart and cry at that point and then hastened to assure me that she had met a new man, he had met her family, and she was about to meet his. I ended the conversation shortly after this since I really did not know what to say.