Finally, after almost a year, I stopped being so devastated and started thinking again. I think the incident about grad school in the therapist’s office and Dr. Phil’s “trust your instincts” mantra helped me re-evaluate what J had been saying and what we had been doing for the last year. He had insisted from the beginning that he stepped outside our marriage because he was desperate for love and attention, that he felt lost because he thought I didn’t want or need him any more. He insisted that he really didn’t believe that it was possible for our marriage to survive, that we fought all the time, that he thought I had lost all interest in sex and didn’t like it, and that he would never have great or exciting sex again. I believed all of it.
I was devastated and didn’t understand how I could have missed the disintegration of a 27 year marriage, but I believed all of it and worked so hard to make it up to him – to show that I loved him and wanted him and needed him – that somehow it was all my fault. I read marriage help books, and books on stress. In looking at articles on infidelity, I stumbled across an article on the male mid-life crisis, which led to something called Irritable Male Syndrome, took a quiz and was stunned. In reading more about the phenomenon, I took it home to J to start a discussion about how he had felt before the affair to see if we could find some common ground.
Once I really stopped reacting emotionally and started thinking, I realized that the picture he had painted of our marriage in the last couple of years – or even in the six month period before the affair – was not even close to accurate. HE was grouchy, HE was distant, HE was obsessed with work and irritated with anything that split his focus. HE was critical or me and uncaring of my feelings. We squeezed in quickie sex fairly regularly, but it got less compelling and more sporadic because HE wasn’t willing to put any effort into it. He was especially grumpy in the morning, and many times during the week he left for work before I was even up. The weekends that we were at home at the same time were not spent together. He would get up early and go in to the office – insisting that he would be home before I got up or in time for brunch at the latest…and then not show up until 2 or 3 or 5….even knowing that our best time to reconnect and have more leisurely or exciting sex was early in the morning when E was still asleep. If we were alone in the evening, I didn’t always feel like sex, especially if the earlier part of the evening was filled with a rant about his work scene or if I was ignored all day. I was definitely struggling with some health issues, but I think I was also struggling with resentment.
It would be easy to turn it around and throw all the blame on him. The problem is partially mine, and I have honestly tried to face it. I gained weight when E was little, and never lost it, but I haven’t gained any in years, and it never seemed to matter before. In that period before the affair, especially after I had surgery, I really felt like he was judging me and finding me wanting. By September of last year, I was actively avoiding sex. I realize now that shock from the breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, combined with exhaustion from illness ( H1N1, pneumonitis, bronchitis) and hormonal changes led to a barrier in my thinking about sex. I was also suffering from six months of resentment – I had tried to be affectionate and he would not reciprocate. I had expressed an interest in sex that was more than just a quickie squeezed into his schedule when he wanted without any real thought or energy put into it. In that last month or so it didn’t even seem like he cared that it was me – he just wanted sex and wasn’t very nice about it. So what happened? Because it had been a month since we had full-scale sex, he decided that he was never going to have interesting sex again, so he spent time, energy, and effort pursuing another woman who he thought fit his ideal and had sex with her, then freaked out and ran home to me….expressed honest emotion for the first time in months and months, and we reconnected with passion and love and all the intimate knowledge that goes with a relationship of almost 30 years.
OK – so the sex aspect looked a little different from my perspective than it did from his… I then started to look at the marriage. We were not fighting all the time – we barely argued. The fact that he was slamming things around and feeling really irritable was an indication that something was bothering him that he was not verbalizing. I was not as receptive or helpful with his work angst as I had been in the past, but he was not there emotionally for me at all. How can a relationship be too damaged to fix when no one has attempted to fix it – or even complained?
After serious reflection, I concluded that I had been the victim of massive deflection. I spent April through September attempting to accept my failings and improve my marriage instead of asking hard questions about my husband’s affair. I finally told him that I KNEW that he had not told me everything that he needed to tell me, that I was not going to dig and work to figure it out, and that there was actually a time limit for telling me the truth, not because I was giving him an ultimatum, but because I was really scared about the way I was feeling – like I was starting to not really care any more.