As I attempt to work my way back to a more joy centered world – one that makes sense to me again and that I can trust – I have been lucky enough to find bloggers who have openly and movingly shared their experiences, pain, and growth. Their stories have helped me evaluate, given me goals to work towards, served as cautionary tales, and provided fodder for some very relevant conversations with my husband. The most priceless gift I have received from their accounts, however, is comfort – knowing that I am not alone in the way I feel, that I have not gone completely insane, that I can find my way through this and come out whole.
Earlier this week, a blogger who I follow posted The Surreal Nature of Life. I too still struggle to come to terms with the reality of the turn my life took in October 2009. Just when I think I have it figured out, written into my history, internalized, the actuality hits me. I absolutely refuse to believe in its truth for a moment or two, and then the pain and disorientation is as great as the first time it happened. About a year ago, I spent a lovely day back-to-school shopping with my daughter, and I felt like life was finally returning to normal. J and I seemed to be on the road to recovery, I had really enjoyed spending time with my daughter, and I was feeling pretty great. One of our last stops was the local mall, and while I was waiting for her on a bench outside of Bath and Body Works, I suddenly started sobbing. Why? The answer seems obvious, right? Yes, I was crying like an idiot in the middle of the mall because my husband had an affair. But it was more than that.
Until that very minute, I had dealt with the situation intellectually – asking questions, arranging counseling, reading, asking more questions, being upset, working to fix us, helping comfort him. Sitting in the mall that day, I had a moment of blinding clarity, and I fell apart. Even though I had gone through the motions of acceptance and understanding and forgiveness, my heart had not believed until that moment that he had sex with another woman or that he had real feelings for her. I’ve never figured out what triggered the change, but the weight of that knowledge settling into my heart was almost more than I could bear.
Now, after a year of what has felt like monthly revelations, our relationship finally seems to have turned around. He finally seems to remember who I am – and who I have always been. I am finally feeling a connection again between the man I have loved for so long and the man to whom I am currently married. We are loving, communicative, and more connected than we have been in a long time. We have made a conscious effort to set aside time for conversation and laughter every day. We are working on household projects and parenting together. He is more open, more responsive to my feelings and my needs. I truly believe that we have finally reached a place where I can say we are healing.
And I am still struggling with that same sense of unreality. I still have those moments of horrified disbelief, moments when I refuse to believe that infidelity has actually been at the core of my life for almost two years. I loved the life, relationship, and future that I had before the affair, and I love the life, relationship, and future that I have now….so what do I do with the mess in the middle? What do I do about the Pod Man who pretended to be my husband during 2009 and 2010 – that man who believed he loved someone else, who rewrote the history of our marriage and left out the lovely parts, the man who broke our wedding vows, the man who lied and lied and lied, the man who didn’t seem to know or value me at all?
I have spent a lot of time in the last year and a half evaluating and re-evaluating every aspect of my marriage – every decision, every feeling, every belief. In fact, the suckiest part of this entire experience is that nothing feels stable or real. Even today, with all the work we have done, blessed with the happiness I feel in our current relationship, I am still afraid – afraid to relax, afraid to trust, afraid to let go, afraid to believe that we will be OK. I think the fear comes from not knowing how to process the affair reality and my feelings about it.