I thought that the next post I wrote would be about birthdays, d-day anniversaries, survival and reconnection. That post is for another day.
I have a blogging friend, Not Over It, who has spent a year trying to put her marriage back together after finding out about her husband’s six year affair. He has decided she is torturing him by being hurt and their marriage counselor appears to think that she should be over it by now – that her devastation is her way of punishing her husband. That whole idea makes me furious enough that I would like to punch both her husband and her therapist (and I’ve never actually punched anyone!)
Then yesterday morning at work, I got a phone call from my husband, who said in a very serious voice, “Thank you for not hurting me!” My baffled response was “What?” When he opened his iPad, a news item popped up about a woman’s response to the discovery that her husband had been unfaithful –“Inappropriate Relationship May Have Been Motive for the Attack”. Apparently, a woman in California drugged her husband, tied him to the bed, cut off his penis, fed it to the garbage disposal, and then called 911. When the police arrived, she unrepentantly insisted “He deserved it.”
Or how about the Houston woman who followed her husband to a hotel, confronted his mistress, and then ran over him three times in the parking lot, and left the car parked on top of him, informing police that it was an “accident”.
Or the woman who emailed a detailed and lurid description of her husband’s affair – with evidence – to all of his coworkers including his bosses – and the affair violated a morals clause in his contract.
Or the man who found out his wife was cheating on Thanksgiving Day and called to tell the OM’s wife. Not getting her, he left a detailed message…which played out loud in the middle of the taking of the Thanksgiving portrait that included 3 generations of family. I believe that this one was actually an accident – who still has an answering machine that plays out loud as the message is recorded??
I don’t actually know if the sign is real or photo shopped, but you can tell that Stephen’s life has taken a turn he is NOT going to enjoy!!
OK – these are examples of punishment. Overwhelmed with grief or sadness after an affair is not a punishment for someone else – it is an emotional disaster for the one feeling it.
Punishment is knowing that your husband, lover, and best friend has turned to someone else – that they forgot who you were, that they believed they loved someone else, that they warped their view of the past you shared in order to justify their actions. Punishment is suffering endlessly through no fault of your own – but searching endlessly to figure out how you caused it. Punishment is attempting to maintain a façade of normalcy at work, in social gatherings, with family – to keep up with responsibilities when all you want to do is curl up in a ball under the covers (or in some cases under my desk). Punishment is attempting to swallow your own pain and confusion to help someone you love deal with their own conflicted emotions.
I really don’t believe that a marriage can be fully restored to health and happiness after infidelity if the wound it causes isn’t drained and fully healed for both spouses. It just festers and causes problems in other areas – emotional distance, immersion in activities that exclude one another, swallowed bitterness that pops out at inopportune moments. A close friend and her husband have had sex twice in the last nine years – no physical reason, just a lack of interest in sex on his part. She is an attractive red head with big blue eyes and a nice figure, a bouncy, loving personality, and she has tried everything – lingerie, counseling, emotional involvement with someone else, which he put a stop to because he loves her and knows that she loves him more than anyone else. He is not, however, interested in sex and is not willing to discuss the issue. So, she spent most of her forties, moving into her fifties with a husband but NO sex life. I’m sorry, but women in my family generally live into their eighties or nineties, and I intend to have a passionate love life for the entirety of my life!
My best friend takes every vacation with her sister and leaves her husband at home. Sometimes their kids go and sometimes they stay at home with their dads, but the dads are not invited. If I am exploring New England or New York, or spending a week at the beach, or going to Harry Potter World or Disney World, I want my lover and best friend with me. I couldn’t spend the money for a cruise, or a long weekend at a B & B in the Texas Hill Country, or a week at a spa because that takes money from family activities. I want to share the enjoyable moments of my life with the most important person in my life.
On the other hand, I do actually have a life and friends and engage in activities that don’t interest, and therefore don’t involve my husband. Another close friend’s husband had an affair 20 years ago while she was taking care of her dying mother, homeschooling, and doing the bookkeeping for his business. The entire small town knew about it before she did, and it was blatant enough that women began calling to tell her what was going on. She was a very young, very Catholic stay at home mom with three little girls, and she insisted that it end, and then swallowed it, never discussed it again, held her head high, and constructed a very calm, deeply loving façade that she has maintained this entire time. He has always acted very loving and very attentive, but as they have aged and perhaps more importantly as their children have aged and gradually left home, his attentiveness has turned to hovering and a complete unwillingness to let her out of his sight. In the last six months, her youngest daughter got married and moved out of state, and her middle daughter and grandson moved out and to the other side of the country. He is ten years older than she is, looks ten years older than that, and she doesn’t look nearly her age. If she actually does go anywhere – including a girls only birthday lunch or a wedding shower – he calls three or four times to make sure she is there and that she doesn’t need him to come and get her. She is starting to feel smothered and resentful, and I think he is desperately afraid she will find someone else if he lets her out of his sight! Unresolved issues??
I just do not see how ignoring a deep wound helps heal it. Any thoughts??