No Secrets Please, Part 2

This post is actually one I started as a comment to Not Over It’s Keeping It from My family. I wrote enough that I decided to make it a post, and then decided that maybe background was needed – hence No Secrets Please. One huge part of dealing with this infidelity problem is that I feel like I have had to disregard all of my beliefs and the protective mechanisms I have developed over the years.

The last two years have been filled with secrets and lies, and very little truth. My husband, really the only person I have trusted to recognize and admit his own feelings and tell me the truth since I was about 10, the person I have trusted to think about me and care for my feelings since I  met him in 1980, suddenly didn’t do any of that. Instead, he lied about his feelings about his life and how he felt about me, he kept secret the fact that he was in a relationship with another woman, and then lied for six months about the nature of the relationship, and then kept secret for another six months the facts of the affair. During this same time, I realized that he was not only lying to me and keeping secrets from me, but he was lying to himself and had actually been lying to her – only he  is still confused about which part of what he told her was a lie and what was the truth, and so what part of the affair he had told me about and what part he had kept secret, if what he told me was the truth or a lie, and what part of what he told himself were lies and what was truth….no one really seems to know and knowing real truth is REALLY important to me!! So, for two years the most important characteristic for me in any relationship – TRUTH – has been missing from my most important relationship. Also, knowing that the OW knows secrets about my husband that I don’t, that secrets exist between us is almost more than I can bear.

And even worse is the impact that this disaster has had on my own moral center. I have not kept quiet from shame or embarrassment, although I do feel a certain level of humiliation because I know people will assume that my age and weight are the reasons he cheated. I have kept quiet, for the most part, to protect him. He has been petrified that the people he knows and cares about will find out. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to tell anyone on my own, but D-Day 1 came hours before we were supposed to go to dinner and the ballet with my best friend and her husband, who is one of my husband’s closest friends. When J called to cancel, he told his friend just enough that my friend arrived the next day and got the whole story out of me in just a few minutes. Having someone to talk to immediately really helped. Telling the story once made it easier to share it again, especially after d-day 2, when my boss found me sitting at my desk crying like a loon. She has been incredibly supportive since she has been through the same thing, as has another member of my department who overheard enough accidentally to share part of her story. Both of them are still with their husbands, which has given me hope and shown some of the pitfalls to try and avoid. The  books that advise you to not tell anyone because they will complicate any attempt at reconciliation have not been true in my case – even my closest friends have been rooting for us to stay together because we just seem to belong together. Unfortunately, attempting to keep secrets from people you care about changes your behavior and ends up hurting and/or worrying them.  My neighbor and close friend arrived in my office one afternoon to find out what she had done to offend me – we live next door, and had developed a habit of coffee and chatting on the weekend, and I had just disappeared, not even showing up when given a formal invitation. I closed the door, gave her the bare bones version of the story, and she burst into tears, asked for a kleenex, and then ran away. We still have lunch occasionally, and share family get-togethers, but something in the story struck a nerve that made it impossible to be supportive, and so we just ignore it

I followed the advice given in most of the literature, and didn’t tell my family, but not for the reasons give in the literature. Forgiveness is not an issue with my parents – they love my husband and have for thirty years, and as long as I want to stay with him they will be accepting – and frankly, people who live in glass houses can’t throw stones (see previous post). I didn’t tell them because they are in their early 70s, and I just didn’t want them to have to deal with the trauma, including their own painful memories and worry about me. The problem with that is that I have always been very close to them, totally open with them about what was going on in my life, including frequent phone calls and frequent visits, Since this happened, I have not been able to stay in touch because I was so afraid I would just blurt out something. So I was calling once every few weeks instead of once or twice a week, and have been to see them twice in the last two years instead of every two or three months – Christmas 2009 when I had no idea how deep the problem really was, and in November last year when my mom had a serious health problem. I have told them a little of the truth – depression, counseling, issues with my daughter’s health, and marital issues, because they had started to ask questions, and I realized that they knew something was wrong and were both hurt because of the wall they felt between us and worried about the cause…and since I have had breast cancer once and my mom has had it twice, a partial truth was better than what they were worried about…

So – of the 7 values I have tried to live by for the last 30 years, I am fudging on all of them. no outright lies, but omissions, accepting lies as truth because I wasn’t seeing the person I love the most as he really was. Currently unable to sort out truth from lies, not able to set clear limits and stick to them…I have a lot of work to do, and I don’t think that the values are wrong, I just think I need to re-evaluate and re-implement them. Any suggestions??

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10 comments on “No Secrets Please, Part 2

  1. Not Over It says:

    Hey,

    As so often happens, I am exactly where you are in this area. My online therapist has told me that I have been unable to accept what has happened because it so deeply conflicts with my personal beliefs and the way I have always lived my life. Whether I come to acceptance or decide that I cannot stay married to him with this knowledge is something I need to decide. My therapist says I don’t need to decide now. He says I will know when the time comes. At first, I thought that was lame. Now not so much. It is definitely a process. It’s nice to have you as an online friend who is going through it with me.

    Hope you are enjoying some holiday cheer!

    DJ

  2. I just read your last two posts.
    So much is whirling around my head about them…but I need to formulate thoughts before i comment more. I think any comment to you will end up as a post of my own.
    I find it a bit “cosmic” that each of us has now turned a comment on NOI’s blog into a post of our own.

    But…I would say to you now that I don’t think you are necessarily fudging on your values. You are coping with tremendous changes and applying those values as best you can. I would put this under th category of “doing the best one can with the circumstances they are given.”

    You are handling all of this with dignity and grace.
    Peace to you.

    • Not Over It says:

      Cosmic is a good word for it. I also like posting in such a way that it creates conversation.

      I look forward to hearing what you have to say on this one, LFBA. I am in the same boat.

      DJ

    • Devon says:

      I have 10 days off for the holidays and plan to try and really sort through my thoughts and input from you would be valuable. I hope the holiday goes smoothly for you.

      • Well, I’ve been able to formulate some thoughts. I’ll post them over time in a few different comments. I wish there was a way to color code to make this a little easier to read here as I am going to include your words and follow them with thoughts.

        You wrote “By the end of my first year of college, I had made some concrete decisions about how I intended to live my life, and have managed to live by them for most of the last 30 years.”

        LFBA: Although these mantras have served you well, they were made after your first year of college. So rather than focusing on the “goal of the rule” , lets try to look at the values that drive these rules and see how you are faring. IMHO you are not fudging on your rules, but you may be adapting to them as you move through life…and the rules themselves may be adapted in practice. The values behind them though, I think are still serving you.

        1. You wrote “Most importantly, see the people in my life for who they really are – love them, value the good in them, recognize the unacceptable and set clear limits, including eliminating destructive relationships.”

        LFBA: So, you have been through infidelity, health issues and you have described family turmoil. Your husband betrayed you. You are working through the hurt and shock of that. Yet….you are willing to work with your husband to mend and grow. You are looking at how his past has shaped him and are trying to understand from his perspective. You still love him despite what has happened.
        What’s the value system here? What I see is that you value face value honesty. You can accept much, if honesty is the driver of it. You will strive for forgiveness if it is honestly asked. You seek the truth of the motive/action… and are willing to accept it and grow using that truth as a focus.
        I fail to see where you are fudging on this???

        2. You wrote “I was determined to live a STABLE life – no comings and goings, no drugs, no random sexual behavior.”

        LFBA. Gosh ..is not this what most of us wish for?? You continue to be determined to do this. But you also must realize that we can not control the lives of those around us which affect our own stability. Yet the perseverance which drives this value of stability….is something you do every day. Again, I fail to see how you are fudging on this. Your goal was the determination….you have fulfilled your part. You continue to try to help others fulfill their part too.

        (I’ll try to keep the comment length manageable…so more tomorrow)

      • Continuing the comment….

        3. No ignoring or fudging or excusing inappropriate behavior – refuse to accept it, accept an apology and move on if one is offered, or walk away if the behavior doesn’t change.

        4. Work hard to recognize and tell the absolute truth as nicely as possible ALWAYS. I have broken that rule only a few times since I turned 18, and always when the truth would have hurt an innocent person much more that the guilty person the lie actually protected.

        5. I have approached my own life with the attitude that if I don’t want to admit to it and I don’t want it discovered, I shouldn’t do it – and I take the same attitude towards those I am close to – no secrets, no lies. I don’t mean that I feel the need to shout all of my business from the rooftops, but no lies.

        6. If I make a mistake or hurt someone or damage a relationship, I make every effort to take responsibility, admit it, and apologize for my mistakes. I expect the important people in my life to behave the same way. No ignoring, no fading away, no pretending

        LFBA: I see these as having the same value system as # 2….and where it seems to be so much trouble for you. You placed your trust and that was betrayed. You are trying to understand why while realizing that your husband had his own demons. You have told yourself that certain behaviors are unacceptable (infidelity maybe??) and yet find yourself struggling with the acceptance that it happened. Your values system says it was wrong….but your values system also says you want to be able to resolve mistakes if there is an honest attempt. Believe me Robin…..I know this conflict.

        7. I don’t expect other people to clean up my emotional messes – no matter how hard it is, I try to meet conflict head on and fix it. No ignoring, no fading away, no pretending.

        LFBA: … and yet…..you have been hurt. You came through illness. You had an expectation that your husband was there for you through everything and his own demons took hold of him. Notwithstanding his intentions to do right by you, he had a failure in his own life. Does his guilt get in the way? Does yours? This is one I think you should fudge on. You can not fix this. You BOTH need to fix this. No ignoring. No fading. No pretending. But it takes two.

        You are not fudging on your values…but I think that there are conflicts which are hard to resolve. This is not you after one year of college…this is you after lots of life. It is a struggle. Sometimes our own “dogma’s” make us inflexible (I know some of mine do). They serve at times and hinder at others. You are a high value, high ethics person. You are not compromising those ethics….but the imagined life is confonting reality. You have had to adapt the scope, and you are doing it. There is no reason to feel guilty about that. You are doing the best you can do, given the circumstances. You can only play the cards you have been dealt….but you can’t always control the deal ( unless you are my Sicilian relatives in Vegas 😉 )

        I apologize if the comments are too blunt. You of course can delete the whole thing. I just see similarities between you and I, and these are some of my own self-examination issues.

        My sense is that you are strong enough to work through all of this. I know you love your husband and by your posts he loves you.
        We all have imperfections….all of us. We all have a past which has shaped us. The best we can do is to move forward, recognize the past, recognize our mistakes, recognize our humanity and approach the future with compassion and the intent to learn.

        Peace to you and Happy Holidays
        LFBA

      • Sorry…the last comment should have said that many of your rules have the same values system of #1…honesty. But there is so much intermingling.
        My take is that you put a high emphasis on trust, integrity, honesty, doing right and correcting mistakes. These are all “ethics” values. You hold yourself to a high standard…and deisre/want/expect others to act similarly. When those others are really important in your life,,you expect more and are hurt more when they do not match up.
        If they make a mistake, your expecttion (as you would do) is to go to great lengths to fix it. It’s hard on you when they may have the deisre, but not the tools to do this.
        OK…here is the LC in me talking. Most of these values are your expression of how to be/act in the outside world. So the question is, what’s important about living life this way, to you?

  3. Devon says:

    LFBA,

    I turned my response to your very insightful comments into a very long conversation with my therapist, and then into my New Year’s post. Thank you so much – I finally feel like I may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – and the route is one that I can take while still being true to myself without asking more than my husband can give. I wish you much peace in 2012!

  4. Sally says:

    The same things that happened to you happened to me. I have been through cancer and devastated by my husband of 34 years affair last summer. I had an emotional breakdown. He has changed but still lies about her and what happened. He doesn’t talk about it anymore I am stll in pain.

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