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??