Sometimes life and the blogging world converge in weird ways. I started a comment to Not Over It, which turned instead into two posts of my own, dealing with values and ethics, that really started me on the road to re-evaluation of my situation, and then Looking for Buddha Again posted several really thought provoking comments on my No Secrets Please Part 2. Not Over It’s post about not telling family, my self examination, and LFBA’s comments have all coalesced, and I think I’m finding a way to actually dig myself out of the recurring funk I have been in.
The emotional turmoil I have lived in for the last two years has not been healthy – and I am starting to show the effects of stress. This semester – September through December – I have had two viruses, strep throat, and a serious cold – it feels like my immune system has moved to another zip code. And then came the recent breast cancer recurrence scare, which only confirmed my determination to NOT LIVE THIS WAY ANYMORE. After the processing I did writing the two “Secrets” blog entries, and then the time I have spent thinking about LFBA’s advice and the questions he asked, I have reached the following conclusions, which I shared with my therapist, who has been seeing J individually and also seeing us together. She was surprised, even shocked, but confirmed that I am moving in the right direction:
- J was suffering from an illness and really needed professional help before the affair – it and the aftermath were symptoms rather than the actual problem. His clear understanding of the threads of his life had been disintegrating for months before the affair, and whether the stress caused an old fashioned “nervous breakdown” or a manic episode indicating an underlying condition, he was actually not in control of himself during the initial affair episode. My husband is not a serial philanderer or at risk for another affair. While the infidelity devastated me, I really did understand quickly and clearly the amount of pain and confusion that he was in before, during, and after the affair, and I was able to forgive it.
- I have not, however, been able to understand or forgive the lying – the lying to me, the lying to himself, the lying to the OW, and his unwillingness or even inability to sort out what was truth, what were lies, and how he really felt. I have been completely unable to understand how anyone could accept that much emotional confusion in his own head, and why he would not just sit down examine his feelings and explain the truth to me so that we could move on. I have, however, come to realize that his actions actually caused much more damage and pain to him that they did to me. He actually destroyed his sense of self – of who he really is and how he sees himself. His behaviors after the initial weekend of sex have all been attempts to somehow hang on to his sense of himself as a decent guy with a strong moral center. This has led to some very peculiar behavior and serious cognitive dissonance on his part. All clarifications of events, truth, the timeline, and the emotions surrounding the affair have been as a result of incessant pushing on my part, and I have resented his unwillingness to help me. I now realize that, rather than simply being too selfish to tell the truth and help me, he was and actually still is in too much pain in this area to be able to help himself, let alone me.
- As LBFA has noted, honesty is the center of my ethical structure. The affair from the 1st public Facebook message until final breakup call was only 6 weeks, but the deliberate lying went on for more than 1 ½ years, and little unexpected truth bombs are still bursting out unexpectedly. As a result, I have been unable to settle, unable to be at peace permanently, unable to stay out of a funk for more than a couple of weeks at a time, unable to trust my husband’s word consistently. I think that the constant discovery of new lies, and my confusion and disbelief at each new confession, even though I knew something wasn’t right, is why I have felt like I haven’t been living by my own moral code – I am usually very intuitive, even with people I don’t know well, so the idea that I consistently have been surprised and devastated by the person I have loved and trusted for 30 years indicates that I was refusing to recognize the truth that was staring me in the face – I was accepting dishonesty and refusing to recognize it because I just couldn’t believe it. I really have to look at that, and figure out why it happened.
- Once I realized the depth of my husband’s pain and confusion, as the person closest to him, I was the appropriate person to comfort and help him. Much of our healing has been the result of pushing on my part and the fact that he loved me enough to allow me to push him – pushing for truth, pushing into therapy, pushing into marriage counseling, pushing into health testing. I am exhausted, plus I have realized that I have come very close to crossing the line between caring partner and panicked parent – leading to that need for control that LFBA mentioned, which has never been a part of our relationship. He is more emotionally and physically healthy than he has been in a long time – happier at home, happier at work, taking better care of his health. So – the healthy thing for me now is to recognize the he is an adult with an established medical and emotion health support network – and that he is responsible for his own health and behavior.
- In thinking about the difficulty I have been having in dealing with my own family during this time, I realized that for twenty eight years, my husband and our relationship have always served as a wall between me and my family’s lifestyle – not physically, but emotionally. My husband’s affair and the lying and confusion that resulted from it put me back in that place where I couldn’t stop behavior that was against all of my values, but I couldn’t distance myself from it either. As a result, I have distanced myself from my family. I can’t deal with chaos and disappointment and disgust and devastation at home without it tapping those same emotions generated by my family and their actions. I need to work this out and handle it myself – my husband is not responsible for my relationship with my family, and our relationship and coping mechanisms should be our own – separate from my family crap.
- LFBA is right about the role of guilt. I feel guilty for recognizing the pain and confusion J was feeling, but not its depth, and not reaching out to him. I have also really struggled with the realization that for months prior to the affair, I recognized behaviors that were not acceptable – anger, irritability, unreasonable behavior, self centeredness – and instead of calling him on it and setting clear limits, I ignored or excused – and worse, encouraged my daughter to do the same to avoid a fuss. He feels guilty about so many things that it would be a whole post in itself.
Bottom line: My husband and I love one another very much, we enjoy spending time together, we have a shared vision for our future, and we have rediscovered passion that had become dampened during the child rearing years. Each iteration of confession about the affair has brought me closer to the truth, but has also increased my pain level, and still my gut level reaction every time has been to sooth my husband’s pain over these same confessions. At the same time, he has stepped very far outside his comfort zone, agreeing to counseling, having very uncomfortable conversations, working hard to assure me of his love.
So, my goals for 2012:
- Overcome my insecurities and accept that my husband’s affair was about him and not about me.
- Find a way to accept that I more or less know the basic truth and just accept that new information will periodically bubble up, without letting it devastate me.
- Re-examine my values and sense of ethics, and recommit to living my life by those that still have value, while also working to be less rigid with those who are closest to me.
Most importantly, I am going to work to just be happy that my husband remembered that he loved me before it was too late – and that I was able to reach out to him instead of burning his belongings in the middle of the driveway. We have come a long way towards healing in 2011, and 2012 will be much better.
I wish peace and love to all of you who have made me think, provided support and encouragement, and generally made it possible for me to continue to function during the last year.