I worked a second job cleaning offices to afford a new bedroom set for our son (identical to the one he had at our old house) and a few bits of furniture that I didn’t get “custody” of when we were splitting our items. With the help of a few friends and two kind movers (I’d still be trying to put that bed together without their help!) we got all moved into our two bedroom apartment in one day.
This isn’t my first affair.
My first in this marriage. Definitely one that I didn’t see coming, but no the first time I’ve been cheated on. This is my second marriage. It is, however, the first time I’ve wanted to save a marriage and not immediately wanted to leave. That’s how, for me, I knew this was different and something I wanted to save.
I’ve taken both paths of the “after the affair” path and fully understand that both are valid, healthy, good choices – it just depends on the situation. .
My first marriage was a train wreck from the word go. I was young. Too young for something like this. I wanted to be a grown up, move out, and have my own life away from my parents. So, when I started dating Mr. Good Enough for Now and he proposed 6 months after we started dating, I said yes. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t right.
I almost called off the wedding three different times. The last time? Standing in the back of the church. I wondered how fast my dad could get me home. How quickly could we get my things out of that apartment? Then I saw the people who had driven hours to be there and didn’t want to bother them or embarrass anyone. Great reason to get married, right?
My last thought walking down that aisle was “this guy is going to be my ex-husband some day.”
Our marriage sucked. He controlled every thing. Where we lived, where we ate, all the money (even though I worked full time), and what we did for fun. I lost most of my friends, a lot of my family, and was left just with him. He reminded me every day how I was lucky he was there, since everyone else had left me (I failed to see that was due to him). I was lucky to have him since I was so fat (size 8), ugly (not allowed any makeup), and dressed so poorly (didn’t have money for the nice things).
There were rumors of affairs from the start. One very strong one came from his work. He was “working” with a woman, they were getting along fine as far as I knew, then he started to pull away from me just as others in his office started to question things. Suddenly, he came home one day to tell me she had hit on him, he had said no, she was mad, and he was fired within a few days. In that moment I believed him, but looking back (and after talking with her years later) I now know he wasn’t innocent. Honestly though? I didn’t care. At least he was in a better mood.
He got a new job, we moved, rumblings of one night stands and affairs started at his new job. I got pregnant, the rumors got louder. He started working late, volunteering for evening/weekend work, and generally not being around much. I figured there was someone else – I didn’t really care though. If he had someone else, then at least he would leave me alone.
After my sweet baby came, I told him I knew about the affair and he came unglued. I offered to go to therapy, and we went through three therapists, but the moment they’d tell him he needed to stop messing around with other women he would get offended, storm out, declare that doctor a quack, and refuse to go back. He didn’t want help. He didn’t want me. He just didn’t want a divorce or to have to take care of things on his own.
I pulled away more, grateful every night he didn’t come home. I did not want this man. Not at all. Really never had. I felt foolish for letting him drag me hours from home, cut off from my support system, and now I had a sweet baby depending on me. Maybe he was right and I was stupid? Who lets this happen? I could see in the mirror, I was fat now (the fact that I was less than a year out of giving birth and in a high stress marriage didn’t matter to me). So, he was right again. I was worthless.
Finally, the day of our baby’s first birthday party he told me while I cleaned up that he was leaving for her. I think I was supposed to crumble, sob, or beg for him to not leave me. In fact,if it was a GOOD marriage – I feel like that would have been the right feeling and a sign that I needed to fight for this marriage. But I felt none of it.
I told him that was fine, she could have him. I made him move his things out of our master suite, pulled my baby’s crib into that room with me, and we lived in that bedroom/bathroom for 4 months whenever he was home – only coming out for food or to go do something fun. He got a twin mattress on the floor of his home office, but he didn’t sleep there often. I was thankful for that.
I cried. Of course I cried. I felt like everything he said was right. I was supid, fat, ugly, had no friends, and couldn’t get through life without him. I was convinced I was going to fail. I was so scared. I was even more mad that he wanted until we had this perfect baby to do this. My perfect baby didn’t deserve this and the thought of not seeing my baby every day.
I fell into a depression that led to anorexia nervousa. I felt so violated and hurt that another human would willingly separate a mother and child, even if it was just every other weekend. Why didn’t he just leave sooner? Why was such garbage to him? Why was I so stupid to ignore all the OBVIOUS red flags the people I’d pulled away from tried to point out.
I was low. Lower than I’d ever been in life, really. Then, I saw a quote somewhere (probably on MySpace…if that helps show how long ago this was!) from Suzanne Somers of all people that turned my thinking around: I saw pure love when my son looked at me, and I knew that I had to make a good life for the two of us.”
I didn’t know how, but that was all it took for me to start looking at things differently. To start finding myself, my limits, and a good life for us.
When I first started this journey, I was a mess. Totally lost and really disappointed in the limited amount of help, resources, or direction I could find immediately. Not that there is a fool-proof step-by-step plan that works for everyone, but just a direction to stumble off into would have been helpful. There were plenty of articles on how I should hate him, how to leave, and why I was weak if I stayed. I respect those articles and opinions (including the ones directed at me), but it wasn’t what my heart was craving.
I promised I’d take my time to sort me out. I would get back to be happy with me – and then with my life. Hopefully my marriage would be intact too. No matter what, I wanted to maybe give some hope and help to others. Here’s my small start: How to survive your world falling apart (or at least how I am…):
1. Cry. I can’t stress this enough. Feel every emotion you need to, display it, go through it, and fully live it. This is a blow. A devastation. The ultimate hurt and betrayal – there is no denying that. Take a good day for 100% feelings and emotions. Whatever it is, whatever you need – even if its a good pity party. You’ll battle these feelings for quite awhile, but taking the time for them at the start was big for me.
2. Get professional help. Immediately. Do not wait. I did not start seeing a therapist until two months after D-Day. I tried to get in a bit sooner but the one best suited for me was booked. Regardless, I waited too long. You can say what you want, fall apart, and learn all about how you are not the only one. And, be gently nudged forward in your self-discovery and
3. Gather your team. Whatever you want to call them – tribe, gang, group, team…you’re going to need them. But choose wisely (as best as you can in the moment) because not everyone will be as on board to joining you on this journey as you hope. And that’s ok. You didn’t choose where you are, but you can now choose to lean on only those who are all in for you and your best interest. To start, my people were my minister, my best friend, and my lawyer. Someone to help my spirit, someone to hold me, and someone to help look out for me no matter what direction I decided to go in. You can grow your team as you see fit too – mine includes more friends, some family, a therapist, and a lot of you now!
4. Gather the facts. Yes. There are a ton of feelings and worries and questions. There will be for awhile. But, the fastest way to at least get some sort of footing in my experience was to get the facts. What are the absolute truths. For me? They literally looked like this: I make enough money I will be ok with the kids if I go. Don’t panic the money – get your own savings “just in case”. He is here with me. He has web filters and is in lots of therapy to make this stop. It might not work. But he is trying. I have friends. I have help. I have support. Jesus loves me. This will not kill me. Some days? I had a hard time believe the facts – but many days, reminding myself of the facts was enough to calm me down and help me get through the day. Even if I fell apart at bedtime.
5. Rush nothing. Now, obviously there are some situations when YES – you should run for the hills. FOR SURE. Making a major life decision is generally NOT a good move. Yes, there are exceptions – but give yourself time and grace to sort through your feelings, situation, options, and make any big changes. For me, I said I’d wait one year and see where I was personally before I made any changes. And I worked to making myself happy and trying to save my marriage. Because I DID want to. I wanted to stay all along, but I also wasn’t crazy enough to say I definitely would from day one. Heck, I don’t know if I’ll stay forever. Probably. I hope to. I WANT to, but anything close to this again is a deal breaker (because sometimes, you know it IS time to run).
This road is long. My list? Its not complete. Its not a checklist. Heck, I can’t even promise its any kind of “working” skeleton of a plan for you, but its what helped me get started and kept me going. Among other things.
You are NOT alone.
So much of this song is connecting with me right now.
Watch it in full here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1OsKJW51HY
Walk Me Home
There’s something in the way you roll your eyes
Takes me back to a better time
When I saw everything is good
But now you’re the only thing that’s good
Tryna stand up on my own two feet
This conversation ain’t comin’ easily
And darling, I know it’s getting late
So what do you say we leave this place?
Walk me home in the dead of night
I can’t be alone with all that’s on my mind,
So say you’ll stay with me tonight
‘Cause there is so much wrong going on outside
There’s something in the way I wanna cry
That makes me think we’ll make it out alive
So come on and show me how we’re good
I think that we could do some good,
Walk me home in the dead of night
I can’t be alone with all that’s on my mind,
So say you’ll stay with me tonight
‘Cause there is so much wrong going on outside
Let’s talk about that time I shared an overview of our story in my allotted two pages and the internet freaked out….
Wow. I am surprised, humbled, and shocked by the outpouring of similar messages, support, and judgement something so brief could bring to the world.
To the new visitors here, welcome. I kind of hope you’re here to judge, since that means you’ve never been in this boat before. Going off that, I want to quickly address a few things:
This is real life. I decided early on to be open and vulnerable for myself and anyone else trying to rebuild after any level of infidelity. I share my good days and my bad. Please don’t judge the whole story on one or the other. Or a few paragraphs online.
I really hope you look at the posts here, there’s way more to our story. Way more is being worked on. In fact, 99% of people’s concerns are being addressed. He is in therapy with a professional who specializes is sex/porn addiction and infidelity. I am also seeing someone too address this issue (and past ones to help me heal). We’re surrounded by professionals in this process – no one is so naive that we think we can do this solo.
He didn’t “get off” scott-free. He’s had to have terrible talks with friends, family, strangers, doctors, lawyers – on his own. His story and the work to do his ends, is on him. He’s sat through many long, painful, tearful talks and fits of rage from me. He takes it. He’s picked up a larger chunk of the work around the house so I can focus on me too.
I’m not afraid or incapable of being a single mom. I’m an intelligent, college-educated, highly paid, professional. With wicked good credit and fat savings that’s solely in my name now. If I wanted to leave, I could throw a down payment on a new house and carry on with my lifestyle.
Vulnerability isn’t a weakness. Forgiveness isn’t a weakness. Fighting for your marriage isn’t a weakness. Neither is walking away. We said “for better or worse” in our vows and this definitely falls into the “worse” column. But, the better is so amazing that yes, I am willing to do the work and the hard things to hopefully get back there and even better. And I’m thankful he is willing too. If he weren’t, I wouldn’t be here.
Its amazing how tiny things can trigger and lead to a spiral. Things totally unrelated to our marriage struggles, my insecurities, and long standing trauma from my earlier life can knock me down into darkness so quickly still. I’m trying to get better at dealing with these things and right now, merely naming it feels like a win. I’m still baby-stepping my way through life some days.
We are 18 days away from the one year mark of this mess. I am one year into this new life with a new perspective. There’s good, there’s bad. I’ve learned a lot, shared a lot, grown a lot, and been dealing with some really serious things that have scarred me in life.
I still bounce between loving and hating our home. I love it because I really do like the house, we got a good deal, it meets our needs, its mostly perfect, and I like where it is. I like it for all of the plans we have, the fun times that will come, and the memories we have (and have yet to make).
But I hate it too. I hate it because it is the location where the greatest betrayal of my life happened. Over and over. I hate the recliner in the living room, our bed, our office, and the bathrooms the most based on the info I’ve gotten over the year. I hate that because of the money issues, I can’t demand that we move, or get new furniture, or totally gut and overhaul those rooms. No, I get to wake up in my bed, next to the exact place he gave himself to someone else. Walk to the bathroom where they “snuck” pics, go down to the living room to stare at the chair he spent his mornings with her in, and generally try to heal myself in the middle of of this place.
Which is still a place I love (see above). Its strange and hard. Some days I do great, some days I get by, and some days I fail. I can’t always tell which kind of day I’ll have when I wake up each morning, but I keep going and trying.
We have handled all of this as the two of us. We had an overnight sitter last summer and a couple of date nights in the fall from relatives who know the situation. No where near as much help as I’d hoped for, but luckily we have a kid who is old enough to babysit siblings occasionally for short bursts so we’re making it work. Mostly on our own.
Yes, our money is tighter – but we haven’t needed a penny from anyone. We’ve saved, found deals, made cuts, and plain gotten creative but we’re getting through this on our own. Most people wouldn’t even know that anything has changed. Our kids don’t know anything has changed.
The one thing we’ve been clear on? We need someone to take the kids for the weekend of D-Day. I don’t want to be in that house. I might be ok, or I might not be. I’m not putting pressure on myself to be any specific way. I want to be away from it. So if its a good day, it’ll be a good day and if its not a good day, at least I can curl up away from the reminders for a day. Made it clear when booking a sitter how important this was….only to be told yesterday they are backing out of half the weekend. To go watch their other grandkids instead. Sorry.
So, we do all of this on our own. We get through being treated coldly and our pain ignored on our own. We don’t ask for money or really any more help than we’ve gotten before….but the one time we really need them, they back out. Last minute. I’ll find someone for the part they’re skipping, but that’s not what has me upset.
WE are second choice. WE are being pushed aside for someone else’s needs. Because THEY somehow rank higher than us? They aren’t living each day in crisis mode – they’re just poor planners but the world stops for them. And THOSE grandkids now trump ours? My child is being told that her grandparents will not be hanging out with her half of that weekend because they chose to go hang out with her cousins instead. After already promising to hang out with her. So, now the exact thing I never wanted my kids to EVER FEEL is happening. And not from the people I ever thought it would.
My children are second best and being overtly shown it.
We are second best and being overtly shown it.
And it has thrown me right back down in a spiral of shame, unworthiness, and self loathing. I am trying to keep my head above water. I SEE the storm, I SEE the tricks…but its hard.
I woke up this morning feeling fatter than ever, and the scale confirmed it wasn’t just in my head. I have had no energy/drive to do my hair or make up. I look a mess. No wonder I’m so optional. There’s never anything that makes me someone of note. Someone who matters. Someone worth the effort. And I want to get mad but honestly, I think a lot of it is my fault.
I don’t want him looking or talking to other girls but I can’t put forth any effort? I wish he would get right back on his sites tonight. I deserve it. So does he. No one should keep having to come home to a dumpy train wreck.
I ask for help but always find ways to fix things when people backout. People know this. Competency isn’t doing be any favors. I thought being strong and independent was a good thing, but apparently it just makes you a target for being pushed aside. I make it ok to choose other people, by being ok at doing things myself. I don’t know how to change that. Let things fall apart? Let it all go?
I make no secret of my depression and ability to barely function – but no one steps in to help. No one asks what they can do. They’ll worry and drop everything if you’ve got the flu and are out of commission for a few days, but depression? Nah. No one wants to interact with that. No one wants to help clean, drive your kids, cook you a meal, or just give you the day off. Your illness makes them uncomfortable – so again, I’m the problem.
I don’t know the last time the floors were cleaned at our house. The bathrooms *might* get cleaned monthly. I don’t even know where the vacuum is right now. Maybe in the upstairs closet? Everyone else gets their laundry folded and put away – but me? I can’t. Its in a pile on the floor in front of the dresser. So I can slide out of bed in the mornings, crawl to it, pull out a few things, and start my day without needed to bother wasting my little energy on standing up.
And I’m trying. I was doing good. I was feeling stronger. Wiser. Braver. I really thought maybe I’d turned the corner. I was wrong. Its all still here. I’m just working on getting it under control.
A professor stood in front of the class holding up a book with a battered, thick, black cover and spine with golden words inscribed upon it. He asked his class to look the book for thirty seconds in silence. To really examine what they saw, to come up with their best description of every aspect of the book. Then once the time had passed he asked the students to tell him what they saw.
“It’s black.” The professor looked quizzically at the student before telling him he was wrong.
“Its old,” another student offered before being told his answer was wrong too.
“It’s thick, it’s tall, it has four words on it, it has gold on it….” the answers were pouring in and the professor stood in the front of the room shaking his head disapprovingly. He was shocked that not a single person in the room could see what was so obvious.
The students thought for sure their professor had lost his mind, since they could all clearly see the book and its appearance. Their answers started to shift to questions about the topic. They wondered if he knew a different name for the color black, if he was color blind, if he knew how to count the words, and started to question the purpose of the question since he was obviously disagreeing with them for no reason. Some students grew frustrated at the question, unable to find the right answer to please their teacher while others were growing upset with his stance.
“The book is clearly red. With thirty words in a black print on it it. It’s in excellent shape. In fact, I wonder if it’s ever been taken from this room. There’s not a scuff, scratch or mark on it. Its nearly perfect and beautiful,” the professor shared earnestly with his students, attempting to use his description to help them see the book for themselves.
This was more than most could take. Their tempers grew thin, there was clearly some sort of mistake. Perhaps he was confused about what book he was holding; he was rather old. Perhaps he was losing his vision; his glasses were rather thick. Perhaps he was just an ornery man; no professor ever likes being wrong in class. The students were firmly planted in their opinion that the professor was wrong and he was determined that they were – until he lowered the book to look at the cover for himself.
When he turned the cover to face himself he saw a battered, thick cover and cover and spine with golden words inscribed upon it and a look of understanding spread across his face. The students gasped quietly as they viewed the other side of the book with its pristine red backing with thirty words printed in neat black letters on it. It looked fresh from the book store with a soft shine of luster in the classroom lighting.
“So it was black. And red,” the professor’s sly grin spread on his face as his students cheeks reddened with the discovery of the lesson, “Neither of us was wrong. Our debate was for naught. It was all a matter of perspective.”
When I first heard that story, I rolled my eyes at the obvious and overt lesson that comes from it. There really are two sides to every story, but many people – myself included – take the time to ever pause and ask questions or investigate to see things from another perspective. If one student had asked him to turn the book around when they were asked to really look at it, the entire debate and all the frustration would have been avoided. If one person asked one question and tried to see it from every angle instead of just their comfortable angle, conflict could have been avoided.
I think it’s pretty clear that in life, love, and definitely marriage this lesson applies.
I knew something was “off” starting around Thanksgiving of 2017 in our lives. We were not on the same page but instead of taking a minute to ask some questions or even think about how my husband was feeling, I pulled away. If he didn’t like me, then why should I bother? I knew he was looking at porn from time to time – but again, if he didn’t want me then at least he wasn’t “using” me for sex. He could get his jollies and leave me be. I was tired, hurt, and overwhelmed with so many other things that I never thought about how it looked from his side.
Before I go any further and trigger anything hurtful for myself or anyone else, please read my disclaimer: I still do not accept responsibility for or condone his actions – but I am working to understand where he was coming from in making his poor decisions. They didn’t come out of nowhere. Even poor choices are based in someone’s perspective on a situation.
I pull away when I am scared. When I am stressed or I feel like things around me are crumbling, I pull into myself to think and plan. I rely on me to fix things and no one else. This likely stems from the first half of my life when I had very few people to rely on. My father walked out, my mother was a functional alcoholic, I had limited contact with my extended family, and just one younger sister to lean on. I was close with my grandmother, but she worried if I shared too much and I didn’t want to burden her, I became my own best friend, confident, protector, and problem solver.
There are definitely good points there, you always have your number one fan with you! You get to know yourself really well. You get confident in your own abilities after relying so heavily on yourself. But, you also build walls and become very private. Especially in moments of worry and crisis. From where I was standing, I was doing the right thing by not prying and my sticking to myself – I was protecting me and solving problems without upsetting anyone else. No one was bothered or burdened, or hurt, because no one else was involved. I was doing what I always do. I thought I was doing great. I saw the red cover and thought it was great while I held out the book to him.
He had a wife who didn’t talk to him. Who didn’t initiate anything. Who didn’t reach out to help him when it seemed like he was struggling or act interested in what he had going on. He had a wife who was walking away from him and doing nothing to address any concerns she had. She seemed to not care. Again, no excuse for straying. No excuse for the financial expenses – but if it seems like someone is giving up on you, it seems reasonable to me that you start to feel lost, hopeless, and like you have nothing to lose. You see a beat up black cover and spine with gold writing on it from that side. It’s not pretty.
I’m not coming today from a place of excuses or victim blaming. I am coming from a place of deeply desiring to see both sides. To understand that while I am hurt and hurting, so is he. Yes, his role in creating this is obvious and large, but there are things that I have done that definitely didn’t help matters (again, please understand I am not taking blame! Just trying to understand and learn).
“We are products of our past. But we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” – Rick Warren
We can look back and see where we’ve come from, good or bad. We can acknowledge our roles in situations without accepting responsibility. We can study our actions of the past and the outcomes, but that is not the end of our stories, friends. We are never too far lost or too far gone or too hurt or too alone or too sad to come back. To learn and grow do better.
To make our future better because of our difficult pasts.
I’m working through my Lent promise of giving up anger and hate. I’m actively working toward forgiveness and peace. Not just the act of saying I forgive someone and feel at peace, but actually feeling and living it into my bones and soul. Being the person I have always wanted to be, regardless of my past.
It is hard. It is scary. Some days it is nearly impossible. But thankfully, there is always another to try again. Eventually, it will stick. Promise. I urge you to join me in this effort, to find freedom and peace in your life. Whether your peace comes from accepting things and walking away or staying in your life and rebuilding from here. I’m here to cheer you on and help you on your way.
Change your perspective and you’ll change your. I believe it and I’m doing my best to live it.