The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Will June 1st ever be just another day?

Tonight marks the 4th anniversary of the discovery that instantly and dramatically shifted my understanding of the world.

After 4 years of therapy, reading and recovery groups, I’m a very different person and I have a dramatically different understanding and experience of myself.

I’m aware of the need for boundaries. I understand how to validate myself instead of seeking validation from others. I have and nurture an empowering relationship with myself, in which it’s possible for me to acknowledge my strengths, talents and abilities, as well as my weaknesses, flaws and vulnerabilities. I’ve learned how to be responsible for myself (the topic of my SANON meeting last night) – emotionally, psychologically, financially, physically. I can stand my ground in the grip of fear and uncertainty. I had so much growing I didn’t know I needed to do, and I’ve done a lot.

That’s the upside.

I still have a lot of work to do. First and foremost in my mind is the need for me to find a way to express the anger and resentment I still have about what Husband did. I moved very quickly, probably too quickly, to being reasonable and understanding, to working toward a level-headed resolution. (A winning formula that often works in my favor, but has worked to my detriment in this case.) Most of the time I don’t suffer, but sometimes I’m plagued by thoughts I can’t escape. These thoughts are obstacles to happiness. They are often a bucket of cold water on our sex life. Together with the sudden and bitter rage I sometimes feel, they form the thin but impenetrable barrier I have with Husband.

I’m still afraid of him. He hurt and betrayed me so badly. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to forgive him – as much as I want to. We have both worked so hard. But though I’m working against this tendency, I’m an absolutist, and I grieve the unblemished trust I had with Husband before I found out about all of his lies. And my most vulnerable part holds itself away from him like tender flesh flinching away from a hot stove. How can I not?

He’s the cobra that lays in wait for me. His presence helps me understand who I can be in the face of fear. It helps me access a strength that I never knew I had. But part of my ability to be with the cobra is the vigilance in my animal brain. That part of me is ready to fly at any moment, ready to say, “I knew it,” ready to sever the knot that joins us and sail for open water without a backward glance. How can we have the depth of intimacy and trust we had before when that part of me stands ready to defend me against undiscovered, unimagined parts of him?

I grieve.

I grieve loss of trust, loss of innocence, loss of respect, loss of passion, loss of lust, loss of a friend, loss of a husband, loss of a confidant, loss of safety and security, loss of bliss, loss of a past, loss of so much I thought I had.

As I write I know the answer lies in letting go somehow. And letting go again, and again, and again until there is nothing left to let go of but one last breath of air.

Letting go of how I want things to be, feel, look, and instead being with what is so, and shaping my life in that context. What kind of life can I make for myself in a world where people you love and trust the most can hurt and betray you so deeply that you feel like you’re walking through fire with all your skin scraped off? That’s a question I need to consider.

Because that’s true.

Little children who’ve been abused and abandoned can attest to a confusing and unpredictable world. Sometimes people who love you hurt you more than your enemies ever could. It happens.

Letting go of the idea that I can create safety. The right person, right job, right situation, right word, right moment…if only I can find The Right SOMETHING I’ll know I’m safe. What kind of life can I make for myself in a world where the only thing I can count on is that everything is temporary, everything changes? That’s a question I need to consider.

Because that’s true.

We can plan, anticipate, and be vigilant, and yet a loving parent can get cancer, an innocent child can be killed in a car crash, and a trusted husband can have a secret life. It happens.

Letting go of judgments of my circumstances as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, black or white, and just experiencing each moment as nothing more or less than a moment on my path, every challenge as an opportunity to grow or turn away from growth.

Because that’s true, too.

But some judgments and wishes I find hard to let go of.

I am sad, so sad, about the good things I feel I’ve lost: The ability to trust Husband completely, the certainty that Husband would always be a warm, safe port in any storm, the indescribable, unmatchable bond I felt when I looked at him, and the history of being true to and for each other that we shared.

I agree it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But what do you do when you’ve loved and lost and you still choose to lead a life together? How do I stop wishing for a past I thought I had with his presence as a constant reminder of what never was and will now never be?

In this world as it really is, what kind of life am I willing to create? What am I willing to risk? What am I willing to demand?

Even after 4 years, I don’t have answers for many of my questions. I don’t know if June 1st will ever be just another day. Perhaps after 4 or 8 or 16 more years I will tire of this bit of suffering and finally let go of questions.

Maybe I’ll do that that tomorrow. The timeline for all of this is another thing for which I have no answer.

Maybe freedom lies in letting go of the assumption that there are answers.

Surrendering purpose to moments that I can fill with love, without attachment to a result.

Love Husband and be loved by him without attachment to the result?

My grasp of all that is fleeting, like a little ghost girl playing hide and seek with me.

The best I can do now is hold tight to the reins of the beastly fears I sometimes ride, whisper my now-favorite mantra, “…every challenge as an opportunity to grow or turn away from growth,” try to let go of those wishes, detach from the outcome, and breathe deeply into the gritty intensity of reality as it really is.

I read an article today about a miracle pill that can erase painful memories and wondered to myself if I would take that pill. The pain is what sharpens all the details of life – the good as well as the bad. If I dull that pain, mute it so that it is only a vague notion, instead of facing it head on like a warrior, would I sacrifice all that I’ve gained? Since I’ve been through so much and reaped the benefits of those battles, I’m not willing to give up that hard won ground. I’m not here to live in a blissful haze. Maybe that’s what I was doing before all this. But I feel like Neo in the Matrix, and now there’s no going back.


Briar said...

Perhaps one day you'll see June 1st as the anniversary of your initiation into truth?

Still Standing said...

Thank you for sharing your struggles with us. It helps to know I'm not alone in the way I feel about my husband, our marriage, SA, his recovery, his acting out...I hope that you are doing well today.


Moving Along said...

Wow, you've blown me away. Thank you for such an articulate honest outpouring of your personal process and trajectory on this painful path. I have to say, I started reading your blog from the beginning a few days ago and after reading several months of posts that resemble my current posts, thoughts and feelings, I wondered where you were at 4 years later. And because I skipped ahead I haven't read the in between that got you to this place by I sure can tell it's challenging and painful and very much still resembles many of the thoughts and feelings from the beginning. But without the fast-forward reasoning and swift-to-act compassion. I am struggling with all that you mentioned then and all that you mentioned now and that is very sad. I'm sorry for the hardships this path entails. I'm grateful for your strength in providing a window into your grief, confusion, victories, set-backs, lessons, and wisdom. You rock lady!