Category Archives: Marriage Recovery

Over it? An interesting concept.

finishedA couple of nights ago H mentioned that I had not brought up Pig Shit or had any mini-meltdowns for a quite a while.  He let slip that he thought I might be ‘over it’. 

Surprisingly, at his comment, I did not jump into his mouth, deep into his throat and twist his tonsils; instead, I just smiled.  Not a big broad toothy, I’m delirious type of smile, just a small one.  But, nonetheless a genuine one.  I actually didn’t feel the need to say anything.  Not like me.

But, over the past few days I’ve given some consideration to the possibility that I might be ‘over it’. That his adultery is maybe behind me and that this is what it’s like at the end.  Three years and three months past D-day.  After all, what does ‘over it’ feel like?  How will I know if I’ve reached this nirvana, the moment I have hoped for since the tsunami of betrayal hit me?

The answer is, regrettably, no I have not got ‘over-it’.  I remain devastated in the knowledge of what my husband was capable of doing.  I remain disgusted at the sordid antics that he got up to.  I remain disappointed that the man I love and chose to commit to was prepared to deceive me and lie to me for a period of one year.  To betray me and diminish my existence in his life for what, a bit of dirty pussy that satisfied his wants at the time? These memories have malarial qualities, so that even years after you think the shock has gone away,  something wretched can be recalled and wham, you’re reminded of the whole caboodle again, along with the accompanying emotions.  However, things are much, much better.  There is progression, a positive and growing pulse in our marriage that I need to recognise and celebrate.

When remembering and handling trauma, Freud made a distinction between ‘acting-out’ and ‘working-through’.  Acting-out is the tendency to compulsively re-enact the trauma. To relive the past, and to exist in the present as if still fully in the past, with no distance from it. This activity is exhausting and intrudes on everyday living.  On reflection, I can see that I was mostly acting-out for a year or so post D-day.  I was practically consumed by it.

By contrast, ‘working-through’ is when we try to gain a critical distance from the trauma, to be able to distinguish between past, present and future. By doing this, we are able to recognise the horror of what happened and even though we can’t fully disengage we can focus on the here and now and recognise it as different from the past.  By working-out the trauma we are able to reach an accommodation which allows for personal change and restored vitality.  This is what my husband has noticed.  I am now working-through the adultery much more than I am acting-out; in fact the acting-out is relatively infrequent now.

This is why my H thinks I might be over it.  But, the wound of betrayal remains and this in turn causes a loss of confidence in the other.  How could it be otherwise?   The worm of doubt remains and is observed in every action.  This will exist even if H is not with me.   Both to my husband and me, and to outside observers, our marriage feels as if it has recovered from the storm of infidelity.  We have found a place to anchor.  However, for me, the betrayed spouse, my work has not finished.  It’s not just accepting the past it’s about accepting that the future can only be different because I am changed dramatically.  And as Alice in Wonderland so rightly said; “it’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then”.  My recovered marriage is now between two very different people and I need to understand this phenomenon.

Janet Reibenstein in her book ‘The Best Kept Secret’ (her research into what makes for successful long-term relationships) says that each partnership is likely to have a marital trial by fire.  My marital trial was adultery, and you don’t get much worse to threaten a marriage. However, we know that some happy relationships have encompassed infidelity.   I found this book a welcome inclusion in my working-out.  It’s difficult to find accounts of the relationships that endure.  Reibenstein suggests that this is because “the stories of the Great Partnerships are obviously not being heard above the din of reports of the failed ones.”  What is clear is that intimacy, the core component of marriage is like all intimacies, not public, therefore marital relationships, although a world away from adulterous liaisons remains just as private and just as secret.  It’s as if we have the fictional and fanciful romantic genre of love abundantly offered to us in film, literature, music and the media on the one hand, yet find a vacuum when attempting to understand what the reality of enduring love might look like and feel like.   It is no straightforward or simple matter. “Love is a portmanteau carrying multiple meanings and a stew of emotions”.

It was whilst reading Reibenstein’s book that I started to realise that although I may still carry the scars of the adultery, our marriage has genuinely started to recover.  All the hours of screaming, wailing, talking, weeping, holding and breathing (and copious cups of teas) have proved to be key components in the alchemical mix of recovery.  The other big part of this mix is H’s continuous remorse and focus on the details of his current behaviour so that I am never placed in a position to doubt him.  He has discovered the necessary ‘repair mechanisms’ – the ways in which to express regret for hurt caused and awareness of hurt experienced.

My marriage is important to me and I am starting to feel that we have something that transcends the betrayal.  Perhaps I underestimated us as a couple. Our relationship might just be a whole lot bigger than the issue that we’re dealing with.  The adultery has been a point of rupture for us but isn’t this the real stuff of romance?  The story of romance in the original sense of the word meant tales of heroes and heroines who have undergone distress, sometimes of the most appalling kind, yet have survived, relationship intact.  And why not?

As Reibenstein suggests “There is such ignorance about the insatiable, on-going, time-honoured, and even animal need to be in a happy, secure, erotic and deepening union with one other person”.  (Note the ‘one person’).  Research is accumulating to support the idea that our desire for a singular relationship is innate and lifelong. Being in a marriage can be the central, transformational and ever replenishing relationship of our lives.  However, there must be no illusions about what this requires.   Reibenstein concludes,  “instead of perfect contentment, they [couples]strive for pragmatic, imperfect solutions”.  I think this just about sums up how I feel about my marriage now.  Seeking perfect contentment would be unrealistic; not just in my marriage but in life.  Instead, H and I are finding our imperfect solutions.

I am reminded of these words which I found many years ago and noted:

Even if I know a given person thoroughly, and I also know myself, I still have to grasp the truth of the unitary and unique event which links us, and in which we are participants.

Mikhail Bakhtin: Towards a Philosophy of the Act.

Image Credit: Completing Jigsaw Means Solution Completing Or Achievement by Stuart Miles: freedigitalphotos.net

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Responses To Betrayal

crying faceI discovered that I had been betrayed by my husband on August 3rd 2012.  That’s just over three years ago.  So, for over three years (1,095 days) I have been navigating my way through a marriage that I have no map for.  I never imagined for one minute, that my lovely husband, with all his boyish charm, would commit adultery.  But he did.  And I have had to accept this because, what other options are there?  “Loving you was like going to war, I never came back the same” (Warsan Shire)

Having my husband commit adultery was worse than I would ever have imagined, and to poach some prose from the acerbic and eloquent PJ O’Rourke, I would say that I have felt like I have confronted an enormous piece of machinery that I can’t comprehend and don’t know how to operate. In fact, I feel like I’m being run through that machinery.  I am wheat, rice and corn being delivered to the Nabisco factory, and I’m going to come out the other end definitely toasted, possibly shredded, and if I believe my husband’s affair can become the best thing that ever happened to me, then maybe even coated with sugar!

As Joan Didion notes in her wonderful book, The Year of Magical Thinking, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.”  My life changed fast when I read the words on my mobile phone which my husband’s slut decided to send me when he dumped her.  Up until this instant, I had thought that my husband’s increasingly bizarre behaviour was due to some kind of mental breakdown.  A mid-life crisis of sorts.  Once the truth came out, everything that I thought I’d figured out about life unravelled and there I stood, alone, isolated and broken.  How I wish I had known then, what I know now.  Betrayal hurts like hell and it hurts the betrayed spouse more than anyone who hasn’t experienced it can imagine.  The response is visceral.  It is as incapacitating as physical illness and I am sure that it has damaging effects on our health.  The anxiety that arises from the loss of one’s ability to trust or feel safe is all encompassing and impacts upon every aspect of our life. “The ache for home lives inside all of us, to be able to return to our safe place and not to be stressed and burdened by the world.  Home.” (José N Harris)

My response to my husband’s betrayal has been to stay together and work towards a recovery of sorts. My marriage is recovering but it is quite different now.  It would have to be wouldn’t it; I’ve changed and so has my husband so our relationship follows suit.  I’m tougher than I was (I don’t believe that life gets easier or more forgiving, it’s just that we get stronger and more resilient) and husband has joined the ranks of the grown-ups.  I mostly now grieve; for what we both lost by his decision to betray me.  When I realised I’d been deeply betrayed, grief was not part of the initial landscape.  It’s only over time that the fear, anger and frustration have given way to disappointment and disillusionment. We are now a marriage that includes adultery and this will never, never, never change and it will always hurt.  Even though we are growing roots around it, as Byron lyricises “’Tis but as ivy-leaves around the ruined turret wreath,  All green and wildly fresh without, but worn and grey beneath.” 

I do not regret my decision to stay with my husband. From his actions over the past three years I am acutely aware of his remorse for what he did.  His remorse along with his acceptance of responsibility to help me to heal has been the golden glue that has held us together.  I’ve learned that my husband is a flawed human being but this has not stopped me from loving him.  As strange as this may sound I now know that he really loves me.  When I look back at our relationship before any adultery took place he never showed his love in this way.  I guess I wasn’t looking for it and he didn’t feel the need to demonstrate his love.  Or maybe, just maybe, he had no idea just how much he loved me and how his world needed me in it.  The real threat of losing me seems to have removed an emotional blockage in him.  We are not out of the woods yet by any means but I reckon that even with the adultery that we’re dealing with, we may possess a stronger and happier marriage than many, with or without adultery.  But my loss of trust and safety, hopes and dreams must be acknowledged and mourned.    But I share these losses with so many of you.

Here in the blogging world of betrayed wives I have discovered a private cemetery that contains a secret mass grave of shared hopes and dreams and a seemingly worldwide refusal to acknowledge its existence. I read repeatedly of the pain of betrayal both from wives who stay with their betrayer and wives who don’t.  The pain is the same although the responses and remedies as varied as the personalities involved.  Adultery is a tragedy not a sexual activity.

Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise – by trading in our integrity and failing to treat life and others in our life with respect and dignity. That’s really where the truest and the most tragic failures in life come from.  They come from making the choice to betray another soul, and in turn, giving up a piece of your own. (José N Harris)

In all of the blogs I read, written by betrayed wives, clear threads of thought link them all together. They all recognise and share the tsunami of the experience of betrayal and irrelevant of whether they’ve stayed or left their husband they all categorically view adultery as WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! They empathise and sympathise with other betrayed wives, knowing the familiar pain first hand.  By being betrayed, we have joined a club and we are all on the same side and all trying to make sense of the non-sense of adultery.  But, are we in a bubble?  I imagined that we were just the women at the top of the iceberg.  I suspected that many many more women were like us, just not writing about it.  But might I be wrong?

You see, I now can’t bear to hear about adultery.  I’m currently reading a biography about an artist I like Georgia O’Keeffe.  Love her work.  Value her individuality and the grace in which she aged.  However, I find out today that her husband was married to someone else whilst embarking on a relationship with her.  Granted it was an unhappy marriage and they were not together as such, but it got me thinking.  Trust me, before I experienced betrayal I would never have given a second thought to his unhappy first wife – but now, it’s become a mental marker for me.  I started to wonder if all betrayed wives would be as sympathetic as me and I found a contradiction immediately.  On my very own adultery doorstep!

You see, Pig Shit is a betrayed wife!!!  She is a woman who has had a husband commit adultery including the time whilst she was giving birth.  They were later divorced.  She has also had a two year relationship with a man end because he ran off with her best friend.  So please, could someone explain why she would CHOOSE to have relationships with married men, hoping that they will leave their wives?  Explain why she would want to text me as soon as my husband dumped her?

What type of response to adultery is this?

Did she not feel the pain that we feel?  Is she one of a few or part of an army of betrayed wives NOT like us who respond to betrayal by making matters worse for others?

Image Credit:  Cry Face by holohololand freedigitalphotos.net

Lying and Adultery

marriageLove and Marriage

To be honest, I’d not given much thought to love and marriage prior to experiencing adultery. Strange don’t you think? I’d sort of taken the connection for granted (aka horse and carriage) and somewhere in the middle assumed monogamy. Now, I’m much more sentient about love, marriage, monogamy AND the fucker that is adultery!

Just recently I have been giving more thought to lying. Understanding my husband as a liar and understanding the role of lying in adultery. To help me in this endeavour I have looked at a booklying sam harris written by Sam Harris entitled ‘Lying’. (Thanks for the reference Iris). An American with the interesting and somewhat unusual mix of neuroscience and philosophy, he suggests that “Lying is the royal road to chaos”. A cheeky twist on Sigmund Freud’s famous statement that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.

It is not a book about adultery per se, but acts of adultery require a moral defect in people: a willingness to lie. I have read the pocket-sized book with the context of my husband’s adultery in mind and have found a number of useful insights from Harris’ analysis. For a taste, let me give you his opening paragraph:

Among the many paradoxes of human life, this is perhaps the most peculiar and consequential: We behave in ways that are guaranteed to make us unhappy. Many of us spend our lives marching with open eyes towards remorse, regret, guilt, and disappointment. And nowhere do our injuries seem more casually self-inflicted, or the suffering we create more disproportionate to the needs of the moment, than in the lies we tell to other human beings.

How can this not be a book about adultery!!!!!!!

As the shock of my husband’s adultery begins to subside and it all starts to feel like a very bad dream, I find that it is the betrayal, deceit and lies that have impacted upon me more painfully than the sex acts that he committed with Pig Shit. In fact, I’d say that if adultery is the sordid sexual activities associated with any lets-get-a-motel-room-and-fuck relationship, then lying is the dark underbelly of it all. Lying and adultery have a symbiotic relationship; two different activities that operate together and depend on each other. My husband needed to be a liar to commit adultery and adultery requires lying in order to happen. He deliberately manufactured falsehoods and concealed important facts to the detriment of me. He lied to intentionally mislead me when I expected honest communication. His lies were hugely consequential to me. At the time, just before things came to a head I was exploring voluntary redundancy. An opportunity to take a lump sum and pay off our remaining mortgage on our house. Both of us together decided it would be in OUR best interests for me to leave my job. So I resigned. By the time my husband reached melt down and went off to live with Pig Shit, I had no job. I would not have taken this decision had I known the truth. For him, as he had no intention of leaving me he felt entitled to encourage me to take the money. That was when he thought he was in control. That was when he thought he could make predictions based upon his view of the world. At my age I knew it would be difficult, if not impossible to get another job like the one I was leaving but based upon our joint financial circumstances I knew that WE would be comfortable and I would certainly be able to find part-time work.

People lie so that others will form beliefs that are not true. The more consequential the beliefs – that is, the more a person’s well-being demands a correct understanding of the world or other people’s opinions – the more consequential the lie

Of course liars don’t get away scot free. Their sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding (all sources of moral wealth) are destroyed the moment they deliberately misrepresent the truth to us, whether or not their lies are ever discovered. If they are discovered, failures of personal integrity, once revealed, are rarely forgotten. The liar, my husband, had to ensure that his lies were continually protected from possible collisions with reality. This must be exhausting and all at the expense of authentic communication with me and attention to me. Equally, vulnerability comes in pretending to be someone he wasn’t.

As for my husband thinking that he was lying to protect me, Harris has a brilliant response I’ve adapted:

When you presumed to lie for the benefit of me, you decided that YOU were the best judge of how much I should understand about my own life. This is an extraordinary stance to adopt toward another human being, and it requires justification. Unless I was suicidal or otherwise on the brink, deciding how much I should know about myself seems the quintessence of arrogance. What attitude could be more disrespectful of someone you claim to care about?

Of course, lying is not the monopoly of the betraying spouse. Those silent conspirators who help to keep the adultery a secret are also transgressing ethically. Keeping a secret for another places the person involved in a position in which they have to choose between lying and revealing privileged information. Is it right that they lie to us? If we knew that someone else’s spouse was committing adultery, would we lie? Or would we be the whistle blower? Or would the bad thing that we knew about that spouse’s adultery (an act of commission) be followed by our failure to do something good (an act of omission). The problem is we tend to judge the former more harshly. The bad things one does is deemed worse than the good things one fails to do. Added to this is the dilemma that we might think that NOT telling the betrayed partner is a good thing. This needs more consideration. How can someone living under a mountain of lies and gossip be surrounded by friends but without a friend in the world to tell her the truth?

By lying, we deny others our view of the world. And our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make – in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is an assault on the autonomy of those we lie to.

Equally there are the lies that Pig Shit must have told in order to remain in my husband’s life albeit at the periphery.  What did she tell her teenage kids when she invited my husband round to meet them and have a cup of tea?  Here’s my new boyfriend.  He’s married to some other woman at the moment, but don’t worry he is going to leave her for me.  What did she say to friends and work colleagues?  Her sister, her mother?  Did she just pretend that she didn’t see him much because of the distance between Birmingham and London? When I asked him to leave and he went to live with her for a few weeks, what did she say.  Oooooh, he’s left his wife for me, isn’t that wonderful.  You must all be so happy for me.  More importantly what lies did she tell herself?  Self deception is of no value ethics wise.

It makes sense to want to be in touch with reality.  Given that your every move in life will be constrained by whatever the facts are, both out in the world and in the minds of others, being guided by anything less than these facts will leave you perpetually vulnerable to embarrassment and disappointment.  When your model of yourself in the world is at odds with how you actually are in the world, you are going to keep bumping into things. [Like the truth]

Finally, there is the link between personal moral values and societal moral values. The personal and the collective view of adultery and lying. We do not appear to have a universal concept of human values when it comes to adultery; everyone seems to make it all up as they go along until tragedy occurs. It’s OK as long as you don’t get caught.  It’s OK, I’m not the one committing adultery.  It’s OK because life is short.  It’s OK because my friends do it.  It’s OK because my friends know about it and are fine with it.  All of this eclipses the deeper issue.  It’s OK to lie and deceive the person who loves me and who I am claiming to love.  It’s OK to lie to my spouse and make her feel that she is losing her mind.  It’s OK to lose my integrity, sincerity and authenticity.

My husband’s personal ethical code and his approach to our marriage have both changed. Honesty is the gift that he has given me. However, we need to recognise between us that honesty can force any dysfunction in our marriage to the surface and we need the communication tools to handle this. We have to accept that our relationship has changed because he has resolved never to lie to me again. Collectively however, the bigger returns can come at the level of social norms and institutions.

How can we aim for some form of restitution for the betrayed spouse? Are we going to continue to think of adultery as a bit of harmless fun, something to do because life is short or are we going to prioritise honesty in marriage. If we prioritise and make important the role of honesty (rather than monogamy) what kind of judgement can be made for those who break this trust? What might be the penalties?  What could we expect from a marriage where monogamy is not central but honesty and all its moral and ethical values are placed centre stage?

If you know that you cannot lie, having an extra-marital affair is no longer on the menu- or, rather, to have an affair is to choose to face the consequences (most likely the end of your marriage).

If one wants to live a truly honest life, there is no substitute for having nothing to hide.

The bottom line is what type of life do you want to be known for? We don’t all have Hollywood endings. “Ultimately, we all die, and the only question is, what have you done between the time you’re born and the time you die?” Does your life reflect the values that you would be proud to uphold?

My Marriage: Hanging by a Thread!

broken cable“Strength is important if we wish to know how much force can be applied without breaking the marriage.  Since breaking force depends on the shape and size as well as the type of marriage, then it varies from one to the other even if they look like the same type of marriage.”  Adapted from New Understanding Physics for Advanced Level

Anyone who reads my blog knows how I love a metaphor.  For me, it’s just a way of trying to make sense of the non-sense of adultery.  This latest in my collection was prompted by something interesting my husband said a couple of nights ago. Out of the blue (and not with my prompting) he said that he had been thinking about us and how when I found out about his adultery I didn’t leave him.  It would have been so much easier for me to just walk away.  He acknowledges how strongly I feel about sexual infidelity and the shock that I experienced when his behaviour came to light thanks to a text from Pig Shit. He realises only now that his future with me, and consequently our marriage contract was hanging by the thinnest of threads. It might have taken him three years to come to this understanding, but at least he has finally got here of his own accord.

It was indeed hanging by a thin thread and this put our relationship into a highly precarious state. If something is hanging by a thread, it usually denotes that it is ready to fall apart or that the situation can change in an instant. The term hanging by a thread derives from the banquet that King Dionysius held for Damocles. Dionysius was beginning to become annoyed with Damocles’ constant flattery of his king. He invited him to a banquet, where Damocles was seated under a sword suspended by a single hair. It was said to symbolize his tenuous position in the court. My husband, by his appalling behaviour towards me certainly occupied a tenuous position in the marriage that he became desperate to keep.

So how did this thread manage to hold us together during such tumultuous times? Metaphorically, Igossamer liken it to the extremely fine silk that spiders use for ballooning known as gossamer. Spider silk is incredibly tough and is stronger by weight than steel. Quantitatively, spider silk is five times stronger than steel of the same diameter. It has been suggested that a Boeing 747 could be stopped in flight by a single pencil-width strand and spider silk is almost as strong as Kevlar, the toughest man-made polymer. It is finer than the human hair. This incredible fine thread is almost magical in its strength. As, I realise, is our marriage.

But, our marriage is so much more than one strand of gossamer thread. That might have been all that was left after D-day but there was a lot more strands before it happened and we have added and entwined a lot more strands since. Like steel wire rope is made up of a collection of steel wires which are twisted together in a helix formation to create a strong and durable rope, our marriage was/is made up of a collection of experiences and memories all twisted together to create a strong and durable relationship.

I had no idea that the strength of our marriage was going to be tested in such a manner. The weight of his indiscretions and betrayal threatened to break us completely. First of all, the strands started to break whilst he was shagging Pig Shit without my knowledge. Even though he might not have shagged her very often, all through that year of deception he was emotionally absent for me and each incident of gaslighting just tore the strands apart, one after the other. By the time disclosure came, our ties were very loose indeed and who knows what kept that last gossamer thread holding us together?  Love, I think.

Throughout the last three years he has done all the necessary work that I have required of him. He has shown genuine remorse and regret for what happened and has carefully ensured that I am not placed in a position of doubt or suspicion about his whereabouts. We have made sure that we have gone on lovely holidays and had plenty of romantic date nights but we have also engaged in the ordinary. Especially the ordinary; activities and moments that make being together so very precious. Those ordinary times that are not included in films or novels but which provide us with the feeling of peace of mind, the peace that creates the space for love to breath. And in a long term marriage this is what can co-exist with passion. An adulterous relationship could never compete with this.

So the bonds that held us together did almost threaten to completely break. But the fact is, they didn’t. To Pig Shit and to all our so called ‘friends’ who encouraged and facilitated the adultery: THE BOND DID NOT BREAK.  It didn’t turn out the way you wanted it, did it! It wasn’t breaking force for us. Go f**k yourselves!

I would NEVER stay with my husband if he cheated!

no chanceI’ve heard it! Haven’t you?

So… many… times…  So confident in its delivery. Never, never, never, NEVER!  If I discovered my husband was unfaithful he would be history.  Well, bravo to you and to your confidence!

You see,  this is exactly what I said BEFORE I discovered my husband’s adultery. I believe this is what every wife says whilst in her marriage and her husband is (or she believes he is) faithful. Really, think about it, what woman marries a man thinking that if he were to decide to cheat on her she would be alright with it. OK, perhaps not alright with it, but of the opinion that it would not be grounds for splitting up.

Now, some women, agree to open marriages. This is different. This means that there is no betrayal, lies or deceit. She is aware of exactly what her husband’s sexual activities are. Of course she won’t leave her husband if he has sex with someone who she has consented to. Why would she? Unless, she gets fed up with the idea one day and then lets him know that she doesn’t want it anymore and if he can’t change she will have to leave him. Again, that’s different. Interestingly, even open marriages can suffer from the shit created by adultery. You see, if a husband in an open marriage decides that he is not going to be honest about everyone he shags and opts to lie and deceive his wife, he is committing adultery. A wife in an open marriage would experience the same levels of betrayal. Not something she signed up for.

In monogamous marriages there are, without doubt, women who do not stay with their husband after adultery and do not even attempt any reconciliation. This may be because when they thought about their marriage it was deemed not worth saving. The adultery was the death knell of an already dying marriage. Maybe their marriage was on the rocks and heading for divorce anyway. Perhaps the adultery just speeded up the journey. They may also decide to leave their husband because they really don’t want to stay with a man who they know has cheated on them. It really is too big an ask. They find out that they will never stay with a husband who cheated! They recognise that it would be impossible to heal whilst still with their husband. (Equally, I don’t think any wife should stay with her husband only because she fears divorce. This is not reason enough to stay and in the long run will probably cause further heartache). I respect the choice to leave as much as I respect women who choose to stay and attempt reconciliation. The journey is no easier than staying but a new life can be created from the ashes of the old after the healing has taken place whether together or apart.

There are also women who choose to stay and work on their marriage but decide to leave at a later time because the marriage has not developed in the way they had hoped. After exhausting all the other options for reconciliation it has not worked out as expected. Unfortunately, neither staying or leaving is an easy option but they are the only options available to the betrayed wife. Both options create huge, big life changes and alterations of perceptions.

You see, what I’m trying to say is, you really don’t know what you will do until you are faced with the situation. We can surprise ourselves. I always feel an intense sense of awe when I read about the resistance fighters in the Second World War. I cannot, absolutely cannot believe the bravery they showed in the face of such terrors. I feel ashamed that I would be a coward. BUT, the truth is, until I was to find myself in that particular situation (and I really hope this never happens) I have no idea if I would be brave or not.

There is no shame in staying and there is no shame in leaving a betraying spouse. Once we get out of the romantic syrup of Hollywood and start to confront the demands of the human condition we start to see the complexities of all relationships. Acting aghast that someone might stay with a straying partner is ingenuous in the least and spiteful at the most.

From what I have discovered about adultery I now think I see it everywhere. It’s as if we need adultery to understand monogamy better. It’s a terrible waste of human emotion and the collateral damage is horrifying but it seems it sharpens the understanding of what it takes for monogamy to be rooted at the centre of the marriage. I wonder how many betraying husbands have found themselves in a hole that they have dug (with the help of the OW) and they can’t get out because they’re frightened of their wives finding out and leaving them. What about an amnesty? Let’s STOP the adultery and work on monogamy. Admit to the deceit and betrayal, find out what you have to do to stand any chance in having an honest and committed marriage. We seem to sleep walk into extra marital relationships yet stumble and fall horrendously when respecting and retaining a monogamous relationship.

I’m three years into my post D-day marriage. I know a great deal about adultery and am fortunate to have a strong marriage back in place which understands what we have to value in order to sustain it. Staying, with a husband who wants to help you to heal from the pain that he inflicted and who is truly remorseful is not an easy option but for me it has proved the best option.

For all of you women who are just starting out on what you hope to be the road of recovery I wish you courage for the journey as you learn to accept that you are a woman who has chosen to stay with her husband after adultery.  This may be an aspect of yourself that you never knew even existed! But you are choosing this because you hope, in the end, he is worth it!

Image Credit: No Chance Means Not At All And Decline by Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Marriage After Adultery

kintsugiWhat does it look like?

Very Different? Slightly Different? The Same? Better? Worse?

I’m afraid I find this an extremely difficult question because even after three years since D-day, I still struggle with the perception I have of my marriage following my husband’s adultery.  For some time now I have held on to the Japanese idea of ‘kintsugi’; a way of repairing pottery with gold so that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.  Mending a broken object with gold actually aggrandises the damage and therefore, because it has suffered damage, it has a history and becomes more beautiful. I have imagined that the emotional work that my husband and I have been doing is our ‘golden joinery’ on our broken marriage and in fact blogged about it some time back. Turning an ugly affair into a beautiful repared marriage

We have worked at remembering our good memories before the Pig Shit times and really, these memories were part of the reason I agreed to remain in the marriage.  I felt that if we had been so remarkably happy before the adultery there was reason enough to believe that we might be happy in the future.  Equally, we have concentrated on creating fresh new memories to treasure and have lots of framed photographs around our house to remind us of this endeavour.  It’s like we have picked up all the broken pieces of our marriage and are using memories of our happy past with our new life together as the gold with which to mend what his adultery with Pig Shit shattered.  The only thing is – because I find the adultery such a wretched experience and remain disgusted with all its sordid aspects – I don’t feel that we have reached kintsugi.  It’s like there is something slimy stopping the gold from setting. Maybe it just takes more time?

However, after listening to Esther Perel give her TED talk on rethinking infidelity I have started to wonder if I should look at my marriage with a different perspective.  She suggests that most of us are going to have two or three relationships or marriages and that some of us are going to do this with the same person!  What this would mean is that my first marriage with my husband is over and what we are now creating is a new one.  Would this be an easier perspective I wonder? A total break from our past relationship?

I find myself, as always, returning to writers I respect to see if I can construct deeper meanings for heart bookmyself.  I turned this time to Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her beautiful book entitled ‘Gifts From The Sea’.  An interesting little collection of reflective essays she muses about life and love and being a woman.  This time I’m older and am reading the book unfortunately as a woman who has experienced the ultimate betrayal of infidelity.  Wonderfully, I find fresh treasures to ponder upon.     I don’t think that what she says contradicts Perel in any way; I think it expands and compliments her in many ways.  Fundamentally, Lindbergh is reflecting on the process of change but I see this as hugely pertinent to understanding my marriage post adultery because the act irrevocably changed me, my husband and our marriage.

All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms. But there is no single fixed form to express such a changing relationship.

But do our ideas and expectations of  marriage manage to circumvent this truth? Do we expect change to arrive in packages that we can handle? Do we mistakenly look to give shape to something that cannot be shaped?

But surely we DO demand duration and continuity of relationships, at least of marriage.  That is what marriage is, isn’t it – continuity of a relationship? Of course, but not necessarily continuity in one single form or stage.

What offered me comfort in her words was her description of marriage.  This has helped me in recognising the distinction and absolute void between what my husband and I possessed/possess as a couple in stark contrast to what he and Pig Shit shared.  Whilst they had their sordid meet’n shag fests the bonds of our marriage remained in place and now continue to hold us together through these turbulent times.

For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, is actually,  many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taught and firm.  The web is fashioned of love.  Yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences.  It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments.  It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental.  It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges.  The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction.  It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself.

However, she goes on in a later essay to consider change and the contradictions that it throws up in committed relationships.  The clue for her in thinking about the problem of relationships is the image of a pendulum swinging.  That relationships have an eternal ebb and flow; an inevitable intermittency.

The veritable life of our emotions and our relationships is intermittent.  When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment.  It is an impossibility.  It is even a lie to pretend to.  And yet this is exactly what most of us demand.  We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships.  We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb.  We are afraid it will never return.  We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom.  Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.

I can see that the image of my new marriage (post-adultery) is still being formed and this gives me hope.  There is a dynamic going on between us.  As Perel says, some affairs are death knells for marriages dying on the vine but for some marriages it is a jolt into new possibilities.  My husband’s adultery has redefined our relationship but it will be our actions that determine the legacy of it.

gestaltPerhaps I need to try to adopt Perel’s dual perspective on infidelity: in one view, the hurt and betrayal; and in the other, growth and self-discovery.  And, hopefully unlike the gestalt image of the faces or the vase, I will be able to contain both perspectives simultaneously and live in my relationship as it is now.

Maybe, when all is said and done,  is this all just about love?  Is what my husband and I are experiencing  just a messy dimension of love when taken off of its romanticised, westernised, media inspired  pedestal?  I recall Rilke:

Love is a curious mixture of virtuosity and incapacity.  On the one hand the most exquisite skill, on the other, everlasting frustration.  There is no beauty in Eros.

Image credit: heartbook by duron123 via freedigitalphotos.net

Seeing the adultery differently

eyeUnless you change the way you see things, they will remain the same.

This kind of makes sense but is it just another simplistic platitude?  Is it one of those ‘positive thinking’ solutions that have nothing but optimism at its core?  I’m not saying that optimism is not a healthy disposition to have but it can’t be used in every set of circumstances, and at times it can almost feel oppressive when you are in the midst of a personal catastrophe.  As Santayana wisely notes, “contempt for mortal sorrows is reserved for those who drive with hosannas the juggernaut car of absolute optimism.” Adultery is a moral sorrow and therefore I don’t appreciate the sometimes upbeat optimism of thinking that my husband’s adultery might be the best thing that ever happened to me.  However, this does not stop me from trying to understand what happened, and maybe, just maybe, along the way I will change the way that I see things.

Just recently I read a book completely (or so I thought) unrelated to adultery.  What a revelation then when I found myself sitting up and underlining sentences that resonated with me in regard to two key aspects of my betrayal. The feelings that I try so hard to articulate plus my thoughts about my husband’s actions during the betrayal.  I found so many parallels to my experience of my husband’s behaviour that the book may have had a significant effect on how I understand him at the latter stages of his adultery.   For just a short while, I have managed to step outside my intimate involvement in what he chose to do and have looked at some events through a different lens.

Naturally, every case of adultery is different, but for me I had no idea or suspicion of adultery until he finished it and I was texted by the Pig Shit herself to let me know of their multiple sexual encounters.  This meant that during the last few months of their activities I watched my husband in what I thought was the beginnings of a nervous breakdown.  He had reached a kind of melt down.  Up until now I haven’t really given this period of time much attention but when I’ve thought a little more about it, in the light of my reading, I realise that he was having a wretched time of it.  The fantasy had started to evaporate and he had entered the adultery wastelands with absolutely no idea how to escape. Any mental fog about the joy in what he was doing had lifted and his regrets at what he had done had begun.  This was all before I was forced to discover the truth.  This is not any attempt to excuse what he did.  There is no excuse.  Nevertheless it is a different perception to the one that I have been holding on to which gives the Pig Shit far too much significance in what was going on.  Whereas any woman willing to have sex with my husband could occupy her role there is not a woman on this planet who can be the woman who I am to my husband.

The mind changing book that I’m referring to, is Drinking; a love story by the late Caroline Knapp.  I found her to have a wonderful way with words and an incredible ability to capture the discomfort of my feelings.  Her articulation about memories certainly reflects my memories about the betrayal and encapsulates my frustration with the recurring thoughts.  “Over the years I’ve come to think of memories as tiny living things, microorganisms that swim through the brain until they’ve found the right compartment in which to settle and rest.  If the compartment isn’t available, if there’s no proper label for the memory, it takes up residence somewhere else, gets lodged in a corner and gnaws at you periodically, cropping up at odd times, or in dreams.”  It will soon be three years since my D-day but memories remain which belie labelling.

Caroline also captures the atmosphere of my marriage at the time it was going on.  “The thing is, hints of distress are like air: you can’t see them, can’t hold them in your hand and subject them to proper examination.” There was no tangible evidence of anything wrong in our marriage but I was subtly aware that something was awry.

There are a number of parallels that can be drawn between alcohol addiction and adultery.  Consider attitudes to both.  They are both culturally determined or, at least, culturally reinforced and contain myriad contradictions.  The drinks industry presents a very glamorous and romantic perspective of drinking and puts ‘responsible drinking’ on a pedestal.  However bars offer happy hours to encourage drinkers to drink more, supermarkets sell it at knock down prices, and the whole act of drinking alcohol is totally normalised whilst the possibility of addiction and/or health problems are pushed under the carpet.   However as soon as the ugly side of alcohol shows its face, as soon as the drinker starts falling down and being sick in the gutter, as soon as violence and/or unsocial behaviour is  seen and as soon as there is an outcry about the increase in liver disease, all attitudes change.

Likewise, monogamy within a marriage is placed on a pedestal whilst adultery, everywhere in the media, is portrayed positively.  The informal code of silence that so called friends and family comply with reinforces the behaviour and acts as a normaliser for both of the people engaged in the adultery.  But what happens when things just disintegrate?  When the adultery’s toxic bile erupts into the marriage and betrayed spouses crumble and feel like dying and children face a family breakdown?  Then, attitudes change.  Betrayed spouses are no longer the unsuspecting victim, wondering what the problem in their marriage might be – instead they have to handle an anger which rises up so fiercely it threatens to burst them; betraying spouses are no longer able to juggle the complicity or control events and people; the third party becomes more dangerous and desperate than ever to poach the spouse that isn’t theirs; society prompts the knee-jerk response of kicking the betraying spouse out followed by divorce, double quick!  The rest, the wilderness that is post D-day is airbrushed out.

As for the actual addiction to alcohol, I couldn’t but help recognise some similarities in how I’d describe my husband’s behaviour.  I just replace alcohol with sex and/or Pig Shit and hey presto.  Whilst my husband was unfaithful he would go off into “some little room” in his mind and “pull down the shade”.  Engaging in adultery allowed a seductive “psychic flight” which allowed him to leave himself behind.  There’s something about long-term monogamy, about facing the everyday reality of married life that shows you that strength and hope comes from the accumulation of experience and gritting your teeth and communicating perceived problems even though it’s painful and you’re afraid.  When my husband decided to be unfaithful he was unable to do this because he had lost the ability to make the “distinction between getting through painful feelings and getting away from them”.

Adulterous spouses lead a double life.  What a wretched way to live your life.  I believe this was a major contributing factor to my husband’s melt down.  The conflicting stories that he told different people must have whirled around in the back of his mind “like an acid eddy” constantly rolling away, overlapping, melding into one another.” No wonder he couldn’t engage in meaningful conversations with me. It would be too risky, he might trip up.

Deception is an integral part of adultery.   My husband wove elaborate lies to me about what he had been up to in order to align his working arrangements with his adultery.  Lying to me in this way kept his relationship with me, in his eyes, intact.  However, this duplicity accompanied a slow erosion of his integrity “dramas spiral and twist; lies feed on one another”.  Our relationship became increasingly ill defined; he would agree that his feelings had changed towards me but would not provide any further information as to why or in what way.  He developed an “unspoken system of withholding details from me that provided a measure of distance between us” but also kept our relationship together.  Often, he didn’t lie so much as withhold information or manipulate facts.  I guess that this helped him to rationalise his behaviour and maintain an illusion of togetherness.

My husband’s stupid sexual escapades required such necessary falsehoods because they were critical to the maintenance of the fronts he was presenting.  His whole sense of reality was tied into the deception and built into his facades.  He was not in control at all.  He was deeply fucked up.  He lost control of the script.  Pig Shit was demanding more, I was demanding clarity of sorts.  His dual existence must have felt bigger than him, as though it had a life of its own.  “This is an exhausting way to live, plotting and racing and second guessing constantly.”

So it goes on.  He lied, he deflected blame and rationalised whilst the hole that he had dug for himself got deeper and deeper.  Denial, first of the adultery and then of the self – stretches to include more and more bits of reality, and after a while he literally could not see the truth or his role in the disaster that he had made of his life, could not see who he was, what he needed or the choices that he had.  During this period whilst juggling his adultery with his marriage I believe that his life took on a “deeply fragmented quality, with different personae emerging and becoming more distinct and more false.”  He did not stop.  It got uglier and he carried on shagging Pig Shit.  In the process he became increasingly isolated and lost, stuck in his own circle of duplicity and rationalisation and confusion, the gap between his facades and his inner world growing wider and wider.  My husband was “living in a state of self-imposed chaos, lying and hiding and keeping secrets and feeling trapped, absolutely trapped, in the whole mess”

What intrigues me is how low did he let himself go before he made the decision to stop the adultery?   How bad did things have to get?  The elevator metaphor is used with alcoholism and can serve adultery too.  The adultery elevator only goes in one direction – down.  The good news is that you can get off at any time after you’ve got scared enough or desperate enough.  It’s a choice – get off or keep going till you end up without your home and wife.  Hitting bottom is normally preceded by a long slow fall.  I think I witnessed this in my husband.  Finally, the “impulse to control, and to worry, abated.  Fuck it.  It’s like the deepest part of his soul just said that – fuck it – and he plunged, justification in his hand like a passport to self-destruction.”  He decided not to sleep in our bed and that was the final straw for me and I insisted that he left the home.  He kept on saying “I can’t be here”, “I can’t be here”.  I said I HEAR YOU – so go, leave me alone and I don’t care where you go.  He left me and went to stay with Pig Shit!

It was like he was semi-conscious of taking this plunge and semi-conscious of his determination to keep falling.  I think that abandoning himself to a woman that he was being unfaithful with felt like survival to him.  He actually told me that in his head he was thinking that by going to stay with her he could work on leaving her.  Go figure!!!!  I think he thought he was trapped in quicksand and any move would threaten to drag him down further so he just stopped struggling to be with me and resigned himself to a form of inertia.  Anyway, at last, reality set in and started to chip away at his denial.  He was stuck between his marriage and his adultery and now incapable of being honest.  He was in a mess.  He must have had a split within him and he had to deal with it.  He never stopped being in contact with me and within days he was begging to come home.  I didn’t allow him to return for another month.  I thought he was staying with a friend.  Had I have known at that moment in time that he had had an adulterous relationship and was now staying with the woman it would probably have been a very different story.

Almost three years post D-day we are discovering a blueprint for monogamy.  I think we both missed some crucial hand-out at some time in our lives that could have educated us on the demands of faithfulness in marriage.  Adultery remains everywhere still, but not in our marriage.  Not at the moment and hopefully never again.  Monogamy is a struggle and doesn’t happen by chance.  Sometimes long-term relationships become mundane at times, it’s inevitable but we have to make decisions that determine how we see ourselves from moment to moment.  We live in an adultery-saturated world; it’s simply impossible to avoid it, but the havoc it wreaks is absent.  Adultery is a struggle with self-loathing.  My husband’s self-loathing that compelled him to get involved in adultery and betray me does not vanish overnight.  He has a lot to do if he is to feel proud of himself.  It was my husband’s opting for the trappings of intimacy whilst shielding himself from its warmth that characterises the year of his betrayal.  I sometimes wonder if he was uncomfortable with our comfort together.  We certainly had a comfortable life before the adultery and we certainly experience and appreciate our comfort in our recovering marriage.

Personal growth is something that we actively choose and adulthood is less a chronological state than an emotional one in which we decide, through understanding our choices, to enter and maintain.  My husband’s decision to return home and to face the consequences of his adultery is I believe his first truly adult decision.