Spiritual Seeds

I began to look at my life in new ways – seeking to honor and accept all the challenges I faced.

“Loving and energizing others is the best possible thing we can do for ourselves.”      ― James Redfield

There were some genuinely good times in the next couple of years. I loved being a mother and watching my children grow. Francis started swimming for the high school and I would drag all three girls to each meet let them run around as I watched the few minutes (seconds really) each hour that he would be in the water. I remember being at a swim meet where people were cheering for some kid named Frank and I asked which boy that was. They looked back at me with a strange face, “um, yours?” I felt dumb. My little Francis had grown into a Frank. Today, when any of us talk about him, the time frame is clearly referenced by our use of Frank or Francis. In the context of this writing – they are one in the same. He grew tall (standing at 6’8” today) and would intimidate all the other swimmers on the block. As a freshman, he would come in last every. single. time. By his senior year, he would place first in every event. It was an amazing transition and I was a proud mama.

They all grew too fast as any parent knows and I attempted to enjoy every minute. Some of my fondest memories come from this time period as I experienced their perfect inquisitiveness and joyful exploration of the world. Each one of them occupied a special part of my heart and there were times I thought it would explode with love. There were times too – being perfectly honest – that I thought I would go crazy with the noise and occasional chaos that four children can generate in one household.

Hubby and I were on cruise control. In an effort to meet people and make local friends, I used my entrepreneurial energy to begin a chapter of MOMS Club in the area. It’s a national organization but there wasn’t anything like it regionally. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needed friends; over 75 women showed up to that first meeting (with their kids) – it was mayhem!! It turned out to be a wonderful venue for many of the things that were important to me. We organized play groups, mom’s night out, a book club, and outings for our kiddos. Some of the best friends I’ve had were people I met through my affiliation there. As the girls started school, I became active in the PTA and coupled with continued church responsibilities, I was a busy gal. I was unmindful of the demands pulling my attention away from Hubby. He was better at gently prodding me back into awareness most of the time but I was still challenged at how to balance my life in a way that satisfied both of our needs.

It seemed to me that whenever something took my attention away from him as a direct focus, he would become very needy sexually. It was as if that was the only way he could communicate with me and I was unaware. All I experienced was another requirement, another ‘thing’ on my list that had to be completed before I could end my day. I never felt there was a consideration for me or of me, sexually speaking – not in the context of pleasure – but of desire or need. It didn’t matter what I wanted in this regard. I developed the understanding that if I wanted to do what satisfied my needs ‘outside’ of home (i.e., Mom’s Club, friendships, etc.), then I first had to satisfy HIS needs in the bedroom. It became a negotiation for me. If I came home after a book club meeting or a girls’ night out I knew he would be waiting and wanting – expecting. It was easier for me to simply accommodate him; he got what he wanted and I got what I wanted. Cruise Control.

Someone introduced me to a new book, a novel that presented an existential tenet that reminded me of the teachings of SAGE two decades prior. There was something there that I empirically understood as truth somewhere in my soul. It was The Celestine Prophecy, a novel by James Redfield. It’s a story – a work of fiction based on Eastern & New Age philosophies that highlight ideas about coincidence, energy, and love in ways that make complete sense in my mind and fill gaps of my traditional religious teaching. Its spiritual ideology spoke to me in such a way that I became aware of a profound hunger for a richer understanding of the nontraditional.

I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my one of my brothers’ years back… an esoteric discussion of ‘what if’. What if our conventional understanding of biblical teachings is too literal? What if customary beliefs about God are actually too restrictive and confining? What if science and faith can truly coexist without contradiction? I became curious and began questioning everything I had been taught. I partitioned off other parts of my heart where things didn’t make sense and focused my mental energy on thinking about my faith and how it manifested in my worldview.

I began to look at and understand coincidences – those things that seem happenstance but may indeed offer clues or knowledge about our lives, our future. I recognized a series of experiences that I had interpreted as serendipity or randomness but when I looked closer, I could see purpose, and even perhaps – glances into my future. Of course, those were in retrospect but it was impressive when considered across a broad spectrum. It spoke to the -then new- science which is immensely intriguing to me. In fact, I once decided I could teach myself quantum physics, at least enough so that I could hold an intelligent conversation. After all – isn’t that part of the beauty of the internet??  I researched a good place to start and began to read. After the introduction, the only words I could comprehend were … of, than, why, and how.  My academic inquiry into particle theory lasted all of five minutes. Regardless, I was piqued and captivated with these alternative spiritual avenues and continued to pursue my curiosities.

I began to look at my life in new ways – seeking to honor and accept all the challenges I faced. I embraced the people in my world, including Hubby. I tried to merge my religious teachings with the broader spiritual information that I was being introduced to. I conceded that he was in my life for a reason and that I needed to make the best of it. I vowed again, to be my best self, a better wife and mother, a more conscientious friend, sibling, and daughter.

Rebuild & Repair

There was a resurgence in our commitment to one another and in our desire to be together.

“Only in the shattering can the rebuilding occur.” -Barbara Marciniak

Hubby moved back in and we began rehabilitating our broken home. Recovering from infidelity is difficult for any couple. Rebuilding trust happens slowly – painfully slow at first. For the injured party, it is not uncommon for questions to linger, for visions of the indiscreet couple to overtake intimate moments, and for fear of more indiscretions to overwhelm typical days. The only true relief comes with time. I was no different in that regard. As much as I tried, I couldn’t erase the vision of Hubby and Dee in his office, or in her bedroom. I learned to shake my head quickly when these images flooded my frontal lobe; to think of something else. It was more difficult to settle my heart rate and respiration when he was a little late or didn’t answer his cell phone. I was automatically and instantly thrust into neurotic angst wondering where he was and who he might be with. I didn’t reason with myself or process the fear, it built into a frenzy and exploded upon him in the form of emotional vomit the minute he walked in.

Our therapist worked with him to be patient with me as I began to heal and I worked on acquiring better skills that allowed me to emote differently and to cope more effectively with the volatility of my feelings. I learned to journal. I would write my thoughts and their corresponding feelings whether they were rational or not. I had a lot going on in my mind every day and I had to figure out how to validate myself.  I started smoking again. Hubby never had quit through all my pregnancies and we were spending a lot of time outside on the deck talking. Many of those conversations were difficult and having a cigarette in my hand somehow helped. It gave me something to focus on and strangely, connected us again. When we were first married, both of us smoking, we would sit outside and talk well into the evenings. Our talking time had been significantly curbed after I got pregnant and stopped smoking. I wouldn’t sit outside with him mostly due to my aversion to cigarette odor but also because I was also annoyed that he was still a smoker. Now, it was just easier to join him. I was mad at myself for picking up such an undesirable habit again but it served a number of purposes – at least in my mind.

There was a typical honeymoon period where we were all ‘in love’ and ‘romantic’ again. There was a resurgence in our commitment to one another and in our desire to be together. Money was still really tight, especially now that we were spending a car payment amount of money on counseling. It was difficult for us to ‘go places’ or ‘do things’ due to budget restraints but we would just take a walk or plan a picnic lunch from time to time, which helped us stay focused on one another. I tried to make sure that there was good balance between the time I spent on home, family, work, and Hubby. I was successful some days, others… not so much. There are only so many hours in a day and I couldn’t figure out most days how to make it all happen. I still feared that if I wasn’t fixing this element in myself that he would just keep looking elsewhere. I lived with an underlayment of that fear Every. Single. Day.

In therapy, I was learning about self-care. She had helped me to see that I was in a co-dependent relationship characterized by three distinct elements:

  •             Attempting to please another person in an effort to garner love or affection
  •             Making excuses for another person’s bad behavior
  •             Constant support of my partner at the cost of my own happiness

She motivated me to start thinking of myself in a healthier way, to develop interests beyond my husband and family. She taught me to think about my needs and to discern what was important to me. One does not simply ‘change’ thirty years of habit overnight (although I didn’t realize that) and so I experienced a great deal of frustration in my pursuit of perfecting the changes I wanted to facilitate. I felt as though I was entering a period of self-discovery and indeed, it was a beginning.

Our pastor had been grossly supportive, offering additional counsel as needed and always had a smile, an approving hug, ready for us on Sunday mornings when we entered the building. On more than one occasion I was moved to tears as the sermon or the readings would touch on a scar or still sore mental spot if it pertained to forgiveness or family or on being a ‘good’ person. I was occasionally conflicted about the ‘trauma’ we had experienced as a family and the way that it had been ‘glossed over’ simply because no one knew. Hubby – understandably – wasn’t keen on people knowing he had cheated on his wife and I didn’t want people to think badly of him going forward. I had largely, suffered in silence. At least as far as our community was concerned but I did have family.

I had a tremendous amount of support in my life and I used their counsel frequently. My friends Michele, E., my mom, and surprisingly, my twin sisters. Technically, they are half-sisters as we have different fathers but we never used that terminology and I didn’t love them any less. I had been a part of their entire lives; from changing their diapers to working on high school term papers for them. They were turning twenty that year and transforming into really great young ladies. College hadn’t proven to be their vibe and so they demonstrated how hard working they were by holding down jobs in a variety of genres. Cellular phones were just becoming big business and they had an opportunity to participate via sales. They were spectacular! No one I was aware of knew more than they did about cell phones. It was fun to see them blossom into women. When they got to spend time with us, they brought fun and light into our home; we were always laughing. After years of having them visit as kids and then babysitters, it was great to experience them as adults. Our families were central forces in our life. Hubby’s family was closer in proximity and we saw them more often, but I was particularly close to my own. Even though it was a contemporary conglomeration of step-parents and half-siblings who lived far away from me, they all were the grounding strength of what drove and guided me.

We had a party that fall. We were putting ourselves back on track and it was the right time to celebrate not only Baby Em’s baptism but our renewed marital spirit. We invited everyone in both families and a number of distant friends. It was a time of leaf raking, wood stacking, and pumpkin eating. Everyone helped and it was easy. Love was abundant. I was proud of us. We were weathering the storm. We still went to therapy weekly but it had transformed from pain management to skill development in a short time frame. I believed that therapy had saved our marriage.

Looking at Layers

I took my responsibility for change seriously. I knew that I had to learn how to give in ways that I hadn’t before.

“I’m like an onion. You can peel away my layers, but the further you go, the more it’ll make you cry.”  ― Laura Carstairs-Waters

I really connected to this therapist and it turns out that a ‘connection’ with your counselor is vital to your healing. I tell my own clients this all the time; if there is no rapport, find a new one! Of course, one of the first things she wanted to know about is how my child hood was. I recounted the many moves, my parents’ divorce, my sibling connections, how I was a primary caregiver, etc., and praised the job my mom and dad did overall. I talked about how great it was to grow up in a small town and to see my parents happier with the partners they chose the second time around. I talked for almost the whole hour and her eyes got bigger and bigger as the clock ticked. I really do laugh about this today but then – I was dead serious. I thought I had a great childhood!! I was completely oblivious as to how my childhood shaped my thoughts, feelings, or perspective about the world. I just hadn’t ever given it a second thought. I was who I was and I had an image of who I needed to be. I strived to be that person regardless of the obstacles of distorted cognition’s that developed in childhood.  [We therapists are not looking back to BLAME anyone but to understand who the person on the couch really is – so many clues!] Nonetheless, she was wide eyed and I was smug. When I said, “it was great”, she said “well, OK then.” Little did I realize she was probably thinking about how much work there was to do!

I began to learn about myself bit by bit as she ‘peeled back’ the proverbial onion. I realized that I was a caregiver. Something that was blatantly obvious to many others was just being awakened in my consciousness. I knew that I always jumped in and took care of people but I never thought about why. I also learned that I took care of these people without regard to what I needed. In fact, I wasn’t aware of how to discern what my needs looked like and really wouldn’t for several more years. I realized that I did very little for myself and resentment of it lived in my subconscious, leaking out in the form of passive aggressive behavior more often that I would have liked to admit. I learned that I thought people would not like me if I said “no” to them. I had lots of thoughts really that were fairly misconstrued, some of which were based on ideas in my mind that were just plain false and others that I had due to some assumption that I had made over time. More on the specifics of these – later.

Most importantly, I learned how many of these things impacted my ability to be a good partner to my husband. I love to argue a point. I cherished my time on the debate team in school and probably should have become an attorney. I enjoy defending a position, especially if I feel like I am educated on the topic. In fact, my father and brothers are very much like me in that regard and I grew up in an environment where debating was the way that we communicated with one another on various levels. Well, Hubby did not. In actuality, Hubby felt like each time I entered into debate mode I was simply trying to be right, to run him down, to be better than or ‘one up’ him. That’s not what was happening in my mind – ever – but with counseling, I was able to see how my ‘debating’ behavior could have been interrupted in that manner. I never really cared to be right – only engage in the argument. Although, I will admit that I rarely entered into a full on debate unless I was certain of the information and the odds that I was ‘wrong’ were quite low.

I learned that having children was all consuming for me. I loved those kids to the moon and back – more really. They started my day with love and even though I was usually really ready for them to go to bed by eight, I tucked them each in with hugs and kisses, full of gratitude for their sweetness and genuine naiveté. Francis was growing into such a great young man, so self-sufficient and helpful. I was incredibly protective of him, often to the demise of Hubby’s discipline because I thought there was too much responsibility placed on him. Hubby was tough. He never had time to ‘grow into’ fatherhood – it just happened with my six-year-old. I believe that his interest was in developing character and integrity but our values on how to foster those qualities varied significantly and I often disagreed with his approach. As such, I became a defender and interfered perhaps too much (although I may do it again under the same conditions). The dedication with which I embarked on mothering used the majority of my ‘giving’ energy and generally left little for Hubby. On many occasions I recall asking him to be ‘an adult’ about this – that the children were only young for a while. In retrospect, I needed to assimilate ‘balance’ into this area of my life as well so that Hubby time was also a part of my day.

I learned also that I am a fast processor. I am quick on my feet to render information, decipher it, and respond on point. This, generally was in contrast to Hubby who had to think and consider what he heard before he could constitute a response that felt appropriate to him. Essentially, this made me ‘hot headed’ even though I didn’t have a temper per se, I sought a response quickly and would ‘chase’ down an answer. There was more than one occasion where I literally followed behind him demanding resolution with tone and frustration. It also was not perceived in the way that I intended but I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I took my responsibility for change seriously. I knew that I had to learn how to give in ways that I hadn’t before. I was all geared up to be better, to be the wife that would be hard to walk away from, to be ‘all in’. It was possible that I had been ‘holding back’, unwilling to be completely and totally vulnerable in case something happened. I needed to be more open and emotionally available. I know I didn’t ’cause’ him to behavior poorly or cause him to be disrespectful but I was one half of this partnership and I wanted to own my part.

We learned about ourselves and about one another in so much as we were open to hearing. One can only absorb so much at a time. We both knew that we had to individually change some behaviors if our relationship was going to progress. I saw what I needed to do and I clearly communicated what elements I needed from him; fidelity, honesty, and respect. I think he tried, but it wasn’t meant to be.

 

 

The Next Move

We talk about reconciliation and how things would need to be different. I realize that my children are worth fighting for.

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us – and those around us – more effectively.” — Louisa May Alcott

Hubby was full of remorse, truly exhibiting heartbroken behavior as well. He was so sad and shamed that I began to worry about him. I asked his mom to come and get all of the guns and ammo that was in our house as I was scared that he would hurt himself. He also, was overcome with pain. I found myself caring, wanting to protect him – to reach out. It’s a surreal experience to extend yourself toward the fire, daring to be burned again.

He spent quality time with our children and appeared even more sad afterwards. He knew he had jeopardized our family, our lifestyle. The fear of not being with the children full time emitted from him with palpable energy. I felt kind of sorry for him and yet it was from a distant place, another ‘me’, one who was not hurting. He said all of the right things but I was yet unwilling to move from my “Go to Hell” stance and so he left. I had no idea where he went.

Tom called me. He had a few choice words for my husband, naturally I agreed with most of them. He wanted to know if I was alright – how does one answer that inquiry? What is the definition of OK after discovering the person you love was cheating? Tom was also filled with doubts and more questions. He was hurting too. So much pain – so many people afflicted with anguish because of… what – sex? Loneliness? An Impulse? We had questions but there were no quick answers. He told me they would be moving, he was choosing to stay with her but he was taking her away, closer to where he worked. I was happy to know they were gone but in some crevice of my mind I knew I would miss my friend.

One day the doorbell rang and it was Pastor R from church. He looked at me with a sad smile and asked me how I was doing. It seemed that Hubby had gone to him for counsel and support, R wanted to check on me. He listened to my perspective of the situation and then – as any good pastor would do – he counseled me on forgiveness. I’ve always remembered he quoted Luke, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him”. As a Christian, I was called to forgive this man who lied, cheated, and stole moments and memories from me. As a wife, I was reminded that it was “God who will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous”. That I, as a wife, should know to honor my promise – the one I made in my vows; “in good times, and in bad times”.  I was starting to resent religion but listened politely and knew that he was doing his job. He started the mental ball rolling for me though – was I really ready to throw in the towel? Did I want to quit right now?

My mother was really helpful walking me through all these questions as they ran the gamut through my mind. What would I do? I didn’t have a degree and our profession was predominately a commission only field – could I support us? We were heavily leveraged after starting a new business, how would that affect Hubby’s ability to support two households? Did I really want to have to work full time? How would I afford day care? Baby Em was barely a month old at this point… what were my options really? Mom was being really pragmatic and never asked about love or desire… she was mostly interested in the rudimentary aspects of survival. That was her gig. She was of the generation of women who didn’t ‘ask questions’, they persevered and plowed through marital discourse in the interest of the family at large. I was more ethereal, I loved this man. What about my dream? The children need a father. What if he is really sorry? What if this was just a mistake? What if God really expects me to forgive him? So many questions still. Mom asks “What are you going to do?” I felt lost.

A few more days go by and Mom has to leave. I knew I would miss her company and support. I wasn’t ready to be alone but I understood that she had dedicated a lot of time to my needs and I was only one of the people who still depended on her. I talk with Michele every day and she takes over for mom as a voice of reason when I am too full of rage or when I can’t find the strength to get out of my jammies. Other than our mothers and Michele, no one really knows what has happened in our lives. I am ashamed of us. I am shamed – period. While rationale and reasoning would say that I was a victim here, I believed that if I had been a better wife, a better mother, a better support person, less fat, less bitchy, less controlling, etc… he wouldn’t have cheated. I was taking on a LOT of the emotional responsibility for the absence of happiness that Hubby is now claiming to have felt.

Just two or three weeks’ post discovery, Hubby and I are talking more. He continues to express remorse and regret for the indiscretion every time we talk. He wants to come home, to work things out. He loves me, he says. He found a place to ‘live’ – sleep really – in an old farm house with a few dudes … he has a room. I go there. We talk about reconciliation and how things would need to be different. He mentions that there is a counselor in the building where his office is located and asks me to consider going. I say that I will think about it.

I stand at the island in my kitchen watching my children at the dinner table.  Baby Emily is gently swaying in her swing sucking away on a pacifier, being lulled to sleep. The girls are kneeling in their chairs to reach their dinner plate and Francis is quietly eating. It is another memory burned into my mind because it is in that moment I realize I have to fight for this marriage. I realize that my children are worth fighting for. Our lives will be so very difficult if I don’t make an effort to reconcile with their father. Raising four children is a challenge with two adults in the house, and would be crazy difficult if I were to attempt to do it by myself. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. But more than that – wasn’t I responsible for teaching them forgiveness and fortitude? As their mother and role model, wasn’t it my job to set an example of courage and resilience? If I ended this now, would they see me as a quitter? I knew that I needed to try and create a marriage that was a model for determination and resolve; of love and respect. In that moment, I knew I would agree to counseling and keep trying to be Hubby’s wife.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Photo credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity) via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Crippling Questions

Does she have any idea of what I was going through? Isn’t there some kind of honor code that women are supposed to adhere to? Or friends at least?

One thing you can’t hide – is when you’re crippled inside.” — John Lennon

The moment of Dee’s admission is burned into my memory as clearly as if it happened yesterday, almost as brilliantly as my memory of watching Rocky fall backward after electricity conducted in his hands. I remember what I was wearing and I recall the short walk back to my van. I vaguely recollect the phone conversations I made between her house and mine. I remember sitting in the rocking chair and holding my new baby, only two weeks old, wondering how the hell I was going to take care of her.

There is a compassionate numbness that engulfs our consciousness during times of extreme pain as if to protect our hearts from literally exploding and poisoning our bloodstream with heartbreak. It serves a distinct purpose as it allows us to function mechanically, doing what needs to be done, bearing our responsibilities. I was a mother with four children, three of them under five years of age. I had obligations and I felt unable to crumble in the way that I wanted. I would have preferred to melt into my bed and merge into selfish dreams of an easier life.

I don’t remember details of that day after I returned home. I have no recollection of where Hubby was or where he went, only that I could not or would not look at him. I don’t recall where the children were or who exactly was caring for them. It could have been Francis, maybe I mustered through it. I know it was a summer afternoon and I can see – in my mind’s eye – where I was sitting when my mother came in that day. She came back for me, to take me away, or to help me, or to save me… she was there, and as I did so many years prior when my world fell apart the first time, I again buried my head in her lap and sobbed until every tear had fallen.

It’s such a cliché to say that I was heartbroken but when you are physically aware of an ache there, in your chest where your life force exists, what else is there to say? My heart hurt. I had allowed myself to love again and even though I had been warned, sign after sign, I was unprepared for the reality of deceit. I had been in such deep denial regarding both the man I married and the friend I thought I had made. Pictures flooded my brain, over and over of the times we were all together. I saw things in my remembering that I had missed the first time around. Oh how stupid I felt! I went through it all again and again, trying to decipher when and where there was time and opportunity. It was right there in front of me – daring me to notice and their intentionality of it made me sick – physically ill. My body ached; my stomach was nauseous, the muscles around my ribs hurt from sobbing, and my throat was sore from extended bouts of crying. These feelings of loss were so familiar, different factors but excruciatingly similar.

I’m not sure where the experience of this affair ended and memories of Rocky’s death began. The pain I was feeling now punctured old wounds of loss from a decade earlier and I was reminded of feelings that had been buried as hope for a new life grew. This time, it was much more complicated. Instead of one child – I had four. I was eleven years older and still having not finished college, my employability was wrapped completely in a business that WE operated. I had allowed myself to love and dream and hope and plan…

I wondered where, when, how, and why… the ‘why’ just wouldn’t leave me alone. I could almost understand why Dee was attracted to my man, he was handsome enough, charming, and always helpful. Her husband was gone so often and she felt alone but why ‘my’ guy?? I wondered how she could have sex with him and then look me in the eye the next day, smile with me, laugh with me, or pretend with me. Was it the same kind of denial that I had operated under? Was it a disassociation, a disconnect from reality that merely offered her an opportunity to survive? How did she reconcile her heart? Was she ashamed, guilty, or sorry? I didn’t even know if she was sorry. After I realized she was affirming my fear I stopped paying attention to her words… was she sorry? Does she have any idea of what I was going through? Isn’t there some kind of honor code that women are supposed to adhere to? Or friends at least?

I couldn’t turn off my mind. It kept me awake with silent questioning; constant and unrelenting wondering thoughts and images that promoted more of the same. Hubby had tried talking with me but I wasn’t having it. Now, I felt ready to ask him about some of the details that were rolling around in my head. It’s extremely curious that people who have been injured by infidelity want particulars as if somehow knowing all of the pertinent information will make it sensible or easier to digest. I felt as if I needed answers – if there were any – to my questions; I called Hubby.

He had been trying to reach out to me but getting through my mother was no small feat. When I finally called him, he answered on the first ring. Essentially what I heard was that he didn’t have any answers as to ‘why’ – “it just happened”. He insisted that he hadn’t intended to hurt me, that it was a mistake, an accident (doesn’t really fit the description of accident but I was listening). He was apologetic, sad, and more humble than I had ever imagined he could be. ‘It’ happened a few times, blah… blah… blah…

I have no evidence for the details I heard and I wasn’t sure then if they were true anymore than I know for sure today. When people – anyone – breaches trust so violently, there is rarely a tale told that is fully, completely believed going forward. It might be the truth and then again – it may not.  It’s never again really clear if the individual is covering his or her ass or being openly vulnerable. At some point, the injured person simply acquiesces to what ‘feels’ like the truth or something that kind of resonates internally. You learn to live with ‘uncertainty’.

Hubby was full of remorse and wanted to see the children. He was gentle when he asked if he could come by the house to spend time with the kids and talk if I felt like it. We scheduled some time when mom – who was still there caring for us – could standby.

Photo credit: Ksayer1 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA      

Broken

There is no way to explain the feeling one has when you discover your beloved partner has been lying and deceiving you for any period of time.

“The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.” — Heather Brewer

It happened and then it was over, in the matter of seconds. Instantly, I thought I had imagined it. Dee gave me a gift and I opened a beautiful dress, size 0-3 months… Baby Emily could wear it right away. She left after a while and I confronted Hubby about the experience of having them arrive together and share ‘a moment’ with the baby. “What is going on?” I begged him to answer the question. He continued to negate any accusation that I threw out, telling me “nothing was happening” at every turn. Essentially, everything I presented was dismissed as nonsense as soon as it was spoken. I wasn’t convinced. Something was happening and I could feel it. My mind and body were alert… they perceived danger as if there was a railroad crossing stuck in the up position; you knew it was trying to warn you but nothing was stopping you from moving ahead.

We took Em home and rolled along as we have always done. My mom came to help in any way that we could think of – she was a baby whisperer. Hubby was a great help as I adjusted to a different sleep schedule but it was summer so everything was more relaxed than during a typical school year. I thanked God for Francis on a daily basis. His help and support was irreplaceable. I wasn’t relenting on the feelings that existed so strongly, so unsettling – about Dee and Hubby’s connection and its breach of boundaries. We argued about it non-stop and I was insistent… we would have to stop being friends. For some reason, I needed Hubby to buy into the plan of not entertaining a friendship with Dee and Tom. My impression was that he was rather hesitant to agree. It fueled my anger.

Mom knew something was off but since I wasn’t offering an explanation, she left for ‘the farm’ (my grandparent’s home) after a week. I turned into someone I didn’t know. For a couple of weeks, I was tenacious with my demands that he agree to stop any and all contact with Dee. I was tired, hormonal, and suspicious – extremely toxic combinations by any measure. The icing on the cake for me was when I took Ems to the doctor for typical post-birth weigh in. She had an eye infection that the doctor said was common with certain types of sexually transmitted diseases. She asked me if there was a possibility for that to be the case and I honestly couldn’t answer… I was in an almost state of nausea these days.

I went home and confronted – once again – my husband, with the information from the pediatrician and he imploded. He was defensive and angry. I made a decision in that moment that our relationship with the Gregg family was over. With or without STD’s – (a panel had been completed on both me and baby Em) – there were too many questions surrounding the camaraderie that existed between those two people.

The panels were negative and I was accused of making up information in order to trap a confession; I referred him to the doctor for validation and verification. I went to Dee’s home. I called her from the driveway and asked her to meet me outside. She came out and made some reference to how great I looked (after giving birth only two weeks prior, I was wearing my own clothing – a response to the stress I was experiencing). I told her that I did not like what was happening at home, that my husband seemed obsessed with her and there were too many issues coming between us for our families to be friends any longer.

Her face changed. She appeared apologetic and scared. Her eyes became emotional and wet, her breathing changed. It was interesting to watch – in a matter of nano seconds, she became contrite and sheepish. There was something unexplainable in her demeanor that unleashed a knowingness in me… “you’ve been sleeping with him”… it was almost a whisper from inside of me and I watched in horror as she shook her head in an affirmative nod. She was confessing – there in her driveway under a late July sun – to sleeping with my husband. My good friend … the mom of my child’s friend… the wife of Tom… my friend… no, not a friend… a bitch.

I said nothing. Mentally, I was screaming “I knew it… I’m not crazy… I knew it”.  I walked back to my van in slow motion without a sound in the universe interrupting my thoughts. There was nothing. There was a void of pain, of anything really. I was once again on auto-pilot yet my heart was racing and breathing was difficult. My entire body was simply trying to fuel my nervous system into automatic action – keeping my heart beating rhythmically and my lungs moving in unison to inhale and exhale appropriately. I started the automobile and backed out of the driveway while I picked up my cell phone and called my mother. “I was right, they were fucking… all along, they were fucking”, I couldn’t say anything else. She said she’d be there in a few hours and hung up the phone.

I called Hubby on his cell. “I want you out of my life… you have 24 hours”, and I hung up.

There is no way to explain the feeling one has when you discover your beloved partner has been lying and deceiving you for any period of time. It really does not matter if it was once or two hundred times – the fact that you didn’t listen to your hunches – to the fiber optic strands that ran through your life in neon colors to warn you – it sends you into a flat spin. It stops time. In the moment you realize that you were a fool, the world takes on a different weight and it all sits on your shoulders. Couple that intense emotion with the idea that your ‘friend’ – someone you confided in and trusted to be on your side regardless – also violated the faith allowed yourself to develop. Faith that she would ‘have your back’.

It seemed as though I had always doubted him, it wasn’t a surprise that he would delude me although in all honestly, I had just begun to trust that this ‘spontaneous decision’ I had made was the right one… that it would work out. I had allowed myself to believe in love again. He had given me all the clues but I ignored them and now I was going to end my marriage, or rather, he had ended it by being unfaithful, by lying in my face, by cheating on me.

I got home and picked up my baby. I sat with her and sang as a river of tears began their flow across my face.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Denial Meets Crazy

My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment.

“A bad friend is is worse than an enemy, an enemy you can see and avoid, but to detect an insincere friend is hard” – Bangambiki Habyarimana

I sat there in disbelief, shaking my head as if to clear the image or thinking that I would rewind the last 30 seconds of my life. I kicked his other leg – hard. “What are you doing”, I asked him -there on the spot. “What?” he responds with attitude. There was surprise in his voice as if he was challenging me to go further. I didn’t. I sat there watching though. I replayed the evening over again in my mind.

I wound the clock back to when Dee and Tom arrived with the beer – that beer that had been requested so casually, so intimately. I recalled conversation that flowed so easily, so familiar, almost as if Tom wasn’t even there with us. I remembered – now suspect behavior – Dee getting up to use the bathroom; a second or two later Hubby got up to get more beer. They came back to the patio together. Again, Hubby goes inside to pee, Dee goes in to grab more snacks. Now that I was thinking about it, this pattern existed through the evening without regard for Tom or me and here he was playing ‘footsies’ under the table, right in front of me.

I know what I saw. I watched his foot intentionally move against her leg, not in an accidental manner, but with purpose, along her calf up to her knee and she was smiling. I looked up to see her glancing at him with recognition I didn’t know existed but only for a microsecond and then she looked at me with normalcy.

I felt sick. Terribly sick. I was questioning the exchange almost as quickly as I felt it. His questioning response, her normal gaze in my direction – was I imagining all of this? I kept watching but it didn’t happen again – that I saw. I didn’t know what to do – should I cause a scene and get mad? Did I really see that? Should I alert Tom to my fear? What about my friend? I couldn’t believe she would be a voluntary participant in this… she’s my friend, a good friend. Jesus, what was happening?

Everything was spinning in my mind, I had to go to bed. That was what I did – I went to bed to process, ignore, deny, file, shuffle, replay, and reject thoughts that didn’t fit the vision of my life. I just couldn’t fully accept the idea that a friend of mine and my husband would engage – literally, in front of me – an inappropriate series of gestures … it simply wouldn’t compute. I ignored the details and allowed myself to carry on as if everything was as it had been. I woke up, got the kids ready for school and went about my day. I didn’t talk to Dee for a couple of days but she eventually called, asking me if everything was ok. I said “yes” and we continued as we had been – spending time together with our children. I did defer on the ‘family time’ somewhat as a precaution but I didn’t find another reason to be concerned.

Michele came out to visit one afternoon and as usual, I shared some of my concerns with her. I explained that I had questions but that they were unfounded and I was being ‘careful’ and yet something felt unsettled. She was – as always – my friend and validated my feelings genuinely. An hour or so after she left, she called to tell me that she had seen Dee’s van parked in the lot at Hubby’s office that day on her drive home (it was normal to pass that way as the office was on a main thoroughfare).  Of course, the nausea signal in my stomach returned with a desire for there to be some simple explanation.

Later that day Hubby was home and we were – as usual – sharing our day. I mentioned Michele was there most of the day and he proceeded to tell me that Dee had been at the office because she was thinking about leaving Tom and wanted some advice. While we weren’t attorneys, it wasn’t uncommon for people to ask our counsel about divorce and financial matters. That reason resonated with me. Dee had been really unhappy in recent months. Tom’s travel schedule had him out of town most of the week, most of the month, most of the year so far. It was lonely for her. She was raising three children predominately by herself and it was hard. When he was in town, he had little time for her frustrations. It made sense that she would ask Hubby his advice. I told him that her car had been spotted there and he got upset that someone had been looking – Why was I playing detective? He wanted to know. Clearly, that hadn’t been my intention but his defensiveness caught me off guard. All I could think was, ‘chill out’.

My radar was on full screen. A week or two later, I was at the office and found toys there that hadn’t been there before. Hubby claimed they were for Dee’s son when he was at the office last, but something about that statement didn’t calculate correctly… I had babysat for her recently – was it the day he was speaking of? It didn’t make sense. I attempted to address some of my concerns with Hubby but each time, I was rebuked. My “imagination was overactive” he would claim.

Mid-summer arrived and so did baby #4. Emily Lyn – named after my favorite Aunt, a woman who has more grace in her little finger than I do in my whole body – was born early July. In fact, we call her our boom-boom baby as I am sure after watching fireworks, she was just too curious about all the ‘fuss’ she heard on the outside and decided to make her entrance. I was overjoyed to be welcoming that little on into the world and knew in my heart that since God had made the ‘baby decision’ for us, she would be a special blessing. Not that the other three weren’t of course…

Ironically, I was in the same hospital room as Michele had been just two weeks before when she delivered her little girl…. Our lives paralleled so tightly.

Em was born at 3 am on a Saturday and by six, Hubby left to get some rest. Later, Grandmom brought the kids down to see their new sister and once again we felt like a big happy family. We have video of that day and it’s still as precious to me now as it was then; seeing the gentle embraces from one sister to another.  By Sunday I was ready to go home; moms don’t get any rest in a hospital but the doctors wanted to keep us til Monday morning. Dee had called and wanted to come see the baby that afternoon. I was happy to have some company.

Hubby arrived early afternoon and within a few minutes Dee walked in. Coincidence? My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment. I felt paranoid and irrational. I recall a distinct sense that they had driven together and I may even have asked but of course, it was a silly question – even in my mind. No one would admit to that, right? Hubby picked up baby Emily in his arms and was cradling her softly – a very proud father. Dee walked up and stood shoulder to shoulder with him, oohh’ing and aahh’ing like anyone who loves babies would. Both of them had their backs to me and like a photograph that is snapped for a permanent record of a moment, my mind recalls that instant. I felt invisible sitting there in my hospital bed while by husband and my best friend were holding and googling over my baby.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy