The following evening, after we got Vivian to bed, we sat down to talk. We both felt that attending marriage counseling was causing more problems than solving them. So we made a pact to sit down every night and keep talking. Till we figured everything out. Including the Why.
It’s probably a good idea to explain right now that my husband is adopted. And although we make no excuses for adultery, we believe it’s been a huge contributing factor. At least in his case. I am not adopted and have no idea how it must feel to be in his shoes. But my husband expressed numerous times during our talks that, “the most important decision that impacted my life was made before I was even born.” Pretty powerful epiphany.
Being adopted shaped a lot of his core beliefs, way more than I ever realized until we started our nightly chats. He has always felt the need to conform, to be a people pleaser. He makes for an excellent employee in that way. His nickname is Switzerland, as he is impartial in everything he does. Very diplomatic. He never pisses anyone off. Everyone genuinely likes him and he is looked upon as “a nice guy”.
A lot of his core beliefs stem from feeling rejected at birth by his biological mother. If anyone really knew the real him, they wouldn’t love him. That is what he told himself. So despite being older and wiser, he still had moments where he went along with the group. Even if it meant going against his values.
He also spoke of wearing a mask. That he felt conflicted and that no one would really love the real him. Faults and all. So he mastered the art of becoming the perfect son and perfect employee throughout his life. He essentially was portraying himself to be one way for fear of rejection. And he had a deep underlying need to be accepted.
Let me set the scene for the first incidence of his cheating. We were living in Europe and had just returned from a trip around the world. We left a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and returned nine months later. Jobs were scarce and his industry had crashed. Usually we had jobs lined up as my husbands field was in demand. And most times, he was being offered greater and greater positions as there was a shortage of qualified people in his field. We banked on the fact that we would start work immediately. However, this was not the case. Finding employment was not just difficult, it was proving impossible to find for him. It was like the industry had dried up overnight.
Weeks later, he finally got offered a position: a short term contract. In Africa. Kinshasa to be exact.
For those of you who failed geography, that’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Democratic isn’t exactly how I would describe Congo either. It’s a third world country and corruption is rife. There is a lot of fighting going on and you are often guarded by armed security when traveling. I won’t lie, it’s dangerous there.
Since we had traveled through Congo on our trip, we felt it was doable. We weighed the pros and cons, and quite simply, the money was too good to pass up. He would be gone for one month, something our marriage had never dealt with. However, I knew we could handle it. Four weeks and it would be over. The biggest concern at the time was for his general safety.
It wasn’t until the night of his confession that he even told me what really happened on that trip. He came home after four weeks, clearly exhausted. And he managed to give me a synopsis of his time there, which basically revolved around staying in his hotel for fear of being robbed and then being driven each day to the worksite. It was basically work, sleep, rinse, repeat.
He was overseeing a crew of guys, all of whom were from France. They had been working there for months and spoke very little English. Needless to say, he felt like a fish out of water. And clearly out numbered. They would speak in French the entire time, with him clueless as to what they were saying. They had been there so long that they had a dedicated driver who picked them up on the weekends and drove them to dinner, bars etc. and then back to their hotel. My husband watched them go out every night, him staying back at the hotel.
A few weeks into the job, the crew was invited to the embassy for a night out. It was the first time my husband had done anything outside of working and sleeping. And he had a really fun time, and could finally relax as it was surrounded by guards. The biggest fear was being driven back late at night.
For anyone who hasn’t traveled abroad, specifically in a third world country, it’s hard to even grasp what I am describing. But traveling at night can lead to disaster, which is why you are often accompanied by armed security. It’s like nothing you have ever experienced. Your heart is racing every time you see someone lingering on the side of the road, hoping your luck isn’t up and you’re about to be ambushed. It’s like you’re living in the Wild West.
He got home safely that night, but it left him wanting to get out of the hotel more. So when the French guys finally invited him out to dinner, he went along with them and their driver.
They entered the restaurant and ate like kings. These guys clearly knew everyone who worked there, slapping hands and giving high fives. A group of women immediately came over to their table and sat down. In their broken English, they were referred to as their “friends” although from all the kisses and hands on their asses, it was clear to my husband that they were more than that.
The drinks flowed….and he found himself trying to fit into their world. He thought about leaving the group. He felt out of place from the moment he showed up. But the driver was theirs, not his. So it would mean taking a taxi alone, which would be dangerous especially at night. So he stayed. And he drank. And he drank, till eventually he didn’t feel so out of his element.
That night, the French guys said, “she is yours” and “take her back, just give her money for a taxi ride home”. Needless to say, instead of refusing, he went along with it. Partly out of fear. Partly out of trying to fit in with the group. Partly because he had been drinking and not making the best of choices. Shit, there’s a lot of reasons which contributed to his decision in that moment.
Nothing is ever black and white. There are many facets to each of us, to what motivates us to make certain decisions. Nothing is clear cut in the world of adultery.
There are more than fifty shades of grey. I know that much for sure.